Heinrich Applauds Biden Administration Decisions to Protect Western Arctic Reserve and Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is applauding two decisions from the Biden administration to protect globally important wilderness lands in Alaska’s Western Arctic and Brooks Range.   

The administration has finalized a new framework for balancing development with the protection of Special Areas within the Western Arctic in Alaska and they have rejected a proposed 211-mile industrial trucking corridor called the “Ambler Road Project” that would have cut directly through Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and the Kobuk River Valley to allow hardrock mineral development along the southern edge of the Brooks Range.  

“The Brooks Range, the Kobuk Valley, and the Western Arctic are home to some of the largest truly intact, wild landscapes on the planet. The coastal plains, lakes, and wetlands within the Western Arctic and the unspoiled river valleys and tundra along the Brooks Range provide essential habitat to a wide range of wildlife species including migratory birds, polar bears, grizzly bears, and caribou,” said Heinrich.  

“There are many places on our public lands where mining and energy development are appropriate, but Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and the Western Arctic have even higher values left intact,” Heinrich continued. “Industrial scale oil and gas drilling, hardrock and gravel mining, and an industrial trucking corridor would have destroyed these wild places and their vital sources of sustenance for Alaska Natives, impacting critical fish habitat and the Western Arctic Caribou Herd—historically the largest herd in Alaska and one that has already faced steep declines due to climate change.  

“Having experienced both the Western Arctic and the Brooks Range up close, I know how precious and irreplaceable these landscapes are,” Heinrich concluded. “I applaud President Biden’s courageous work to protect these public lands that belong to every single American.” 

PHOTOS: U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich’s photos of the Western Arctic, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, the Brooks Range, and Iniakuk Lake.

Find more information about the Biden administration’s framework for the Western Arctic here.  

Find more information on the Biden administration’s decision on the Ambler Road Project here. The proposed Ambler Road Project would have crossed through 11 major rivers, more than 3,000 streams, and sensitive wetlands areas in the Koyukuk, Yukon, and Kobuk watersheds. To build the entire project, the State of Alaska would have had to construct 48 new bridges and cut approximately 3,000 culverts or tunnels under the roadway.   

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