Oil and Gas Journal: Alaska lawmakers oppose wilderness review in ANWR update

WASHINGTON, DC, May 10 -- The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's 22-year-old comprehensive conservation plan needs to be updated, Alaska's congressional delegation conceded on May 4. That should not include further wilderness reviews since such designations can only be made by Congress, it continued in a letter submitted at a US Fish & Wildlife Service scoping hearing on the matter.

"The Fish & Wildlife Service's limited financial resources-and taxpayer dollars-should not be wasted on such an unproductive exercise," US Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R) and Mark Begich (D), and Rep. Don Young (R) said in their letter.

"Since the plan revision clearly will not decide this issue, we strongly urge you to take the wilderness review off the table as part of the CCP revision," they continued. "We believe this will save [FWS] considerable time and money and allow [ANWR] personnel to focus on other critical issues, such as managing increased visitor use and changing habitat conditions."

FWS said on Apr. 10 that the update, which normally occurs every 15 years for each federally designated wilderness area, would include a wilderness review. It expects to complete a new comprehensive conservation plan for ANWR by April 2012, starting with seven public meetings.

The three federal lawmakers also urged the US Department of the Interior agency to consider oil and gas exploration with directional drilling and other new technologies as part of the plan.

"As much as the advance of time may have changed habitat and wildlife management concerns, new technology can now facilitate both a better understanding of the oil and gas reserves within [ANWR's] 1002 area as well as enable more environmentally responsible development," they said.

"Directional drilling techniques would allow extraction of oil and gas from some of the 1002 area with no surface disturbance," said Murkowski, Begich, and Young. "We request you meaningfully consider both of these technological advances and their application in future planning for the 1002 area of ANWR."

FWS already has held public meetings in Alaska at Fort Yukon, Venetie, and Arctic Village in addition to Washington. It has three more schedules in Alaska on May 11 in Anchorage, May 13 in Fairbanks, and May 20 in Kaktovik.

Source: By Nick Snow, OGJ Washington Editor. Originally published May 10, 2010