Tag Archives: Alaska North Slope

Alaska’s North Slope Mapped for Polar Bears Habitat

Alaskan habitat mapped for polar bears.

Alaskan habitat mapped for polar bears.

A vast swath of icy sea, barrier islands and coastal land on Alaska’s oil-rich North Slope will be granted special protection because of its importance to the threatened polar bear, under a proposal released this week by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The agency proposes that 518,000 sq km of coastline and shallow Arctic Ocean waters be designated as critical habitat, a status of heightened protection afforded under the Endangered Species Act.

The area, which would be the largest ever designated for an Endangered Species Act-listed population, overlaps the territory with the largest existing oil fields in the United States where companies operate and plan to explore more.

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Palin Pipe Dreams

Note: On July 26, Sarah Palin resigned as Alaska governor, citing concerns that ongoing ethical investigations and her decision not to seek a second term would limit her effectiveness in office. What she did (or didn’t do) to promote the development of a $40 billion gas pipeline will be a crucial part of her short history in office. This story, which was first published on March 17, delved into the long and complicated history of a pipeline that doesn’t exist.

Sarah Palin at Lake Lucille in Wasilla, Alaska, in 2008.

Sarah Palin at Lake Lucille in Wasilla, Alaska, in 2008.

For more than 30 years, a natural-gas pipeline had been the great white whale of Alaskan resource development. Tens of millions of dollars had been spent in the quest for it. The names of collapsed consortiums and failed legislative initiatives littered the tundra like the bleached horns of long-dead caribou. Then, last summer, Sarah Palin said she had harpooned the whale.

“I fought to bring about the largest private-sector infrastructure project in North American history,” Palin said at the Republican convention. “And when that deal was struck, we began a nearly $40 billion natural-gas pipeline to help lead America to energy independence.”

During the vice-presidential debate, she said it again: “We’re building a nearly $40 billion natural-gas pipeline, which is North America’s largest and most expensive infrastructure project ever.”

And to Katie Couric, she said, “We should have started 10 years ago, but better late than never.”

To many outside of Alaska, it may therefore come as a surprise to learn that not only does such a pipeline not exist, but—even as Alaska’s deep winter darkness gives way to the first light of spring—the prospect that it will be built within Sarah Palin’s lifetime grows dimmer by the day. ( View a slideshow hitting the highlights of Governor Palin’s travels.)

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