Mash Note to the Arctic Refuge
Sweetheart: First, I apologize for not having seen you for 20 years. And yes, there have been other refuges since then. But none like you! Honest, baby, it was love at first sight--me flying high above the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in a 30-year-old Cessna 185, eating gummy worms to keep from throwing up, you spread out below me, a sea of green and brown tundra, flowing water, and swirling caribou. Here's what I wrote in Sierra back in 1992 (sorry, pre-digital!):
The herd seemed to be coming from heaven. Hundreds, thousands of caribou were pouring out of the clouds, down from the misty pinnacles of the mountains. Led by a majestic black-horned bull, they traversed impossible scree falls, some of the calves sliding down the steep ice fields. Baby 'bou gamboled around their mothers; decrepit cows tottered toward a rendezvous with a wolf or bear. For hours they streamed north toward the plain, maybe 5,000 strong. As we fell asleep, caribou grazed golden in the midnight sun just outside our tents.
Honey, I know that 50 years is a long time to be "just a refuge." When Congress created you, it wasn't ready to commit, and it left your beautiful coastal plain open to possible oil exploration. And we all know what happens to arctic areas when that happens--all you have to do is look just a few miles to the west to see the industrial wasteland of the North Slope. But we didn't let that happen to you! Remember back in 1995 when Newt Gingrich shut down the federal government? The precipitating factor was President Bill Clinton's veto of a budget reconciliation bill that included revenues from drilling your coastal plain. If only he had taken the next step and declared you to be a national monument! Now Barack Obama can make good on that old promise, and give you the status you deserve. Twenty-five U.S. Senators have written Obama asking him to permanently protect you, and thousands of your fans are adding their names to the petition here. After so many years of courtship, we'll make a monument of you yet. Fondly,