In the Alaskan tundra region, a tire rut left behind by a single vehicle traveling over a patch of summer grass may take a century to heal. Future visitors walking past probably won't know what caused that rut and may not benefit from it either.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed the Alaska National Interest Land Act, setting aside fifty-four million acres of protected land in the Alaskan arctic as a wildlife refuge -- the largest amount set aside to date. Coincidentally, the majority of land that is currently being set aside for new wildlife refuges is also desert or tundra.
Why? The reason is obvious: less people desire to live there and use land that is occupied by vast amounts of nothingness. However, while a tundra environment appears to be dead, it really has a very short growing season, followed by a harsh, cold winter.
During the summer months, the biodiversity is extremely high, giving it an appearance of flourishing life. But when winter roles around, all of the species that cannot withstand the winter climate migrate southward, giving the tundra an empty, dead appearance.
The U.S. government has set aside protected land like the tundra across the country but it leases these areas and sells passes to logging corporations to clear trees for the manufacturing of wood products.
Currently, President Bush wants to do the same for the oil and gas industry. Bush's proposal for oil and gas drilling should not come as a surprise. He wishes to lease protected land in Alaska just as other protected forests were leased to logging corporations.
The oil and gas
industry believe that they can exploit the environment because it appears
to be dead, when in reality it is a flourishing but delicately complex
ecosystem. When damage occurs to the tundra, its recovery is slow and
difficult. This spells disaster if large operations -- such as oil or
gas drilling -- were to be implemented.
Unfortunately, due to an uneducated public that does not understand the complex way in which the tundra thrives, this course of action seems to be a step in the right direction.
However, if Bush were to implement a policy to allow even the smallest amount of drilling in the Alaskan tundra, it would result in the death of a majority of this land, which in turn would damage the complex ecosystem and collapse the fragile environment. These refuges were put aside to protect the land, and by establishing oil or gas drilling would mostly definitely be a step in the wrong direction.
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