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"Benedictio:  May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing views. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, pat temples and castles and poets' towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottoes of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you--beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.  So long.."

From "Benedictio" by Edward Abbey, in THE POETRY OF EDWARD ABBEY


Saving The Wilderness

In northeastern Alaska,  just east of the  North Slope oil-drilling area, lays several million acres of Arctic refuge, considered to be one of the last pristine wildernesses in the country.  Within those several million acres are two thousand acres that the statement for environmental impact of the refuge describes as "the only conservation system unit that protects, in an undisturbed condition, a complete spectrum of the arctic ecosystems in North America." The statement goes on to say,  "It (the proposed 2000 acre drilling area) is the most biologically productive part of the refuge for wildlife and is the center of wildlife activity."  These two thousand acres are home to 135 species of migratory birds, polar bears, musk oxen and are the breeding grounds for thousands of caribou.

The refuge also happens to be oil-rich and in 2004 the House approved drilling with President Bush's support and approval.  Opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is at the top of Bush's proposed energy agenda.  The oilman's mindset seems to be somewhat like a" dollar burning a hole in his pocket" or "we've got it, let's use it".  A shortsighted mindset to be sure; and one indifferent to the region's fragile and finite ecosystem.

The Senate, which convenes in January and is comprised of a Republican majority, is expected to be the last stumbling block for the passage of the drilling proposal. Nobody can say for certain how much oil is beneath the surface of the Arctic refuge but the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that recoverable oil is somewhere between 6 and 16 billion barrels.  Production would depend on the price of oil, the higher the price the greater the incentive to drill.

Drilling proponents justify the drilling by noting that the wells, pipelines, roads and airstrips necessary for the project would only impact two thousand acres. They also claim that because of greater detection technology, fewer wells would have to be drilled than a decade ago.   This is small consolation for those of us who argue that the continued eradication and extinction of any remaining wilderness sanctuaries, and the wildlife that inhabit them, will lead to the demise of our planet.

At some point, in the not so distant future, fossil fuel will no longer exist. Rather than drilling madly and blindly, in our ever-growing gluttony for self-gratification and rather than pillage the last of our sacred resources we have the option of perfecting and utilizing the technology of alternative fuel.   This option is not an instant fix but neither is drilling.  It would take as long as a decade to even see oil from the refuge.  Fine-tuning higher mileage cars and alternative sources of fuel could be accomplished sooner.

Senate Republicans are looking to attach the issue of drilling to the federal budget resolution.  In other words, the budget would include estimated revenue from the sale of federal drilling leases in the refuge.  The strategy being, that once the budget is passed legislation for drilling, naturally would follow.

Public opinion polls show that the majority of Americans oppose drilling in the refuge.  I encourage those of you who are committed to preserving this unspoiled sanctuary, in the small picture, and ultimately the planet, in the big picture, to become proactive.   Contact your senators with phone-calls, letters and e-mail.  In the end the politicians still have to answer to us, the American people.


Grey Or Timber Wolf (Canis Lupus) In The Alaskan Snow., Alaska, U.S.A.
Grey Or Timber Wolf (Canis Lupus) In The Alaskan Snow., Alaska, U.S.A.
Newman, Mark
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  Alaska Tundra in Autumn Glory
Alaska Tundra in Autumn Glory
Cook, Anthony E.
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