06/05/2013 05:55 pm ET Updated Aug 05, 2013

Oil-Thirsty Republicans Attempt to Open Protected Lands and Waters

The Obama administration made a huge step just a few months ago to protect some of the wildest areas in Alaska. Now, Republicans in the House want to give Big Oil even more land to drill, including some of the most special areas in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. Hasn't Shell's performance in Alaska proven that we need protection from Big Oil and their lies?

On May 22, 2013, Representative Doc Hastings (R-WA) held a legislative hearing on H.R. 1964, a bill that would nullify the protections for special areas of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska laid out in an area-wide plan that the Department of the Interior (DOI) spent years creating and former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed before leaving office. The agency spent years working with Alaskans, sportsmen, scientists, conservation groups and tribes to craft a plan resulting in a reasonable approach for managing the Reserve. League board member Debbie Miller and author of On Arctic Ground, a photographic journey of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, testified at the hearing and provided an important perspective for management of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. She voiced her support for the administration's plan and provided expertise on the important biological values of these special lands and waters.

Simply put, Rep. Hastings' bill is a "drill-everywhere-and-anywhere" approach which will severely impact the special areas within the Reserve and the communities that depend upon these areas for their subsistence use. And, what's more, the bill directs the Department of the Interior to hold annual lease sales. This is nothing more than a talking point, since Bureau of Land Management testified at the hearing that they will hold an annual lease sale in November 2013. Frankly, the legislation is not necessary and nullifies a solid plan that taxpayers have already paid for and is nothing more than a messaging bill.

Despite these distractions from extreme Republicans, the administration is rightly proud of this step that advances conservation in the Reserve. At the time of the signing of plan, former Interior Secretary Salazar said: "The balanced approach under this plan is the result of extensive local input and will help guide the responsible production and transport of the substantial oil and gas resources in and around the Reserve... This comprehensive plan will allow us to continue to expand our leasing in the NPR-A, as has happened over the last three years, while protecting the outstanding and unique resources that are critically important to the culture and subsistence lifestyle of Alaska Natives and our nation's conservation heritage."

We continue to support the Obama administration's plan and continue to celebrate the 11 million acres that will be preserved for future generations. The Reserve is the largest single unit of public land in the nation. Encompassing 22 million acres, the Reserve harbors rich and vital wild lands and wildlife such as millions of migratory birds, grizzly bears, caribou, threatened polar bears, walrus, beluga whales and more. We look forward to the next stage of the plan: implementation.