Trump Administration approves road through Gates of the Arctic National Preserve

Aerial view of Ambler and the Kobuk River in the summer. (Courtesy of the National Park Service via UAF Gates of the Arctic Research Portal)

The Bureau of Land Management has approved the proposed route for the controversial Ambler Road Project.

In its record of decision released Thursday, BLM approved a route for the private access road that would span 211 miles from the Dalton Highway and cross Gates of the Arctic National Preserve to get to the Ambler Mining District in Northwest Alaska. BLM officials wrote the selected route is the shortest of the routes proposed, impacting roughly 4,500 acres of land. 

The road has been touted by Ambler Metals LLC, a subsidiary of British Columbia-based company Trilogy Metals. The company hopes to use the road to access deposits of copper and other metals in the mining district, then to truck ore out. 

The road has received state support from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority,  the agency in charge of making investments and providing loans to various business interests across the state. In a statement, AIDEA Board Chairman Dana Pruhs said the decision from BLM, “represents tremendous potential for economic growth, diversification, and job opportunities for Alaskans, along with revenue expected to the State and local governments for decades.”

Environmentalists are strongly opposed to the road, particularly over routing it through a national preserve. In response to BLM’s decision, Erica Watson with the Northern Alaska Environmental Center wrote, “the impacts to the region’s water, food, and cultural sovereignty are unacceptable. Alaska’s wealth is in our lands, waters, and people, and we will not allow the state to trade that wealth for multinational companies’ profit.”

Subsistence hunters in the area are also concerned over possible effects on the migration of caribou, a staple in the local subsistence diet. BLM completed its environmental assessment of the road in March, acknowledging potential impacts to air and water quality, wildlife migration and erosion.

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that the road will route through Gates if the Arctic National Preserve, and not Gates of the Arctic National Park.