U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced environmental plans that would allow for the development of 72 percent of the estimated recoverable oil reserves in the NPR-A while protecting aboriginal interests and the regional wildlife.
"A balanced approach will allow us to continue to expand our leasing in the NPR-A," he said in a statement.
Salazar added the plans could allow for the construction of pipelines to transport oil and gas from the Chukchi and Beaufort seas through the NPR-A.
The Interior Department said its plans could allow for access to as much as 549 million barrels of economically recoverable oil and 8.7 trillion cubic feet of economically recoverable natural gas.
U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, said the proposals outlined by the Interior Department were "misguided."
"This plan does nothing more than cave to environmental special interests and unnecessarily restricts access to rich oil and natural gas resources within a petroleum reserve," he said.
Adam Kolton, a lead advocate for the National Wildlife Federation, said Salazar's proposal was commendable because it sets aside more than 11 million acres of wildlife habitat.
"More protections for the Western Arctic and the Arctic in general need to be made, especially in light of the devastating impacts of climate change to this sensitive, dynamic and unique environment," Kolton said in a statement.
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