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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Oil Drilling Plan Gains Momentum But Critics Still Trying To Derail Arctic Exploration

Alaska environmentalists aren't fond of Debbie Reinwand. But oil companies some day may want to build a monument to the Anchorage woman. For the past two years, the feisty lobbyist has been leading a long-shot campaign to drill exploratory oil wells in northern Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It didn't seem possible only a few months ago, but she soon may get her wish.

Farmland Under Siege From Sprawl

In Northern California, it rained all or part of 27 days in January. After mopping up the mess, weary Californians were drenched again throughout March. The impact of these winter storms stemmed in no small part from California's long history of converting farmland to residential and commercial uses. Farmland provides better flood control than other land uses because it allows rain to percolate into the ground. Roads, driveways and rooftops send rain onto low-lying ground like chutes. While the recent, once-in-500-years storms would have caused flooding regardless of land use, more land in farms would have eased the pain. Much of the land in the Sacramento region, one of the areas hardest hit by the January floods, used to be in farming. Between 1982 and 1987, the Central Valley lost close to a half-million acres of productive farmland, according to a recent Bank of America report on the effects of sprawl.

Funding The Park System Is No Picnic

Some time ago, Congress fell into the habit of haphazardly creating more national parks than it was willing or able to support. The chairman of the resources subcommittee on parks, forests and public lands, Jim Hansen of Utah, recently recalled that in 1976, former congressman John Seiberling vowed to create "a park a month" and often delivered on that promise. Though the pace has slackened somewhat, the park glut and current federal budget constraints have combined to create a $1 billion to $2 billion backlog in land acquisitions, a $6 billion shortfall in construction and a $400 million to $800 million deficit in operations and maintenance funds. So serious is this backlog that some of the newer sites have yet to receive operating funds. In fact, the Missouri National Recreation River received no operating funds for 14 years after its creation in 1978. We have had a leaky roof and failing electrical system at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, poor road conditions along the scenic Skyline Drive in Virginia and park rangers living in what National Park Service (NPS) Director Roger Kennedy termed "Third-World conditions."