Bush admin poised to open sensitive Alaska North Slope land to drilling

The Bush administration plans to open to drilling more than 400,000 acres of Alaska’s North Slope thought to be vital to migratory birds and caribou, after the Bureau of Land Management determined that drilling can be done with “minimum impact” on wildlife. Interior Secretary Gale Norton is expected to give a final go-ahead for the plan this week. The area is part of the 22-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska; 87 percent of the NPR-A was opened for drilling by President Clinton, but the northeast corner, home to Lake Teshekpuk and key wildlife habitat, was put off-limits. Well, so much for that. The Bush team now says the oil and gas in the area is needed. Enviros, of course, disagree and plan to fight the move in court. “You do need to have oil and gas development in the NPR-A, but not on every single acre,” said Eleanor Huffins of the Wilderness Society.