OSLO, Norway, March 15 (UPI) -- With Russia eyeing oil and gas in its arctic territory, the World Wide Fund for Nature lauded a Norwegian moratorium on oil production on its arctic shelf.
The Norwegian government announced it extended its moratorium on oil production on the arctic shelf until 2013. The conservation group is backing efforts in Alaska and Russia to help protect vulnerable habitats from the effects of arctic oil exploration.
Rasmus Hanssen, the secretary-general of WWF's Norwegian division, was quoted by Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti as saying it was "complete madness" to trade environmental sustainability for "a few years of quick and dirty profits from oil."
A reduction in sea ice is making it possible to reach untapped reserves of oil and natural gas in the polar regions of the Northern Hemisphere.
Though locked in a corporate spat, British energy company BP and oil giant Rosneft agreed to explore Russia's arctic territory for oil reserves.
Environmental groups worry that rough seas and extreme conditions in the arctic could spell disaster if the region opens to commercial activity.
Moscow is trying to convince the international community that it has a greater claim to the arctic. A 1982 convention gives bordering nations the right to extend arctic claims if the government can prove its continental shelf extends beyond a 200-mile limit.