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Medred's Wild Ideas on ANWR Don't Match with Natural Facts

Letters / Anchorage Daily News / October 20, 2005

I was astonished by Craig Medred's characterization of the "biological nonproductivity" of ANWR ("Wildlife issue aside, ANWR needs saving from politics," Oct. 9). Medred cites statistics that support his claim, but I think he missed some context.

There is something in ecology called carrying capacity. It explains why an island in Southeast Alaska with abundant salmon streams can support one brown bear per square mile, while Denali National Park -- an area much larger, but with scarcer food supplies -- supports a much lower bear density. Medred's comparison of wildlife populations in ANWR versus other places is no different. It's apples and oranges. Different ecosystems with different carrying capacities.

Medred also missed an important point about caribou. One hundred thirty thousand caribou congregating on the coastal plain for "only a brief period" is not insignificant. It happens to be the most important period of these animals' life cycle -- birth.

Environmentalists are not spinning anything. They are merely stating the facts and years of scientific research. The coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge is biologically rich and incredibly productive. That is why the Fish and Wildlife Service has stated that ANWR "contains the greatest variety of plant and animal life of any conservation area in the circumpolar north."

Anne E. Gore, Deputy Director for Development & Communications / Audubon Alaska / Anchorage

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