Monday, January 26, 2015

Protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The Obama administration is proposing new protections for large portions of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The U.S. Department of Interior says it's the first time it's recommended additional protections and that their new recommendations have the potential to be one of the largest conservation measures "since Congress passed the visionary Wilderness Act over 50 years ago."

The Department is recommending that millions more acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, including the Coastal Plain, be declared "Wilderness." That would make the total area of the refuge declared Wilderness 12.28 million acres.

Wilderness is the highest level of protection available for public lands. It prohibits mining, drilling, roads, vehicles and permanent structures. The Department of Interior says less than 40 percent of the Refuge currently has Wilderness designation.

Interior plans to start managing the coastal plain area of the Refuge as Wilderness, but will need help from Congress to keep those new protections permanent. Only Congress has the power to make a Wilderness designation, and in a video released to YouTube Sunday, Obama challenged Congress' to act on the issue.

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