Ambler Road Proposal: A Financial Boondoggle That Puts Alaska’s National Park Lands and Caribou at Risk

The Trump Administration is barreling forward with plans to approve a controversial 211-mile private mining road across federal public lands in northern Alaska. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is expected to issue a decision, approving a right-of-way for the road before the end of April.

The proposed road is no small endeavor. It would begin on public BLM lands near the Dalton Highway and extend through National Park Service lands in the Gates of the Arctic National Preserve.  It would cross 2,900 streams, 11 major rivers and some of the most remote wildlands left in the United States.

Even at the best of times, this project would be a boondoggle. The access road is proposed by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) at an estimated cost of a half-billion to one billion dollars. AIDEA hopes that the mining companies will reimburse the state via a toll system for the road.  Yet, AIDEA has no actual contracts in place with any mining companies, and none of the mining companies have submitted mining plans – only plans for exploration.

A map of the proposed Ambler Road. Credit: Karen Minot via National Parks Conservation Association.

Yes, that’s right.  AIDEA wants the public to pay for a 211-mile private road that only mining companies would use – without any guarantee that the companies can actually pay the money back. What’s worse? Despite strong public condemnation, AIDEA committed $35 million for the road at an emergency meeting called to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aside from the obvious financial issues, the road also spells trouble for fish and wildlife.  The road will transect important migratory routes for Alaska’s largest caribou herd: the Western Arctic Caribou Herd. Roads and other industrial development post a serious threat to their long-term survival.

This road would also negatively impact the communities that rely on the Western Arctic Caribou herd. Learn more in this video from our allies at Brooks Range Council:

Does this road sound like a bad idea?  We think so. We are working to defend this spectacular place from this irresponsible project in coordination with our Alaska allies, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can join us in the fight to stop the Ambler Industrial Access Road by signing this petition!