National Petroleum Reserve, area, c.23 million acres (9.32 million hectares), Alaska North Slope, situated W of Prudhoe Bay and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The reserve, which is the largest remaining parcel of unprotected public land in the United States, overlies a petroleum deposit estimated at 6–13 billion barrels. Designated the Naval Petroleum Reserve Number 4 in 1923 and run by the U.S. Navy, it passed to the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 1976, when its present name was adopted. From the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s the BLM sold oil leases for the NW and NE areas of the reserve. A plan for additional oil and gas drilling in the SW reserve was formulated in 1998 and later expanded (2004) to include opening most of a 9.2-million-acre (3.7-million-hectare) section of the area to drilling. Several environmental groups have objected to the plans, citing dangers to wetlands and wildlife and threats to the livelihood of indigenous people.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.