Students focus on conserving Arctic wildlife refuge

The Arctic Alliance centers on preventing drilling for oil in the northern wilderness.

Elizabeth Giorgi

University students are working with the Alaska Coalition of Minnesota to teach students and the community what makes “cents.”

A group of students has been working with the Alaska Coalition of Minnesota to create a club on campus that seeks to inform others about the protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Active members are using grassroots campaigning and teaming up to inform the community about issues dealing with drilling in the refuge.

The Alaska Coalition of Minnesota is a group of 1,000 people who are concerned with the environmental, outdoor and wild land issues that involve drilling in Alaska. With their support and guidance, the University’s Arctic Alliance group was formed.

The group began meeting in early September and has focused on convincing politicians to keep their promises to protect the land and on thanking the politicians who have.

Economics sophomore John Mondragon, one of the main founders of the group, said Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., was one of the many politicians they are pressuring to hold with his campaign promise of preventing oil drilling in Alaska.

“Our group’s main concentration is focused on bringing awareness to our local area about the condition of the Arctic refuge and influencing our national representatives,” Mondragon said.

The Arctic Alliance has 35 active members and occasionally uses additional volunteers. Mondragon said the group works in three main areas, including a media team, a grassroots campaign team and an events team.

Environmental science junior Evan Heier, a member of the events team, said he’s had a lot of fun working on the campaign.

“I think that (grassroots campaigns) can be very effective if done properly,” he said. “I think that we have done a great job of creating a buzz.”

Linda Wells, an organizer for the Arctic Coalition of Minnesota, said she is happy to help University students join the coalition of Minnesotan organizations working for Arctic refuge protection.

“Student organizers are important to any successful grassroots campaign, and the Arctic Alliance is going to make a big difference in this critical fight to save the Arctic refuge,” she said.

One of the many issues the group is highlighting is the effect on gasoline prices if drilling were to occur. Drilling in Alaska would not affect gasoline prices by more than a few cents, according to the group.

There is some opposition on campus to the Arctic Alliance. Neuroscience junior and Campus Republicans president Thomas Meyer said there is a lot of oil in the Artic refuge and that there is nothing there to destroy.

“It is ridiculous that we aren’t drilling there right now,” he said. “It is basically a win all the way across the board.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., said in a news release it is important that people work to conserve the environment and start working toward developing other energy sources.

“I’m pleased that we were successful in stripping language from the House-passed budget that would have opened ANWR to drilling,” he said. “I have sent a letter to chairman (Richard Pombo, R-Calif.), asking him to keep it out of budget reconciliation, and I hope it remains that way.”