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Post Falls for Anti-Drilling Caribou Con Again

For the last several days in Washington, a few members of the Gwich’in tribe of Alaska have been demonstrating — voicing their opposition to plans to allow limited oil exploration in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Today’s Washington Post contains a flattering account of their efforts, portraying the tribe and its leader, Sarah James, as lonely crusaders trying to protect their way of life. The Post article even says “James has spent nearly two decades fighting off proposed oil drilling in her Alaskan homeland.”

Well, no. Not exactly.

As the Center for Individual Freedom first revealed in a June special report called “The Caribou Con” and expanded upon in a Human Events story today, Sarah James “herself signed a request for proposal from oil companies to drill in the totality of Gwich’in lands” in 1984. In addition, a group of Canadian Gwich’in formed a corporation for oil exploration in 2001.

It turns out that the tribe’s motives for opposing exploration in ANWR have far less to do with preserving their native heritage and far more to do with cold, hard cash. As CFIF revealed:

The Gwich’in was virtually alone among native tribes in electing not to participate in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).  To have done so would have required sharing, with the other tribes, in Alaskan natural resource revenues.  Instead, the Gwich’in chose to own, control and keep for themselves all revenues from 1.8 million acres in their former reservation…. The Gwich’in actively and aggressively sought oil exploration on Gwich’in lands until it was discovered Gwich’in lands contained no oil.

The Gwich’in have long claimed that their campaign to stop oil exploration is motivated by their desire to save a particular species of migrating caribou. But CFIF’s special report positively explodes those claims.

For the last few years, as the debate over exploration in ANWR has raged in Congress, environmental groups have turned to the Gwich’in to put a human face on their arguments. But it turns out that all of the huffing and puffing about habitat loss and the threat to the tribe was nothing more than politically motivated hysterical bluster.

And the Washington Post has bought it — again — hook, line and sinker.

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Written By

Mr. Manson is a vice president at Edelman, a global public relations firm. In his spare time, he blogs at On Tap. Contact him at marshall.manson@gmail.com.

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