Obama Moves to Ban Drilling in Chunk of Alaska

Alaskan senators outraged by 'lawless' proposal
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 26, 2015 4:19 AM CST
Obama Moves to Ban Drilling in Vast Arctic Habitat
A polar bear is seen in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.    (AP Photo/Subhankar Banerjee, File)

(Newser) – In a move that has the state's Republicans boiling with rage, President Obama has moved to seek protection for a vast wildlife habitat in Alaska. The president says he plans to ask Congress to preserve the "amazing wonder" of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by declaring 12 million of its 19 million acres to be wilderness, which would close the area to oil and gas drilling and road construction, reports the New York Times, which notes that this would be the biggest wilderness declaration in more than 50 years. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell described the area, home to wildlife including polar bears, caribou, and musk oxen, as one of America's "crown jewels"—one which "we have an obligation to preserve."

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The proposed designation, which would give the area the highest degree of federal protection, includes 1.5 million acres of the coastal plain, which is believed to hold huge amounts of oil and gas, reports the Alaska Dispatch News. But while wildlife groups were overjoyed by the move, it appears to have the proverbial snowball's chance of making it through the GOP-led Congress, if the reactions of Alaska's two Republican senators are anything to go by. Sen. Lisa Murkowski called it a "stunning attack on our sovereignty," saying the administration "sees us as nothing but a territory," while Sen. Dan Sullivan vowed to "defeat their lawless attempt to designate ANWR as a wilderness, as well as their ultimate goal of making Alaska one big national park." (Read more Lisa Murkowski stories.)

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