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
If constructed, the Ambler Road would cover over 200 miles across state, federal, and Native Corporation lands between the proposed Ambler Mining District and the Dalton Highway, crossing WAH migration and wintering areas. In February 2022, the federal government decided to reconsider the right-of-way agreement signed in 2021. This will likely lead to future opportunities for public comment. The State of Alaska held listening sessions and a comment period in March on granting an easement for the proposed road to cross state lands. The Working Group voted to oppose the project in 2019 and has since submitted multiple letters reiterating the group’s opposition to a road.
BLM Ambler Road eplanning page

2. National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska Integrated Activity Plan Revision
In 2020, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) altered the Integrated Activity Plan that governs land use in the National Petroleum Reserve –Alaska. This opened new areas for oil and gas leasing and development in calving and other important habitat for the WAH and Teshekpuk caribou herds (see map). However, in 2022 BLM changed its selected alternative, maintaining previous protections, with some additional measures.
This better aligns with the Working Group’s request that BLM maintain protections for caribou calving grounds and other critical habitat.
BLM NPR-A IAP eplanning page

3. Willow Master Development Plan
A court ruling in 2021 halted development of the Willow project, which would expand development west in the NPR-A, closer to core Teshekpuk caribou herd calving areas. BLM is now conducting a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) review of the project. Scoping was completed in March and a draft SEIS later this year will provide opportunity for public comment.
WillowMDP eplanning page

4. Red Dog Mine
Teck America, Inc. filed a new application in March 2023 for exploration of the Anarraaq – Aktigiruq mineral deposits about 8 miles north of the current Red Dog Mine. The proposed construction includes six gravel pads, four material sites, and a little over twelve miles of gravel roads. The Working Group commented on this application and on earlier applications for exploration in this area.
Alaska Department of Natural Resources Anarraaq-Aktigiruq website