If there were any doubts about the President Barack Obama's opinion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the White House dispelled them Monday, on the 50th anniversary of one of the country's most powerful symbols of wilderness.
"As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we remember that this breathtaking terrain holds great significance to our nation," the president wrote in a proclamation. "Stretching from the plains of the Arctic Sea to the soaring mountains of the Brooks Range and lush boreal forests of the Alaskan lowlands, the rugged splendor of the Arctic Refuge is among the most profoundly beautiful places in America."
Pro-development forces and environmentalists have been divided for decades about the future of the refuge's northernmost swath -- the coastal plain. The anniversary of its founding, along with the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives, has reignited the debate.
And so has the attention from the nation's highest profile Alaskan, former Gov. Sarah Palin, who mentioned the refuge in urging fans last week to watch Sunday's installment of her reality show.
"You'll also see us hunting at the edge of ANWR, where you can see the uninhabited lands that warehouse billions of barrels of American energy supplies underground just waiting for the political will to allow responsible resource development," Palin wrote last week on her Facebook page.