by Pat Sziber
The assault on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska is never-ending and the oil industry's good friends in Congress never seem to run out of ideas for opening ANWR's fragile coastal plain to oil exploration. One recent sneak attack is contained in the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) bill which would channel offshore oil and gas lease monies into the Land and Water Conservation Fund-something environmentalists have wanted for years. Unfortunately, the Senate version of the bill still contains language favored by Alaska's Senator Frank Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which would provide incentives for increased offshore oil drilling. Conservation organizations have been largely successful in getting similar language removed from the House version of the bill. Generally speaking, New Jersey's congressional delegation has been very supportive of Alaska protections. Both NJ senators and all of our chapter area U.S. representatives have signed on as cosponsors of Alaska wilderness bills. Many thanks to them!
The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the essential calving ground for the Porcupine caribou herd and is one of the world's last great pristine wilderness areas. It is so rich in wildlife that it is sometimes referred to as the Serengeti of the north. It is also important to the Gwich'in people for subsistence living.
On August 23rd, former president Jimmy Carter urged President Clinton to designate the coastal plain of ANWR a national monument as he has done with other special areas. Carter spoke at a 20th anniversary celebration of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which he signed December 8, 1980. The Act declared 104 million acres in Alaska as national parks, wildlife refuges, national forests or other federal conservation units. In a regrettable compromise, the coastal plain, while part of ANWR, was not given the full protection of a wilderness area, leaving it vulnerable to resource exploration and extraction. Mr. Carter, a staunch advocate for Alaska protection, is now calling for that to change.
What you can do: Let's help former president Jimmy Carter convince President Clinton to declare the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife refuge a national monument. This would not replace or conflict with wilderness designation for the coastal plain. Just drop a brief note, phone or FAX the President urging him to finish the work that President Carter began 20 years ago. Mr. Clinton should add the coastal plain to his legacy of protection for America's rarest and most valued natural treasures. Write to: President William J. Clinton, The White House, Washington, DC 20500. FAX: (202)456-2461. White House Comment Desk: (202) 456-1111.
Don't have time to write? Got internet? Go to the Alaska Wilderness League's special new website, http://www.saveourcaribou.org and fill out an e-postcard to President Clinton. The League's goal is 1 million postcards, calls, e-mails and letters to the President by the end of September, urging him to proclaim the fragile coastal plain a national monument and to extend his roadless areas protection policy to the Tongass National Forest in southern Alaska. While at the site, click on the map and note how the coastal plain is excluded from the wilderness area.
Let's make this campaign a success!!! YOU are one in a million!
1 - From an Alaska Wilderness League ad in the western edition of the New York Times.
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