- The Washington Times - Friday, December 9, 2016

President Obama used his executive authority Friday to close more than 40,000 square miles of Alaska’s coast from oil and gas leases.

The president’s order covering the waters offshore of Nome and surrounding St. Lawrence Island also create a 112,300-square-mile area, named the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area, where a task force will be required to help coordinate federal activities “focusing a locally tailored collection of protections related to oil and gas, shipping and fishing,” the White House said.

The move comes one day after Alaska’s congressional delegation sent Mr. Obama a letter objecting to the closing of offshore waters from future oil and gas leases.

“The governor of Alaska, the leadership of the North Slope and northwest Arctic boroughs, the majority of the tribal leadership representing Alaska natives who live in the Arctic, a supermajority of the members of the Alaska state legislature, and an overwhelming majority of the Alaskan people also oppose the withdrawal of acreage in these areas,” wrote Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and Rep. Don Young, all Republicans.

The White House said the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area will focus “locally tailored” protections on marine resources. The area supports the annual migration of bowhead and beluga whales, Pacific walrus, seals and migratory birds.

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