San Francisco Three Alaskans who have dedicated themselves to preventing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge were among the latest recipients of the Goldman Environmental Prize, given annually to people around the world who strive to protect the environment.
Jonathon Solomon, Sarah James and Norma Kassi are members of the Gwich'in nation and live north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska and Canada's Yukon Territory. They have testified before Congress, negotiated agreements to protect wildlife, and traveled the world to fight plans to open the 1.5 million acre coastal plain of the Alaskan refuge.
The three winners will receive $125,000 from the San Francisco-based Goldman Environmental Foundation.
The coastal plain is the annual calving ground for the Porcupine caribou herd, which numbers more than 120,000. The tundra is also home to peregrine falcons, musk-oxen, polar bears and millions of mosquitoes.
The Gwich'in, whose name means "caribou people," hold the caribou sacred and rely on them for food and clothing. They call the plain where the caribou give birth "The Sacred Place Where Life Begins."
The recognition was especially sweet because the Senate rejected Thursday an amendment in the president's energy bill that would allow the drilling.
Before the Senate's vote Thursday, the House had approved ANWR development. Bush hasn't indicated whether he will approve any energy plan that doesn't include drilling.
Other Goldman winners include:
l Fatima Jibrell, who is working to prevent massive logging of Somalia's old-growth acacia trees and to prevent overfishing by foreign fishermen off the Somali coast.
l Pisit Charnsnoh, an ecologist who has worked to restore and protect Thailand's coast from the effects of heavy fishing and increased logging.
l Alexis Massol-Gonzalez, who helped block mining in the mountains of central Puerto Rico and had the area declared a mining forest preserve.
l Jean La Rose, who has worked to stop mining upriver from Guyana's Mazaruni River and to win the rights of indigenous people over the land that includes the river.
l Jadwiga Lopata, who is promoting Poland's family farms with ecotourism in hopes of protecting open space and wildlife habitat.