Alaska Natives Lobby Obama Admin. Against Oil Development in NPR-A

Native Alaskans have teamed up with environmental forces to urge the Obama administration to stick with a conservative management plan for the National Petroleum Reserve, despite oil industry protests that the proposal would block energy development in lands specifically reserved for extracting fossil fuels.

Joseph Sagviyuaq Sage, a whaling captain from Barrow, Alaska, and Lillian Stone, a teacher from Anaktuvuk Pass, are set to meet with Senate staffers and Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes while in Washington, D.C. this week. The pair are collaborating with the Alaska Wilderness League to make the case that some areas in the 23-million acre reserve should be off limits to oil development.

The push comes as the administration nears a final decision on how to balance energy production and conservation in the 89-year-old reserve in northwest Alaska. In August, the Interior Department unveiled its “preferred” management plan, which would allow oil and gas development in 11.8 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska while blocking the activity in other areas that are home to caribou herds and polar bears.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management appears likely to make a final decision on whether to adopt its preferred approach sometime after the Nov. 6 presidential election.

Stone said she wanted policymakers in the nation’s capital to know “we are real people and we are directly impacted by any activity that goes on within NPR-A.” Oil drilling in the reserve threaten the caribou that roam the land, Stone said, as well as the Alaska Natives who hunt the animal for food and clothing.

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