Illinois Renewable Energy Fair rallies support for saving Arctic Refuge

OREGON—Brad and Alicia Black are a typical Midwestern family with one obvious exception. This summer, the two career school teachers, along with Katie and Emily, their 1- and 3-year-old daughters, are taking their family on the road to rally support for protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They stopped Aug. 13-14 at the Illinois Renewable Energy Fair at Oregon, Ill.

The six-week “rally van” tour, officially launched in July from Washington, D.C., will take the Black family to communities across the Midwestern United States in advance of a vote in Congress over oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge, expected in late September.

“We are carrying two messages to the people we meet,” said Brad Black. “The first is that there is still time to save the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—Congress will be voting on drilling in the fall, so now is the time to stand up for the Arctic Refuge. The second is that, by standing together, we can make our voices heard by our leaders in Washington.”

Their van, emblazoned with images of polar bears and caribou, is crisscrossing the Midwest this summer visiting festivals, malls, concerts, parades and state fairs, as well as smaller community venues and gatherings. Stocked with books, brochures, T-shirts, bracelets and more, the rally van crew is tasked with educating and inspiring conservation-minded Americans to speak out for the Arctic Refuge.

“Keeping the Arctic Refuge protected is a family issue to me because I want my children to be able to experience wildlife and wild places when they grow up—I want them to have the same opportunities that I have had,” said Alicia Black. “My family and I are helping to magnify the voices and opinions of Midwesterners that want the Arctic Refuge protected for future generations to enjoy.”

Proponents of oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge have indicated they will include their drilling plan in the Budget Reconciliation bill, expected to come before Congress in late September. “The drilling lobby knows they don’t have the votes to pass their drilling scheme through the proper legislative channels, so they are trying to sneak it past the American people as part of the federal budget bill,” said Pete Rafle, communications director for the Wilderness Society. “Citizens who care about preserving wilderness cannot let this happen. Brad and Alicia Black are visiting communities, big and small, to make sure Americans know that their voices can make a difference.”

The Black family is currently scheduled to stop in Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Iowa over the course of the summer. The van tour, part of the summer Arctic Refuge Action campaign, supplements a network of grassroots organizers stationed in more than 20 states nationwide. Arctic Refuge Action is a project of a number of conservation, native, religious and labor groups. For more details, visit

Additional note: Arctic Refuge Action will be purchasing carbon credits to offset the emissions produced during the tour.

From the Aug. 31-Sept. 6, 2005, issue

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