Oil exploration cut scars into Alaskan wilderness

NEW YORK — Heavy vehicles involved in recent seismic testing for oil and gas exploration have left a grid of deep tracks in an area of northern Alaska called Point Thomson.

The tracks, several hundred yards apart, are as regular as a checkerboard and run across the landscape just outside of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

A similar grid may soon cover some of the refuge itself, perhaps beginning as early as December, if seismic testing starts under a plan to sell leases for oil and gas exploration.

The plan, which was approved by Congress last year, is strongly opposed by conservation groups.


Environmentalists say the tracks, up to a foot deep, could remain for decades or longer like a tattoo on the refuge, a vast tableau of mosses, sedges, and shrubs atop permafrost that is considered one of the most pristine landscapes in North America.