Former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus has returned to the political stage with a vengeance lately in defense of places and issues he has long protected.
He has been pushing for a Boulder-White Clouds National Monument, standing up with Phil Batt to protect the 1995 nuclear waste agreement and now he’s standing firmly beside President Barack Obama in his call for wilderness in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The refuge has become a symbol of the nation’s commitment to protect wild places since President Dwight D. Eisenhower set it aside in 1960 at the request of conservationist Olaus Murie. The Alaska Lands Act, signed by President Jimmy Carter expanded the refuge to 19,000 acres, due to the skillful use of the Antiquities Act of 1906 by Carter and his Interior Secretary Andrus.
Andrus wrote in the political magazine “The Hill,” Tuesday Obama’s move to make 12,000 acre of the the refuge a wilderness, “a brilliant move — environmentally, historically and politically.”
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“It’s the one area among all the thousands of miles of coastline of the United States where the heavy industrial footprint of man has been absent — forever,” Andrus wrote. “Obama is right. It should stay that way. Future generations will thank him.”
The late Margaret Murie, of Moose, Wyo., who fought for passage of the act, told me in 1985 that Eisenhower’s decision was one of the very few times she saw her husband Olaus in tears, “when he came back from the Moose Post Office with a telegram saying the Arctic National Wildlife Range had been established.”
“That is the place that means the most to me,” Mrs. Murie said. “It meant the most to my husband.”
When the Alaska Act passed it included a provision that prevented the future use of the Antiquities Act there. It wasn’t long ago under President Bush that it appeared there were nearly enough votes to open up to drilling the pristine area where Mrs. Murie and her husband traveled 700 miles to reach by dogsled on their honeymoon in 1924.
Andrus knows the reaction Obama will get in Alaska, he was hung in effigy after Carter’s proclamation, But it can’t be any worse than Obama's been getting from red states for the last six years.