From the time I was a wee broad, Mother told me the story of how the summer before she and Dad got engaged, he hightailed it to Alaska. Apparently, the pressure from both sets of parents -- "But he's not Catholic, Anka!" "I want you to marry a college girl, Lee!" -- was bumming him out, so he split. Obviously, they got back together (after Mother gave him 10 kinds of hell for a month or two), but he always talked about the amazing beauty of Alaska: the wildlife, the mountains, the tranquility, but especially the wildlife.
Don't know whether he ever got up to the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge
, but in February I covered a talk about it. Below, the article:
Peter Solomon is not what anyone would call a political activist.
A widower with three sons living in Northeastern Alaska as part of the Gwich’in Indian tribe, Solomon feeds his family by hunting and fishing off the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a giant piece of wilderness shared between Alaska and Canada. But their lifeblood could soon be decimated by oil drills if the federal government has anything to say about it, he told members of the Izaak Walton League of America Monday night.
If oil development is allowed on the plain, the 8,000-member Gwich’in tribe stands to its way of life for the past 20,000 years. For example, caribou, which return to the plain on Prudhoe Bay each summer to give birth, would likely suffer decreased herds because of displacement from drilling, thereby cutting off the tribe’s food supply. Plus, the nature of drilling would destroy acres upon acres of an untouched ecosystem.
”There’s a 65 percent unemployment rate in most of Alaska,” Solomon said, “But as long as we have the right to hunt and fish on our land, that doesn’t hurt us in any way.”
Lenny Kohm, a wildlife conservationist and photographer who spent more than 15 years lecturing about the Gwich’ins’ plight and spends most summers among the tribe, said that the amount of oil that the government hopes to harvest from the plain is about 3.2 billion gallons, or a six-month supply based on normal American usage. And that number can’t be proven.
”There’s a 20 percent chance of (the oil) actually being there,” Kohm said. “When (Spanish explorers) came through Mexico, they destroyed the Aztecs and Mayans, because they needed the gold. Then 150 years ago, we ran the Native Americans out, because we wanted the land. Now, we’re getting ready to do it again, because we need the oil.”
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, considered a prime piece of land for drilling since 1925, was declared as such in 1980 by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act by former President Jimmy Carter, Kohm explained. Because the Coastal Plain has always been a target for drilling, however, Carter classified it as a study area until such time that it would be used for other things.
In order for the plains to receive refuge status, a bill before the House of Representatives, H.R. 567 will have to pass. It may not have a shot, however, since President George Bush in his budget for 2006 has earmarked money for the Open Up Arctic Refuge.
”It’s not even a budget item, but he knows that as a budget bill in the Senate, it can’t be filibustered,” Kohm said.
Kohm, along with Kim Novick, Great Lakes Organizer for the Alaska Coalition, pleaded with League members to contact Sen. Richard Lugar to vote against the budget. For his Alaskan Indian “family,” he prays the efforts will work.
”If it passes, that first drill is going to have to come right through here,” Kohm said, pointing to his heart.
Well, now I find out from Rude
that it passed 51-49 to drill up the ANWR for oil they can't say for sure is even down there. Big oil (and the Republicans who support it) say that it can be drilled with minimal effect to the environment. Do you buy that? Do you really think that bringing heavy equipment to an area that;s never been exposed to it is going to survive and multiply? Do you think the birds and animals are going to want to come back to that shit every year? And once again, for oil that may not even be there.
Look at those pictures of the ANWR and tell me if you think that's right.