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While President Bush was delivering the State of the Union address Tuesday evening, about 50 Penn students rallied in Logan Hall to support one of the nation's largest environmental causes.

The goal of the event was to discuss the plight of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The 19 million-acre refuge, located in the state's northeast corner, is under consideration for exploration and development by the petroleum industry.

Jeff Barrie, a proponent of protecting the refuge, was brought in to speak on the issue, along with former Alaska resident Floris Johnson. Their remarks were accompanied by a slide presentation.

"This is one of the hottest environmental debates in current congress," Barrie said. "We have a choice of protecting wilderness, and we have a chance to succeed."

"They're taking a beautiful piece of land that was free and making it ugly," Johnson added.

In 2000, Barrie rode his bicycle across the country to bring national attention to the issue. His tour culminated with a press conference on Capitol Hill.

Tuesday evening was Barrie's first visit to Philadelphia, and he came prepared with a slide-show of images from the Alaskan refuge. Barrie emphasized the natural beauty of the endangered land.

It's "a place that's truly free. A pristine wilderness -- untouched, timeless," he said.

Barrie was frightened by the effects that oil exploration and development would have upon the region.

"Seismic exploration leaves incredible scars on a pristine wilderness," he said.

The evening was capped off by remarks from Emily Ferry, who works as field organizer for the Alaska Coalition of Pennsylvania.

Ferry emphasized that everyone in attendance could play a vital role in protecting the Alaskan Refuge.

Since Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) -- a Penn graduate -- is one of a half-dozen senators undecided on the issue, Ferry urged the audience to send him letters on the issue.

"Everyone in this room should write a letter," she encouraged.

Ferry said she was thrilled with the enthusiasm of the crowd and hopeful for the future of the Alaska Wildlife Refuge.

Tuesday's event was organized by the Penn Environmental Group. PEG Co-Chairman Andrew Pike, a College sophomore, said he was excited about how the evening went.

"We're trying to raise awareness about the Arctic wildlife refuge, and tonight's event is the perfect culmination of our efforts," he said.

The crowd was receptive to Ferry's message. Most students remained after the event to ask questions and to find out how to get involved in the relief effort.

For some audience members, the issue's importance motivated them to attend the event.

"Saving the arctic means a lot to me," College freshman Leigh Seeleman said.

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