My Turn: ANWR is not just a refuge

Posted: Tuesday, February 25, 2003

There are a few things I would like to bring to the attention of Ms. Renshaw, who in her letter (Empire, Feb. 20) claimed that ANWR was set up solely as a refuge. In 1960 when Eisenhower created the refuge this may have been his intent. However, in 1980, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was changed in two significant ways. The first is that ANWR was increased in size by over 9 million acres. The second is that 1.5 million acres of the refuge were set aside for oil and gas exploration by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, thus making "the actual intent" of the refuge also that of oil and gas exploration.

I am not an "import from down South." I was born and raised in Juneau. I am merely an Alaskan who has done my research on an issue before speaking out about it. Like many other Alaskans, I am concerned about our environment, and take pride in the fact that Alaska has not become another California. However, I would like to point out that new technology has made it possible to utilize our resources while protecting the wildlife that surrounds them. Take Prudhoe Bay for example, the Central Arctic Caribou Herd, which calves in the Prudhoe Bay Field, has grown from 3,000 caribou at the beginning of development, to more than 23,000 caribou.

I do not see the development of the Coastal Plain (which makes up for less than 8 percent of ANWR) as "barging in there for the almighty oil buck!," but instead a valuable investment for Alaska. It is not just the oil companies that are benefiting here, but all Alaskans as well. It is estimated that this development will provide hundreds of thousands of jobs (as many as 735,000). It will also allow for the inhabitants of the region to "move from a welfare and subsistence economy to a jobs and subsistence economy" as described by former Alaska Sen. Al Adams.

I would like to point out that those who have inhabited the Coastal Plain for over 20,000 years also support such developments. "I was taught by my father to respect the land and its resources because our very life depends on them... For my father, it was the food he hunted to feed his family. I also use the land to hunt for food for my family. But the oil beneath the surface of ANWR can also provide jobs, schools, and a thriving economy for my people... We have had over 20 years of working with the oil industry here ... the oil companies have consistently met the standards we imposed ... We have the greatest stake possible in seeing that any and all development is done in such a way as to keep this land safe. Because it is our world. It is where we live. It holds the remains of our ancestors. It holds the future of our children." (North Slope Borough Mayor Benjamin P. Nageak).

Perhaps it is not Ms. Hoffman, that needs to "think again," but instead Ms. Renshaw, and all the others who are forming opinions based on, well, I'm not sure what they are based on, certainly not the facts.

Laura A. Martinson is a freshman at Portland State University, and a JDHS graduate, class of 2002.

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