The Indiana Wildlife Federation is a statewide conservation organization representing thousands of sportsmen and women and outdoor enthusiasts sharing a keen interest in healthy fish and wildlife populations and habitat. We are an affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation. We appreciate this opportunity to comment on the draft Integrated Activity Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (IAP) for the National Petroleum Reserve — Alaska and its potential impact to Indiana and encourage you to do the same.
The reserve is a dramatic expanse of over 22 million acres in Alaska Arctic that includes critical habitat for a stunning array of fish and wildlife enjoyed not only in the reserve itself, but all across this great nation. Millions of migratory birds summering in the Arctic traverse the Pacific, Central, Mississippi and Atlantic flyways to winter destinations in virtually every state. Without the nesting, staging and molting habitat provided by the reserve, this annual migration of healthy migratory bird populations could not occur.
Among the many Arctic species prized by our members are waterfowl hunted or observed each fall throughout large swaths of the country, including Indiana are the Long-billed Dowitchers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Pectoral Sandpipers, Dunlins, Stilt Sandpipers, Northern Pintails and many others, which are all present in the tens of thousands in the reserve each summer. Other species such as Red-Throated and Pacific Loons, Western Sandpipers, Glaucous Gulls and Arctic Terns enliven land and seascapes from coast to coast and are highly valued by countless birders and outdoor recreational enthusiasts.
The reserve encompasses thousands of square miles. What happens to it and its wildlife affects the birds and mammals we care about here in Indiana. These birds need pristine breeding and nesting grounds protected from development. Indiana residents are connected to the reserve in two important ways. The first is the oil and our state’s demand for it. There is no debate there. Second, but perhaps more importantly, the reserve is home to vast numbers of wildlife that include waterfowl, shorebirds, caribou, bears and other animals. Many of these birds migrate to Indiana and end up in places like the Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area. There Indiana sportsman and birders can and do enjoy their bounty.
Balancing America’s demands for oil and its need for wild places was never easy in the 20th Century. It is increasingly more difficult in this century. Since World War II, our country’s oil requirements to fuel industrial progress and our passion for recreation and travel have drastically increased the risks to our natural resources.
The Bureau of Land Management, an agency within the Department of Interior, is tasked with maintaining this balance in the reserve. Recognizing the administration’s responsibility to provide opportunities for oil and gas exploration in the reserve we believe it can craft a balanced plan allowing for oil and gas development while maximizing protection for the reserve’s outstanding wildlife values, especially those in designated special areas.
The IAP identifies “Alternative B” as the management approach that best protects the critical wildlife habitat and other outstanding surface values in the reserve. “Alternative D” protects no wildlife habitat, making the entire reserve available for leasing.
Thus, Alternative B sacrifices little in terms of oil production while protecting the most important habitat in the reserve. In particular, we note that only Alternative B makes the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area — the premier Special Area in the reserve — unavailable for leasing. Additionally, only Alternative B reflects the habitat protection recommendations of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd Working Group.
Given the sustainable resources at stake, the risks and impacts from opening large expanses of key wildlife habitat designated as special areas appear to far outweigh the relatively minor incremental oil production achieved by allowing drilling throughout the entire Reserve. For these reasons, the Indiana Wildlife Federation urges you to select Alternative B as providing the most appropriate management guidance for the reserve into the future.
To date, 13 Indiana conservation groups have signed on to Alternative B include the Central Indiana Pheasants Forever, LaPorte County Conservation Council, Lincoln Hills Resource Conservation and Development, New Alsace Conservation Club, St. Joseph River Valley Fish Fishers, Saugany Lake Conservation Club, Northeastern Indiana Trout Association, Wabash Valley Audubon Society, Rolling Prairie Conservation Club, North Central Conservation Council, Indiana Bowhunter’s Association, Indiana Smallmouth Alliance and the North Dearborn Conservation Club.
The Indiana Wildlife Federation strongly encourages all Hoosiers to voice their opinions, support Alternative B and help the BLM determine how it will manage the reserve in the future and balance the demands for oil while meeting the needs for wildlife habitat.
By visiting our website at indianaw ildlife.org/IN_Akconnection.htm you can read the options and view maps and other documents the BLM is considering. You may support one of these alternatives and also comment and provide suggestions concerning future management decisions on the reserve.
In closing, we remind you that although Alaska may seem far away, the connection between the reserve’s wildlife and places in Indiana, like Goose Pond, are really only a few wing beats away.
LYNN BURRY is a board member of the Indiana Wildlife Federation.