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Drilling the Arctic Could Mean Fewer ‘Flying South’ for Crane Festival

November 15, 2007

Socorro, NM – The annual "Festival of the Cranes" is underway at the Bosque near Socorro this week, but plans to drill in the birds' Alaskan nesting grounds have conservationists worried that the festival's main attraction could be in jeopardy. Steve Zack with the Wildlife Conservation Society says energy development makes it even tougher for nesting birds to survive in an already changing environment.

"Birds like cranes and snow geese that make that winter festival at the Bosque so compelling could be affected by both a changing climate and by expanding energy development."

Zack says the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) continues to sell drilling rights, despite court challenges to try to preserve the most critical Alaska habitat.

"We, like other conservation groups, are not in principle opposed to oil development. We just don't think it needs to occur across 100 percent of this immense real estate."

Zack says the BLM is pushing for 100 percent development of the region, landing the issue in the courts and frustrating both conservationists and oil companies. The Bush administration says drilling in the area is important for meeting the nation's energy needs. The "Festival of the Cranes" continues through this weekend.

Eric Mack/John Robinson, Public News Service - NM