The Biden administration on Monday took a first step toward rescinding a Trump-era plan to dramatically expand fossil fuel development in the Alaskan Arctic.
The Bureau of Land Management has announced plans to reinstate a 2013 plan for the 23 million acre Alaska National Oil Reserve adopted under President Barack Obama’s administration. The decision, if finalized, would ultimately reject the Trump administration’s eleventh hour rewrite of the plan, which opened up an additional 7 million acres of the reserve for potential oil and gas rentals.
“This decision reflects the priority of the Biden-Harris administration to review existing oil and gas programs to ensure a balance on US public lands and waters for the benefit of current and future generations,” the office said in a statement. .
The National Petroleum Reserve, established in 1923 on the North Slope of Alaska, is the largest stretch of federal land in the country and is home to vast deposits of oil and gas.
The Obama administration has limited oil drilling to about half of the reserve, but the industry-friendly Trump administration increased the area available for development from 11.8 million to 18.6 million. This included opening the gate to future drilling around Teshekpuk Lake in the northeast corner of the reserve, which is important habitat for polar bears, caribou and migratory birds.
The BLM noted in its announcement that while it seeks to revert to the Obama-era plan, it would retain “certain lease terms and operating procedures that are more protective of threatened and endangered species” from the rewrite during Donald Trump’s tenure.
Kristen Miller, interim executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League conservation group, applauded Team Biden for acting to reverse a Trump-era expansion that she said “threatened local communities with shrinking hunting grounds traditional, displacement of wildlife and deterioration of air quality from oil and gas development.
“Now, especially as it prepares to gather public comment on its ‘America the Beautiful’ initiative, we hope the administration recognizes the potential of America’s largest public land to ensure ecosystem protection. at landscape level and maintain healthy and diverse flora and fauna. habitat for the future, ”she said in a statement Monday.
The American the Beautiful initiative aims to protect 30% of America’s land and waters by 2030 in an effort to fight climate and extinction crises.
The Huffington Gt