Ambler road project in Alaska blocked by Biden administration


June 28, 2024

Large areas of federal land in Alaska will be protected from development to conserve fish and wildlife habitats that are important to native communities' way of life, under two measures announced by the Biden administration on Friday.

The steps by the Interior Department are aligned with President Joe Biden's goal to conserve 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters as part of his climate change agenda.

In a statement, Interior said it had finalized its rejection of the Ambler Road project, a 340-km (211-mile) road intended to enable mine development in north central Alaska. The agency first said it would reject the project in April, citing risks to caribou and fish populations that native communities rely on for subsistence.

The Ambler road would provide access to untouched deposits of copper, zinc, lead, silver, and gold in northwestern Alaska. The two-lane, all-season gravel road would have run through the Brooks Range foothills and the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, crossing 11 rivers and thousands of streams before it reached the site of a future mine.

Interior also signaled that it would not allow development on 28 million acres (11 million hectares) of land in Alaska, reversing an effort by former President Donald Trump's administration to strip them of protections in the final days of his presidency.

Biden's Interior put the Trump decision on hold so it could seek public comment and analyze the impact of opening the area to mining or oil and gas development.

The final environmental analysis, published on Friday, found that allowing development would harm subsistence hunting and fishing in up to 117 native communities. A final decision by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland can be made 30 days after the release of the environmental review.

"Today, my Administration is stopping a 211-mile road from carving up a pristine area that Alaska Native communities rely on, in addition to steps we are taking to maintain protections on 28 million acres in Alaska from mining and drilling," Biden said in a statement. "These natural wonders demand our protection."

Most of the protected 28 million acres are able to be selected by eligible Alaska veterans of the Vietnam War for 160-acre allotments under a policy the administration unveiled in 2022.

(Reporting by Nichola Groom)
Photo: Small boats returning to the harbor are seen before the upcoming harvests in Whittier, Alaska, U.S., April 26, 2020. Picture taken April 26, 2020. REUTERS/Yereth Rosen/File Photo 


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