Proposed land swap would allow drilling in Alaska wildlife refuge
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering a land swap with a Native-owned energy company that would open up about 200,000 acres of Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Alaska to oil and gas drilling. Under the pending deal, the energy company would trade about 150,000 acres of its nearby land for 110,000 acres of what it believes is more oil-and-gas-rich land now within the refuge; the deal would also give the company mineral rights to an additional 97,000 acres of refuge land. The company claims the swap is an equal value exchange, but no appraisal has been conducted as it could delay the deal. Alaska Rep. Don Young (R), an advocate of the swap, admitted it’s time sensitive. “The window is the [U.S. presidential] election,” he said. “We’d like to have an executive order out of the administration before they leave office.” Environmentalists and many locals oppose the deal, arguing drilling would damage sensitive lands and habitat. “Interior is trying to accomplish on the Yukon what Congress denied them on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” said Grady Hocutt of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.