Ted Stevens May Be Gone, But Arctic Refuge Still in Peril

Alaska Republican Ted Stevens has finally been ousted from the U.S. Senate, but that's not necessarily good news for people who care about protecting wilderness and wildlife..

Polar bears The victorious Democrat who beat Stevens, Mayor Mark Begich of Anchorage, strongly favors drilling for oil in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, despite the potentially devastating environmental consequences. 

Reported the LA Times, Mark Begich settled in Wednesday as Alaska's newest U.S. senator-elect by doing what almost no other Democrat in Washington would ever do: declaring his support for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Begich said he was confident he would be able to act as a powerful new advocate on Capitol Hill for opening up Alaska's northernmost wildlife refuge to oil drilling. The idea has been blocked for years because of concerns it would threaten caribou, migrating birds, polar bears and other wildlife whose survival depends on the Arctic coastal plain and nearby waters.

"For the last 28 years, there hasn't been a Democrat sitting in the caucus talking about ANWR," he said. "My goal is to educate them about how big ANWR is to this state."

…The Alaska Wilderness League criticized similar statements Begich made Wednesday morning about Arctic drilling during an interview with National Public Radio.

"It's surprising that on his first day as senator-elect, Mr. Begich chose to directly contradict his own party platform and the position of President-elect [Barack] Obama," the league's executive director, Cindy Shogan, said in a statement. "It seems that in Alaska, the only party is the oil party."


Awllogo-web Join the Alaska Wilderness League and add your voice to the thousands of Americans who believe we must protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As President-elect Obama has said, we can't drill our way out of our addiction to oil. But we can protect wilderness and wildlife — and we must.

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