Washington, D.C. – The U.S. government will sell oil and gas leases on 190 tracts of land, totalling about 1.8 million acres, in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska next month. The Department of the Interior said that it will protect critical migratory bird and caribou habitat in buffer zones around Teshekpuk Lake.
“This sale reflects the Administration’s continuing efforts to encourage environmentally responsible development of domestic energy resources, including fossil fuels, to reduce our nation’s heavy dependence on imported oil,” said Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior. “It also demonstrates our continuing commitment to preserve and conserve wildlife and their habitat on sensitive public lands with exceptional ecological value.”
The tracts include land close to existing infrastructure, such as the Trans Alaska Pipeline System, and areas of known development potential. The bureau said it chose not to offer lands around Teshekpuk Lake in consideration of important fish and wildlife habitats. The lake shore areas contain internationally significant molting habitat for black brant, Canada geese and greater white-fronted geese.
The lake’s shoreline has been respected through several Presidential administrations, which have agreed to withhold the lake and areas to the north from leasing. Some 430,000 acres north and east of the lake have been deferred from leasing until 2018. The current sale also holds back about 170,000 acres south of the lake because of migratory bird and caribou habitat concerns. The Teshekpuk caribou herd has almost doubled in recent years from about 35,000 to almost 70,000 animals, and the government has agreed that the herd’s biology justifies holding back a significant number of potential leases south of the lake so the agency can update its understanding of the herd’s needs and land use. Local village subsistence hunters rely on the herd and take about five per cent of it in an average year.
Currently, there are 310 authorized oil and gas leases totalling 3,026,633 acres in the Alaska petroleum reserve.