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USFWS Announces Record of Decision for Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge Proposed Land Exchange

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announces
availability of the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Final Environmental
Impact Statement (EIS) for a Proposed Land Exchange in the Yukon Flats
National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge). The Service completed a thorough
analysis of the environmental, social, and economic considerations and
presented it in the Final EIS, which was released to the public on March
12, 2010. The ROD documents the Service’s selection of the No Land Exchange
Alternative (No Action Alternative), the Service’s preferred alternative in
the Final EIS. The selection of this alternative is the decision to
continue to manage lands within the Refuge as they currently are.

The proposed land exchange involved 110,000 acres of Refuge lands that may
hold developable oil and gas reserves, and oil and gas rights to an
adjacent 97,000 acres of Refuge lands. Under the proposed action, the
Refuge would have received a minimum of 150,000 acres of Doyon lands within
Refuge boundaries, and Doyon would have reallocated 56,500 acres of Alaska
Native Claims Settlement Act land entitlements within the Refuge to lands
outside the Refuge.

Public involvement and comments have been requested, considered, and
incorporated throughout the EIS process. In making its decision, the
Service reviewed the impacts, relevant issues and concerns, public input,
and other factors including refuge purposes. For the following reasons, the
Service selected the No Land Exchange Alternative. First, the Service has a
limited understanding of the effects that oil and gas development would
have on the hydrology of lands exchanged to Doyon and lands that would be
retained by the Service. Second, the exchange would create a private lands
corridor that would almost split the Refuge into two parcels, resulting in
habitat fragmentation, and that could degrade the biological integrity,
diversity, and environmental health of the Refuge. Third, the Service is
concerned that the proposed land exchange could magnify projected changes
to Refuge resources from climate change. Fourth, infrastructure associated
with access corridors from the proposed exchange would increase human use
of the Refuge. Fifth, there is concern that the lands proposed for
acquisition by the Service are more likely to be adjacent to prospective
areas of development (based on revised U.S. Geological Survey oil and gas
data). Impacts from adjacent development would make those lands less
desirable to the Service. This has cast doubts on the benefits of the
exchange to all involved.

The Record of Decision announced today finalizes the Service’s decision to
select the no action/no land exchange alternative, and presents the
rationale for the decision.

You may view the ROD and the Final EIS online at
http://yukonflatseis.ensr.com (click on the “Documents” link at the top of
the page).

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to
conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for
the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and
trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific
excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated
professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our
work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

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