Not really sure what to make of this. Apparently the government’s map of the Arctic Refuge is gone — poof, vanished. Why on earth, you’re wondering, does the government only have one detailed map of the Refuge? I don’t know. Why was it sitting behind some file cabinet? You got me. Was it thrown out deliberately or by accident? Nobody knows. Does it matter? Felicity Barringer thinks maybe so:

All this may have real consequences. The United States Geological Survey drew up a new map. … The missing map did not seem to include in the coastal plain tens of thousands of acres of Native Alaskans’ lands. On the new map, those lands were included, arguably making it easier to open them to energy development.

The implications of the contours on the new map, at least for the native lands, are in dispute. Some people argue that the native owners, the Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation, which controls much of the surface rights to the land, and the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, which controls the mineral rights, would be able to offer energy leases no matter where the lines are drawn, as soon as Congress opens the plain.

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The legislative counsel of the Interior Department, Jane M. Lyder, did not go quite that far, but did say the new map might make the question moot.

“It’s a very circular kind of thing,” Ms. Lyder said. “Changing the line on the map makes it a lot easier.”

In addition, she said, the inclusion of the native lands within the coastal plain ensures that they will be covered by the bill’s requirement that no more than 2,000 acres of the plain be used for drilling platforms, airstrips, roads and other surface disturbances. By including the native lands in the plain, any work there would count to the 2,000-acre limit, she said.


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