Washington, March 9, 2021 — Today, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced the commencement of a comprehensive review of the federal oil and gas program. As stated in the Biden administration’s executive order of January 27, 2021: This will “provide a chance to review the federal oil and gas program to ensure that it serves the public interest and to restore balance on America’s public lands and waters to benefit current and future generations. Fossil fuel extraction on public lands accounts for nearly a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Irresponsible leasing of public lands and waters impacts communities’ access to clean air, clean water, and outdoor recreation; carves up important wildlife habitat; and threatens cultural and sacred sites.”

Statement by Adam Kolton, Executive Director, Alaska Wilderness League:

“Today’s announcement is the first step toward a return to the bipartisan tradition of valuing our most cherished and iconic landscapes as the national treasures that they are instead of as targets for exploitation and short-term profit. The Biden team must address the public land fire sale overseen by the last administration and embrace the opportunity to advance America’s clean energy future in the process. With oil majors like BP and Shell exiting the Arctic and the prior administration’s Arctic Refuge lease sale an epic failure, we cannot continue to chase the fallacy of ‘energy dominance’ through continued fossil fuel expansion.

“For four years Alaska was repeatedly the bullseye for an agenda focused on leasing and drilling, no matter the cost or impact. Through its efforts in the Arctic Ocean, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Western Arctic, the last administration attempted to open nearly 150 million acres of public lands and waters to drilling that, if successful, would have spelled disaster for our climate. It’s long past time for us to align our public lands management and climate goals and to consider the long-term needs of frontline and Indigenous communities.

“The Biden administration has made climate action and the protection of America’s Arctic a top priority, an important reversal in a state home to some of the most biologically important places left on the planet but one also facing extreme climate impacts. Alaska’s public lands and waters and the wildlife they support are central to the ways of life of Indigenous communities who have been stewards of these lands for generations. We can do better for these communities, and we can start now.”

Alaska Wilderness League galvanizes support to secure vital policies that protect and defend America’s last great wild public lands and waters. www.alaskawild.org