May 26, 2010
The proposed land exchange involved 110,000 acres of Refuge lands that may hold developable oil and gas reserves, and oil and gas rights to an adjacent 97,000 acres of Refuge lands. Under the proposed action, the Refuge would have received a minimum of 150,000 acres of Doyon lands within Refuge boundaries, and Doyon would have reallocated 56,500 acres of Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act land entitlements within the Refuge to lands outside the Refuge.
Public involvement and comments were requested, considered, and incorporated throughout the EIS process reports the Fish and Wildlife Service. In making its decision, the Service said it reviewed the impacts, relevant issues and concerns, public input, and other factors including refuge purposes.
For the following reasons, the Service selected the No Land Exchange Alternative. First, the Service has a limited understanding of the effects that oil and gas development would have on the hydrology of lands exchanged to Doyon and lands that would be retained by the Service.
Second, the exchange would create a private lands corridor that would almost split the Refuge into two parcels, resulting in habitat fragmentation, and that could degrade the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of the Refuge.
Third, the Service is concerned that the proposed land exchange could magnify projected changes to Refuge resources from climate change. Fourth, infrastructure associated with access corridors from the proposed exchange would increase human use of the Refuge. Fifth, there is concern that the lands proposed for acquisition by the Service are more likely to be adjacent to prospective areas of development (based on revised U.S. Geological Survey oil and gas data). Impacts from adjacent development would make those lands less desirable to the Service. This has cast doubts on the benefits of the exchange to all involved.
The Record of Decision announced yesterday finalizes the Service's decision to select the no action/no land exchange alternative, and presents the rationale for the decision.
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