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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Under the Radar

Justin Scheck writes in Mother Jones:

"[W]ith the public focused on terrorism, war, taxes and healthcare, a small group of government officials and oil executives has seized the moment to close in on a deal to open one of Alaska's biggest wildlife refuges to oil drilling.

Government scientists, environmentalists, and Native Americans in the area say the arrangement -- which has the support of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens and which won preliminary approval last week from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -- will be a precedent-setting erosion of historic environmental protections of Alaska wildlands, and could open the way to widespread oil exploration in the nation's wildest places, starting with the 9 million-acre Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge.

For two decades, the debate over drilling in Alaska has focused on the Arctic Refuge. Drilling there would require congressional approval and victory over a formidable array of opponents from more than a dozen well-organized environmental groups. But Alaska's 16 other wildlife refuges have no congressional drilling ban; rather, they have been protected from new oil activity for 30 years by an administrative rule that can be lifted at any time. In recent years, oil companies have taken aim at reserves in these other refuges, and they seem to have hit their target in Yukon Flats, a swath of wetlands and forest that borders the Arctic Refuge's southern boundary and that is home to salmon, waterfowl, caribou and moose, among other species."

Full story here.


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