Letter to the editor: Don’t Call it ANWR. It’s a Refuge

Posted:  Saturday, March 10, 2018 - 8:30pm

No matter what the public thought about protests against the Keystone XL pipeline up until last year, at least people had a chance to weigh in, to examine arguments for and against. At least oil developers had to produce an environmental impact statement with time for scientists, government officials, stakeholders and others to respond. Now there is no time. The Trump administration is ramrodding its plans to mine and drill just about anyplace it can, from up and down all our coastlines, to national parks and monuments, and now to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Refuge has been in GOP’s crosshairs since its earliest days, after it was first set aside by a Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. During Reagan’s and both Bush’s administration oil companies nearly achieved their goal, to open up the entire 1.5 million acres to drilling. It took the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, then the largest spill in US history, to slow the momentum on efforts to drill.

The largest protected wilderness in the Arctic, the Refuge has a greater variety of plants and animals than any other Arctic area. It encompasses six different ecozones, supports the long migrations of caribou, is the northern terminus for millions of migrating birds. It is home to the Gwich’in people who have subsisted in this area for thousands of years. It currently has no roads. It is a jewel.

Now Mr. Trump’s interior secretary and others have descended on the Refuge, which they refer to as ANWR, an acronym that belies its special qualities. The public may have little if any chance to weigh in, just as we have had little chance to speak out on behalf of national monuments that may be all but destroyed—our national monuments. There’s not even consensus as to whether it’s worth it to drill in the Refuge, and to the extent that oil may be extracted, economic indicators predict an insignificant difference in the price of worldwide oil.

It boggles my mind to understand how making America great again means to disturb and possibly destroy any environmental quality we’ve worked to achieve over the last 50 years.

Beverly Roxby lives in Belfast