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U.S., Canadian Scientists Call for ANWR Protection

More than 1,000 North American scientists have called on President Bush to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) from oil and natural gas drilling, urging the president to "support permanent protection of the coastal plain's significant wildlife and wilderness values," according to a letter published by an environmental group last week.

Oil and natural gas development would seriously harm all types of wildlife, including caribou, polar bears, muskoxen and snow geese, the letter claimed. It also warned that drilling would disrupt the fragile ecosystem of the coastal plain, which scientists believe could lead to even more widespread injury to wildlife and its habitat.

"The coastal plain...encompasses 1.5 million acres of key wildlife habitat vital to the integrity of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," said the letter. "We urge you, Mr. President, to permanently protect the biological diversity and wilderness character of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from future oil and gas development." Supporters of drilling note that oil and gas activities would be limited to 2,000 acres of the coastal plain.

The scientists signing the document categorically rejected the idea that drilling could be confined to a limited footprint, noting that the effects of wells, pipelines, roads, airports, housing facilities, processing plants, gravel mines, air pollution, industrial noise, seismic exploration and exploratory drilling would radiate across the entire coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge.

The scientists who signed the letter are considered experts in the fields of ecology, wildlife and conservation biology, natural resources management and cultural anthropology, according to the Defenders of Wildlife organization. They include Edward O. Wilson, winner of the National Medal of Science and two Pulitzer Prizes for his books on social biology.

"Hundreds of scientists are telling President Bush that throwing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge open to oil companies will harm wildlife and permanently disrupt the wild nature of this unique place," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of the Defenders of Wildlife. "It simply does not make sense to destroy the Arctic Refuge for oil that won't lower prices and won't make a noticeable dent in our dependency on foreign energy, when it's so much easier to get the same amount of energy through common-sense conservation steps."

For a copy of the letter and list of signers, visit www.defenders.org/newsroom.

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