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Abstract

This Article provides context for the controversy facing government agencies charged with making decisions about the future of America’s Arctic Ocean. It then distill themes that, if addressed, could help further a lasting solution for this region that respects its natural and human values while crafting a reasonable path forward for decisions about development. First, this Article offers background about the region, the threats facing it, and some of the challenges in managing the natural resources there. Second, it provides an overview of the legal framework through which the United States government makes decisions about whether and under what conditions offshore oil and gas activities should occur. Third, this Article highlights decisions about Arctic Ocean resources that have been made pursuant to that legal framework and discusses the resulting court challenges. Based on that review, this Articles concludes that the controversy has resulted in large part from: (1) the failure to ensure necessary preparedness; (2) the lack of community involvement; and (3) the need for more specific mandates to ensure that management decisions about resources in important and unique places, like the Arctic, are based on sufficient science, precaution, and an equitable balancing of costs and benefits.