A proposed over-200-mile industrial mining access road would disrupt the Western Arctic Caribou migration, cross over two thousand rivers and streams, interfere with subsistence lifestyles of rural Alaskans, and cross through Gates of the Arctic National Preserve. Sound like a bad idea? We think so, too.
The state of Alaska is planning on building an industrial access road along the southern Brooks Range to transport ore from open pit copper mines planned in the northwest region of the state. The road would cross 20 miles of Gates of the Arctic National Preserve and the Kobuk Wild & Scenic River. Environmental review to be completed by the end of 2019. NPCA is working to prevent construction of this expensive, unnecessary and damaging road, which won’t benefit park visitors or local communities, and will jeopardize one of the last great intact ecosystems that supports one of the longest land migrations on Earth, that of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd.
Frequently Asked Questions on the Ambler Industrial Access Road
1. What makes this landscape so special?
First, it’s sheer size! It includes over 20 million acres managed by the National Park Service, including 16 million contiguous acres, the largest in the country. This acreage includes Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Kobuk Valley National Park, Noatak National Preserve, Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, and Cape Krusenstern National Monument. These lands encompass a continuous ecologically intact landscape covering the western Brooks Range. This acreage alone is larger than the top 10 largest national parks in the contiguous U.S. combined — Death Valley, Yellowstone, Everglades, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Olympic, Sequoia, Big Bend, Joshua Tree and Yosemite — plus the state of Connecticut!
The landscape is also home to the Western Arctic Caribou Herd with over 250,000 caribou, making it one of the largest stable populations of caribou in North America. This herd travels up to 2,700 miles every year, the distance of Seattle, Washington to Miami, Florida.
2. How could the road impact the Western Arctic Caribou Herd?
A proposed mining road would cut through national park land critical to one of the longest land migrations on Earth and harm communities that depend on Arctic caribou for…See more ›
The road itself, cutting perpendicular across the north-south migration route of the caribou, could pose a serious barrier for the herd in its annual journey. There is concern that the caribou would avoid the road and the industrial traffic along it, moving further west and away from Alaska Native villages that depend on the caribou for traditional subsistence use. If the road were to ever become public, it would put significant hunting pressures on the herd, further disrupting the historic migration patterns. The road is just one piece to a larger story of industrialization of Northwest Alaska. The road would pave the way for the Ambler Mining District, which would only accelerate further development and activity that caribou would seek to avoid.
3. How much of the road will cross Gates of the Arctic National Preserve?
It depends on which route is chosen. The northern route would cross about 26 miles, and the southern route about 17 miles.
4. How can a private mining road be built across National Park Service land?
When Congress created Gates of the Arctic in 1980, it included a special provision allowing construction of a transportation route to the Ambler mining district across the preserve.
The proposed Ambler Mining Road threatens wilderness recreation, rural lifestyles and the fragile ecosystem of our country’s premier wilderness park.See more ›
5. How is a preserve different from a park?
National preserves are managed the same as national parks, except sport hunting is allowed in preserves.
6. Why does the map show two routes across Gates of the Arctic National Preserve?
Currently engineering and environmental studies are being conducted to determine the most feasible route with the least impacts. If the road is built, only one route will be constructed.
7. Will I be able to drive this road?
No. Currently the road is being planned as a private road for mining trucks to transport copper ore.
8. What is the estimated cost to build the Ambler Road?
The Alaska Department of Transportation estimated the road to cost no less than $430 million. Given the length of the road, the number of costly bridges and the many acres of wetlands to cross, it is reasonable to expect the final cost to be considerably higher.
9. How many local jobs would be created?
Developers estimate 400 local hire jobs would be created (150 temporary road construction jobs and 250 mining jobs). “Local hire” in this instance refers to the shareholders of the two native corporations in the region, NANA and Doyon. Overall, the road and mine would create 400 local jobs for 32,500 shareholders.
8. Would the road help lower the high cost of food and fuel in remote villages?
Unlikely. The road will bypass all villages in the region.
February 2015 General Management Plan for Gates of the Arctic
Alaska supporters sent letters to NPS asking for protection of park resources.
More than 10,000 Commented to Protect Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve
National park advocates nationwide submitted comments to the National Park Service to protect Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve's wilderness from the proposed Ambler mining road!
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