To the editor:
I am dismayed by recent actions and statements of our congressional delegation and other members of Congress supporting opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration and drilling.
Over several years, attempts to open the refuge when it was discussed and voted on as a separate issue have failed. I like to believe that this was because those voting against opening recognized: (a) the resultant damage to wilderness values would be irreparable, (b) the significance of the negative impact on critical calving and rearing habitat for the largest caribou herd shared between the U.S. and Canada, and (c) the high likelihood of substantial harm to the only arctic/subarctic ecosystem currently in our national wildlife refuge system. These judgments reflect the best scientific opinion and seem to have been consistently accepted by a majority of the voting public.
I prefer thinking of members of Congress as truly working toward the general public's long-term interests. I interpret that as requiring the preservation of options and avoidance of harm, certainly not favoring short-term goals for either expediency or huge corporate profits. I would like also to be able to think of my congressional delegates as highly ethical.
Attaching a provision permitting oil exploration and drilling within the refuge to a federal budget bill is not ethical in my view. The move was made only to avoid thorough, focused discussion and a vote requiring concurrence by a larger majority. The estimated "income" is based on accounting too similar to recent practices that landed numerous corporate managers in court or jail.
The myth of "only 2,000 acres" worth of impact omits the rest of the story: non-continuous acres, most if not all roads and pipelines excluded, etc.; the whole spread over the greater part of the refuge's coastal plain.
All this is ethical?
If the time comes that this wild area must be opened, the country will indicate its willingness to do so in open debate of a single-measure bill during which the nearest thing to the truth of the matter is laid clear.
That time is not now.
Frederick Dean / Fairbanks
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