Monument status for ANWR not the way to go

Posted: Monday, December 11, 2000

The following editorial appeared in today's Anchorage Daily News:

If President Clinton intends to declare national monument status for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, he's not letting out any hints. We hope he doesn't do it.

Savvy politician that he is, he surely grasps all the variables at work: risks of retaliation by Alaska's congressional delegation and other Republicans if he decides for a monument, disappointment among environmental groups and others if he doesn't.

Alaskans who want to see the refuge opened to drilling were not happy to see ANWR become a presidential campaign issue. They fear Alaska will again provide an easy environmental vote for the rest of the country, where Alaska's mystique has more to do with what God has made here than how people make a living.

A few things we should keep in mind:

Like it or not, this is a national decision. We may not care how they do it Outside, especially in Washington, D.C., but we're part of the United States, and what other people think about the Arctic refuge does matter.

The decision about whether to explore needs a cool head. Both sides are passionate. That's fine, but when passion becomes zeal, truth can take a beating. Sen. Frank Murkowski's reference to the summer's high gasoline prices as a reason to open ANWR was a bogus argument. Neither is it clear that drilling would ruin the coastal plain or that the wealth that may lie below that plain should go untouched.

Real-world choices about how to balance development with environmental protection are hard because they require analysis and research and careful thought about what's best for people in the long run. People on the extremes have it easier, for with doctrines in place, they no longer have to think.

Former Gov. Jay Hammond had it right in 1974 when he campaigned on a simple but flexible rule: When in doubt, err on the side of conservation. That rule should still apply today.

We think the oil industry has resolved enough doubts to deserve approval for exploratory drilling. That's why we urge President Clinton not to declare monument status for the refuge.



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