ANWR deserves protection

February 19, 2010

I was beginning to wonder if Wednesday was April Fools day when I read Robert H. Nelson's op ed piece, "A missed opportunity on energy" (Feb. 17). There is so much to raise the ire of many of us who are defenders of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (degrogatorily dismissed as ANWR) in his piece that it is hard to know where to begin.

First, I am speaking as someone who has had the privilege of rafting down the Kongakut River, the easternmost river of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that empties into the Beaufort Sea. My defense of that spectacular area is not from religious zealotry. My defense is based on my hope that it will be kept as the last bastion of true wilderness free from industrial exploitation, as well as in defense of its incredible diversity of Lilliputian habitat, supporting fish, birds, mammals and even insects upon which some species depend.

Mr. Nelson's argument in defense of drilling, that the caribou thrive at Prudhoe Bay, is the position the industry uses to try to convince folks that all the industrialization is actually a benefit to wildlife. The increase of caribou population may have been because many of the traditional predators were exterminated, plus the milder winters when the survey was conducted. The Central Arctic herd is a great deal smaller than the Porcupine herd of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and has a far greater area along the coastal plain than the Porcupine herd, which is vastly larger with much less coastal plain, and more predators. Oil and gas development in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would have a devastating effect upon the latter herd.

Finally, to compare the supposed "millions of dollars" that the thousands of us trying to defend Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have contributed to keep it free of development to amount of money the oil industry is investing lobbying to open it up is ridiculous.

I prefer to think that my defense is more in order that my children and their children will some day be able to experience the same wonder of the area that will finally be designated as a wilderness area where development is forbidden.

Ajax Eastman, Baltimore

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