A 'Good Start': Obama Moves to Protect Key Alaskan Waters from Drilling

A pristine and ecologically rich region of Alaska will now be protected from any future oil and gas drilling, President Obama announced late Tuesday after signing an executive memorandum to withdraw roughly 32.5 million acres from potential development.

Bristol Bay, part of the North Aleutian Basin, is home to many threatened animal species including rare sea ducks, sea otters, seals, walruses, Beluga and Killer whales, and the endangered North Pacific Right Whale. Further, as one of the world’s most prized fisheries, it provides 40 percent of America’s wild-caught seafood.

“These waters are too special and too valuable to auction off to the highest bidder,” the President said.

The move was celebrated widely by environmental groups, which have been calling for a complete ban on all Arctic drilling.

“Putting these waters, and others in the Arctic Ocean, off-limits to new dirty fuel development will help preserve Alaska’s unique natural wonders and the traditions, economies and wildlife they support. There are cleaner, more efficient ways to power and move our country,” said Dan Ritzman, Alaska Program Director for Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign.

Ritzman added: “The president’s action is especially important in the face of a changing climate. Keeping dirty fuels, and the climate pollution they produce, in the ground will benefit us all, but especially the people of Alaska whose home is already warming at twice the rate of the lower 48 states.”