The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (Reserve) is the largest single unit of public lands in the nation, spanning nearly 23 million acres across Alaska's western North Slope. Despite its name, the Reserve is an area rich with an array of birds and wildlife, and includes some of our nation’s most vital natural resources — millions of acres of wilderness-quality lands with critical habitat for migratory birds, brown bears, caribou, threatened polar bears, walrus, endangered beluga whales and more.

The Reserve is vast and diverse, serving as vital habitat for wildlife like polar bears, muskox, and home to three caribou herds – including the Western Arctic Caribou Herd. The Alaska Native communities that live in and around the Reserve have maintained a subsistence lifestyle for thousands of years based on its living resources.

The Reserve is also an irreplaceable bird habitat: Birds from all four flyways in North America, plus several international flyways, migrate to the Reserve every year to raise their young. Tundra swans from the Atlantic Flyway, white-fronted geese from the Mississippi Flyway, pintails from the Central Flyway, and Pacific black brant from the Pacific Flyway converge on this summer destination, just to name a few. Even shorebirds from as far away as Hawaii and New Zealand find their way north to the Reserve.

Within the boundaries of the Reserve are Special Areas — five areas of land that play pivotal roles in conserving ecosystems found nowhere else on earth, supporting the economy with extraordinary recreation opportunities, and serving as a haven of climate action and resiliency. They include places like Teshekpuk Lake, Utukok Uplands, Colville River, Kasegaluk Lagoon, and Peard Bay. These Special Areas deserve maximum protections from any future oil and gas development. Ensuring those protections means that the entire region will benefit.

The existing protections in the Reserve are not enough to ensure that it can thrive into the future, and oil and gas development is the greatest looming threat to the entire region. There are 2.5 million acres of existing leases within the Reserve that are yet to be developed, including 800,000 leased acres in the Special Areas -- and make no mistake, the oil and gas industry is hungry for more. We must act now–before it is too late–to protect this vast and vital landscape.