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‘Amazing Wonder’ In Alaska Robs Feds Of Ability To Do Basic Math

If you want to know how big Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) actually is, then don’t ask the bureaucrats tasked with preserving the refuge.

The Interior Department has three different answers to this question that vary by a whopping 500,000 acres — about the same size as 11 cities like Washington, D.C.

“This begs the question: if the feds don’t know how big ANWR is, are they really its best stewards?” Alex Fitzsimmons, an energy analyst with the free-market American Energy Alliance, asked in a blog post.

The Obama administration recently announced it would ask Congress to keep the “amazing wonder” of ANWR off limits to oil and natural gas drilling, a move that was welcomed by environmentalists but derided by Alaska lawmakers and native tribesmen. The only trouble, Fitzsimmons points out, is that they don’t know exactly how big this “wonder” is.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service webpage entitled “Facts & Figures” claims ANWR is 19.3 million acres. But wait, the Service’s latest conservation plan for the region says ANWR is actually 19.64 million acres, not 19.3 million — this is equivalent to adding an area the size of New York City to the refuge.

The plot thickens. The Interior Department’s press release on the ANWR announcement claims the refuge was 19.8 million acres — 500,000 acres more than Fish and Wildlife’s lowest estimate.

So why does the Obama administration have three different estimates for the size of ANWR? The Fish and Wildlife Service did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment on why they have varying estimates for ANWR’s size. A footnote in FWS’s latest conservation plan, however, notes that “[a]creages in this Plan are derived from many sources and may not agree with previously published values.”

The Obama administration’s plan to designate ANWR as a wildlife refuge also includes keeping areas of Alaska’s Arctic coast off limits to drilling. His plan has rankled some Alaskan natives, including the only lawmaker who hales from ANWR.

“We have thousands and thousands of acres of land that our people in the state of Alaska, especially in ANWR, have title to and [they] cannot even use that resource to enrich themselves,” said Alaska State Rep. Benjamin Nageak, a Democrat.

“That is wrong,” said Nageak, who represents the town of Barrow on Alaska’s North Slope. “When you give the people the ability to enrich themselves you don’t lock up their lands so they don’t do anything else but just sit on it and nothing comes out of it except the renewable resources that we depend on. That to me is wrong.”

Republicans have also criticized President Obama for not having spent enough time visiting Alaska — only stopping in the state to refuel Air Force One.

“All three times [Obama visited], it was basically to get fuel,” said Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, adding that two of the times “were in the middle of the night, for as long as it took to get fuel.”

“Outside of this short meet and greet, outside of this bargaining chip to gain support from national constituencies, he’s basically viewing Alaska as a refueling stop. Which is no shortage of irony here in the fact that he’s happy to refuel Air Force One in Alaska, he doesn’t seem to want the fuel produced in Alaska,” Murkowski said.

Alaska gov. Bill Walker has invited Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to visit ANWR and send the administration an invoice for “Alaska’s education and health care costs. He said it would show there is an impact to actions taken by the federal government,” reports the Associated Press.

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