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Conservation in Mind – New threats to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

By Frances Lamberts

Since its earliest work on energy in the 1970s, the League of Women Voters position states its “continued opposition to repeated efforts to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”

These attempts have been many, though unsuccessful till now, since the American people seem overwhelmingly to support preservation of the Refuge.

They need to rally for its protection, again. Oil and gas lease sales there had been included in the tax-cut law of December 2017. Ostensibly, sale of drilling rights in a vital part of the Refuge was intended to save money and mute the impacts of a vast increase in the federal debt, through lost tax revenue.

As recently reported by the Washington Post, President Trump currently seeks to open “the entire coastal plain [of ANWR] to oil and gas exploration,” and is “picking the most aggressive development option” for this purpose.

For its importance to wildlife and indigenous people, its natural beauty and recreational values, the Refuge was set aside (first as protected Range) by President Eisenhower. For millions of migrating birds from all 50 states and five other continents, and for numerous other wildlife, it is nursery and home and – quite literally – the last place on earth to go. Its continued protection is essential to grizzly and polar bears, sheep, musk-oxen, wolves, the caribou which move to its birthing grounds by the thousands, and many other, unique animals.

President Theodore Roosevelt, an authority on birds and their song, once described an evening concert by thousands of tundra birds, coming from “numberless loons, rolling cries of cranes and bugling flocks of swans, clanging of innumerable geese, hoarse calls of various ducks and the screams of gulls and terns trying to outdo one another … in wildly harmonious music.”

Osprey and Bald Eagle, Common Nighthawk and Red-breasted Nuthatch, Tennessee Warbler and Ruby-throated Hummingbird were among birds documented – in the fall 2017 regional count by Bryan Stevens – which nest or at other times use the Arctic Refuge. The Annotated Birds of Northeast Tennessee include, as seasonal residents or visitors, more than hundred of the ANWR avian fauna.

Science tells us, and the children demand, that most fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground if the fight against climate change is to be won. On that goal and for our birds and all wildlife that depend on ANWR, I hold with the League of Women Voters.