Environment | Opinion | Politics

Editorial: Wildlife refuge in Alaska deserves stronger protections

A view of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Photo from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Facebook

The New York Times supports a wilderness designation for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska:
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge covers only a small part of Alaska. Smaller still is the coastal plain of the refuge, a narrow, 1.5 million-acre strip flanking the Beaufort Sea. The plain is an ecological and biological wonder, the hunting grounds for Alaskan natives and home to caribou, polar bears, all manner of marine life and countless bird species. It may also contain one of the biggest unexploited oil fields in America.

For all these reasons, the plain has been the subject of a bitter tug of war between politicians and oil companies that covet its commercial resources, on one side, and conservationists who think that opening it would be a calamity — “the equivalent,” the former secretary of the interior Bruce Babbitt once said, “of offering Yellowstone National Park for geothermal drilling, or calling for bids to construct hydropower dams in the Grand Canyon.”

President Obama has now come down emphatically on the side of conservation. At the recommendation of Sally Jewell, his secretary of the interior, and John Podesta, his senior counselor, Mr. Obama proposed on Sunday to set aside more than 12 million acres of the refuge as permanent wilderness, including the 1.5 million acres of the coastal plain. Wilderness designation is the highest level of protection the government can confer on public land. It would bar commercial development of any kind, including, crucially, oil-and-gas exploration.

Get the Story:
Editorial: President Obama Protects a Valued Wilderness (The New York Times 1/27)

Another Opinion:
Jim Plaquet: Obama plays to extremists instead of reason in bid to close off ANWR (The Alaska Dispatch News 1/27)

Also Today:
Plan to Protect Refuge Has Alaskans Offended and Fearful Over Money (The New York Times 1/27)
Arctic Ocean may be next as Alaska officials seethe over ANWR move (The Alaska Dispatch News 1/27)

Related Stories:
Obama to seek stronger protections for wildlife refuge in Alaska (1/26)

Join the Conversation