Last week the U.S. Senate voted by a narrow margin (51 to 49) to open the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling. (Thanks are due to both California senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, who voted against opening the refuge.)

The Alaska National Wildlife Refuge contains the last unspoiled wilderness on the north slope. The refuge is home to the Porcupine caribou herd, to polar bears, musk oxen, wolves, grizzlies, wolverines and uncountable birds. The Gwich’in people have lived on this land for thousands of years, following the caribou. This complex web of life would be damaged beyond repair by the inevitable oil spills and the network of roads and pipelines that oil exploration would bring.

Drilling in ANWR is only one piece of the current administration’s plans to open up public lands to logging, drilling, mining and grazing. In California, potential oil and gas sites have been mapped out in Los Padres National Forest, and leases for offshore drilling off the coast of California have been extended. The elimination of the roadless rule, the "Healthy Forests" initiative, and the undoing of 30 years of forestry policy by the administration are all part of the same attack on public lands. The attempt to drill in ANWR is only the most recent of these. And the precedent of losing ANWR would make our battle for the roadless areas of California that much tougher.

The oil in ANWR would have no impact on the price Americans pay at the pump for gasoline. Nor will it help end our dependence on foreign oil. The amount of recoverable oil in the refuge, according to estimates by U.S. Geological Survey scientists, would not last more than six months at our current rate of consumption.

And it may be ten years before any of this oil reaches domestic markets. Simple fuel conservation measures over that same ten-year period could save more energy dollars than the oil from the refuge will ever produce.

Opening ANWR to drilling is a gift to oil companies seeking short-term profits at the expense of a pristine wild landscape. All the oil in Alaska is not worth the destruction of irreplaceable wilderness and priceless wildlife habitat.


Though the Senate vote was a setback, the attempt to hand over ANWR to the oil companies is still not a done deal. It is important to let your representative hear from you. Tell him or her to:

o support energy conservation measures and alternative energy sources.

o work for automotive fuel economy standards that could save Americans billions of dollars a year at the gasoline pump. Technically feasible right now, such standards have been fiercely resisted by the auto industry.

o keep drilling in ANWR out of the final budget.

You might also write to senators Boxer and Feinstein to thank them for their opposition to drilling in ANWR, and let them know you support them.

To find contact information for your senators and representative, visit

To sign Sen. Boxer’s petition to keep drilling out of ANWR, or send an email to oil company heads, go to:


Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places