ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The debate over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has raged on for decades.
Located in the northern part of Alaska just east of Prudhoe Bay, ANWR is considered by many to be the crown jewel of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The area is also a potential crown jewel for energy developers: Estimated to be holding tens of billions of barrels of oil, the region could be a treasure chest for black gold hunters, too.
On Monday night in Anchorage, Alaska state leaders and proponents of ANWR development didn't hold back their excitement over new ANWR moves.
About midway through their praises, though, demonstrators showed up at the Petroleum Club in Anchorage, not to show dismay over ANWR drilling but instead to protest a nationwide affliction: gun violence.
About a dozen men and women vocally protesting the National Rifle Assn. and gun violence in general ended up in the PCA dinner room, which - along with Commonwealth North - was playing host to about 75 or so attendees. The demonstrators waved handmade signs and shouted that the NRA and many of the people in the room were responsible for recent mass shootings.
Murkowski, Young and those in attendance for the dinner didn't have much response to the protestors, who were quickly escorted out of the building by Anchorage Police. They continued their demonstration outside.
As they did so, Murkowski and Young continued their praises for ANWR's progress, which in December of 2017, was opened to drilling after Congress voted to approve the GOP tax plan, which also included a provision to allow development in ANWR.
"This is a bright day for Alaska," Murkowski said back then. "This is a bright day for America.
"This has been a multi-generational fight," she said.
That followed President Donald Trump's executive order rescinding the previous administration's closure of federal Arctic waters to drilling, as well as an order from the Dept. of the interior to 'jump start' Alaskan energy production.
Opponents to opening ANWR at all vow that the fight is just beginning, saying they will try to protect the "biological heart" of the refuge for the benefit of generations to come.
But these days, the area is closer to being an energy-producing powerhouse than ever before, and at least two of Alaska's leader's couldn't be more thrilled.