By MARK HAMILTON
(Editor’s note: This is the third in a series by Mark Hamilton about the history of the Pebble Project in Alaska.)
Very few Alaskans know about the establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
During the debates prior to the vote on Statehood, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent his Secretary of the Interior Fred Seaton to Alaska, requesting one more set-aside of land to appease opponents who didn’t want to see Alaska developed.
The group met at Bob Atwood’s home in Anchorage. Elmer Rasmuson was there with Atwood, as well as others.
Presented with the president’s request, Atwood spread a map of Alaska on the pool table and reached his hand as far North to the sea and as far East as the Canadian border, as far from Anchorage as he could get it.
They traced his hand on the map, and that became ANWR. The outline was modified to use topographic delineations, by none other than Ted Stevens, who was working for the Secretary in the Interior Department, but you can see today the rough outline of a right hand.
ANWR was established as the Arctic National Wildlife Range and was 13,900 square miles at statehood. It was expanded in 1980, and renamed Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. More acreage was added in the 1980s and the refuge reached its 30,500 square miles.
To the dismay of those who want to portray the region as mountainous, with bubbling streams and huge caribou herds (yes, opponents claim there is a new caribou herd that will disappear), they are stuck with a mosquito- infested swamp.
Of course, that would not gain as much public opinion, so they pretend the Andes Mountains are at stake, and even use photos of the Andes in some of their propaganda literature. I understand that one could fool people living in other states (indeed the anti-ANWR campaigns received donations from many in the United States and even some from Europe), but citizens of Alaska? As many as one in three Alaskans surveyed are opposed to drilling in ANWR. Notice that the politics of that polling, (still 2-1 for), keeps our politicians passionately for responsible oil drilling in ANWR.
But ANWR isn’t the answer to Alaska’s need for an economic future because oil is on the way out. President Joe Biden has voiced that position, and it is a pillar in the environmental activists’ plan for the future.
If you are confused by the politics of it, take a look at the economics: Wells Fargo recently joined the Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and Bank of America in a decision to not provide future investment funding for Arctic oil projects. Alaska’s senators worked hard to open ANWR for lease sales. Because of the bankers, the subsequent lease sales were a nothing-burger.
If oil is on the way out, as I believe it to be, (understand this won’t happen this week—we will be pumping oil long after I am gone from this Earth) then mining must flourish.
That is going to depend upon our ability to responsibly develop the resources. Understanding at least some of the rigorous and enormously expensive process is something that all of us here in Alaska need to be spend some time on.
In subsequent columns, I will present a short course in the very complex path of resource development, as well as thoughts to avoid being “pebbled” again.
The “Pebbled” series at Must Read Alaska is authored by Mark Hamilton. After 31 years of service to this nation, Hamilton retired as a Major General with the U. S. Army in July of 1998. He served for 12 years as President of University of Alaska, and is now President Emeritus. He worked for the Pebble Partnership for three years before retiring.