Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Porcupine Caribou Herd, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Porcupine Caribou Herd, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Keep the Arctic Refuge Wild!
Established for the purpose of preserving unique wildlife, wilderness, and recreational values, the 19.6 million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an exceptional example of a complete, intact, arctic and subarctic ecosystem on a vast scale. The Arctic Refuge includes lowland tundra, freshwater wetlands, coastal mashes, mountains, and lagoons - making it unique among conservation management areas in the United States.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service has finished review for its revised Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but we are still waiting for the agency to release the final plan. In the draft plan, the agency made an important decision to formally consider Wilderness for the crucial Coastal Plain area - the biological heart of the refuge. As part of this plan, a full Wilderness Review was done for the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain for the first time ever - presenting an unprecedented opportunity to protect the Arctic Refuge for future generations.

The draft plan contained six alternatives for long-term management, ranging from the continuation of current practices to the designation of three geographic areas (including the Arctic Refuge coastal plain) for potential inclusion within the National Wilderness Preservation System, and the potential designation of four additional Wild and Scenic Rivers on the refuge.

Some places are too extraordinary to drill, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of them. What makes it so special? Read what top scientists across the country said about the importance of the Coastal Plain in a letter to President Obama.

Arctic Wildlife Values Map
See why the North Slope is an incredible place for wildlife.


History of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

For more than 50 years, scientists and conservationists have called for the protection of what is now the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska. First set aside by Dwight D. Eisenhower as the Arctic National Wildlife Range in 1960, this is the United States' only conservation unit that encompasses an entire Arctic ecosystem.

When President Eisenhower acted, he had the wisdom and foresight to include the entire ecosystem, both north and south of the Brooks Range, including the biologically rich coastal plain, which is essential to the integrity of this ecosystem. In 1980 Congress enlarged the original range to protect additional wildlife habitat and to establish the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. At 19 million acres (the size of South Carolina), it is the largest national wildlife refuge in the country. Combined with the adjacent Ivvavik and Vuntut national parks in Canada, the Arctic Refuge is part of one of the largest protected ecosystems in the world.

Unfortunately, since Congress expanded the Refuge in 1980, there has been continued debate about the future of the 1.5-million-acre Arctic coastal plain, where there is also potential oil development. The coastal plain is the biological heart of what is now an intact, wild Arctic ecosystem, and it supports the 120,000-animal Porcupine Caribou Herd, millions of migratory birds, and a full-complement of large predators, such as wolves, grizzly bears, and polar bears.

The coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge represents only five percent of Alaska's North Slope, most of which is available for oil and gas development. Audubon's position is that the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge should be permanently protected as designated Wilderness. We believe this provides a balanced approach for managing our nation's Arctic resources and is compatible with the purposes for which the refuge was established.

What You Can Do

  1. Ask your U.S. Representative to support the Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act. The Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act (HR 139) would preserve the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as Wilderness in recognition of its extraordinary natural values and for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans. Go to National Audubon's electronic action alert to urge your U.S. Representative to support the Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act to permanently protect the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
  2. Join the Audubon Action Alert Network to receive periodic email alerts on urgent Arctic, Alaska, and national conservation issues as they arise.
  3. Donate online now to Audubon Alaska to support our science and policy work in the Arctic.


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