Protect the Arctic Refuge on its 50th Birthday
BY JOEL D. FEDDER
(This article first appeared in the Tampa Tribune and the Miami Herald)
Monday, Dec. 6, 2010, marked 50 years since President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on a beautiful and vast stretch of land on Alaska's northern coast. Since then, local communities, environmentalists and political champions of all backgrounds have stood by Eisenhower's defense of the refuge's “Unique wildlife, wilderness and recreational values'' by uniting to stave off repeated attempts to open the area to oil and gas development.
As we mark the 50th anniversary of the area's establishment as a wildlife refuge, we must do everything we can to be sure that the area -- one of America's last truly wild places -- survives for generations to come. President Obama can protect the refuge for his grandchildren and ours by designating it as a National Monument. While the ANWR may seem millions of miles away from most Americans, the reality is that the Arctic is all around us. More than 180 species of birds visit the refuge every year. And every year, birds born on the coastal plain of the refuge journey to all 50 states and across six continents, before heading back to the Arctic, where the cycle of life begins again.
The Arctic refuge serves as the origin of life for more than just birds. The coastal plain is considered by scientists to be the biological heart of the refuge. It provides a home for numerous mammals, including the Porcupine Caribou herd, polar bears, grizzly bears, musk oxen, Dall sheep, wolves and wolverines. These and many other animals rely on its tundra to bear their young; in fact, the refuge is the most important land-denning site for our country's threatened population of polar bears.
Beyond its wildlife, the Arctic refuge is also a sacred place. Long before it was set aside as a protected place, these values were recognized by the people of the Gwich'in Nation. For thousands of years, the Gwich'in people have regarded the coastal plain of the refuge as ``The Sacred Place Where Life Begins'' because it has been the most frequently used birthing and nursery grounds for the migratory porcupine caribou herd. This herd is the foundation for the social, economic and spiritual fabric of the lives of the Gwich'in people. Yet despite the refuge's sacred and critical importance, the oil industry has been trying to get access to the area for years. Oil drilling would destroy this last wild place forever.
The land, waters and wildlife of the refuge are already under stress from the impacts of climate change, which are being felt in this region more than anywhere else on the planet. Oil and gas development in the refuge, the only area on Alaska's North Slope where exploration and development is specifically prohibited by Congress -- would add further stress to these unique ecosystems. The refuge represents our nation's finest example of intact, naturally functioning Arctic and subarctic ecosystems. Such a broad spectrum of diverse habitats occurring within a single protected unit is unparalleled in North America, and likely the entire circumpolar north. If we don't protect the Arctic now, we will lose a place that represents a connection to the natural world that has been lost across the rest of our nation. Nowhere else will future generations experience the wildness of a whole ecosystem untrammeled by humankind.
For over 100 years Americans of all political stripes have come together to help keep America's natural treasures accessible and pristine for all of us to enjoy. President Eisenhower realized the importance and beauty of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 50 years ago, and we should honor his vision by preserving the region's unique values for future generations. To protect its scientific and historical values, its imperiled ecological and wildlife communities, its multifaceted landscapes and waterscapes, and its living Native American cultures, President Obama should designate the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a National Monument. Through this act, Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar would leave a historic and unique legacy of Arctic and sub-Arctic wildlife, wild lands and living cultures for all future generations of Americans.
About Joel Fedder
Joel D. Fedder is a resident of Longboat Key and board chairman of The Fedder Company and Fedder Management Corp. more>>
You may also enjoy...
Amsterdam: Fate of the Red Light District
An exclusive series on the fate of the world's most infamous Red Light District. more>>
On unkind city streets an off-key derelict liberates a device empowering him to create a symphony out of the world around him. When the orchestra becomes as big as the city itself, will The Maestro still be able to control his world of sound? more>>
The Silly Show
the silly show is a tv fanzine, created by glendon & isabella. ass sushi, speed consulting and flag burning... enjoy! more>>