Alaska delegates back off ANWR protest

Posted: Wednesday, August 16, 2000

LOS ANGELES Alaska delegates didnt carry through on their threat Tuesday to vote against the Democratic platform to protest a plank against development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Tongass National Forest.

Most of the delegates, however, said they planned a public display today to make their feelings known. They say theyll wear hard hats emblazoned with ANWR slogans.

Were hoping to get a little attention, said Mano Frey, head of the Alaska AFL-CIO.

Frey had considered a floor fight over the ANWR plank, but decided against it after party officials told him no plank approved by the Platform Committee had been removed by the full convention in recent memory.

The plank reads: Al Gore is committed to restoring the Everglades, protecting the coasts of California and Florida and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas drilling; and preserving our untouched forest, including the Tongass, from logging and development.

Unlike Democrats nationally, the Alaska Democratic Party has endorsed what it calls responsible oil development in the refuge. The U.S. Energy Department estimates that 10 billion barrels of recoverable oil lie beneath the refuges coastal plain. If developed, that oil could bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenue and royalties to Alaska.

Gore long has opposed disturbing a refuge that environmentalists view as one of the last wild places virtually untouched by humans. Vast herds of caribou and flocks of migratory birds bear their young in the refuge.

Frey and a handful of other Alaska delegates are keeping themselves uncommitted to Gore in the hopes of forcing a meeting with the candidate or one of his senior policy advisers.

Our hope is to educate his administration about the importance of Alaska as a resource extraction state, Frey said. Its not just oil, but minerals, timber, fish.

The Gore campaign has said it would meet with Frey, but no date has been set.

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