The American people have been denied additional time to voice their opinion about the management of their public lands. A recent decision by the administration rejects a request to extend the public comment period for the draft oil and gas leasing plan of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska's northwest area. A coalition of conservation groups formally requested extending the 60 day comment period to 90 days, as was requested and approved in 1998 for the northeast planning area of the NPR-A. The same group also asked for public hearings to be held in the lower 48 states, just as they were for the northeast planning area of this region, also called the Western Arctic.

Only a single hearing outside Alaska was granted, to be held in Washington, DC on March 13 - a mere five days before the public comment period ends March 18. With so much land in the crosshairs of big oil, and so little - less than 5 percent - of the nation's land permanently protected as wilderness, it is only fair that the public has adequate opportunity to speak up.

"This is about corporate greed, pure and simple, because Americans don't want to see their remaining wild public land handed over to special oil and gas interests," said Mike Matz, executive director of the Campaign for America's Wilderness. "Americans deserve the chance to have their voices heard, yet the decision to shut off additional time for public comment is further evidence that the administration is putting special corporate interests over the public interest."

On Thursday, March 13, a coalition of groups and individuals will use this single opportunity outside of Alaska to make their case for a more balanced approach in America's Western Arctic -- one that protects the area's most special places from the irreversible ravages of oil and gas drilling. Conservationists have united behind a "Wildlife Habitat Hotspots Alternative" -- an alternative to the proposals believed to have the inside track for development in the northwest planning area of the NPR-A. Those proposals would allow leasing in 96 to 100 percent of this largely pristine and wildlife-rich land.

"The administration has placed Alaska's arctic in jeopardy, attempting to open more and more of America's treasured lands to fill the pockets of the oil and gas corporations, " said Deb Moore, Arctic Coordinator of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center. "Just last month, the administration announced its intentions to open the Beaufort Sea to oil and gas leasing and it continues to use backdoor attempts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, despite overwhelming public opposition." If you haven't commented yet, please go to and do so! March 18th is the deadline!