With summer time fast approaching, many people might already be planning their first snowhoeing trip for the next winter season. After all, what better way to survive the overheated summer months than by having thoughts of cold winter snow crunching under your snowshoes and a refreshing breeze brushing the few exposed parts of your face as you cover miles of pristine wilderness. But just as you’re about to decide between booking a trip to Yellowstone or one to the as yet untouched lands of Alaska, the news announces that the Senate is well on it’s way to establishing the Bush Administration’s energy plan to drill in the Arctic Refuge. So what does this mean to you as a potential visitor to this beautiful wilderness?
Good question. A closer look at the issue shows us that the battle for the last untouched wilderness in the Arctic Refuge is far from over. While the Senate has recently voted to include the projected revenues from proposed drilling in the budget, it still remains illegal for any drilling to go on in this area. The next step is for both the House and the Senate to agree on a federal budget resolution, something that many see as unlikely to happen with all of the controversial topics included in the current proposed resolution. However, should Congress agree, the Budget Reconciliation Bill would need to be passed. Then and only then would the legislation which authorizes drilling in the Arctic Refuge be put up for a vote.
While it seems like this legislation might never come to reality, there still remains the possibility that all of these steps will go as the administration desires, and the remaining 5 percent of untouched coastal plain in the Arctic Refuge would then be invaded by oil rigs, newly formed roads, and more devastation. Acts that would not only affect potential snowshoe treks but the environment and the wildlife currently calling that area home.
Many environmental experts have researched this issue extensively and estimate that the amount of oil provided from drilling this remaining undrilled 5 percent of arctic coastal wilderness would be so little as to not affect the current energy crisis that we are experiencing and will not cause the current outrageous fuel prices to drop. Also, the oil will not be available for at least five to 10 years, information that is willingly given by the oil companies which would be involved. Furthermore, they also state that drilling in the arctic would not increase our national security as put forth by the Bush Administration.
From a biological perspective, several species of birds and animals including grizzly bears, musk oxen, caribou, polar bears, and marine mammals would have their habitats drastically changed if not destroyed by drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Toxic spills would be highly likely, and much more than two thousand acres of land, the number put forth by the Bush Administration to ease the public’s conscience, would be altered or ruined. Would it truly be worth it to invade this land and drill for oil? Would it make a significant difference to our fuel situation and our national security? Probably not, but if you would like to learn more about this issue and ways in which you can be involved to help stop potential drilling of a pristine wilderness, visit http://www.sierraclub.org or http://www.savearcticrefuge.org for more information.
As for next winter’s first big snowshoeing trip, go ahead and book yourself and your family on a flight to visit the beautiful Arctic National Wildlife Refuge if that’s what strikes your fancy. In fact, look for me. I might be that other snowshoer out there with my camera and my notebook, recording it all for the next generation…just in case.