Sen. Mark Begich issued a strongly worded statement Wednesday afternoon denouncing the plan.
"The Obama administration is wrong to pursue new wilderness in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or anywhere else in Alaska," Begich said. "I'll fight any effort to block development of the enormous oil and gas likely beneath the Arctic Refuge. I'll work through my position on the Senate Budget Committee to cut any funding for this effort, and with the other members of Alaska's congressional delegation to short-circuit this unnecessary, money-wasting review."
Rep. Don Young echoed Begich's sentiments.
"I will adamantly oppose any newly proposed wilderness designations," Young said in a written statement. "Resource development in this country follows the strictest of environmental regulations, provides jobs and revenue as well much-needed fuel to a country that is currently beholden to foreign countries for its energy needs. Two-thirds of Alaska's lands are already locked up by the federal government; enough is enough."
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee, also weighed in.
"Alaska already leads the nation in wilderness designations and in the amount of land already protected," Murkowski said in a statement. "The coastal plain likely contains the nation's largest onshore deposit of hydrocarbons and, given the advancements in technology, it should be possible to access those resources without any disturbance to the wildlife that frequent the coastal plain."
Likewise, Gov. Sean Parnell expressed his concern.
"The oil and gas, wilderness, and wildlife values of the coastal plain have already been studied and this study previously has been submitted to Congress," Parnell said in a statement. "It is a mistake for the federal government to initiate yet another planning process in ANWR, the most promising unexplored petroleum region in North America."
According to the Fish and Wildlife press release, review of wildlife refuge comprehensive conservation plans is typically done every 15 years. A review of ANWR's CCP had been delayed while the national wilderness stewardship policy was finalized. The final policy, completed in November 2008, mandates reviews of refuges outside Alaska and optional reviews for refuges within Alaska.
"The comprehensive conservation planning process gives the Service the opportunity to evaluate the needs of each refuge and the resources it serves, and to create a road map for meeting those needs. For this process to be complete, the leadership of every refuge should have the opportunity to work with partners and the public to determine if any lands are appropriate for inclusion in the wilderness system," Alaska Regional Director Geoffrey L. Haskett said in a press release.
Most of ANWR is already designated as wilderness except for approximately 1.5 million acres known as the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plan, or the 1002 Area. This area will be included in the review.
"No decision has yet been made about the status of any lands in the refuge not currently designated as wilderness," Haskett said. "If any lands are recommended for wilderness designation, they would be identified and vetted through extensive public consultation and review as part of the plan revision process and ultimately require congressional approval."
A public comment period has begun and will include public meetings later this month and next in Anchorage, Arctic Village, Fairbanks, Fort Yukon, Kaktovik and Venetie, with specific dates and times to be announced. There will also be a public meeting in Washington, D.C. on May 4.
After evaluating public comment, Fish and Wildlife will draft a plan for public review and comment in February of next year. Following a review of the draft, a final plan will be submitted in April 2012.
Contact Andrew Hinkelman at email@example.com and Mike Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org