The Obama administration said the Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has finalized its recommendation to designate an additional 12.28 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), including the coastal plain, as wilderness, banning oil and gas drilling there.
But Republicans in both houses of Congress, which would need to enact legislation to designate the acres as wilderness, lashed out at the proposal.
In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner on Friday, President Obama said FWS's revised conservation plan for ANWR also calls for including the Atigun, Hulahula, Kongakut and Marsh Fork Canning rivers into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Program.
If enacted, the wilderness designation would be the largest in Interior's history and would designate nearly all of ANWR's total 19.8 million acres as wilderness. Currently, more than seven million acres of ANWR are managed as wilderness.
"This area is one of the most beautiful, undisturbed places in the world," Obama said. "It is a national treasure and should be permanently protected through legislation for future generations."
U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) promised on Friday that legislation to add the additional wilderness acreage "will never see the light of day in Congress.
"This outrageous proposal from the Obama administration will undermine Alaska's future and America's energy security. President Obama's goal of starving the Trans-Alaska Pipeline of oil and turning our state into a giant national park will not stand."
Separately, U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-AK) also blasted the proposal last Friday.
"This President's callous decision to manage ANWR, not for the people of the Arctic but for his party's environmental elite, sends a clear and resounding message -- he is not Alaska's friend," Young said. "I don't take these actions lightly and I will continue fighting against decisions that jeopardize Alaska’s future and social and economic well being."
The Obama administration first said it would recommend designating the additional acres of the ANWR as wilderness in January (see Daily GPI, Jan. 26).