VIDEO: Alaska Delegation celebrates ANWR decision, as activists vow to defend refuge

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is now one step closer toward becoming reality after Congress votes to approve the GOP tax plan, which includes the ANWR bill.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski called the move to open ANWR's 1002 Area a watershed moment for Alaska and all of America.

"We have fought to open the 1002 Area for a very long time, and now, our day has finally arrived," Murkowski wrote.

Sen. Dan Sullivan thanked Alaskans who have fought for the opportunity.

"For decades, Alaskans have fought for the right and opportunity - against an unwilling federal government - to allow Alaska to develop the 1002 Area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge so that we can strengthen our communities and build a better life for our children," Sullivan wrote.

Rep. Don Young called it a historic moment for Alaskans.

"Congress specifically set aside this land to be used for responsible resource development and it was always intended to unleash America's potential energy production," Young wrote.

Alaska Oil and Gas Association's president and chief executive officer, Kara Moriarty released a written statement in support of the decision.

"AOGA stands with the large majority of Alaskans who celebrate the historic achievement of finally realizing the opportunity for a lease sale in a small portion of ANWR. We appreciate the Alaska Congressional delegation’s leadership on this effort, which offers incredible
potential for Alaska jobs, revenue, and energy security," Moriarty said.

Not all Alaskans are celebrating, though.

Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich'in Steering Committee said the fight isn't over.

"As devastating as this is, you know, we're just going to stand strong in unity and defend the Arctic refuge every step of the way," Demientieff said. "This is not the end, a lot of people think that we're done, (that's) definitely not the case. We will unite stronger than ever and we will defend the Arctic refuge."

Demientieff said the 1002 area is sacred because it's the calving grounds for the Porcupine caribou herd.

All three of Alaska's congressional leaders appeared in a televised celebration next to President Donald Trump, speaking in support of the bill passage.

Activist Samuel Johns took to social media expressing disapproval of the celebration.

Johns wrote in part, "Just a few moments ago Trump, Lisa Murkowski & Don Young were smiling on national television and claiming a victory over the defenseless land and the caribou that breed on it.
Laughing and smiling about how they finally won.

Its (sic) 2017 and we are no where close to showing respect towards the indigenous people of the land of which those politicians claim victory over."

The bill now goes to President Trump's desk for to be signed law.

Correction: A previous version of this story used an incorrect last name. The last name in question has been corrected to "Demientieff."

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