In the northwest corner of the northwestern-most state in the union lies the misnamed National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (“Reserve”).  Well, the Alaska part is right, but the rest of it, not so much.

Contrary to the image conjured by its name, the Reserve is actually a place of unparalleled wildlife habitat supporting a wildly diverse and spectacular array of creatures.  Caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, wolverines, musk ox, walrus, seals, polar bears . . . the iconic wildlife of the Arctic are all well-represented in the Reserve.  But the wildlife that occurs in the most staggering numbers  – and probably the most familiar to folks in the 48 states – are the millions of migratory birds that summer in the Reserve and then fly south to almost every state in the nation.

Northern pintails by Larry Hitchens
A pair of Northern Pintails takes flight. Photo by Larry Hitchens.
Known as “Alaska’s Duck Factory,” the Reserve provides critical nesting, staging and molting habitat for tens of thousands of Northern Pintails, Greater White-fronted geese, Lesser snow geese, Long-Tailed Ducks, Tundra Swans, and a sizable percentage of the world population of Black Brant.  Other waterbirds including the threatened Spectacled eider and Steller’s eider, multiple loon species, and hundreds of thousands of shorebirds share the flyways south to overwinter in locations throughout the Lower 48 states from coast to coast and sometimes on to other continents.

Surprisingly, there’s not much oil in the Reserve – enough for about a month at the current U.S. consumption rate according to the U.S. Geological SurveyThe Obama Administration is currently deciding how much of the Reserve’s wildlife habitat to protect, and how much to lease to the oil companies.  Given the abundance and diversity of wildlife at stake, and the relatively minimal oil resource, National Wildlife Federation supports a balanced approach that protects the most important habitat while allowing careful oil development where appropriate. 

Take ActionTell the Bureau of Land Management to protect crucial wildlife habitat in the Reserve.