With Alaska’s fiercely anti-wilderness delegation now heading key committees of Congress, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - the Alaskan equivalent of a teeming East African savanna - may soon be opened to oil exploration.
Senators seeking to open the Arctic refuge to drilling have tied development in ANWR to the pending federal budget bill.
A congressional nod would open up a tenth of ANWR, about 1.2 million acres of coastal plain along the Beaufort Sea, for energy exploration.
That critical area is calving ground for caribou, and according to one federal study, the loss of traditional calving grounds could reduce herd size by more than 40 percent. Such a decline would be a blow to ANWR’s ecosystem, since grizzlies, wolves and humans feed on caribou.