HP Marshall of Boise State University takes a photo of Alaska’s North Slope north of the Brooks Range during a snow survey as part of a NASA experiment. Photo by Sveta Stuefer

Alaska’s congressional delegation is seeking an 80-day extension on the comment period for a proposed federal rule to impose sweeping restrictions across 13.1 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A). 

Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, and Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, sent a letter to the Interior Department (DOI) on Monday, requesting the extension based on a number of substantive and process-related issues with the proposed rule.   

They said the extension was also needed “to allow for the full participation of all communities and stakeholders on the North Slope, especially the indigenous people who have called the region home for millennia.” 

The delegation contends that since the proposed rule was released on Sept. 8 they have received hundreds of inquiries regarding it. The overwhelming sentiment from constituents is that the initial comment period was insufficient and needs to be extended to provide enough time to respond. 

“This is especially true for the Alaska Natives who live on the North Slope, who have been engaged in their traditional whaling hunts for subsistence throughout the fall. As these Alaskans work to provide for their families and winter food security, little time is left for them to pore through a complex rule with an artificially short comment period that will affect their regional economy and homelands for decades to come,” the delegation told Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. 

The delegation also contends there was a lack of meaningful consultation from the DOI. 


Environmental entities have voiced concerns about protecting critical habitat for wildlife in the NPR-A, including endangered birds, caribou, walruses, seals, and polar bears. Beluga whales swim in the coves and millions of migratory birds use the lakes, wetlands, rivers, and bays of this vast wilderness. 

In a statement released earlier this year the Alaska Environment Research & Policy Center noted that the federal government had approved the Willow project, but at the same time said the Biden administration planned to create a rule to protect special areas going forward.   

“If a strong rule is enacted, future administrations won’t be able to flip flop back and forth on protections as we’ve seen since 2013,” wrote Ellen Montgomery, director of Environment America’s public lands campaign.