Alaskan senator Lisa Murkowski. Image courtesy Lisa Murkowski/Flickr.

Alaskan state officials are firing back at President Obama after his administration proposed a plan Sunday that would classify most of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a federally protected wilderness area.

The plan calls for an additional 12.3 million acres to be set aside as a protected site, including the state’s oil rich coastal plains area.

Currently, about 7 million acres in the wildlife refuge are classified as protected wilderness.

If the plan is approved, drilling in the protected area would be prohibited.

Alaska’s Republican congressional delegation said Sunday the proposal is “an unprecedented assault on Alaska.”

State officials have called the move a federal land grab.

“They’ve decided that today was the day that they were going to declare war on Alaska. Well, we are ready to engage,” Alaskan senator and chair of the Senate energy committee Lisa Murkowski told the AP.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the coastal plains area holds reserves ranging anywhere from 5.72 billion barrels to 15.95 billion barrels.

Murkowski said that approval for Obama’s plan is “not possible in this Congress.”

Earlier this month, U.S. representative Don Young of Alaska introduced a bill that would clear the way for exploration and development in the refuge’s coastal plains area.

The bill has not been voted on yet.

A spokesperson for the Interior Department said a proposed five year offshore drilling plan that will outline where upstreams can operate will be announced soon and that environmental reviews of Arctic leases in offshore Alaska have begun.


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