American Golden-Plover at Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

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.
American Golden-Plovers are one of the many migratory bird species that nest in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: Dave Shaw

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

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.

What You Can Do to Help Protect the Arctic Refuge

  1. Show Congress there is strong support for permanent protection of the Arctic Refuge! Tell your members of Congress that the Arctic Refuge belongs to all Americans, and that designating the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain as Wilderness to protect it from oil and gas development is important to you.
  2. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
  3. Encourage your local Audubon or environmental group to publish a newsletter article.

Learn about the Arctic Refuge nesters in your state! Click on your state in the map below and find all this information at your fingertips

Find out why David Sibley, the well-known author, artist, and ornithologist, supports permanent protection of the Arctic Refuge in this video.

Audubon Chapters: Looking for newsletter articles? Click on the map below for your state.

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. 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.

Click on your state on the map above for sample newsletter articles, letter to the editor, and bird fact sheets for your state.

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.
Many thousands of Northern Pintails nest on the Arctic Refuge's coastal plain. Photo: Dave Menke, US Fish and Wildlife Service

Keep the Arctic Refuge Wild!

A scenic view of the open tundra of the Arctic Refuge. Photo: Dave Shaw

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. The coastal plain is the heart of this wild Arctic ecosystem, supporting 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. 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.

 In 1980 Congress enlarged the original range to protect additional wildlife habitat and to establish the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In the same move, Congress designated several large areas of the Refuge as Wilderness, but left the coastal plain without that added protection. Ever since this expansion, there has been constant pressure to open the coastal plain to oil development.

The coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge represents only five percent of Alaska's North Slope and should be permanently protected as designated Wilderness. This would provide a balanced approach for managing our nation's Arctic resources and is compatible with the purposes for which the refuge was established.

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.

Why Act Now?

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 2015, President Obama called 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. The US Fish & Wildlife Service announced its revised Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and 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.

Following the Administrative recommendation, the future of the Refuge is now in the hands of Congress. For the first time in the history of the Refuge, Congress voted on Wilderness designation for the Refuge. Although Congress ultimately did not pass the designation, the vote garnered crucial bi-partisan support and sets a positive stage for the Wilderness Bills now pending before both the House and Senate. Lend your voice to this important conversation and tell your Senators and Representatives to co-sponsor the House and Senate bills (HR239; S2341).


What You Can Do

  1. Ask your Members of Congress to co-sponsor legislation for a Wilderness designation to for the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
  2. Urge President Obama to use the strongest protections possible to permanently protect the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge.
  3. Join the Audubon Action Alert Network to receive periodic email alerts on urgent Arctic, Alaska, and national conservation issues as they arise.

How you can help, right now