Trump Opens Most of a Vast Arctic Alaska Wilderness to Drilling

by | Jun 14, 2020

The Bureau of Land Management opened more than 80% of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska to oil and gas drilling. The plan strips more than 18 million acres of the 24-million-acre wilderness of protection, including habitat vital to ice seals, polar bears, and migratory birds already under siege from climate change. By Trump administration standards, this is a boffo move: It favors the fossil fuel industry over conservation, ignores climate change, hurts people of color — Alaska Natives whose food security depends on hunting wildlife in areas now open to drilling — and overturns the Obama-era 2013 management plan that protected about 10 million acres, or just under 50% of the reserve. In 1976, Congress ordered the BLM to manage the NPR-A equally for conservation and development. Status: Finalized. The BLM released its completed plan for the NPR-A on June 25, 2020.

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Amy Westervelt is the editor-in-chief of Drilled News, creator and host of the Drilled podcast, and founder of the Critical Frequency podcast network, named AdWeek's Podcast Network of the Year in 2019. An award-winning print and audio journalist, Amy has contributed to The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, as well as KQED, The California Report, Capital Public Radio, and many other outlets. She is the 2015 winner of the Rachel Carson award for "women greening journalism," and a 2016 winner of an Edward R. Murrow award for her series on the impacts of the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada. In 2019, the Drilled podcast won the Online News Association's "Excellence in Audio Storytelling" award.

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Emily J. Gertz is senior editor of Drilled News. A longtime environmental reporter and editor, her work has appeared in HuffPost, Reveal, Arctic Today, The Guardian, Popular Science, Scientific American, Sierra, and more.