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KTUU.com, April 14, 2009

Demonstrators take to the streets for Salazar's visit
By Ashton Goodell

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar's visit prompted several protests in Anchorage on Tuesday.

More than 100 union workers marched outside the Dena'ina Center while environmentalist groups setup a salmon barbeque stand on 6th Avenue.

A polar bear in a horse-drawn carriage, an empty casket and a 5-foot puffin are just a few of the strange things at the roadside protests

And their arguments were as colorful as their costumes -- the war cries started with some name calling as one environmental polar bear called the other a poser bear for supporting oil drilling.

"There's a been a few of us ... from the environmental community trying to get the message out about both the Endangered Species Act regulation changes and the outer continental threats because of oil and gas exploration," said Natalie Dawson with the Center for Biological Diversity.

"Everything depends on our oil, our resources," said Marco Acuna with Labors Local 341. "Therefore we are trying to send a message to Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar about letting us continue with our drilling operations offshore."

The local unions want to keep jobs in Alaska through offshore drilling projects.

But across the street there's an opposing view.

"This is a short-sighted drilling plan -- it increases our greenhouse gas emissions," Whit Sheard said.

Commercial fisherman Alan Parks says plans to develop oil in Bristol Bay are simply too dangerous.

"It's absolutely too important to be risking that ecosystem and those fisheries," he said. "The amount of oil there doesn't equate into economic sense what they are putting at risk."

Parks says he's a victim of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. He started fishing Bristol Bay after the spill and says there's no room to compromise the waters there.

Several protestors came thousands of miles to sit in on the hearings. They said even a small group of demonstrators could be enough to spotlight issues they see as substances fishers.

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