This National Geographic article discusses Alaska’s last vast wild place being opened for drilling. Will the birds survive? Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve, where millions of birds come to nest and raise their young, is now under threat from petroleum development.
The men were standing on the biggest patch of public real estate you’ve never heard of: the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, or NPR-A. The reserve is the single largest piece of public land in the United States. Every spring, ducks, geese, owls, and shorebirds of every kind—millions of them—descend from all corners of the planet to rest, mingle, mate, lay eggs, and raise chicks, before dispersing once more around the world. For birds, it has been called “Heathrow at the top of the world.” The entire Coastal Plain of Alaska has the densest concentration of birds in the Arctic.
As the Trump administration continues to push for more oil and gas extraction on public lands, the petroleum reserve is on the cusp of profound change. The week’s trip for this two-man research crew was the start of a years-long project to detail precisely what bird life is here and how it uses the place, and to try to guage what such change would mean.