FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A flood of e-mail messages and phone calls poured into the White House after environmental groups encouraged Americans to ask President Clinton to declare the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's coastal plain a national monument.
''I think we've sent over 400,000 e-mails encouraging people to do that,'' said Cincy Shogan, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League in Washington, D.C.
White House phone lines were jammed for a time Wednesday because of the many people trying to call, she said.
Spokeswoman Victoria Valentine said the White House does not comment about the number of calls coming in.
The Alaska Wilderness League is one of 440 groups in the Alaska Coalition, a group of environmental organizations supporting monument status for the coastal plain. They hope the designation will prevent oil drilling in the area.
Clinton and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt have indicated they believe current law is adequate to prevent drilling there. That's a goal they share with environmental groups.
''There are some people who believe if I were to make it a national monument ... that it would have extra protection,'' Clinton said in a Dec. 6 interview with the Discovery cable television channel. ''Now, as a legal matter, I don't believe that's right.''
Congress could open ANWR to drilling even if it had monument status, the president said.
Shogan, however, believes a monument designation would be worthwhile.
The area is unique and deserves recognition as a monument, she said.
In addition, ''we do believe strongly it would add further managerial protection to the coastal plain,'' she told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
The area now is designated a national wildlife refuge, and refuge rules generally are less restrictive than monument rules.
''Depending on how it was drafted, it could be more stringent,'' Shogan said.
She also noted that Clinton, in his Dec. 6 interview, did not rule out the possibility of naming the area a national monument for reasons other than protection from oil drilling.
Wednesday's national call-in to the White House had been planned for some time, Shogan said.
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