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Arctic Refuge Defenders Battle-Tested and Ready to Fight

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The following joint statement on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was released today by the Alaska Coalition, Alaska Wilderness League, Appalachian Voices, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Gwich'in Steering Committee, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Sierra Club, Trustees for Alaska, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, The Wilderness Society and World Wildlife Fund:

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is under threat again. Nevertheless, as they have before, Americans will once again rise up and speak out for thoughtful conservation of the Arctic Refuge.

The Bush administration and its allies in Congress have made it clear that their shortsighted energy policy will continue to give inflated prominence to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Despite the fact that drilling in the Arctic Refuge has twice been rejected by bipartisan majorities in the Senate, and that a majority of the American public does not support it, the Bush administration continues to push this unpopular initiative.

No matter how many times the administration tries to advance this plan, the facts haven't changed: drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would ruin one of America's last unspoiled wild places for what the U.S. Geological Survey and oil company executives concede is only a few months' worth of oil that would not be available for a decade. The American people don't want that, and they've made that clear.

Proponents of drilling in the Arctic Refuge have a much broader agenda -- just last year, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) told a group of high-ranking Republicans that the controversy over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a "symbolic" debate about whether or not oil and gas drilling should be allowed in pristine wild areas across the country.

Ultimately, the battle over the Arctic Refuge says a lot about what sort of nation we are going to be. Are we a country that squanders its natural resources for short-term profit? Or are we a nation that stewards those resources, carefully conserving the most valuable natural and economic assets to ensure we will have them in the future?

For some five decades, thousands of citizens from all walks of life and all areas of the nation have worked to protect the Arctic Refuge. Leaders of both political parties have recognized the importance of protecting the area. President Dwight Eisenhower established the Arctic National Wildlife Range in 1960. It was enlarged by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. Backed by the majority of the American people, bipartisan majorities in the US Senate have voted time and again to keep the oil drills out of the Refuge's Coastal Plain.

Protecting the Arctic Refuge is important ecologically and culturally. The narrow Coastal Plain is the foundation of a delicate ecosystem that features a spectacular diversity of wildlife, including hundreds of bird species, polar bears, musk oxen and wolves. The area also supports the Porcupine caribou herd, which calves on the Coastal Plain. The caribou are the basis of the subsistence and culture of the Gwich'in people, whose communities lie along the migration route of the herd.

Protecting the Refuge is and has been a priority for Republicans and Democrats alike. This bipartisan coalition will work together to protect the Arctic Refuge in the upcoming Congress, backed by millions of Americans who understand that drilling there is wrong. We are battle-tested and ready to fight.

Contact: Lexi Keogh of the Alaska Wilderness League, 202-544-5205, or Deborah Bagocius of Defenders of Wildlife, 202-772-0239, or Mike Daulton of the National Audubon Society, 202-861-2242 ext. 3030, or Vinay Jain of the National Wildlife Federation, 202-797-6894, or Annie Strickler of the Sierra Club, 202-675-2384, or Pete Rafle of The Wilderness Society, 202-429-2642

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"Moving, lucid and aptly told, Oil on Ice
is quite simply the best documentary
to date on the [Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] issue."

-Art Goodtimes The Telluride Watch



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