Plight of Alaska Eskimos forgotten in ANWR debateby U.S. Representative Don Young, Alaska
During the federal budget debate in October 1995, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt held a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol where he was joined by actor Ted Danson, several liberal congressmen, and numerous environmental activists.
Amid the television cameras and a mass of Capitol Hill reporters, they stated how they intended to stop the so-called "special interest groups" from including a budget proposal to allow for oil leasing in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
Among those in the audience were a group of Alaska Eskimos who had traveled over 7,000 miles from the most barren and desolate region of Alaska to talk about the most important issue facing their people - the limited oil leasing in ANWR. These people included Inupiat Eskimo whaling captains, subsistence hunters, Native health officials, and fishermen. They were also leaders in their respective villages and regional governments.
While Secretary Babbitt, Ted Danson and the professional environmentalists have claimed an overwhelming majority of the media attention, the Alaskan Eskimos have been the "forgotten" people of the ANWR debate. The voice of the Eskimos - the people who actually live in ANWR and who will benefit the most from limited oil exploration - has been ignored.
These Eskimos came to Washington, D.C. to explain to Congress that many of their people throughout Alaska live in primitive living conditions because of a lack of funding for the basic needs most of us take for granted, like clean drinking water, flushing toilets, and other important health and safety needs.
Unfortunately, these conditions have not changed. The professional environmental lawyers and liberals in Congress are once again mounting an effort to permanently stop even the most limited oil exploration in the Coastal Plain. U.S. Rep. Bruce Vento (D-MN) and U.S. Sen. William Roth (R-DE) have introduced legislation to lock up the area forever as a wilderness area.
This effort is misguided and wrong - wrong for Alaska's Eskimos, wrong for the American people, and wrong for America's national energy security. If ANWR is locked up forever, it would eliminate 700,000 American jobs and leave a possible 9 billion barrels of oil in the ground. Does this sound like a good policy for America's future?
Here are the facts:
I urge you to contact your U.S. representative and senators to express your support for our environmentally-sound effort for oil exploration in ANWR. Also, let them know that you oppose efforts to permanently lock up the Coastal Plain as a wilderness area.
Members of Congress continually hear from the professional environmental organizations. It's important that they also hear from the true environmentalists - the people who believe that wise land policies are best formed by the people who actually live in areas affected.
Don Young is Chairman of the House Committee on Resources and the author of the provision to allow for limited oil leasing in the Coastal Plain region of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Article courtesy of People for the West!