This week, President Barack Obama’s administration announced that the Department of the Interior has released a new conservation plan for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) that will designate more than 12 million acres as wilderness, including the oil-rich coastal plain. The announcement has set off a firestorm of debate, especially from some Alaskan lawmakers, who staunchly opposed the expansion of wilderness protections.

President Obama, speaking during a state visit in India, said he will make an official recommendation to Congress to designate core areas of the ANWR as wilderness. If Congress approves on the proposal, it will be the largest wilderness designation since the landmark Wilderness Act passed over a half century ago.

“Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge is an incredible place—pristine, undisturbed. It supports caribou and polar bears, all manner of marine life, countless species of birds and fish, and for centuries it supported many Alaska Native communities. But it’s very fragile,” President Obama said in a video released this week.

The ANWR contains over 19 million acres of land in the Alaska North Slope region and is the largest National Wildlife Refuge in country. The refuge has a greater variety of plant and animal species than any other refuge in the Arctic Circle, and is home to a number of migratory birds, Dall sheep, wolves, bears, moose, and elk, among many other species. This diversity of wildlife has led many to consider it one of the last great bastions of wilderness in North America.

“The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge preserves a unique diversity of wildlife and habitat in a corner of America that is still wild and free,” said US Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe in another press release. “But it faces growing challenges that require a thoughtful and comprehensive management strategy. The incorporation of large portions of the refuge into the National Wilderness Preservation System will ensure we protect this outstanding landscape and its inhabitants for our children and generations that follow.”

The fate of the ANWR has been a hot debate topic for the past several years due to its oil-rich coast. Conservationists have long sought to preserve the region from development due to worries that human encroachment could endanger the ecosystem and its resident wildlife, such as the famous Porcupine caribou herd, which has its calving grounds on the coastal plains.

Critics of the White House’s recent proposal say that by designating new wilderness areas, millions of acres of the continent’s richest oil and gas prospects will be blocked from development. They argue that the resources contained there are vital to Alaska’s—and America’s—future. A wilderness designation would not only place the coast off-limits for energy developers, but also restrict access for visitors, subsistence hunters, and other users. A number of Alaskan lawmakers scathingly called the proposal a violation of US law.

“What’s coming is a stunning attack on our sovereignty and our ability to develop a strong economy that allows us, our children and our grandchildren to thrive,” US Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said in a statement. “It’s clear this administration does not care about us, and sees us as nothing but a territory. The promises made to us at statehood, and since then, mean absolutely nothing to them. I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska. But we will not be run over like this. We will fight back with every resource at our disposal.”

Similarly, US Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and US Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) denounced the proposal.

“This callously planned and politically motivated attack on Alaska by the Obama administration is akin to spitting in our faces and telling us it’s raining outside. As if on command from the most extreme environmentalist elements, this president and his team of D.C. bureaucrats believe they alone know what’s best for Alaska, but this brazen assault on our state and our people will do the complete opposite,” Representative Young said, adding that the push for new wilderness protections is nothing more than a “land grab.”

Alaska Governor Bill Walker also voiced his disapproval of the Obama administration’s announcement and said that he will be accelerating options for oil exploration and production on state lands. Experts say that a Republican-controlled Congress is also likely to oppose the plan.

The White House responded by saying that the United States is already importing less oil than at any time in the previous 30 years, and is the number-one producer of oil and natural gas in the world. You can see a video on the issue narrated by President Obama below.

Where do you stand? What should be done with the ANWR? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy Pete Souza/The White House

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13 thoughts on “President Obama Proposes Wilderness Protections for Oil-rich Alaskan Coast

  1. Anything to continue his weakening and destruction of America. do we have anyone in Congress to even start impeachment hearings?

  2. The president needs to leave the American people and the states alone…..His policies are tyrannical…When you get a phone call saying you must by something or you will be punished by the Government this is Communism…Problem is there are many Republicans that think the same thing in the same way….Each of the last presidents since Teddy Roosevelt has set aside lands to protect, and, the intentions are noble but they hurt America and Americans….I believe Nature and man can coexist and it has proven in the past it can…..Earth and animals are not “fragile” it’s a heck of a lot tougher than the Marxist want you to believe……

  3. Oh please, there’s nothing tyrannical about proposing the 1002 area as wilderness…he has the authority to do so, given to him by Congress. And only Congress can make it wilderness. The GOP needs to stop acting like babies. Every time they don’t get their way someone starts throwing around the “I” word.

    1. Oh please yourself! It’s what you libbies do best! Trampling states rights is tyrannical. Look up “tyranny” in the dictionary. He does NOT have the authority to do anything on his own! There are state rights and two other facets to our govt structure. I know he hasn’t respected since he began in politics…. Some fools do think how you think, that he’s the “BOOSSSS”! He has the last say? NOT! With a large majority he can be over ridden. The dems had enough to block all that up until now, so now he’s trying to inflict as much damage as he can as he slithers out the door. All the while taking credit for energy production. He did everything he could to destroy “big oil” and failed because of the great Americans who took it upon themselves to step up production on their own private land. The Feds make more from “big oil” than “big oil” does. The energy recovery had nothing to do with Obama and the progressives. It was ALLL private. He has stricken the industry by only reducing oil exploration. It is true where it says he reopened this area or that, but it was in useless areas that not even his communist cohorts want to try. Also he had reduced the total of drill able areas so much that what was reopened was still far less than necessary to be able to recover. He’s trying to recover the $ lost to his Russian pal Putin and to his radical jihad brethren plain and simple.

      1. “He does NOT have the authority to do anything on his own! There are state rights and two other facets to our govt structure.”


        And in this case, CONGRESS passed the Wilderness Act which gives the President the authority to recommend wilderness, and COURTS have recognized that. Meanwhile, CONGRESS also adjudicated the property rights of ALASKA through ANCSA and ANILCA.

        If it’s a “libby” thing to understand how law works, then I don’t know what a “conservative ” thing would be. Apparently writing long rants about Obama and the oil industry.

      2. Which is what he did. The first paragraph of the article mischaracterizes it as designating wilderness, the second paragraph clarifies.

      3. “If Congress approves on the proposal, it will be the largest wilderness designation since the landmark Wilderness Act passed over a half century ago” is also completely wrong – ANILCA was the largest designation.

      4. Is “mischarachterizes” in the same dictionary where you might find “misunderestimate” and “strategery”?

        You are right, he proposed it, just like all of his “executive” decisions, that is his first move before the overstepping. However he does not have the crony substructure to look like American support to do this one. Coincidently it’s happening at the same time as the “Keysone Holdup”.

  4. Has President Obama ever been to the ANWR? I doubt it. Just like 99.999% of those who champion the wilderness designation have never been, nor will ever go, to the ANWR. President Obama obviously hates the Alaskan people. What he should do instead, is designate the entire uninhabited area of the island of Hawaii as a wilderness preserve. Heck, the native Hawaiian people would love that, and more Americans will visit that area than ANWR. But then, Hawaii doesn’t have any of that mean and nasty oil or natural gas.

  5. obahma and his addminnistration have no Idea of what they are talking about. They are just after more land that people will not be able to go on except a very few. ALASKA has taken care of itself for centuries. All the obahma adminnisstration want’s is more land that very few people can go on. I say NO to his proposal o0f making another reserve that is not necessary, and have to spend millions of dollars to protect it that we can not afford, where will he get the money to do this except by raising taxes to unbelieveable hight’s, so that peoplr can not live on what they recieve now on lower wage’sd that they can barely live on now!

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