America Should Reject the Oil Businesses Plan and
Permanently Protect The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, comprising more than nineteen million acres in the northern corner of Alaska, is unique and one of the largest units of the National Wildlife system. The Arctic Refuge has long been recognized as an unparalleled place of natural beauty and ecological importance. The Arctic Refuge was established to conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity, as well as provide the opportunity for local residents to continue their subsistence way of life. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the Refuge, calls it "the only conservation system unit that protects, in an undisturbed condition, a complete spectrum of the arctic ecosystems in North America." (Alaska Wild') As early as the 1930's, leading biologists and conservationists were captivated by the scenic beauty and wildlife diversity of Alaska's northeastern Arctic. In the early 1950's, a survey was conducted by the National Park Service to determine which Alaskan lands merited protection. This northeast corner was deemed, "the finest park prospect ever seen." After years of political battles and activism, supporters of the Arctic Refuge achieved victory. On December 6, 1960, during the Eisenhower Administration, Interior
Secretary Fred Seaton signed Public Land Order No. 2214. This order established the 8.9 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Range to protect the wildlife, wilderness and recreational values. This order closed the area to mineral entry. Twenty years later, Congress passed and President Jimmy Carter signed the Alaskan National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). This more than doubled the original size to 19.8 million acres and established 8.6 million acres of the original area as wilderness (Alaska Wild'). This wildlife sanctuary is an awe-inspiring natural wonder. It contains an expanse of tundra with many marshes and lagoons with rivers situated between foothills of the Brooks Range and the wide, icy waters of the Beaufort Sea. Environmentalists said that this area "is the most biologically productive part of the Arctic Refuge for wildlife and is the center if wildlife activity." The importance of these resources is not measurable. The Arctic is home to such animals as caribou, polar bears, grizzly bears, musk oxen, whales, wolves and snow geese. This area is full of wildflowers and contains water of excellent, unpolluted quality and quantity. The Arctic Ocean costal plain is an area critical to the survival of many birds and mammals (Alaska Wild'). With all the good the Arctic National Wildlife refuge has to offer as a safe haven for endangered animals and plant life, comes the burden of sitting on an oil reserve. As noted earlier in 1980, under President Carter, the protected area was doubled. However, the oil industry lobbies succeeded in having the U.S. Senate refuse to designate the critically important Costal Plain as wilderness. Instead, Section 1002 of the Alaskan National Interest Lands Conservation Act legislation directed the Department of Interior
to prepare a report on oil and gas potential in the Costal Plain, and the effects the oil development would have on the region's natural resources. The Costal Plain area is today often referred to as the "1002 area." The ANILCA legislation clearly stated the 1.5 million acres Costal Plain would remain protected unless Congress specifically authorizes development (Alaska Wild'). In the 1990's, the Arctic Refuge came under attack from multi-national oil companies and legislators. An attempt was made in 1995 to allow exploration and drilling in the Costal Plain as a budget bill. President Bill Clinton refused to sign the budget bill until this legislation was removed. At the turn of the...