In April 2002, the Senate turned back an attempt to open Alaska's Arctic Refuge to oil and gas drilling -- delivering a hard-fought victory to environmentalists, including BioGems Defenders who sent a record 930,000 anti-drilling emails and faxes to Congress during the past year.
One of the true remaining wilderness areas within the United States, the refuge stretches from the high peaks of the Brooks Range to the ice floes of the Beaufort Sea. In between lies the 1.5-million-acre coastal plain, a tundra-covered expanse that's home to polar bears, caribou and millions of migratory birds each summer.
Despite the region's value to wildlife, the Bush administration -- with strong support from Alaska's senators and some other Republicans in Congress -- has championed Arctic drilling as part of its national energy plan, even though petroleum from the refuge would do little to reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil. Yet the Senate victory is hardly the end of the fight. In August 2001, the House of Representatives passed an energy bill that would allow oil exploration in the Arctic, and Senate proponents of drilling have vowed to revive the issue as soon as possible.