BLM Officially Blocks Ambler Road

July 1, 2024 By: Spencer Durrant

Photo: Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service/Flickr

News broke early on the morning of June 28 that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has officially blocked the Ambler Road in Alaska.

This decision comes on the heels of an April decision by the BLM where the agency recommended “no action” based on the supplemental environmental impact statement submitted along with the Ambler Road project.

The Ambler Road was a proposed project to construct a 211-mile private road spanning a large portion of the Brooks Range, starting at Coldfoot, a small stop along the Dalton Highway. The proposed road would have crossed both the Koyukuk and Kobuk Rivers, in addition to countless other streams. Opponents also noted the road would bisect crucial migration routes for caribou. The Ambler Road was intended to service speculative mining claims in the Ambler Mining District in the Brooks Range. Those mines likely hold minerals, but their exact content and value is unknown. All minerals mined from the Ambler Mining District would have been sent overseas for refining.

The total cost of the project was $1.4 billion, with funding coming in large part from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, a state agency.

Alaska Representative Mary Peltola said, in regards to the earlier April decision, that the BLM was taking a “huge step back for Alaska, failing to strike a balance between the need for gap oil and natural gas and legitimate environmental concerns, and steamrolling the voices of many Alaska Natives in the decision-making process,” according to Joey Klecka of Alaska News Source.

While Alaska’s congressional delegation was united in their disappointment at the project rejection, Klecka noted that some Alaskan groups were pleased with the decision. The United Tribes of Bristol Bay released a statement saying, in part, “Lifting protections on these lands will dramatically harm the health and wellbeing of our tribal communities and threaten the continued vitality of our sacred ways of life.”

Klecka also quoted Cooper Freeman, the Alaska director at the Center for Biological Diversity, who was opposed to the Ambler Road due to its negative impacts on wildlife.

“Alaska’s caribou badly need wild and unfragmented habitat, and rejecting Ambler Road ensures they’ll still have that.”