WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 - Maps matter. They chronicle the struggles of empires and zoning boards. They chart political compromise. So it was natural for Republican Congressional aides, doing due diligence for what may be the last battle in the fight over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to ask for the legally binding 1978 map of the refuge and its coastal plain.
It was gone. No map, no copies, no digitized version.
The wall-size 1:250,000-scale map delineated the tundra in the biggest national land-use controversy of the last quarter-century, an area that environmentalists call America's Serengeti and that oil enthusiasts see as America's Oman."People have asked me several times, 'Do you think someone took this intentionally?' " said Doug Vandegraft, the cartographer for the Fish and Wildlife Service who was the last known person to see the old map. "I hope to God not. So few people knew about it. I'm able to sleep at night because I don't think it was maliciously taken. I do think it was thrown out."
Mr. Vandegraft said he had folded the map in half, cushioned within its foam-board backing, and put it behind the filing cabinet in the locked room for safekeeping.
Now really, this little blageurette has to believe that even the cleaning folks would have no reason to throw away a wall sized map without being instructed to do so!