ANWR placed in the people's hands

Sarah Bressler/Sun Star Reporter
Nov. 15, 2011

Gary Kofinas discussed the people indigenous to the area during the Arcitc National Wildlife Refuge: History, management and planning event. Nov. 11, 2011. Fred Monrean Jr/Sun Star

On the evening of Friday, Nov. 11, the Fairbanks community had the opportunity to learn more about the draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Attendees of the event ranged from undergraduate students all the way to college professors, and members of the public. Many who attended the lecture in Schaible auditorium shared a concern and opinion for the future of ANWR, whether it be pro-conservation or leaving the refuge the way it is now.

ANWR was created in 1960 and is roughly the size of South Carolina, about 19 million acres, and consists mostly of tundra. At the time, a variety of people from environmentalists to big game hunters thought that setting aside a piece of land was a good idea. It would conserve the natural beauty of the place and create a habitat where the caribou of the famous Porcupine herd could replenish their numbers. Wildlife are not the only living things that inhabit ANWR, as many Inupiat people also call the area their home.

“ANWR is the most high-profile environmental issue within the United States,” said Gary Kofinis, one of the speakers at the event and a professor of Resource Policy and Management at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

While the Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan has nothing to do with drilling oil, the biggest controversy within ANWR, it is still very contentious to the public.

The current Comprehensive Conservation Plan for ANWR is 23 years old. Since its creation, new laws and policies have been put into place that the current plan does not cover. The opening of the Dalton Highway is a new concern, as more people have easy access to the refuge than ever before, making a revision to the current plan a necessity. There are many goals that the refuge staff wants to achieve by revising the Comprehensive Conservation Plan.

“The main difference between ANWR and other wildlife refuges,” said Sharon Seim, ANWR natural resource planner, “is that there will be little to no human involvement in the fish and wildlife population.”

The new plan is not excluding any possibility to resolve the environmental issues. There are six different alternatives that could be put into place, depending on what the public feels would be best for the refuge. The options range from restricting the number of visitors allowed in the refuge and requiring more special permits to recommending to Congress that a large portion of the area be considered “wilderness.” Very few people would be allowed to enter the refuge if it were wilderness, which is defined as a place where the earth is unchanged by man.

Comments about what to do with ANWR are being accepted until November 15. If anyone is interested in giving their opinion pertaining to the Comprehensive Conservation Plan, they may go to http://arctic.fws.gov/ccp.htm or e-mail ArcticRefugeCCP@fws.gov

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