Interior to Sacrifice Ducks

Interior to Sacrifice Ducks

Department of the Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne recently announced that the winning 2007 Duck Stamp art contest design will feature pintail ducks. As he handed out that popular award - right in the middle of prime waterfowl hunting and bird-watching season - his agency is busy proposing oil development that would put the source of hundreds of thousands of waterfowl, including pintails, at risk.

Kempthorne is looking to approve oil drilling that threatens Alaska's Teshekpuk Lake, one of the Continent's great waterfowl nurseries. The public has until this November 6th to weigh in on the drilling proposal. Leasing is slated to start this winter.

The sprawling wetlands Teshekpuk Lake habitat hosts hundreds of thousands of tundra swans, snow, brant, and white-fronted geese, pintails, loons, shorebirds and more - many spotted through bird watcher's binoculars or harvested by hunters in nearly every state in America. Birds banded at Teshekpuk Lake showed up along the Great Lakes, Mississippi River, the Pacific Coast, plains states, Eastern seaboard and the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana, not to mention Siberia and the Gulf of Mexico.

While many duck species have enjoyed remarkable recoveries in the past decades, the highly prized pintail - now celebrated in the 2008/9 Duck Stamp - remains in a stubborn slump. As many as 10 percent of the North American population of these beautiful speedsters summer on the Arctic coastal plain, many of them around Teshekpuk Lake.

Generations of Americans have cherished Teshekpuk Lake as a vital part of America's outdoor heritage. In fact, the previous four presidents - from both parties - safeguarded Teshekpuk Lake and its surroundings. Kempthorne's proposal would open currently protected land and waters to oil and gas development for the first time.

Groups such as Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl and the Pacific Flyway Council have asked the federal government to spare this waterfowl nursery. Much of nearby land is already leased for oil and gas drilling and is under exploration. They say that keeping Teshekpuk Lake healthy is an important part of balanced responsible energy development.

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's most recent data, over 2.3 million people hunt migratory birds like geese and ducks each year - and each waterfowl hunter over age 16 bought a Duck Stamp. An additional 47.8 million people watch or photograph America's wild birds.

If you're interested, I can get you more information on Kempthorne's pintail / Duck Stamp ceremony and oil drilling plans, a list of birds hosted by Teshekpuk Lake, images of the birds and their migration routes, audio recordings from Teshekpuk Lake, contact information for scientists, sporting groups and oil experts, and more.

BACKGROUND

TESHEKPUK LAKE HOSTS AMERICA'S WATERFOWL

The sprawling Teshekpuk Lake (pronounced Te-SHEK-puck) wetland complex is perfect for nesting and rearing waterfowl, and is key molting habitat for four species of geese. Loaded with food in the Arctic summer, the thousands of ponds and lakes you see around Teshekpuk Lake provide ample protection from predators during these vulnerable periods.

  • While many duck species have enjoyed remarkable recoveries in the past decades, the highly prized pintail remains in a stubborn slump. As many as 10 percent of the North American population of these beautiful speedsters summer on the Arctic coastal plain, many of them around Teshekpuk Lake.
  • Teshekpuk Lake and other wetlands on Alaska's Arctic coastal plain are the major molting grounds for more than 120,000 greater white-fronted geese - up to 20 percent of the mid-continent breeding population in the Central and Mississippi Flyways, and 10,000 eastern-population tundra swans in the Central and Atlantic Flyways. No wonder many experts say Teshekpuk Lake is a vital part of our hunting heritage.
  • Teshekpuk Lake is the source or summering area for several hundred thousand geese, swans, and ducks four species of eiders. Up to one-third of all brant in the Pacific flyway spend their vulnerable molting time at Teshekpuk Lake.
  • According to Ducks Unlimited, on average, 38 percent of molting greater white-fronted geese and half of Canada geese use lakes that the federal government plans to open for oil drilling. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey data shows that nearly half of molting brant in the Teshekpuk Lake area use lakes that would be developed.

WHAT OIL DEVELOPMENT MEANS FOR TESHEKPUK LAKE WATERFOWL

Teshekpuk Lake is an irreplaceable wetland complex, vital to hundreds of thousands of migrating waterfowl that nest and molt there. Without it, we can expect to see shorter seasons, lighter bag limits and less shooting and wildlife viewing, forever.

Proposed oil development requires roads, pipelines, airstrips, drilling pads, gravel mining, processing facilities and other structures that will sprawl across the wetlands complex. Even with the best technology, full-scale oil field development brings with it noise, pollution and habitat loss that will degrade the ability for the magnificent Teshekpuk Lake area to support waterfowl.

For years, wildlife biologists and other experts have recognized the importance of Teshekpuk Lake. Four presidents, of both parties, have protected this area. Now, the rules that kept this habitat healthy are being gutted as the area is opened to leasing. Balanced energy development recognizes some places are too important to sacrifice to oil rigs. Teshekpuk Lake is one of those places. Millions of acres of nearby land have already leased for drilling and are still being explored. Teshekpuk Lake and wetlands complex should remain protected to sustain our wildlife and conservation heritage.

Sacrificing Teshekpuk Lake to oil rigs and bulldozers makes no sense. By developing our nation's clean energy resources, we can provide cheap, clean and safe sources of power without sacrificing the wildlife and natural resources that help define our state and nation.

WHAT SPORTSMEN ACROSS AMERICA SAY ABOUT TESHEKUPUK LAKE

"Given the unique ecological features of the Teshekpuk Lake area, the abundance and special character of waterfowl resources, and the national and international public interests in the resources of the NPR-A" The sensitive goose molting area should not be offered for leasing". The Pacific Flyway Council also recommends that the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area be given permanent protection from future development. - Pacific Flyway Council letter dated 7/2/04, re-sent 9/20/07

"Our staff has extensive field knowledge of the Northeast Planning Area"We have a strong interest in the waterfowl habitats of NPR-A that support abundant and critical migratory bird resources, especially those on the coastal plain, including Teshekpuk Lake Special Area (TLSA) and the Ikpikpuk Delta" The critical goose molting and staging area in the TLSA should not be offered for leasing." - Ducks Unlimited letter dated 8/18/04

Proposals to sell oil and gas leases in the region may dramatically impact the regions rich waterfowl and wildlife values. Teshekpuk Lake and the associated wetland complexes comprise some of the most important waterfowl habitat in Alaska. This wetland rich landscape serves as key habitats for waterfowl and other birds during crucial periods of their lifecycle and as such, any degradation of this habitat may have unforeseen consequences for these species. - Delta Waterfowl letter dated 9/28/07

"The area around Teshekpuk Lake, which is one of the most important wetlands in North America, has extraordinary value to molting, nesting and staging geese, ducks, swans, and other migratory birds. In particular it is an extremely important molting and staging ground for brant geese, which are experiencing a very rapid decline in the Pacific Flyway. What happens to waterfowl and their habitats around Teshekpuk Lake has impacts that extend across Canada, the United States and Mexico" I urge you to reconsider any recommendation to open any of the core goose molting habitat north and east of Teshekpuk Lake to oil and gas leasing." - International Wild Waterfowl Association, letter dated 9/28/07

"America's hunters should not be forced to choose between our way of life and our energy future. Americans can develop oil elsewhere and invest in clean renewable energy. There's no need to trash the wetlands around Teshekpuk Lake. Destroying our best wildlife habitat for short-term gain is not only a waste, it's a needless waste." - Sportsman's Alliance for Alaska

VISUALS

Teshekpuk Lake is a visual feast.

For an armchair view of the birds, you can see the Wildlife Conservation Society's slideshow: http://www.wcs.org/media/slideshows/wcs_teshekpuk/

See their video too: http://www.wcs.org/media/video/wcs_teshekpuk/.

The Cornell Lab has excellent photos and audio recordings of Teshekpuk Lake's birds, http://www.birds.cornell.edu/bigyear.

Photos, maps and professional quality B-roll available upon request.