On January 25, 2015, President Obama announced a plan to protect 1.5 million–acre coastal plain in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This is a place which local indiginous people call, “The Sacred Place Where Life Begins”. This is good news for caribou and polar bears, as well as a number of bird and fish species of birds and fish.
The President’s plan would prohibit motorized access to the area, as well as the construction of any roads.
The Interior Department also plans to announce several other plans to protect Alaska wilderness in the coming weeks, which includes limitations and prohibitions on oil and gas production in the Arctic.
This is far from a fait acompli as the Republican controlled Congress has the ability to kill the plan. It is expected that this move will be resisted by the GOP and Alaska Republicans in particular. However, the Interior Department can begin to manage the refuge with a higher level of protection.
In a written announcement accompanying the video, the White House called the refuge’s coastal plain “one of the few remaining places in the country as pristine today as it was when the oldest Alaska native communities first set eyes on it. …By designating the area as wilderness, Congress could preserve the coastal plain in perpetuity—ensuring that this wild, free, beautiful, and bountiful place remains in trust for Alaska natives and for all Americans.”