By BECKY BOHRER Associated Press
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to hold an oil and gas lease sale for Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge next month. It comes just weeks before President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office, and he has opposed drilling in the region. Conservation groups criticized Thursday’s announcement as rushed and based on environmental reviews that are being challenged in court as flawed. The land agency says it plans to hold a lease sale on Jan. 6. Alaska politicians say opening the area for exploration would boost oil production, create jobs and generate royalties. But conservation groups and the Indigenous Gwich’in people have fought drilling in the refuge.