CLINTON URGED TO PROTECT ALASKAN LAND FROM DRILLING

CLINTON URGED TO PROTECT ALASKAN LAND FROM DRILLING

Even as lawmakers prepare to craft legislation to lease land in an Alaskan wildlife area for oil and gas drilling, environmentalists urged President Clinton to declare those lands off limits to the oil companies.

Environmentalists want Mr. Clinton to invoke his executive powers and declare Alaska's 19-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a national monument. Mr. Clinton has been weighing taking such action for some weeks but has reached no decision."This is President Clinton's chance for leadership - to protect ANWR," Jon Roush, Wilderness Society President, told reporters.

Environmentalists claim the area is home to 200 species of wildlife.

Alaskan lawmakers want to open up part of a 1.5-million-acre strip of the refuge's Coastal Plain to oil and gas drilling. Already 90 percent of that plain is open to drilling. They want the remaining 10 percent, which, they claim, potentially contains large quantities of oil and gas.

Oil companies say they plan to drill in 1 percent of the 1.5 million coastal plain acres and that use of modern technology will minimize damage to the environment. Development potentially will create jobs and pump large amounts of revenue into the Alaskan economy.

Language to develop the refuge already is contained in this year's budget blueprints, a move that possibly shields the measure from a presidential veto and makes it more difficult for environmentalists to challenge.