Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Porcupine Caribou Herd, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Porcupine Caribou Herd, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Keep the Arctic Refuge Wild!

Arctic Refuge Nesters in Your Neighborhood Flyway

Audubon Alaska will celebrate the Arctic Refuge throughout this year. During migration, we're following five "posterbirds" as they move across the country to gather in the incredibly rich nesting grounds of the Arctic Refuge and then return to their wintering grounds.

Click on the links below for a printable fact sheet to learn more about each species:

  • Atlantic Flyway: Tundra Swans gather in large flocks along the East Coast, migrating across Canada to reach the tundra ponds of their Arctic Refuge nesting grounds.
  • Mississippi Flyway: Smith's Longspurs winter in the Great Plains of the Mississippi Flyway then head to the edge of the tundra in the refuge.
  • Central Flyway: American Golden-Plovers have the longest migration of the bunch, spending winters in South America. They move up through the Central Flyway on their way to the refuge.
  • Pacific Flyway: Pacific Brant nibble on marine eelgrass beds all winter from Baja to Southcentral Alaska before heading north.
  • All flyways: Northern Pintails from all four flyways converge on the Arctic Refuge in spring.


What You Can Do

Showing Congress there is strong support for permanent protection of the Arctic Refuge will be crucial in coming months. Writing a letter to the editor in your local paper is a great way to catch the attention of both your members of Congress and the people in your community. (Find a sample letter to the editor for your state here.)  

Tell them that the Arctic Refuge belongs to all Americans, that birds you watch rely on the Refuge (see list above for your flyway), and that designating the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain as Wilderness to protect it from oil and gas development is important to you.  

Audubon Chapters: Looking for newsletter articles? Find a sample article for your state here.


Why Now?

In a historic first, in 2015 President Obama is calling for the permanent protection of the vulnerable coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by recommending a Wilderness designation for this extraordinary landscape, the first administration to do so. Only Congress can designate Wilderness protection, but this is a huge step in the right direction.

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.

In January 2015, the US Fish & Wildlife Service announced its revised Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Theagency made an important decision to formally recommend Wilderness for the crucial Coastal Plain area - the biological heart of the refuge. The recommendation also includes designating four additional Wild and Scenic Rivers on the refuge: the Atigun, Hulahula, Kongakut, and Marsh Fork Canning.

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 197,000-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. 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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