Obama asked to make ANWR a national monument

By nicksinwashdc
Environmental organizations think they have a swell idea to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s establishment: convincing US President Barack Obama to designate it a national monument.

The idea has been gathering momentum since early November. “Truly one of America’s greatest wild places, the Arctic Refuge contains a rich diversity of landscapes, wildlife and habitats – unparalleled in North America,” the Alaska Wilderness League and seven other organizations said on Nov. 19. “[Its] coastal plain hosts an amazing array of wildlife including polar bears, grizzly bears, musk oxen, wolverines, and more than a hundred thousand caribou. This ‘biological heart’ of the refuge is connected to the entire country, as well as to countries all around the world. Every year, birds that begin their lives on the coastal plain migrate to all 50 states and across six continents, before heading back to the Arctic where the cycle of life begins again.”

ANWR’s coastal plain also is where a substantial amount of oil and gas is waiting to be produced. If Obama chose to exercise his authority and designate ANWR a national monument, the action effectively would put those resources off-limits.

The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and similar national environmental organizations are asking people who support that goal to contact the White House. US Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and 24 of his colleagues reportedly sent the president a letter supporting the idea. Alaska’s two US senators felt otherwise.

"Attempts to lock up America's energy resources are misguided, and this particular one is not legal," Lisa Murkowski, a Republican and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s ranking minority member, said on Nov. 22. "The coastal plain of ANWR holds valuable oil and natural gas reserves that are vital to our nation's energy security, which is why Congress designated it for oil exploration and included language in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act to ensure no further ‘wilderness’ designations in Alaska. Instead of trying to lock up our resources, we should be developing them as part of a balanced energy plan that creates jobs and bolsters the sluggish economy."

“This is another misguided attempt to lock up ANWR by Sen. Lieberman and others who truly don’t understand its potential to help bring national and economic security to our country,” Democrat Mark Begich said on Nov. 19. “The vast majority of ANWR is already off limits to development, but Congress specifically set aside 1.5 million acres in the 1002 area for oil and gas exploration. It has enormous potential and should be part of a national energy plan for our country.”

Obama could go ahead and embrace the proposal to shore up his support in the environmental community. But in the hours before Thanksgiving arrives, the idea looks like a real turkey.
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