Activists Burning Oil to Keep Oil Rigs Out of ANWR

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:05pm EDT

( - Environmental activists are taking their "Save ANWR" message on the road -- literally. They'll be burning lots of gasoline in an attempt to stop the United States from boosting its own supply of oil.

Vans emblazoned with images of polar bears and caribou are now traveling around the country, in a campaign intended to mobilize opposition to oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The van tours, organized by a coalition called Arctic Refuge Action, were officially launched Thursday in Washington, D.C.

One van is on a six-week tour of the northeastern U.S, organizers said, and another is setting out from Minneapolis on a tour of the upper Midwest. They plan to stop at festivals, malls, concerts, parades, and state fairs, as well as smaller community gatherings.

"We will be carrying two messages to the people we meet," said Rebecca Brown, one of the van's two drivers. "The first is that there is still time to save the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- Congress will be voting on drilling in the fall, so now is the time to stand up for the Arctic Refuge.

"The second is that, working together, we can accomplish that goal by making our voices heard in Washington, D.C."

Organizers say the vans are stocked with ANWR "action" books, brochures, stickers, t-shirts, bracelets and other items intended to inspire support for keeping the Arctic refuge just as it is now.

The vans supplement a network of grassroots organizers in more than 20 states.

"There is no substitute for getting out and talking with the people who care about protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," said Shoren Brown, national director of outreach for the Alaska Coalition.

"After all, it's the voters that Congress listens to, so we're taking this campaign directly to the grassroots, to help those voters make their voices heard in Washington."

Van stops are currently scheduled in Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Maine, and New Hampshire, for starters.

The Arctic Refuge Action coalition says it also is organizing a rally for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to be held in Washington, D.C., in September.

A budget resolution Congress passed this spring sets up a September or October vote on oil drilling in ANWR.

"The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been protected for nearly a half century, not because of the politicians or even because of conservation groups, but because Americans from all walks of life have been willing to stand up and fight for this place when it most counted," said Adam Kolton of the National Wildlife Federation.

President Bush wants to drill for oil in a small section of the Arctic wilderness as part of his plan to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Arctic Refuge Action describes itself as a coalition of conservation, labor, religious and citizen groups representing millions of Americans who believe the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should remain wild, unspoiled, and free of oil rigs.

Groups included in the coalition are: The Alaska Coalition, Alaska Wilderness League; Defenders of Wildlife; the Episcopal Church, USA; The Gwich'in Steering Committee; Earthjustice; The League of Conservation Voters; The National Audubon Society; The Natural Resources Defense Council; The National Wildlife Federation; The National Wildlife Refuge Association; Northern Alaskan Environmental Center; R.E.P. America; The Sierra Club; U.S. PIRG; The Washington Association of Churches; The Wilderness Society; and The World Wildlife Fund.

See Earlier Story:
Activists Launch 'No Oil from ANWR' Campaign (June 28, 2005)

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