Friday, May 24, 2013
Alaskans Debate ANWR Draft Plan
Those who spoke said the debate is about a way of life that involves living off the land and the resources that are in it.
The debate on opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was heated in Anchorage Wednesday, and Alaskans from across the state weighed in with emotional testimony.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service held a public hearing at the Loussac Library to give the public a chance to comment on its conservation draft plan for the refuge.
Those who spoke said the debate is about a way of life that involves living off the land and the resources that are in it. People whose ancestors have hunted, fished, and survived there for centuries said opening the refuge for drilling would take away their culture.
Those who live in the area said they worry the wild resources around the refuge will one day no longer be around because of the calls to drill for oil.
Nina John said drilling could completely change her way of life in Arctic Village.
“I just don't really want that to happen,” John said.
But it's not just about putting food on the table. The Gwichin Nation is asking the federal government to not bother their traditional lands, where they hunt and trap caribou.
“There is absolutely no compromise that there be any kind of development,” said Lorraine Netro, the deputy chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. “There are other places where they can go, and all we ask is this one little area be left alone.”
But those who favor exploration in ANWR said it's an area that holds the key to energy freedom for the entire country.
“Really what we are talking about is locking up probably the last great area of oil and gas resources in the country,” said Anchorage Rep. Craig Johnson. “We fought wars over oil, we've had young men and women die for oil, and we have it sitting up north that we can have access to.”
The Republican lawmaker said it would be “unconscionable” to keep the refuge closed to energy development.
Six alternative draft plans are being proposed, but some said it’s just not possible.
For them, it’s about destroying generations of traditions on sacred land.
“How do you adjust to that, how do you ask a family who’s been living in that area for hundreds of years to adjust to that?” Netro asked.
“If we lose that, then we won't really have anything to look forward to,” John said. “We will just have to learn to live the outside ways, and I don't really want to lose that at all.”
For the people of the Gwichin Nation, it’s about educating others about where and how they live off the land, and they’re asking that the coastal plain area where they live be designated as wilderness.
According to USFW officials, all comments, written or spoken, are being considered.
Testimony will be heard all over the state until Nov. 15, and a final decision on the plan will be made by the end of 2012.