Urging full protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church on March 14 adopted a resolution calling upon the U.S. Senate to oppose opening the pristine region to exploration for oil and gas.
Alaska Bishop Mark McDonald, a leading voice for environmental protection and ecological justice, left the bishops' spring retreat, in session through March 16, to present the resolution (see full text below) to the press and to lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
John Johnson of the Episcopal Church's Washington-based Office of Government Relations said MacDonald is expected to deliver that message to senators and reporters at an 11 a.m. news conference on March 15.
Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts are scheduled to speak in support of protecting the Arctic Refuge. Kerry is expected to introduce MacDonald. Also slated to speak at the event is Savannah Rose Walters, a 13-year-old-girl from Florida who is fighting to save the Arctic Refuge, Johnson said.
(Note to media: advisory from Senator Cantwell's office is reprinted at the end of this release.)
A Message from the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, USA, to the United States Senate
March 14, 2005
Resolved, the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, USA, meeting at its Spring 2005 retreat at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas, March 11-16, 2005, sends to the United States Senate the following message:
As the Bishops of the Episcopal Church, USA, we want to express our commitment to the vision of reconciliation of all peoples and share a common scriptural and theological belief that we have a responsibility to care for God's creation. We support protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge fully. To risk the destruction of an untouched wilderness and an ancient culture violates our theological mandate to be caretakers of creation. Because of these deeply shared values we respectfully ask you to oppose legislation that would facilitate the opening of this sacred space to oil or gas exploration and development in any way. We specifically call on you our Senators to reject efforts to include revenues from lease sales of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the Budget Act currently being considered by Congress.
While the ecological and human rights values of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are recognized by many, the cost from exploitation of the potential resources that may exist there does not justify exploration or development. The best estimates tell us that oil from the Refuge as a single source is equal to what the United States would consume in less that one year. Conservation, energy efficiency, and alternative sources of energy can do much more to address our country's energy needs.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the few ecosystems left on earth in its original condition. It is a national treasure and such natural places are anchors in a changing world. They help hold us in place and tell us where we have been; they often can be sources of inspiration and comfort. As Job counsels, "listen to the earth, and it will teach you" (Job 12:8).
The Arctic Refuge is well-known for its Porcupine caribou herd, whose life cycle is dependent on the Refuge as an intact, virtually undisturbed ecosystem. The caribou are a chief link in the subsistence culture for the indigenous Gwich'in people. The Gwich'in call themselves the "Caribou People" and the Arctic Refuge is for them "the Sacred Place where Life Begins." The caribou are essential for Gwich'in cultural, social, and spiritual needs and it has been that way for over 10,000 years. Disturbances that lead to reduced calving success for the caribou may cause significant, irreversible, negative consequences for all involved in this unspoiled web of life.
Pristine places like the Arctic Refuge provide numerous benefits. For humankind, the Arctic is a control environment that helps scientists answer current and future questions in the changing environment. For animal kind, the Arctic is an important habitat and home for many species, including the Arctic peregrine falcon, gyrfalcon, golden eagle, snowshoe hare, ptarmigan, polar bear, grizzly bear, musk ox, threatened spectacled eider, wolves, smaller mammals and water fowl. "The psalmist proclaims, 'O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of your creatures" (Psalm 104).
We recognize that our use of fossil fuels and the resulting global warming has its greatest impact on the poor and vulnerable. Controversy over whether to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development requires us to ask ourselves: what kind of world will we leave to future generations? As Bishops of the Episcopal Church, we are committed to working for a world with justice for indigenous peoples and all creation and we support indigenous peoples' rights as a basic component of a just society. For these reasons and others, we ask you to oppose opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration and development.
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell Media Advisory
March 14, 2005
Contact: Charla Neuman
Press Conference: Tuesday 11:00 a.m. Russell 325
Sens. Cantwell, Kerry to offer budget amendment, block drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) will lead the charge against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge when the Senate debates the budget this week. Cantwell, Kerry, other senators, youth, religious leaders, and other supporters will kick off the fight at a press conference on Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. in the Russell Caucus Room (Russell 325). On Wednesday, Cantwell plans to offer the amendment to strike the current language in the budget that allows for drilling in the Arctic.
Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Senator John Kerry (D-MA)
Savannah Rose Walters, 13-year-old girl from Florida who is fighting to save the Arctic Refuge
Bishop Mark McDonald from Alaska
And other senators and supporters
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
The Caucus Room, Russell 325