November 28, 2021

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Interior OKs Tongass logging amid Alaska timber, petroleum push

“The Willow project alone will be massive and bring to our state hundreds of good-paying jobs for hard-working Alaskans,” Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, said, adding that the National Strategic Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, the federal area in question, is “slated to be among the hottest energy prospects in the world.”

The BLM manages the NPR-A, which spans more than 23 million acres on Alaska’s North Slope.

A U.S. Geological Survey study released this month found oil and gas drilling could harm 34 percent of maternal polar bear dens in the Alaskan Arctic.

“The attacks on the Arctic just continue to escalate,” Nicole Whittington-Evans, Alaska program director for Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement. “The finalization of oil and gas plans for the Willow project and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are a one-two punch to wildlife including imperiled Southern Beaufort Sea polar bears and their critical habitat,” Whittington-Evans said. “Despite the urgent need to ramp down our carbon emissions, as the Arctic continues to melt, the Bureau of Land Management just continues its drumbeat to drill for fossil fuels.” 

One resource-extraction project supported by the administration but opposed by Murkowski and Sullivan is the so-called Pebble Mine, a gold, copper and molybdenum site near Bristol Bay, which has divided the state politically and is near the world’s biggest salmon run. Murkowski said this month she would use the appropriations process to block approval of the project.

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