Biden Administration Says No To the Ambler Road

BLM’s selection of “No Action” alternative for the Ambler Road marks a victory for conservation, safeguarding Alaska’s Brooks Range.

Photo by Hilary Eisen

(4/19/2024)

Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced it’s intention to deny construction of the Ambler Road in Alaska, protecting the communities, wildlife, and ecosystems of the western Brooks Range, including Gates of the Arctic National Park. The Ambler Road, proposed to facilitate the development of a massive mining district, threatened Athabaskan, Inupiat, and Yupik cultural and subsistence resources, Arctic wildlife, and fisheries, and diverse ecosystems across a 100-million-acre landscape.

How Was the Ambler Road Stopped?

The BLM selected the “No Action” alternative in its Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which it prepared after a coalition of local and national partners, including Winter Wildlands Alliance, filed a lawsuit to challenge the Trump Administration’s approval of the road in 2020. A federal district court ordered the BLM to re-evaluate its decision, and while today’s EIS considers the same range of alternatives and routes as the 2020 EIS, the Biden Administration took a much more thorough look at potential impacts to biological, cultural, historic, and subsistence resources and reached a very different conclusion.

What Role Did Public Advocacy Play?

The “No Action” alternative is what we – and you! – advocated for during the most recent comment period in November 2023. In fact, 135,000 people– including tens of thousands of Alaskans– called for the BLM to select the No Action Alternative during the November comment period. Additionally, 82% of the public testimonies submitted in 12 separate in-person hearings across Alaska were opposed to the Ambler Road, and dozens of nonprofits, companies, and communities spoke out against the road.

Why Does It Matter?

Stopping the Ambler Road isn’t just what the public wants – it’s grounded in science. The road would bring irreversible, unacceptable environmental and cultural impacts to the Brooks Range. If built, it would impact more than 20 million acres of roadless wild lands, cause irreparable damage to permafrost, cross 2,900 streams, 1,794 acres of wetlands, and 11 major rivers, and disrupt the longest land migration route in North America – that of the Western Arctic caribou herd. Additionally, the Bureau of Land Management identified 66 communities whose subsistence resources, cultures, and traditional ways of life would be permanently impacted by the Ambler Road.

What is Next After This Victory?

This EIS is an important victory, but the decision is not final until the BLM issues a Record of Decision after a 30-day objection process. We have no doubt that the road’s proponents will attempt to convince the BLM to change course and will challenge the final decision. Winter Wildlands Alliance and our partners will continue our work to defend the Brooks Range through to the end. In the meantime, we are incredibly thankful that the Biden Administration listened to Tribal leaders, native communities, and advocates and took action to protect the Brooks Range along with its wildlife and Indigenous peoples’ way of life.