Washington— Six months after American Rivers named the Wild and Scenic Beaver Creek one of America’s Most Endangered RiversTM, there have been some recent successes, though the fight for its protection is not over.
An oil and gas development scheme on Beaver Creek, a Yukon River tributary, threatens clean water, wild salmon, recreation, Alaska Native culture, and one of the nation’s last truly wild rivers. This threat landed Beaver Creek in the number eight spot in America’s Most Endangered Rivers: 2009 edition, which was released in April.
“Instead of handing our last wild places over to the oil and gas industry, we should be investing in 21st century energy solutions and ensuring these priceless lands and waters are protected for future generations,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers.
To get around the incompatibility of oil and gas development within protected areas, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under the Bush administration proposed transferring 200,000 protected acres in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge to Doyon Ltd., a private corporation, for oil and gas development. The land trade poses an unacceptable risk to Beaver Creek and the Yukon River downstream. It would also set a dangerous precedent as a back-door means to obtain development rights within other national conservation areas in Alaska and make a mockery of the intent by which Congress established them.
American Rivers and its partners called on the USFWS Alaska Regional Director Geoff Haskett and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to halt any further progress on the final Environmental Impact Statement and land exchange agreement. On July, 2, 2009, Haskett responded by announcing that the agency will select the “No Land Exchange Alternative” as its preferred course of action for the controversial Yukon Flats land trade in its final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). According to a USFWS statement, over 100,000 public comments were submitted in response to the draft EIS and “the vast majority of comments, including those from several area tribal governments, opposed the proposed exchange.”
While we praise Haskett and the USFWS for this great step forward—and it indicates the likely course the agency will take on this matter—it is not a final decision. American Rivers and our partners will continue to follow this issue and to ensure this harmful land exchange does not go through.
Beaver Creek, designated as a Wild and Scenic River in 1980, boasts pristine waters and abundant wolves, bears, and salmon. The Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich’in tribe in Fort Yukon and dozens of Alaska Native communities depend on the area for subsistence hunting and fishing. Beaver Creek is a popular destination for anglers, boaters, skiers, and hunters.
Healthy Alaska ecosystems generate more than $33 billion in economic value for the state. Fisheries, tourism, and associated commercial activity produce $2.6 billion in income to workers annually and account for 26 percent of all Alaska jobs -- twice as many as those in oil, mining, and construction combined.
To learn more about the 2009 Most Endangered Rivers Report, please visit www.AmericanRivers.org/EndangeredRivers.
About America’s Most Endangered Rivers™
Each year, the America’s Most Endangered Rivers report highlights the rivers facing the most uncertain futures. The report presents alternatives to proposals that would damage rivers, identifies those who make the crucial decisions, and points out opportunities for the public to take action on behalf of each listed river.
The America’s Most Endangered Rivers Report results in thousands of supporters taking action on behalf of their beloved river. Such action produces immediate and tangible results. To see success stories visit www.americanrivers.org/MERSuccesses
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.