Oil plans threaten Alaska wildlife

Kittlitz's murrelet

From BirdLife:

Alaska oil drilling threatens Critical biodiversity


The US Government has auctioned leases to drill for oil and gas in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska, putting at risk internationally important concentrations of seabirds, and a number of threatened bird species, including the Critically Endangered Kittlitz’s Murrelet Brachyramphus brevirostri.

Audubon (BirdLife in the USA) says the Chukchi Sea is also home to one-tenth of the world’s remaining Polar Bears Ursus maritimus, and the only population of Bowhead Whales Balaena mysticetus not yet considered by the IUCN to be threatened.

At least 15 species of birds on Audubon Alaska’s WatchList use marine and coastal habitats in the Chukchi Sea. The WatchList identifies declining and vulnerable species and populations of birds.

Bird species at risk include the Vulnerable Steller’s Eider Polysticta stelleri and Near Threatened Ivory Gull Pagophila eburnea.

Oil-linked inflation destabilizes Africa, Middle East: here.

11 thoughts on “Oil plans threaten Alaska wildlife

  1. George Bush’s Fish and Wildlife Service wants to hand over 110,000 acres in the pristine Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas exploration.

    Please take action to protect this wildlife habitat.

    Bob Fertik
    Dear Friend,

    A wildlife refuge in Alaska is at risk of being irreparably damaged by oil drilling.

    Please speak up opposing this move by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, before the March 25 comment deadline.

    The Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, home to millions of migratory birds as well as grizzlies, wolves and Dall sheep, is under threat.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to trade away 110,000 acres of prime refuge wildlife habitat – along with another 97,000 acres of subsurface mineral rights – for oil and gas exploration and development.

    We still have time to stop this ill-conceived plan. Until March 25, Americans can speak out in support of the native people who rely on the land, water, and wildlife resources of Yukon Flats by opposing this unwise use of the refuge’s irreplaceable habitat.

    Click here to send a message to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Taking action today makes you eligible to win a trip for two to Alaska.

    Your voice is key. Even the Fish and Wildlife Service has admitted in the past that oil drilling is not compatible with the purposes for which this refuge was established.
    But they need to be reminded.

    Drilling means roads, pipelines, oil spills and pollution – all of which will threaten the habitats of the moose, bear, caribou and birds that depend on this place. Native peoples living off of the land could be irreversibly affected by oil production in the area.

    Time is running out. We have only until March 25 to let the Fish and Wildlife Service know that Americans do not support oil production in this Alaskan refuge!

    Click here to send your message.

    These public lands must be protected – and concerned Americans like you and me need to step up to save them. Together we can work to protect wild Alaskan lands from oil development.

    Kathy Kilmer
    The Wilderness Society


  2. Bush wants to turn wildlife reserve into oil field

    Big News Network.com

    Wednesday 23rd April, 2008

    US President George Bush has said he is concerned about record-high crude oil and gasoline prices.

    At a news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Mr Bush pushed the idea of the United States tapping an Alaskan wildlife reserve to boost supply.

    Bush reiterated his call for the US Congress to overturn the long-standing moratorium on drilling for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, home to wildlife like polar bears and migratory birds.

    He said: ‘I am obviously concerned for our consumers. We should have been exploring for oil in ANWR. As a result we are dependent on foreign sources of oil.’


  3. Suit seeks ban on oil companies disturbing wildlife

    Tue Jul 8, 2008 7:16pm EDT

    By Yereth Rosen

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – Two environmental groups on Tuesday filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn new federal regulations that grants permission to oil companies working in the Chukchi Sea to disturb the polar bears and walrus that live there.

    The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Anchorage, challenges regulations issued last month by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that allow “incidental takes” of the animals, meaning permission to disturb or accidentally harass them as long as such actions do not result in physical injury or death.

    Tuesday’s lawsuit, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Pacific Environment, is the latest volley in legal challenges over protections for polar bears and other animals from expanded oil development in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off Alaska.

    “It may seem like we’re filing a lot of lawsuits,” said Brendan Cummings, oceans program director for the center.

    “But the fundamental thing is they’re all really focusing on the same fundamental issue, which is protecting polar bear habitat in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.”

    A spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service declined to comment on Tuesday’s lawsuit but defended the incidental-take regulations, which are meant to be in effect for five years.

    “We believe that the incidental-take regulations are a valuable conservation tool,” said Bruce Woods, spokesman for the service’s Alaska headquarters.

    Polar bears were listed in May as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and a petition is pending that would give similar protections to the Pacific walrus.

    The remote and ice-choked Chukchi, which lies between northwestern Alaska and northeastern Siberia, is emerging as a hot oil prospect.

    After many years of scant industry activity, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and other oil companies earlier this year moved aggressively to pick up exploration acreage.

    A lease sale held by the U.S. Minerals Management Service in February drew a record $2.66 billion in high bids, with $2.1 billion of that from Shell. Shell currently holds a permit from the MMS to do seismic testing in the Chukchi this year to evaluate the geology there.

    Industry activity is also accelerating in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s northern coast. Shell, which spent $44 million on leases there in 2005 and $39 million in 2007, is seeking to explore a prospect it calls Sivulliq.

    BP Plc, meanwhile, has plans to develop its offshore Liberty prospect, a 100-million-barrel oil field that would be the first producing oil field located entirely in federal waters off Alaska.

    But environmentalists and the area’s Inupiat Eskimos are alarmed at what they consider to be an industry rush into critical habitat for whales, polar bears and other Arctic animals already imperiled by the warming climate.

    “It’s an unfortunate convergence that as global warming impacts in the Arctic are accelerating and putting polar bears and walrus under deep stress, the only thing keeping pace with that is the rate of authorizing oil development in their habitat,” Cummings said.

    Tuesday’s lawsuit came just days after a federal judge in Anchorage rejected a similar complaint concerning impacts to whales and seals from planned seismic tests this year by BP and Shell.

    U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline last week dismissed that lawsuit, which had been filed by Inupiat villagers and environmental groups challenging permits granted by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the MMS.

    The “balance of hardships” weighs in favor of the agencies, BP and Shell, “who have invested significant time and expense in preparing for the scheduled activities,” Beistline said in his July 2 ruling. “Moreover, the public interest in energy development favors upholding the permits.”

    Cummings said an appeal has already been filed.

    (Editing by Christian Wiessner)


  4. Undoing Bush-era policies is going to take some time, but this is one that needs to be addressed right away. New drilling in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska would threaten marine mammals who make the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas their homes � and the local cultures that depend on them for their way of life.

    Please take action to protect these marine mammals.

    Bob Fertik
    Dear Activist,

    The comment deadline is approaching.

    Tell the Minerals Management Service to halt all new oil and gas leases!

    One of the harshest environments in the world is that of the Arctic Ocean. Yet, remarkably, these waters are rich in wildlife � marine and land based. Pacific walrus, polar bears and bowhead whales swim and hunt in these waters, a region particularly hard-hit by climate change.

    Incredibly, their plight may get worse, as the Minerals Management Service (MMS) considers offering 73 million acres of Arctic waters to oil and gas leasing. That’s an area the size of Arizona.

    It’s critically important that you speak out in defense of these creatures.

    The receding ice cap has made it harder for the animals � marine and land-based � to get around and find food, including the polar bears that hunt and mate here each year, and the Pacific walruses that live here year round. In fact, 90 percent of the entire Pacific walrus population can be found in these waters.

    But not just wildlife is at stake. Wholesale leasing in this area would endanger the centuries-old way of life of Native communities, whose very culture centers on wildlife and ecosystem integrity.

    Please click here to tell the MMS to halt new leases in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

    There is simply no safe way to drill in these waters. Studies have shown that even seismic testing of potential drilling sites is known to have an impact on marine animals’ habits and lifecycles. And research conducted by the MMS indicates that with extensive drilling, small crude oil and other petroleum spills are inevitable. MMS predicts a 40% chance of a large spill. Making matters worse, the technology to clean up a spill in icy Arctic waters doesn’t even exist.

    We need science to guide decisions with such long-lasting effects, not pressure from the oil and gas industry. Until there is scientific evidence that drilling won’t harm wildlife, all new oil leases should be taken off the table.

    Write the MMS today to ask that they halt all new leases until the science on drilling is in.

    Thanks for all you do,

    Kathy Kilmer
    The Wilderness Society


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