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The Biden administration limits oil and gas leasing on 13 million acres within Alaska’s petroleum reserve.

Fish Creek (Via David Stoinis/Shutterstock)

The Biden administration announced on Friday that it will limit new oil and gas leasing on 13 million acres of federal land in Alaska’s petroleum reserve. This move aims to protect wildlife like caribou and polar bears as the Arctic region warms.

The decision comes after years of debate over whether and how to develop Alaska’s vast oil resources.

Last year, the administration initially proposed these protections as it prepared to approve the controversial Willow oil project. Environmentalists strongly opposed Willow, arguing it contradicted President Biden’s promises to address climate change. Friday’s announcement also solidifies an earlier plan to close nearly half of the reserve to oil and gas leasing.

Joe Biden gives a speech (Via Pat Southee/Shutterstock)

Republican lawmakers, including Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan, criticized the administration’s move even before it was officially announced. Sullivan called it an “illegal” blow to Alaska’s economy and anticipated legal challenges. Senator Lisa Murkowski added that restricting access to resources creates energy insecurity for the state.

The Interior Department clarified that the decision does not alter existing lease terms or ongoing operations, such as the Willow project. As a gesture to environmental groups, the administration also recommended rejecting a state corporation’s application for a 210-mile road in northwest Alaska.

This road would facilitate mining of minerals like copper, cobalt, zinc, silver, and gold, but no mining proposals or active mines currently exist in the area, according to the Interior Department.

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