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ISSUE 119 VOL 3 PUBLISHED 9/30/2005

Collett ventures to nation's capital

By Lisa Gulya
Staff Writer

Friday, September 30, 2005

Last weekend, Amber Collett '07 flew to Washington, D.C., to participate in Alaska Wilderness Week Sept. 17-21. The week culminated in a rally on the west lawn of Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Sept. 20, Arctic Refuge Action Day, to oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Collett, an environmental studies major and co-leader of the St. Olaf Environmental Coalition, was one of two interns with the Alaska Coalition this summer. The Alaska Coalition is made up of conservation, sporting, labor and religious groups working together to protect Alaska's wild public land.

This semester, Collett is working as an outreach organizer for the Alaska Coalition, focusing on raising awareness about the Arctic Refuge on college campuses and canvassing the surrounding communities.

Collett worked with the 20 college students who spent the week in Washington attending sessions about grassroots organizing and activism.

Tuesday's 11 a.m. rally, sponsored by several groups including the Alaska Coalition, the Wilderness Society and the Alaska Wilderness League, drew approximately 3,000 participants, according to Collett.

The House and Senate will be voting in mid-October on reconciliation for a budget bill that includes plans to raise $2.4 billion in revenue by leasing land in the Arctic Refuge. Opponents argue that with only one sure bidder, Exxon Mobil, the land will be leased at a lower-than-average rate, thereby failing to raise $2.4 billion.

Drilling opponents also argue that development in the 1002 Area of the Artic Refuge would interfere with the migration patterns of North American birds and with the calving of the porcupine caribou herd.

"In terms of biological diversity, this is the biological heart of the refuge," Collett said.

According to Collett, the rally was an opportunity to show Congress that Americans don't want drilling in the Arctic Refuge.

Speakers at the rally included Sen.. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.; Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio and Sen.. John Kerry, D-Mass.

Members of the Gwi-chin Steering Committee, whose tribe lives in Alaska, also spoke at the rally.

"It was really wonderful to have them come," Collett said. The Gwi-chin shared what it would mean not only for their lifestyles, but also for their culture if drilling took place in the Arctic Refuge. The Gwi-chin believe they are the people of the porcupine caribou.

"[Their talk] was really powerful," Collett said, remembering one speakers who prays daily for the people working to protect the Arctic Refuge land.

Collett, a native of Bettendorf, Iowa, also spoke with Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa and Joe Wheeler, the environmental aid of Rep. Jim Nussle, R-Iowa, about the budget reconciliation bill while she was in Washington.

"Representative Leach was polite and kind and sounded very supportive but wouldn't commit to voting any specific way," Collett said.

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