Development within the Range of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd

Development has the potential to greatly impact the caribou and people of northwest Alaska. That is why the Working Group has a Resource Development Committee that tracks development projects across the range of the herd and leads the drafting of comment letters for submission by the Working Group. Since its formation in 1997, the Working Group has submitted numerous advisory recommendations to government agencies, regulatory boards, and other bodies to support decisions that will ensure the long-term conservation of the WAH.

Your input is needed

Join the Working Group in making your voice heard! Comments from the public are an important part of development decisions. They are considered along with scientific information to guide which projects should be approved or how they should be done to minimize harm to caribou, other wildlife, the environment, and people.

There are multiple ways to provide input on proposed projects. Here is how to make sure your perspectives are considered:

  1. Do your research
    • Attend in-person or online meetings or read project documents to learn more about the proposal and alternatives
    • Feel welcome to call or email agency staff if you have questions or would like more information about a proposed project or management plan
  2. Be specific
    • Statements of support or opposition are not enough; identify a particular problem and recommend solutions or additional ideas
    • Refer to specific parts of the proposal document by section or page number when possible
    • Provide detailed information to support your comments based on your experiences, perspectives, Traditional Knowledge, scientific understanding, and/or cited sources
  3. Make it unique
    • Identical comments, including form letters or emails, often count as one comment so make your comments unique and constructive to the process

For more information, see BLM’s guide: How to make a Substantiative Comment

Alaska Department of Transportation: summary of Northern Region projects

Proposed Development in the Range 2021

1. Ambler Road Project
In 2020 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved permits for constructing the Ambler Road along the northern route. A right-of-way agreement was signed in January 2021, but two lawsuits objecting to the permits are pending by the Tanana Chiefs Conference and conservation organizations. If completed, the road would cover over 200 miles between the proposed Ambler Mining District and the Dalton Highway, crossing WAH migration and winter areas. The Working Group opposed the project in comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement in 2019 and submitted a letter in 2021 reiterating the group’s opposition.
BLM Ambler Road eplanning page

2. National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska Integrated Activity Plan Revision
The BLM finalized a new Integrated Activity Plan (IAP) in 2020 that altered land use within the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (NPR-A). The Working Group asked BLM to maintain and expand previous protections for calving grounds and other important habitat for the WAH and Teshekpuk Caribou Herd. Instead, the new IAP greatly reduced restrictions on oil and gas leasing and development for both herds.
BLM NPR-A IAP eplanning page

3. Willow Master Development Plan
BLM approved this project in 2020. It will expand development west in the NPR-A, closer to core Teshekpuk Herd calving areas than existing NPR-A developments in the Alpine and Greater Mooses Tooth units. Gravel mining was proposed but is on hold as of spring 2021.
WillowMDP eplanning page

4. Red Dog Mine
Plans for exploration of the Anarraaq – Aktigiruq mineral deposits about 8 miles north of the current Red Dog Mine are on hold as the applicant reevaluates its plans. The Working Group is keeping an eye on future proposals.
Alaska Department of Natural Resources Anarraaq-Aktigiruq website

5. Noatak – Red Dog Road
Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is considering 4 alternatives for a gravel road between the Red Dog road and the village of Noatak. The Working Group submitted comments in 2019 that urged avoiding negative impacts to caribou and their users but has not taken a formal position on the project.
Noatak Planning and Environmental Linkage Study website

6. Arctic Strategic Transportation and Resources
This project seeks to develop plans to support the creation of roads and other infrastructure between communities and resource development areas on the North Slope. It is still in the planning and analysis stages and no concrete proposals have been made. The Working Group is paying close attention as previous maps showed roads through WAH calving grounds.
ASTAR website