State awards leases at ANWR boundary

Thursday, October 23 2014 @ 07:55 AM AKDT

Contributed by: Editor

(Anchorage, AK) – Following a thorough review of the western boundary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), the Division of Oil and Gas today awarded two Beaufort Sea leases pending since 2011 and published tract maps for the Nov. 19 North Slope and Beaufort Sea oil and gas lease sales that accurately reflect the boundary.

The division’s actions are based on the State’s assertion that it owns roughly 3,000 acres of tidal and submerged lands along the Beaufort Sea coastline that were improperly mapped as part of ANWR.

“I’m pleased that we are now able to award these leases to the 2011 bidders and clarify the acreage that is available for oil and gas exploration in this highly-prospective region,” said Natural Resources Commissioner Joe Balash.

“Our next step is to determine how the State’s assertion will affect existing leases on tidal and submerged lands along the ANWR boundary,” Balash said.

For many years, the ANWR western boundary has been depicted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) as the Staines River, despite legal descriptions that identify the Canning River as the boundary. Uncertainty over the western boundary has created roadblocks for state land managers seeking to administer oil and gas lease tracts at the boundary, particularly on tidal and submerged lands along the Beaufort Sea coast.

When the Division of Oil and Gas received the two Beaufort Sea bids in late 2011, it began working with the Division of Mining, Land & Water to determine the available acreage that could be awarded in those tracts. In 2012, the divisions determined that the boundary needed clarification and initiated further research. As a result of that initial work, in 2013, DNR began preparing to assert ownership of the disputed tidal and submerged lands.

During its research, the Division of Mining, Land & Water determined that uplands between the Canning and Staines rivers also were improperly mapped as part of ANWR. In this case, the division recognizes the lands between the rivers to be federally-owned but not part of the refuge. However, these lands had been previously selected by the state as part of its Alaska Statehood Act entitlement, and last Friday, DNR requested priority conveyance of its state land selections west of the Canning River, amounting to nearly 20,000 acres of uplands.

To view the 2014 oil and gas lease sale tract maps, go to

For briefing materials related to the request for priority conveyance of state land selections, go to

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