The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA), or Western Arctic, is 22 million acres and the largest tract of undisturbed public land in the United States. These lands have been essential migratory birds, caribou, polar bears, walruses, belugas, and people for centuries.In 1923, President Warren Harding designated this land as an emergency fuel supply for the military. Since then, the reserve had rarely been used as an oil source and since 1977, it has been protected by laws that require “maximum protection” of the environment, fish and wildlife, and historical or scenic values. However, in 2019, The Bureau of Land Management began undercutting protections for designated Special Areas including Teshekpuk Lake, the largest Arctic lake in the United States, in the NPRA by releasing a new draft Integrated Activity Plan.
There is ongoing pressure from fossil fuel companies to open this land up to leasing for oil and gas developments. This would threaten the land, as well as the wildlife and people that depend on it, including the Inupiat villages that have relied on the reserve for thousands of years for their subsistence way of life.
Latest News: In March 2023, The Biden Administration approved ConocoPhillips Willow Project, a massive and far-reaching oil and gas drilling proposal which would lock in at least three decades of Arctic fossil fuel development.
How we’re fighting back: The Sierra Club and five other environmental organizations filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court charging the Interior Department, multiple agencies, and agency officials with violating an array of laws. Read our full statement on the lawsuit here.
We will continued to explore every avenue to ensure protections in the Western Arctic.