Trump administration opens up millions of acres of protected Arctic land for oil development

JULIA JACOBO
·2 min read

The Trump administration has finalized plans to open a vast amount of protected land in Arctic Alaska to oil development.

The Bureau of Land Management on Monday released its plan for the 23 million acres on the western North Slope of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

MORE: Trump administration announces plan to allow oil and gas drilling in Arctic Wildlife Refuge

About 18.6 million acres -- roughly 80% of the reserve -- are now available for oil and gas development by the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.

PHOTO: Ice-rich permafrost has been exposed due to coastal erosion a the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska in 2014. (Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: Ice-rich permafrost has been exposed due to coastal erosion a the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska in 2014. (Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images, FILE)

The decision is "in support of the Trump Administration's agenda for a stronger and more energy independent nation," according to a BLM statement.

"This action is a significant achievement in delivering on our commitment to provide energy for America, from America," Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Casey Hammond said in the statement. "With this decision, we are expanding access to our nation's great energy potential and providing for economic opportunities and job creation."

MORE: Alaska at center of Trump administration's drive to drill public lands during pandemic

In August, the Trump administration announced a plan to allow drilling for an undetermined amount of oil on more than 1.5 million acres on the coast of the refuge, despite decades of protests over how oil development could harm the environment and Indigenous tribes.

PHOTO: In this undated photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an airplane flies over caribou from the Porcupine Caribou Herd on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska. (AP)
PHOTO: In this undated photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an airplane flies over caribou from the Porcupine Caribou Herd on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska. (AP)

The new plan "includes important safeguards for wildlife and sensitive resources," as well as special measures to address concerns from nearby communities on the environmental impact, according to the bureau.

MORE: Fate of monarch butterfly still hangs in the balance after endangered species decision

The decision to open up the land comes before the drilling rights on the eastern North Slope of the refuge are to be auctioned on Wednesday.

PHOTO: Muskox are pictured at the national petroleum reserve in northwest Alaska in this undated photo.  (Prisma Bildagentur/Universal Images Group via Getty)
PHOTO: Muskox are pictured at the national petroleum reserve in northwest Alaska in this undated photo. (Prisma Bildagentur/Universal Images Group via Getty)

Trump's administration has reversed or hindered efforts aimed at helping the environment, most notably pulling out of the Paris Agreement, removing clean water protections and seeking to fast-track environmental reviews of dozens of major energy and infrastructure projects, including drilling and pipelines.

President-elect Joe Biden has said he would move to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from gas and oil drilling.

Trump administration opens up millions of acres of protected Arctic land for oil development originally appeared on abcnews.go.com