Conservation

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.
Photo: Dave Shaw
Conservation

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 Protect the Arctic Refuge

  1. Show Congress there is strong support for protecting the Arctic Refuge! Tell your members of Congress that the Arctic Refuge belongs to all Americans, and that protecting it from oil and gas development is important to you.

  2. Sign up for Audubon Alaska alerts and news on Arctic Refuge and other Alaska issues.

  3. Find us on Facebook and Twitter and help us spread the word about the Arctic Refuge.

  4. Donate to the Arctic Fund, which supports our Arctic programs.

Why we care

  • The North Slope is an incredible place for wildlife: review the ‚ÄčArctic Wildlife Values Map

  • David Sibley, the well-known author, artist, and ornithologist, supports permanent protection of the Arctic Refuge: watch the video.

  • Top scientists across the country emphasize the importance of the Coastal Plain: read their letter to former President Obama.

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.

Unprecedented Threat

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, the US Fish & Wildlife Service 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. In its revised Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the agency 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.

Today, the future of the Refuge hangs in the balance. Last year, in 2016, Congress voted for the first time in Refuge history on a Wilderness designation. Although Congress ultimately did not pass the designation, the vote garnered crucial bi-partisan support and sets a tone of conservation in both the House and Senate. But legislation introduced this year aims to puncture the biological heart with roads, drill pads, and oil infrastructure. Lend your voice to this important conversation and tell your Senators and Representatives to oppose drill legislation and support wilderness legislation.

Coming to a backyard near you: Arctic Refuge Nesters in your Flyway!

Audubon Alaska celebrates the Arctic Refuge and the tangible connections it draws to people in all 50 states. We follow five “posterbirds” as they move across the country to gather each summer in the incredibly rich nesting grounds of the Arctic Refuge and then return to their wintering grounds across America. 

Click on the links below for a printable fact sheet to learn more about each species that you can see in your backyard and favorite birding spots in your state!

  • 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

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

 

The Arctic Refuge Needs Your Help

  1. Show Congress there is strong support for protecting the Arctic Refuge! Tell your members of Congress that the Arctic Refuge belongs to all Americans, and that protecting it from oil and gas development is important to you.

  2. Sign up for Audubon Alaska alerts and news on Arctic Refuge and other Alaska issues.

  3. Find us on Facebook and Twitter and help us spread the word about the Arctic Refuge.

  4. Donate to the Arctic Fund, which supports our Arctic programs.

How you can help, right now