Geographic Response Strategies (GRS) have become an accepted industry standard for protecting environmentally sensitive areas. In Alaska, GRS have been developed for hundreds of sensitive sites. Typically, the GRS process involves an extensive site selection phase where resource agencies, stakeholder groups, and other interested parties prioritize potential GRS sites based on a number of factors, such as wildlife populations, cultural resources, human use, coastal habitat sensitivity, and feasibility of protecting the site from oil spill impacts.

The process used to select and design a GRS for Nelson Lagoon has deviated from this established pattern. Nelson Lagoon, which is located on the north coast of the Alaska Peninsula and included in the Port Moller State Critical Habitat Area, is a biologically rich and ecologically sensitive area in its own right. But, the impetus to develop the Nelson Lagoon GRS arose from a single species: the threatened Steller's eider, which has been listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 1997.

The Nelson Lagoon GRS project is unique not only because it has its roots in the ESA process, but because the GRS itself includes a risk-minimization component as well as a response strategy. This paper reports on the GRS development process at Nelson Lagoon, Alaska, and considers whether the model is applicable elsewhere in the United States.

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