Have You Been To Alaska?
"This past weekend, a delegation from the US Congress made a brief trip to Alaska, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The team was led by Ohio's Rep. John Boehner and includes ten other members of the US House of Representatives from a total of nine states.
Birders who hear about this trip are likely to respond with envy when we think about all the amazing species that the lawmakers will see, the abundance of nesting sandpipers, plovers, phalaropes, jaegers, Arctic Terns, Snowy Owls, Long-tailed Ducks, Steller's Eiders, Spectacled Eiders, and so many other beautiful birds. We might quibble about the timing of the trip -- after all, many of the Arctic-breeding shorebirds have already started to migrate south, with Pectoral Sandpipers and others already appearing in my area of Ohio on their way to South America. But still, most of us would jump at the chance to go along. I've been to the North Slope about a dozen times as a leader of birding tours, and it was always an amazing experience.
Unfortunately, the congresspersons may not get the full benefit of the birding experience, because they seem to be going with a negative mindset. In a July 15 press conference, Rep. Boehner said, "We're going to look at this barren, Arctic desert where I'm hoping to see some wildlife. But I understand there's none there. But I'm still going to look for it. If I find any, I'll let you know." Another member of the group, Ohio Rep. Bob Latta, was quoted by the Toledo Blade as saying that he believes the refuge is not as "picturesque" as some may envision -- that it's "not what they see on the news. We're talking about tundra." Of course, picturesque or not, coastal tundra is among the richest wildlife habitats imaginable during the brief Arctic summer. But at least some members of the congressional delegation seem to be going with the intention of proving that the wildlife refuge is not worth protecting."
After seeing Kenn's email, I got a note that Minnesota's own Michelle Bachmann was part of this trip and her report shows that she must not have had a pair of binoculars with her or even had her eyes open because she said, "It was flat arctic tundra with absolutely no trees in view. And, caribou and wildlife were nowhere near the possible drilling sites."
Um, hello? There were absolutely no birds there? Really, Michell, you didn't see any? Not a single thing? Okay, so maybe the tour was timed to be after the shorebird breeding, but still, there should have been birds. A lot of companies book tours to Alaska...have they been wasting birders' time up there?
So, any blog readers been to this area of Alaska? Would you care to let Ms. Bachmann know about the wildlife you have seen (202-225-2331)? I don't see this as a republican vs democrat issue. I don't even see this as a do we drill there or do we not drill there issue. I see this as an issue of--Did you actually have your eyes open while you were there issue. Don't tell the country that there's no wildlife just because it's flat and there's no caribou. That's like calling the prairie boring. There's more to wildlife than what is big and obvious and easy to see.
It's almost tempting to start a campaign of birders mailing her a copy of Sibley with Alaska birds highlighted.
Here's a list of all who went in case you want to check on your state's rep and their report.
John Boehner (R-OH)
Michelle Bachmann (R-MN)
Gus Bilirakis (R-FL)
Mary Fallin (R-OK)
Dean Heller (R-NV)
Jim Jordan (R-OH)
Doug Lamborn (R-CO)
Robert Latta (R-OH)
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
Steve Scalise (R-LA)
Adrian Smith (R-NE)
UPDATE: Born Again Bird Watcher hit this before I did here and here.
UPDATE #2: Ken from Rosyfinch Ramblings would like the world to know that he and FOX talked about this first. Here is his message:
"Not to steal any credit from Born Again BW, the scoop belongs to Fox News, which seemed to have been the first to report the story (from a more friendly perch), on July 16, and my Blog ("FLASH: Wildlife Have Disappeared from ANWR") provided commentary and a link to the article that same day, as did my July 16 post on BIRDCHAT."
Not to be confused with Kenn.