In an area called the "Arctic donut hole," the warming climate has created open waters where there used to be year-round ice cover — and fears that fishing vessels will move in and start unfettered exploitation.
Months after dozens of walruses and thousands of birds died in mysterious circumstances in the Bering Sea, scientists have discovered a clue in the case: positive test results for algal toxins associated with warm waters. Four walruses and five seabirds were carrying saxitoxin, an algal biotoxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning. Whether the saxitoxin contributed to the deaths is unknown and unlikely to be determined, but it is a sign of changes in the Bering Sea, where waters are now warmer than they were in the past and where sea ice has been running at record lows for this time of year, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
While debate is focused on a controversial budget measure to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a more accessible oil and gas frontier in Arctic Alaska is producing industry excitement and drawing significant investment. The National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, or NPR-A, and adjoining state lands around the Colville River Delta on the western side of the North Slope have proved to be an attractive place for new oil development, thanks to recent and rich discoveries, accessibility of infrastructure.
Should an Alaska state agency be allowed to build a 211-mile road into the wilds of the Brooks Range to enable mine development in a remote part of the Arctic? That's the question a multiagency environmental review is asking of a controversial proposal to build the Ambler Mining District Industrial Access Project, which could open commercial opportunities for mining of copper and other mineral deposits in a now-roadless part of northwestern Alaska.
This spring, I spent close to two weeks flying over central Nunavut, peering out the window of a small plane at the rolling tundra below, looking for and counting caribou to monitor their numbers.The Qamanirjuaq barren-ground herd were arriving on their tundra calving grounds to give birth after migrating from winter ranges in the boreal forest. At times caribou dotted the landscape all the way to the horizon.
A provision to allow oil and gas exploration in a portion of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge passed the U.S. Senate as part of the Republican tax bill early Saturday morning. The controversial provision, which was added by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, survived a push in October led by Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington state Democrat, to remove it. It also required some last-minute revisions to satisfy arcane Senate procedural rules. Alaska's congressional delegation praised the provision's inclusion in the final version of the Senate bill.
We are pleased to announce the launch of a new series called the Conservation Finance Network Toolkit. This series of articles focuses on individual tools practitioners can use. Our goal is to span the range of comfort levels our readers have – from simple to challenging. The toolkit will address conservation finance issues through the framework of “the Wedge,” which organizes tools according to the complexity and size of the funding opportunity.