This blog post orginally ran in Politico, which can be found here: http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=E4065834-710C-430B-A1E5-EB0971C3432B
The people that I represent in Illinois care passionately about protecting open
space and safeguarding our nation’s natural treasures, including the Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge.
The transportation bill now being considered in the House would greatly diminish
safeguards for the refuge by opening up its entire 1.5 million-acre coastal
plain to oil drilling. This is a mistake on many fronts.
First, the refuge’s coastal plain is a national treasure, worthy of passing on to
future generations of Americans. Birds from every state in the union migrate
there to nest and raise young—including, from my district, the Northern Flicker
and Long Tail Duck. It is the refuge’s biological heart and also provides vital
habitat for polar bears, caribou and musk ox.
It was a Republican, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who first protected the Arctic Refuge to balance the oil development at Prudhoe Bay with responsible
conservation. Today, the refuge’s coastal plain represents the last 5 percent
of Alaska’s North Slope beyond the reach of development.
The balance that Eisenhower sought to preserve was the conservative thing to do —and is even more essential today.
Providing for our nation’s transportation and infrastructure needs is absolutely
critical, but it depends on having firm and reliable funding. The estimated
amount of funding now attributed to future drilling in the refuge is
speculative. It cannot provide anywhere near the certainty that projects
authorized under this bill require.
Including the Arctic Refuge drilling provision will also likely complicate the
transportation bill moving forward. It makes agreement with the Senate more
As a Republican, I am proud of my party’s rich legacy of conservation. From Theodore Roosevelt’s many accomplishments—including establishing our wildlife refuge system—to Illinois’ own Ronald Reagan, who signed more wilderness bills into law than any other president.
The idea that conservation is conservative is no less valid today. We have an obligation to be good stewards of our natural treasures and fiscally responsible in
funding our nation’s infrastructure.
Eisenhower, as the founder of our national interstate highway system and protector of the Arctic Refuge, knew how to do both. “You and I, and our government,” Eisenhower warned, “must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow.”
I hope we as a Congress will live by his conservative words and continue protecting the Arctic Refuge.