The Obama administration has for the first time recommended setting aside as wilderness a key part of the Arctic National Wildlife refuge known as the 1002 Area. But the chance of action on the recommendation by the current Congress is considered remote.
"The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in remote northern Alaska is home to a surprisingly diverse array of wildlife: polar bears, caribou, wolverines, lemmings and others all call the frigid, windswept place home. But one infamous strip of coastline in the massive refuge is also home to nearly two billion barrels of recoverable oil (enough, the feds estimate, to supply America for nine months), which has placed it squarely in the center of a decades-long controversy over whether to open the ecologically sensitive region for oil and gas development or keep it locked up as wilderness.
On Monday the US Fish and Wildlife Service took the first step in granting increased federal protection to a relatively small, oil-rich region within ANWR known as the "1002 area" by nominating it for wilderness designation in a lengthy report [PDF] on conservation plans for ANWR. Only Congress can declare wilderness areas, and the "preliminary recommendation" made in the report is only the beginning of a long (and possibly dead-end) road to approval. But it is the first time such a recommendation has been made since the area was set aside for study in a 1980 federal law (from which the area takes its name), and environmental activists and the FWS agree that it marks a major turning point in an ongoing struggle in Alaska between conservationists and oil and gas developers."