Empire Editorial: Vacationing in ANWR

Two U.S. senators, one from Washington state and the other from Illinois, introduced legislation Wednesday that would protect 1.56 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from future development.

Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) crossed partisan lines to push the legislation.

“The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a national treasure that must be preserved for future generations to experience and enjoy,” Cantwell said in a statement.

Sen. Cantwell speaks of ANWR as though it is a family vacation destination similar to Denali National Park or even Yellowstone. Sens. Cantwell and Kirk are missing a few details in their attempt to introduce more anti-Alaska legislation, which if passed would only serve to further deprive our state of its ability to manage our natural resources.

The portion of land in question (ANWR as a whole is spread out over 19 million acres) consists of more than 2,400 square miles of mostly barren tundra, designated as non-wilderness. To compare, the area that would be impacted is bigger than the state of Delaware and twice the size of Rhode Island. And two individuals who likely have never been within a hundred miles of ANWR are attempting to make decisions about it.

Sens. Cantwell and Kirk should back up their statement by bringing their families to Alaska and vacationing in ANWR. Unfortunately there are no roads to access, so they will need to rent a helicopter, and then coordinate for a sled dog team for travel once on the ground. If a sled dog team isn’t available, snowshoes are always an option. And don’t forget to pack enough food for both your families and the sled dogs — there isn’t a Wal-Mart or CostCo within a thousand miles. On the plus side, lodging will be cheap (there isn’t any).

When your children complain of boredom and blistering cold, remind them why you’re visiting: so they can come back and do it again one day with their children. But be prepared for them to scream, “Are we there yet?” for a few thousand miles.

The issue at large isn’t about whether ANWR should be open to natural resource exploring, it’s about Alaskans deciding whether it should be opened. We don’t need bureaucrats from the Lower 48 deciding it for us. ANWR may encompass federal lands, but those lands are still in Alaska and we should have a seat at the head of the table when decisions of such magnitude that directly impact our citizens are being discussed.

After Sens. Cantwell and Kirk return home from their ANWR vacation, we welcome their opinion on how it should be managed. Few Alaskans have ever seen ANWR up close, but many of us have been to Washington and Illinois, though we wouldn’t try to push policy on those states. Perhaps Alaska’s congressional delegation can return the favor and assist Washington and Illinois by introducing legislation impacting them.

Chicago recently passed New York City as the murder capital of country (500 so far this year). Instead of trying to preserve ANWR for future generations, Kirk should try preserving the current generation in Chicago so there will be someone left to visit ANWR.

In Seattle, police reportedly handed out snacks Nov. 13 during a marijuana rally. Some Washington residents may need some additional motivation if they’re to ever experience ANWR up close.

As we see it, the two politicians need to direct their attention closer to home. Much, much closer to home.

If our delegation were to assist Illinois by introducing legislation imposing harsher penalties for violent criminals, and then were to wage a legal battle in Washington state repealing marijuana legalization, we’re fairly sure the citizens of those states would be every bit as appreciative as Alaskans are that Sens. Cantwell and Kirk are attempting to run our state.

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