Teshekpuk Lake, located on Alaska’s North Slope, is one of the most ecologically important wetlands in the entire Arctic. Part of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A), this sensitive area provides habitat for tens of thousands of molting geese, threatened species such as the Spectacled Eider, nesting shorebirds and waterfowl, and the 40,000-head Teshekpuk Caribou Herd.
Teshekpuk Lake is protected under the current integrated activity plan (IAP) which does a good job balancing development with conservation in the Western Arctic. Under the plan, half of the NPR-A is available for oil and gas leasing, and for scientifically sound reasons the other half is protected.
But last week, the federal Bureau of Land Management started the environmental review process for what could be one of Alaska’s biggest future oil developments—ConocoPhillips’ Willow project located in the NPR-A near Teshekpuk Lake. This could lead to a new IAP.
Here at Audubon Alaska, we see no compelling reason to change the IAP at this time. If the Department of the Interior decides to open that conversation, we urge the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management to steer clear of the hasty and confusing public process that has unfolded in the Arctic Refuge so far. The global importance of the habitat from around Teshekpuk Lake to Dease Inlet deserves nothing less than a full-scale NEPA process and robust public comment opportunities. And, Audubon will certainly be there to offer science and data further demonstrating why these areas continue to merit strong protections.
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