Resolution on Conservation of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska

WHEREAS, the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) is the largest single unit of public land in the nation at 23.5 million acres (9.5 million ha) and represents a vast landscape that remains largely unchanged in character from the lands inhabited by Inupiat Natives during the last millennium; and

WHEREAS, the NPR-A encompasses important fish and wildlife habitats essential for maintaining the integrity of arctic ecosystems of value to the residents of subsistence-reliant villages that have occupied this region for many centuries; and

WHEREAS, the NPR-A and its near-shore waters provide important habitats used by many arctic mammals, including grizzly bears (Ursus arctos), gray wolves (Canis lupus), wolverines (Gulo gulo), Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus), moose (Alces alces), Dall's sheep (Ovis dalli), Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus), 2 major caribou (Rangifer tarandus) herds (representing approximately 450,000 animals), polar bears (Ursus maritimus), beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas), bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus), spotted seals (Phoca largha), and many other mammal species; and

WHEREAS, the NPR-A has significant scientific and educational values; and

WHEREAS, a major oil and gas-leasing, exploration, and development effort is currently under way in the NPR-A, and this development program is likely to change the region substantially in coming decades; and

WHEREAS, oil and gas development is widespread on the coastal plain of Alaska's North Slope; and

WHEREAS, despite technological advances in oil and gas exploration, production, and transport, such activities require extensive infrastructure including drilling platforms, roads, pipelines, power plants, processing facilities, housing, airfields, gravel pits, utility lines, landfills; and

WHEREAS, we recommend the BLM provide adequate protection to ecological, wildlife, subsistence, cultural, and wilderness resources as required in the National Petroleum Reserve Production Act of 1976; and

WHEREAS, the recent National Research Council report on cumulative effects of oil and gas development on Alaska's North Slope documented effects on wildlife populations, including caribou, projected interactions between climate change and oil development, and noted there was no plan in place for restoration of oil-field infrastructure and no comprehensive plan for the North Slope; and

WHEREAS, no long-term strategy exists for protection of the NPR-A that could provide scientific benchmarks for monitoring and research; and

WHEREAS, the BLM is developing its Final Environmental Impact Statement for oil and gas leasing in the 8.8 million acre (3.5 million ha) Northwest Plan Area, reviewing withdrawal of environmental protections for the 4.6 million acre (1.9 million ha) Northeast Plan Area, and will soon begin plans for the southern 9.5 million acre (3.8 million ha) portion of the NPR-A; and

WHEREAS, exploration, extraction, and transport of oil and gas in NPR-A, without comprehensive planning including establishment of a protected-areas network, would significantly modify specific areas of ecological importance to mammals within NPR-A, including areas around Teshekpuk Lake, Kasegaluk Lagoon, Colville River, Utukok Uplands, and Dease Inlet;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the American Society of Mammalogists, meeting at their 83rd Annual Meeting at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, 21-25 June 2003, strongly recommends the development of a comprehensive conservation strategy for the NPR-A, including a protected-areas network that will protect important wildlife habitat and provide a scientific baseline for future research and monitoring efforts in this Arctic region. Further, we call on the Department of Interior to establish several new Special Areas within the NPR-A and identify appropriate no-lease and no-surface activity zones in specific areas of biological importance.