- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2001

With the stroke of a pen last week, President Clinton permanently outlawed logging and road-building on one-third of the nation's forest land. Environmental activists are pushing Mr. Clinton to further mold his leafy legacy by giving the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) national monument status. However, Mr. Clinton would make a monumental mistake by doing so.

The U.S. Geological Survey describes as "potentially enormous" the amount of oil in ANWR, up to 16 billion barrels or five years of U.S. imports. While the actual amount may be smaller, any oil found in ANWR would help reduce the enormous U.S. dependence on foreign oil and might help melt the rising heating bills so many consumers have faced this winter.

Opponents fear drilling would shatter the fragile creation of ANWR, conjuring up images of such destruction that one wonders why caribou have not already fled across the border to Canada. Actually, the herd has been thriving despite drilling in Prudhoe Bay. There are more than 450,000 caribou in the Western Arctic Herd, an increase of more than 400 percent since 1975. Wildlife in the area is remarkably adaptable; bears use the oil pipelines to go about daily business.

Areas nearly twice as large as Texas are already public lands in Alaska. The state contains 3.2 million acres of state parks, an area the size of Connecticut. While there are 1.5 million acres in the area of ANWR that could be opened for resource exploration the so-called 1002 Area Alaska contains more than 322 million acres of public lands. That ought to be enough.


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