Open space issue is crucial

The beginning of a new term is a new opportunity for the President to chart a new course, and one issue where most Americans, regardless of their political party, hope President Bush will move in a new direction is on the environment.

I'm disappointed that President Bush, despite the clear opposition of the American people, continues to make drilling in Alaska 's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a priority for his second term. The Arctic Refuge is an amazing place, home to polar bears, caribou, musk oxen, and migratory birds that travel to all the lower 48 states.

The Refuge is sacred to the Gwich'in people, one of the last subsistence cultures left in North America .Gwich'in means "people of the caribou," and they have lived on or near the coastal plain for 20,000 years. To the Gwich'in the coastal plain and caribou herd are sacred.

Oil drilling will destroy the Arctic Refuge.

Prudhoe Bay, the area immediately to the west of the Refuge, is open to drilling and has become one of the most polluted industrial areas on Earth, with more than one oil spill a day and more smog pollution than Washington, DC.

We shouldn't open the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.

Similarly, for our state, our new governor has an opportunity to make a lasting difference on issues that directly affect our community; literally the places where we live and raise families. I sent the following letter to the governor and hope you will too. Please feel free to use any part you like.

Dear Governor Rell,

I hope you are well today and for a long time to come.

It is my understanding that your staff will be finalizing the proposed 2005-2007 Capital bonding budget for you to present to the General Assembly in early February. What they recommend now will have a huge impact on what funds the state provides for CT open space programs for the next two years.

This is a critical time for CT open space. Please make your mark an everlasting one by supporting the Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust Fund (the fund DEP uses to acquire State Park and Forest land), the Open Space Matching Grants Program, and the Farmland Preservation program.

Please include $20 million annually for the Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust Fund; $15 million annually for the Open Space Matching Grants Program, and $10 million annually for the Farmland Preservation Program in your proposed budget.

Thank you for your continued support for the Matching Grants program and release the funds previously authorized for it as well as include new funds in next year's budget.

1.A delay in preserving a crucial parcel of land often means the tract will be lost forever for public use.

2. Renew the push to protect the most critical lands.

3. Public parks and forests provide the only opportunity many citizens have to hike a trail, fish a stream or swim in a lake.


Charles R. Waskiewicz

Orange , CT