Blog Post Linda Coutant Apr 29, 2024

5 Major Victories for Wildlife, Water and Public Lands

After years of advocacy work, NPCA scored massive wins for Alaska’s caribou, conservation of public lands and waterways, and protection of national parks from future oil and gas drilling.  

National Parks Conservation Association celebrates key announcements made by the Biden administration this month. Each victory marks the culmination of years of hard work by our staff and in collaboration with various partners, including park advocates who submitted public comments standing up for these important issues.

Here’s what you made possible:

1. No go on Ambler Road

NPCA helped galvanize people across Alaska and the U.S. to speak up against the proposed 211-mile Ambler Road for industrial mining along the iconic Brooks Range — and officials in Washington, D.C. heard us.

On April 19, the Department of the Interior announced it intends to halt the proposed Ambler Road, which would have cut through Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic National Preserve and threatened the survival of the Western Arctic caribou.

“This landscape still stands as one of the last bastions for ecologically and culturally intact large landscapes left on planet Earth,” said Alex Johnson, NPCA’s interior Alaska director. “Protecting these lands and waters is a matter of life and death for the people of Northwest Alaska, who despite the odds have maintained their cultures, knowledge and way of life to present day.

“The fight against this road began in these Alaska Native communities long before the alarm was sounded in the Lower 48, and it’s because of their leadership that we can celebrate this victory.”

NPCA President and CEO Theresa Pierno, who penned a blog earlier this month about the Kobuk River making the American Rivers Most Endangered Rivers® of 2024 list because of Ambler Road’s threat, said after the administration’s announcement, “This victory shows that no matter how challenging the fight, parks have the power to unite us all.”

2. Conservation now on equal footing with other land uses

A new Public Lands Rule released April 18 by the Bureau of Land Management strikes a balance between conservation and extractive land uses. NPCA calls the rule a significant step toward preserving wildlife habitat, protecting vital watersheds, expanding outdoor access and safeguarding cultural resources.

Currently, 90% of the 245 million acres of public land managed by the bureau is open to commodity-driven extraction, such as mining and oil and gas development.

The decision comes after months of public comment, as well as the work of NPCA and park supporters to protect landscapes in and beyond park boundaries to sustain healthy and intact ecosystems and connect critical habitat for plants and animals to allow them room to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.

“The impact of the Public Lands Rule goes beyond BLM-managed lands, benefiting 80 neighboring national parks and countless communities,” said Matthew Kirby, NPCA’s senior director for energy and landscape conservation.

Last spring, NPCA outlined five reasons to care about the proposed rule, including how it would place conservation on equal footing with development, protect healthy intact landscapes, and promote stronger collaboration with Tribal members.

3. Commonsense updates to oil and gas leasing

After 99% of public comments encouraged the Bureau of Land Management to update its oil and gas leasing practices, the bureau has adopted a rule that can steer future oil and gas development away from national parks. The long-overdue update was announced April 12.

The Oil and Gas Rule updates the bureau’s leasing program to prevent poorly sited drilling in and near critical wildlife areas, watersheds, or cultural and natural resources, including national parks. Carlsbad Caverns and Grand Teton, for example, are bordered by public lands managed by the bureau, making the health of our national parks directly affected by the decisions made by the bureau.

“NPCA commends the Biden administration, Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management for bringing the first significant update to our oil and gas leasing program in over 30 years,” said Beau Kiklis, NPCA’s senior program manager of energy and landscape conservation.

4. Efforts to improve freshwater resources

At a White House Water Summit April 23, the Biden administration announced the America the Beautiful Freshwater Challenge, which aims to reconnect, restore and protect 8 million acres of wetlands by 2030 and 100,000 miles of the country’s rivers and streams.

Healthy waterways are integral to the health of America’s national parks and all who visit them. In 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a pivotal clean water case, Sackett vs. EPA, which gutted Clean Water Act protections for the majority of all wetlands in the United States.

“The new freshwater challenge brings much needed attention and prioritization to conserving and restoring our nation’s freshwater resources. With many American communities living with unsafe drinking water and more than two-thirds of our national park waters already impaired, we welcome today’s much-needed attention,” said Chad Lord, NPCA’s senior director of environmental policy and climate change.

A recent poll by NPCA found that 92% of Americans support reducing water pollution to better protect marine wildlife.

5. Grizzlies’ return to North Cascades

After decades of work by NPCA, Tribal partners and other groups, the National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced April 25 they plan to restore grizzly bears to the North Cascades ecosystem, where they once roamed for thousands of years.

The North Cascades is one of the most rugged mountain ranges in the country, spanning over 9,500 square miles of mostly protected public lands in Washington State.

Under the plan, a small number of bears will be moved from a healthy population in the Rocky Mountains or interior British Columbia into their historic homelands of the North Cascades over several years. The goal is an established population of about 25 bears.

“Today marks a triumph for park wildlife with grizzly bears,” NPCA’s president and CEO Theresa Pierno said after the agencies’ announcement. “The decision to restore the grizzly bear is a testament to America’s courage to give one of our wildest animals the freedom to rebound. … It’s proof that when we come together with a resounding call for conservation, we can do extraordinary things.”

NPCA’s ongoing advocacy

Other challenges — and opportunities — face national parks, and you can use your voice to advocate on their behalf. Visit NPCA’s advocacy campaigns webpage to learn more.

Caitlyn Burford, Kati Schmidt and Alison Heis contributed to this report.

Stay On Top of News

action alerts graphic

Our email newsletter shares the latest on parks.

You can unsubscribe at any time.

About the author

  • Linda Coutant Staff Writer

    As staff writer on the Communications team, Linda Coutant manages the Park Advocate blog and coordinates the monthly Park Notes e-newsletter distributed to NPCA’s members and supporters.

Read more from NPCA

  • Blog Post

    FAQs: Protecting America’s Legacy Campaign

    May 2024 | By Lam Ho, Linda Coutant

    NPCA recently launched a $300 million Protecting America’s Legacy campaign. Here’s everything you need to know to be informed and engaged with this fundraising initiative.

  • Blog Post

    A Renaissance in Flamingo

    May 2024 | By Cara Capp, John Adornato

    Thanks to NPCA’s decades-long work, a new visitor center has opened at Flamingo in Everglades National Park and the area’s namesake birds are returning.

  • Blog Post

    Protect Them All: 10 Advocacy Badges You Can Earn This National Park Week

    Apr 2024 | By Vanessa Pius

    Camp NPCA is officially in session! As NPCA celebrates National Park Week, we’re evoking all the nostalgia and fun of summer camp with a national park protection twist.