New poll: Upstate NY Republicans want Arctic Refuge oil drilling removed from tax bill

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  • Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

To the Editor:

Republican sportsmen from two upstate New York congressional districts, by a greater than two-to-one margin (60-29 percent), believe that a controversial provision to allow private companies to drill for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should be removed from the federal congressional tax bill and be treated as a standalone issue, according to an urgently important new survey released Monday by the New York League of Conservation Voters.

The December 2-3 survey, which queried 400 Republican sportsmen in New York’s 22nd and 24th congressional districts encompassing areas of Central and Western New York, respectively, also found that Republican sportsmen, by a 57-26 margin, view protecting wildlife preserves for future generations as a “moral” rather than “economic” issue. Fully 82 percent said that defending protected federal lands should be a “bipartisan” effort.

Republican sportsmen and sportswomen cherish America’s protected wildlife preserves and understand how quickly protected lands can be snatched away from future generations by short-sighted political chicanery in Washington. By greater than a two-to-one margin these Republicans are saying, "Get the Arctic drilling language out of the federal tax bill; it doesn’t belong there." We are hopeful they will be heard in the coming days.

Republicans hope to pass the 2018 federal budget this month. The 19-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge preserve was established in 1960 in a bipartisan effort led by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The inclusion of the issue in this year’s budget bill is widely viewed as a subversion of the normal legislative process, and the substantive debate that comes with it. A full 90 percent of Republican sportsmen surveyed agreed that America’s parks and wildlife preserves should remain protected; a plurality (50-30 percent) said that private oil drilling in the refuge should be outright prohibited, and survey respondents were split 49-47 percent on whether private development should ever be allowed on park lands. New York Republican sportsmen favored by a wide margin investing in alternative energy and conservation measures over opening up federally protected lands (47-30 percent).

The Republican Party has a proud legacy of land and wildlife conservation. Presidents including Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower showed tremendous vision in stepping forward to preserve fast-vanishing wildlife areas from being paved over by modernity before they were all gone. They made a solemn pledge to future generations of Americans that must be honored by each succeeding generation of leaders to be kept whole. We need to see that leadership now.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is home to imperiled polar bears; the majestic Porcupine Caribou herd; musk oxen; wolves, and nearly 200 species of birds that migrate to all 50 states. It has been home to the native Gwich’in people for thousands of years.

The New York League of Conservation Voters survey, conducted by Harper Polling, has a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent.

Marcia Bystryn,President

New York League of Conservation Voters

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