Press Release Oct 13, 2023

Biden Administration Finds Ambler Road Proposal Threatens Alaska Native Tribes, Water, National Parks and Wildlife

"The Ambler Road to speculation is the last thing the people and wildlife of the Brooks Range need, and it is good see the Biden administration looking carefully at the actual costs of this bad idea" -- NPCA's Alex Johnson

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration released a new draft environmental review today for the highly contested proposed 211-mile Ambler industrial mining road through Gates of the Arctic National Preserve. The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) urges the Biden administration to choose the No Action Alternative and revoke the Ambler Road permits.

“Saying no to the Ambler Road offers Americans the opportunity to protect what hasn’t yet been lost,” said NPCA Arctic and Interior Alaska Director Alex Johnson. “We’re fighting for a vast and intact living landscape that supports Western Arctic Caribou, national park lands and clean water for salmon and sheefish fisheries which have historically supported a traditional way of life for more than 60 Alaska Native Tribes.”

The Brooks Range landscape of Northwest Alaska is where Arctic wildlife, rivers, boreal forests, tundra, and national parklands remain connected across 16 million contiguous national park acres. It is home to the Western Arctic Caribou Herd with more than 180,000 animals. The herd has the longest wildlife land migration in North America, at 2,700 miles each year across the roadless region, which includes Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk Valley National Parks and Preserves.

At odds with this resilient, vast, and intact landscape is the application by the State of Alaska to build a road to allow private access for international mining companies into the heart of the region, crossing through over 20 miles of Gates of the Arctic National Preserve, allowing for the eventual possibility of a series of open pit mines that would change the region forever.

A right-of-way approval for the 211-mile route was issued in January 2021 and immediately met legal battles from Tribal and environmental groups including Tanana Chiefs Conference and NPCA. The draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) released today includes an alternative that would allow the Biden administration to determine that the impacts of the proposed road would be too great for the permits to remain in place. NPCA and advocates have long argued that the economic and social impacts to the people of the region and ecological impacts to the park lands, wildlife and waters far outweigh any speculative benefits from this speculative and wasteful project.

The draft SEIS notes that Ambler mining road construction and any future mining activity would pollute the air and water, threatening wildlife populations and 66 Alaska Native communities. Trucks transporting hazardous materials would travel the gravel Ambler mining road daily, over permafrost tundra, crossing nearly 3,000 waterways, including the federally designated Wild Kobuk River.

“The Ambler Road to speculation is the last thing the people and wildlife of the Brooks Range need, and it is good see the Biden administration looking carefully at the actual costs of this bad idea,” said Johnson. “The international mining companies who are pushing this project have yet to prove there are viable amounts of critical minerals in this region to justify the economics of the project, let alone permanently alter one of the last remaining wild landscapes on Earth.”

Despite claims from the State of Alaska and international mining companies, the latest mining reports fail to demonstrate that the Ambler District contains economic amounts of critical minerals that would justify construction of the $2 billion road. Alaskans risk being on the hook for this road to speculation with no guarantees that Alaska communities would see an economic return on the investment. 

Importantly, the SEIS acknowledges the true impacts of the proposed Ambler mining road to the Athabaskan, Inupiat, and Yupik peoples of Northwest and Interior Alaska.

“The draft SEIS makes it clearer than ever that the Ambler mining road is incompatible with a healthy future for the people, wildlife, and national parks of Northwest Alaska,” said Johnson. We are glad the Biden administration is taking steps to acknowledge the catastrophic damage the Ambler mining road would have on the wild and intact landscape of Alaska’s Brooks Range.”