Obama to seek wilderness designation for Alaska refuge

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Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
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Obama to seek wilderness designation for Alaska refuge
Alaska, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, Reflections of Brooks Range Mountains in Schrader Lake. (Photo by: Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
ANWR, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. (Photo by: Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
FAIRBANKS, AK - UNDATED. EXCLUSIVE. A sub-adult (5-6 years old) male polar bear at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Fairbanks, Alaska. Normally a powerful predator, this polar bear shows its playful side. In a series of action shots, the young bear tosses a stick up and down and almost seems to wave to the camera on ice close to Fairbanks, Alaska. The teenage male was captured by Photographer Steven John Kazlowski, who has been photographing polar bears in the region for the past 11 years. It's not known where in the ice the five-year-old found the stick, but he seemed to be fascinated with it, playing with it for three hours at the Arctic National Wildlife refuge. (Photo by Steven Kazlowski / Barcroft Media / Getty Images)
Alaska, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Clearing Sand Shoal in Arctic Ocean for Landing Strip for Bush Pilot, MR. (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)
Alaska, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, the Narrows from Schrader to Peters Lake. (Photo by: Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Alaska, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Raft on Sand Shoal in the Arctic Ocean looking south over Ocean Coastal Plain to Brooks Mountains and snow-capped Mount Chamberlin. (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)
Area 1002, a section inside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, proposed to be used for oil exploration by the Bush administration, is shown in this undated file photo. A House committee is reviving President Bush's top energy proposal, opening a section of an Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling, despite its recent rejection by the Senate. (AP Photo/Arctic National Wildlife Refuge)
** FILE ** This undated file image provided by the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge shows musk ox moving across an area of coastal plain inside the refuge that could be considered for oil exploration in Alaska. Citing the public outcry over $3-a-gallon gasoline and America's heavy reliance on foreign oil, the House on Thursday May 25, 2006, voted to open this wildlife refuge to oil drilling, knowing the prospects for Senate approval were slim. (AP Photo/Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, File)
Alaska, ANWR, Franklin Mountains, Brooks Range reflected in Schrader Lake. (Photo by: Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Sunset Pass, ANWR, Alaska. (Photo by: Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
ANWR, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. (Photo by: Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
A section of land inside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, proposed to be used for oil exploration by the Bush administration, is shown in this undated photo. Conspicuous by its absence in the energy bill that President Bush will sign Monday is his top energy priority - opening an Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling. But the fight over the future of the Arctic refuge will flare anew in Congress in September with drilling advocates saying they may have their best chance in more than two decades of making it happen. (AP Photo/Arctic National Wildlife Refuge)
North America, USA, Alaska, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Narrows from Schrader to Peters Lake. (Photo by: Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
ANWR, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. (Photo by: Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Coastal Plain from Hulahula Delta, ANWR, Alaska. (Photo by: Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Alaska, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Campsite along the Hula-hula River. (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)
Alaska, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge s along the Hula-hula River in the foothills of the Brooks Mountains. (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama says he will ask Congress to designate more than 12 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, including the Coastal Plain, as a wilderness area. The designation would seal the area off from oil exploration and give it the highest degree of federal protection available to public lands.

The nearly 20 million acre refuge has long been a piece of contentious land in the struggle between conservationists and advocates of greater energy exploration in the United States.

In a White House video released Sunday, Obama says he is seeking the designation "so we can make sure that this amazing wonder is preserved for future generations."

The Department of Interior on Sunday issued a comprehensive plan that for the first time recommended the additional protections.

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