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March 10, 2005

Oil on Ice

BY: Gwen

Yesterday evening, the Avalon in Washington DC was hosting the Sierra Club and the Alaska Wilderness League for the screening of the award winning documentary “Oil on Ice” which presents the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Oil Drilling controversy.

One of the filmmakers was present and Native Alaskans talked to the audience about their life, how they would be affected if the U.S. decides to drill and how they can feel the first effects of global warming.

Unless like Sen. Frank Murkowski (now governor of Alaska) said in March 2002, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge doesn’t look at all like a big white board with nothing in it.  He said holding the immaculate board: “This is what the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge looks like 9 months out of 12, don’t be misinformed” in his attempt to convince Congress to open the federal government to open the protected area to oil drilling.

The documentary shows how this portion of land in the Arctic became a refuge in 1960 thanks to conservationists’ efforts and the Eisenhower administration.  In 1980, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) enlarged the area with the purpose of:

  • conserving fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity including, but not limited to, the Porcupine caribou herd, polar bears, grizzly bears, muskox, Dall sheep, wolves, wolverines, snow geese, peregrine falcons and other migratory birds and Arctic char and grayling;
  • fulfilling the international fish and wildlife treaty obligations of the United States;
  • providing the opportunity for continued subsistence uses by local residents; and
  • ensuring water quality and necessary water quantity within the refuge.

But Section 1002 of ANILCA required that studies were undertaken, including a comprehensive inventory and assessment of fish and wildlife resources, an analysis of potential impacts of oil and gas exploration and development on those resources, and a delineation of the extent and amount of potential petroleum resources.  This is the area they want now to open to oil drilling.

The problem is that this particular section of land is where the porcupine caribou herds gather, calve, and migrate as they did in the Pleistocene.  And the Gwich’in people depend directly on these herds for their survival as well as many forms of wildlife like wolves, grizzlies etc.

This is about the battle of big oil corporations over one of America’s last, great wild places.  And this battle is occurring NOW!.  Each of us can do something against it.  Take action!  Log on to the Sierra Club website and go on their activism section on this issue.  Help the Gwich’in people to protect their culture, and their pristine environment.