A River of Birds: North to Alaska

Birds from all 4 North American flyways fly to the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

It’s easy to think of the migratory birds we see in our backyards as “our” birds, but do you ever wonder where they go the rest of the year? Across the U.S., millions of birds that go north for the nesting season head to Alaska. One place in particular is in the spotlight just now: the National Petroleum Reserve­–Alaska. Located on Alaska’s North Slope along the coast of the Arctic Ocean, the Reserve is the largest public land unit in the U.S.—at more than 22 million acres, it’s about the size of Indiana.

Decades ago, Congress recognized the extraordinary wildlife riches found in the Reserve, passing legislation mandating that the Department of the Interior balance protection of exceptional wildlife areas with oil and gas development. Right now, the agency is holding a public comment period for the first-ever, area-wide management plan that will guide oil and gas leasing in the future.

Send your comments supporting Alternative B to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and help some of “your” birds keep their summer homes!

B is for Birds! Alternative B stands apart as the clear choice for balanced management. It would effectively protect habitat vital to healthy wildlife populations in America’s Arctic while also allowing for future oil and gas development. Alternative B would protect several ecologically important areas with exceptional wildlife: Teshekpuk Lake/Dease Inlet, Peard Bay, Utukok River Uplands/DeLong Mountains, Colville River, and Kasegaluk Lagoon.

Birds from all four flyways in North America, plus several international flyways, stream to the Reserve for the frenzy of raising chicks in the Arctic’s 24-hour daylight. Tundra Swans from the Atlantic Flyway, White-fronted Geese from the Mississippi Flyway, Pintails from the Central Flyway, and Brant from the Pacific Flyway converge on this summer destination, just to name a few. Shorebirds from as far away as Hawaii and even New Zealand also wend their way north to the Reserve.

What makes the Reserve so appealing to the feathered crowd? Sweeping from the foothills of the Brooks Range through rolling tundra to the vast maze of wetlands on the Coastal Plain, the Reserve holds a wide variety of habitat. The ponds, streams, and lakes of the Coastal Plain offer safe places with abundant food for waterfowl, shorebirds, and loons. Teshekpuk Lake, at the heart of the world’s largest Arctic wetlands, draws tens of thousands of waterfowl in the molting season at the end of the summer. Raptors such as Rough-legged Hawks and Gyrfalcons nest in unusually high concentrations along the rugged cliffs of the Colville River. The shallow waters and barrier islands of Kasegaluk Lagoon, a globally significant Important Bird Area, draw tens of thousands of shorebirds.

Help protect key habitat for birds—send in your comments for the Reserve. The comment deadline is extended to June 15!

How you can help, right now