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Obama to seek wilderness designation for 12 million acres of Alaska refuge

In this undated photo provided by the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a herd of musk ox graze in an area proposed as a possible site for oil exploration inside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. | AP Photo/Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

WASHINGTON — 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.

ASSOCIATED PRESS