The BLM is Taking a Second Look at Ambler Road

Help us protect the Western Arctic! Comment on the BLM’s SEIS for the proposed Ambler Road in Alaska by Nov 4, 2022.

April, 2024

Update

In April 2024, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) chose the “No Action” alternative for the Ambler Road project, following advocacy efforts by thousands of individuals and organizations like us, including 135,000 people who called for this option during the November 2023 comment period. Despite this victory, the decision is pending finalization after a 30-day objection process, during which road proponents may challenge it. Winter Wildlands Alliance and partners remain committed to defending the Brooks Range, while appreciating the Biden Administration’s support in protecting the region’s wildlife and Indigenous communities.

September, 2022

The BLM is drafting a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the proposed Ambler Road. WWA believes the BLM should consider all potential alternatives to the proposed road development, additional assessments of resource impacts, and mitigation and protection measures for those resources. Public comments are due Nov 4, 2022.

On September 19, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) opened a 45-day scoping period to start the process of drafting a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the proposed Ambler Road. The scoping notice and other project documents are available on BLM’s website here.

This SEIS is the result of Tribes and organizations – including Winter Wildlands Alliance – challenging the BLM’s 2020 decision to approve construction of the Ambler Road. Our litigation is on hold while BLM works through this process, and we need your help to convince the agency that the irreparable harms that would result from this road far outweigh its potential benefits.

Remind Me: What’s The Ambler Road?

The proposed Ambler Road would stretch across 211 miles of sensitive Arctic landscapes from the Dalton Highway to the Ambler Mining District, where multiple, huge, open pit mines are proposed. The road will bulldoze through the (completely undeveloped and currently unroaded) Gates of the Arctic National Park, cut through the heart of the Western Arctic Caribou herd’s migration path, cross 11 major rivers and nearly 3,000 streams, and fill in thousands of acres of wetlands. Construction and use of the road would also create significant air, water, and land pollution via dust, runoff, and exposure of naturally occurring asbestos. It is expected to cost more than a billion dollars—paid for by Alaskan tax dollars. Despite being publicly funded, the Ambler Road will be gated and open to private use only by the mining district.

If constructed, the Ambler Road will have serious repercussions for the subsistence resources that the residents of the Western Arctic depend upon. The Indigenous people of the Western Arctic have subsisted off of the bounty of the land – including caribou and salmon – for time immemorial but the Ambler Road could destroy these resources and their way of life. That makes this road not only a matter of environmental concern, but environmental justice.

WWA covered the initial Ambler Road proposal and our fight against it in 2020. Check out our initial “take action” blog here and our deeper dive into why we are against this development here.

How did we get here?

The Trump Administration approved the Ambler Road in 2020 and shortly thereafter Trustees for Alaska filed a court challenge on behalf of Winter Wildlands and 8 other organizations to stop the project. The Tanana Chiefs Conference also filed litigation to stop the road. In February 2022, the Biden Administration acknowledged significant legal problems with the Interior Department’s decision to approve the Ambler Road. The Department of Interior then asked the Court to remand the road right-of-way decision back to the federal agencies for them to address flaws in the analysis of impacts to subsistence and cultural resources. That’s what this SEIS is all about.

What will the Supplemental EIS Do?

The BLM is conducting this supplemental EIS to identify issues with its previous analysis of impacts to subsistence, and to conduct consultation with Tribes before initiating a secondary review. During the current comment period, the agency is seeking public input on the scope of the analysis as well as what issues should be considered.

We believe BLM should consider all potential alternatives to the proposed road development, additional assessments of resource impacts (including ecological, cultural, historical, and subsistence resources), and mitigation and protection measures for those resources.

How to Take Action

Comments are due November 4. You can send a letter today using the form below. This form will submit directly to the BLM project manager during this 45-day comment period and includes a brief letter to get you started. We urge you to personalize it with your own ideas, concerns, and perspectives.

Want to learn more about the Ambler Road?

The National Parks Conservation Association shared a great run-down of the proposal here. And, if you’re more of a visual learner, journey to the Western Arctic through the film “Paving Tundra” by North Exposure Studios so see what’s at stake if this project is approved.

Questions? Email us at info@winterwildlands.org.