Caribou can be seen in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Secretary Zinke plans to work with tribes on drilling push in Alaska

The Trump administration is reviving controversial plans to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to energy development.

The fiscal year 2018 budget request for the Department of the Interior anticipates revenues from oil drilling in the northern part of the 19 million-acre refuge. But development -- which would likely entail construction of a pipeline -- requires Congressional approval and Secretary Ryan Zinke said he's prepared to push for action.

"We're working with the tribes and the Native Alaskans that also depend largely on energy for their funding," Zinke said during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

Alaska Native corporations stand to benefit from drilling. The Arctic Slope Regional Corporation owns subsurface rights and the Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation owns surface rights to land within ANWR where development could occur. Native residents anticipate jobs, revenues and economic growth if Congress takes action.

A map of Alaska North's Slope shows the "1002 Area" of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge where oil development could occur. Native owned lands are shaded orange. Image: U.S. Geological Survey

But while Republican supporters of drilling have repeatedly brought up tribal involvement, few have tried to authorize development solely on Native-owned lands, which are held in fee status rather than in trust. Instead they have focused on a larger portion of ANWR's North Slope, also known as the 1002 Area, and have blamed environmentalists and Democrats when their legislative vehicles fail.

Some also have lashed out at the Gwich'in Steering Committee. The Gwich'in people oppose development out of fear it will destroy the caribou herds in ANWR that they depend on for subsistence. Some Gwich'in villages are located within the refuge while others are across the boundaries.

The Trump administration doesn't anticipate ANWR revenues until 2022 or 2023, according to a budget document. Zinke said preparatory work has to occur prior to any leasing activities.

"Lease sales in the ANWR are estimated to generate $3.5 billion in bonus bids to be split evenly between the U.S. Treasury and the State of Alaska," the budget states.

Read More on the Story:
The Energy 202: Environmentalists gear up for another fight over ANWR (AP 5/24)
Opening ANWR to oil drilling is priority in Trump's proposed budget (Alaska Dispatch News 5/24)

Department of the Interior Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Documents:
Budget in Brief | Indian Affairs Highlights | Department Office Highlights [Includes Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians] | Legislative Proposals and Offsetting Collections

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