Green groups lobby Washington lawmakers for ANWR protections

Posted: Wednesday, September 20, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Environmentalists have gathered in Washington, D.C., this week to celebrate the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act 20 years ago, and to talk about what they see as unfinished business -- the protection of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The ''Alaska Summit'' began Saturday evening and continues with through Wednesday.

About 150 people gathered in the capital from around the country. An earlier forum in Anchorage featuring former President Carter kicked off several such events this fall.

''This is more to celebrate the heroes, the people who did the grass-roots lobbying effort,'' said Deb Moore, attending events here for the Northern Alaska Environmental Center in Fairbanks.

Neither Moore nor several of her compatriots from Fairbanks were involved in the debates that led to Carter's signing of ANILCA on Dec. 2, 1980.

But they brought some veterans along.

Sean McGuire, owner of a bed and breakfast in Fairbanks, walked across the country in the late 1970s to promote the protection of Alaska lands. He survived being hit by a car along the way.

Andy Keller, now a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, came to Alaska first in the mid-1970s and worked for a U.S. Forest Service youth camp in Juneau. He then became an organizer for Alaska lands protection in Illinois, Washington, Minnesota and Alaska during the late 1970s.

''That was a great effort,'' Keller said. ''It was just a tremendous grassroots effort and really the environmental movement flexing its muscle that had been building from the 1950s, '60s, and '70s.''

In the end, ANILCA put more than a quarter of the state under federal protection.

Also attending from Alaska are Faith Gimmell and Lucy Beach, both Athabascans hoping to prevent oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; Alaska Forum for Environmental Responsibility director Ross Coen; and Carol Kasza, of Arctic Treks and the Alaska Wilderness Recreation and Tourism Association.

The group heard Sunday and Monday from veterans of the Washington, D.C. scene 20 years ago. The Sierra Club's Jack Hession, the Wilderness Society's Allen Smith, the National Parks and Conservation Association's Chip Dennerlein, and Bart Koehler, now of the Wilderness Support Center were among those from Alaska.

The group is also lobbying lawmakers to protect part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

''The primary thing that didn't get done (in 1980) was wilderness protection for the coastal plain of the Arctic refuge,'' Moore said.

Sen. Ted Stevens, in comments to reporters last week, said he doubts a president, much less Congress, will bar oil drilling in the refuge when oil prices are $35 a barrel. Besides, he said, he believes ANILCA prohibits the designation of any more federal conservation units in Alaska.

Moore said oil prices don't affect the debate.

''The whole point is there have to be places that remain sacred, if you want to use that word,'' Moore said.

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