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Influencing public policy

Is it possible to influence public policy at the national level of government?

My environmental policy and politics class at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa went to Washington D.C. last month to see if we could. My classmates and I went with Restoring Eden, a conservative Christian environmental group. While we were in D.C. we lobbied against the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alaska for oil and gas development.

The Refuge is 19 million acres and is home to polar bears, Arctic foxes, musk oxen, porcupine caribou and many other animals. The Refuge for the last decade has come into the national spotlight due to discovered oil. The 1.5 million acres set aside by Congress for oil exploration is on the coast plain-necessary for polar bears to den and have their cubs, as well as for the porcupine caribou, which come over from Northern Canada to calve. The destruction of the coastal plain could lead to the extinction of polar bears, caribou, migratory birds and other animals.

During my time in D.C. I was able to meet with an aide from Rep. Doc Hastings' office. Rep. Hastings is in favor of drilling in the Arctic Refuge. I was able to present some of the dangers of drilling for oil.

I also met with an aide from Sen. Maria Cantwell's office. Sen. Cantwell is against drilling for oil in the Arctic Refuge. As a member of the Senate Energy Committee, she is doing everything she can in order to ensure that the last pristine wilderness remains untouched by human development.

Sen. Patty Murray is also against drilling for oil in the Refuge. Like Sen. Cantwell, Murray wants the Refuge to remain a refuge and not become another Prudhoe Bay.

Although Congress voted 51-49 to approve the Congressional budget to drill for oil in the Refuge, my classmates and I still played a part in influencing public policy. Influencing public policy does not necessarily mean having the outcomes that you want, but rather it is letting our Congressional representatives know how people in our area feel about a particular issue.

Informing our representatives on Capitol Hill does not take a lot of time or money, and it doesn't even mean traveling to D.C. Rather, it involves writing letters, sending e-mails and making phone calls to our representatives.

/s/ Denise Swager, Dordt College student, Grandview

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