WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, Xinhua - U.S. President Barack Obama plans to call on Congress to expand Alaska's Arctic wildlife refuge protection area, a move aimed to block oil and gas production there.
Obama said that he wants to "make sure that this amazing wonder is preserved for future generations," according to a White House video released on Sunday.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell called the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) one of the nation's "crown jewels" and that it is an obligation to protect it for generations.
The proposal, unveiled by the Interior Department on Sunday, is to expand 12 million acres (5 million hectares) of wildlife refuge protection area of ANWR, 1.4 million of which is oil-rich along the coast. The Interior Department said the proposal will extend the protection area to a total of 19.8 million acres (8 million hectares), where oil and gas drilling is banned under a federal law.
The move ran into instant criticism from Republicans and is likely to face a rough battle in Congress, where Republicans control both chambers.
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Republican chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, blamed Obama's proposal, calling it a politically motivated attack on Alaska.
Newly elected Republican Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska, said the plan puts "energy security in serious jeopardy."
"We will defeat their lawless attempt to designate ANWR as a wilderness, as well as their ultimate goal of making Alaska one big national park," Sullivan said.
However, Obama said the Arctic refuge is "very fragile," and that the Interior Department is developing a "comprehensive plan" to protect it.
The proposal was welcomed by environmental groups.