A look at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Posted: Tuesday, October 10, 2000

--Geography: 19 million acres in the northern corner of Alaska. Created as a protected wildlife range by President Eisenhower in 1960 and later declared a refuge. It covers a variety of terrain from high peaks of the Brooks Range and hilly lowlands to the 100-mile coastal strip of arctic tundra wetlands on the Beaufort Sea.

--Wildlife: Millions of migrating birds each summer, some coming from as far away as Argentina, feed on the vegetation of the coastal plain. More than 150,000 caribou also migrate into the plain each spring. Other wildlife includes denning polar bears, grizzlies, musk oxen, wolves and moose.

--Oil: Amounts uncertain but believed concentrated in 1.5-million-acre coastal strip. Estimates range from 5.6 billion barrels (95 percent chance) to 16 billion barrels (5 percent chance) with the median estimate of 10.3 billion barrels. About 80 percent of oil can be developed economically if oil price is $25 a barrel, according to government estimates.

--Production: Congress in 1980 banned exploratory drilling or oil development in the refuge. If ban is lifted, peak estimated production is 650,000 barrels to 1.9 million barrels a day, depending on amount of oil found. Production could begin within seven to 12 years after first leases are sold. (U.S. refineries use about 15 million barrels of oil a day.)

--Politics: The refuge has become an issue in the presidential race. GOP nominee George W. Bush says drilling can be conducted without harming the environment. Democratic nominee Al Gore vows to oppose oil development in the refuge because of concern about environmental impacts.



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