The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been providing for the physical and emotional well-being of humans for many thousands of years. To the Arctic people who call this pristine wilderness their home, it is “The Sacred Place Where Life Begins”. Also known as “the American Serengeti”, massive herds of Porcupine caribou converge upon the coastal plain to calve each spring, more than 180 species of migratory birds journey from six continents and fifty states plus it is the preferred den area for polar bears in all of Alaska. Vast and remote the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with its 19.5 million-acre (the size of North Carolina) was established in 1960 as a promise to the American people to preserve “wildlife, wilderness and recreational values.”
It remains an important resource to help sustain local Eskimo and Indian cultures. The Refuge continues to be valued, even by those who never travel within it's borders, as a symbol of America's vast and remote wilderness - a place of inspiration and beauty - a promise for the future for all Americans.
Land mass: 30,900 square miles / 19,6 million acre (size of South Carolina – or about 1/3 of Minnesota)|
Home to the 152,000-plus Porcupine caribou herd
Average summer temperature: 41 Fahrenheit (highest recorded 86 F)
Coldest recorded temperature: minus 81 F
Contains the greatest variety of plant and animal life of any conservation area in the circumpolar north
An unbroken continuum of Arctic and sub-arctic ecosystems
Inhabited by 250 animal species –
45 species of land and marine mammals, ranging from the pygmy shrew to the bowhead whale
Thirty-six species of fish occur in Arctic Refuge waters
180 species of birds nest on the refuge.
Home to all three species of North American bear (Black, Grizzly and Polar bear)
Traditional homelands of Inupiaq Eskimos (Inuit) of the Arctic coast and the Gwitch'in Athabascan Indians of the interior for thousands of years
Legal definition: an area "where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man."
Year-round home to the Musk-ox
No introduced species
ANWR Historic Time Line…
1903President Theodore Roosevelt established the National Wildlife Refuge System, designating Pelican Island in Florida as its first unit.
1949The National Park Service began a recreational survey in Alaska to identify areas with special natural values.
1954The National Park Service recommended that the undisturbed lands in the northeastern corner of Alaska be preserved for their wildlife, wilderness, recreation, scientific, and cultural values.
1957The Department of Interior announced plans to ask Congress to establish an 8,000 square-mile wildlife reserve in the area identified by the National Park Service study.
1960After Congress debated but failed to create the wildlife reserve, the Secretary of Interior signed a Public Land Order establishing the 8.9 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Range.
1964President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act, establishing the National Wilderness Preservation System and policies for wilderness management.
1968President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, establishing the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, which protects designated rivers as either wild, scenic, or recreational.
1969The first manager was hired for the Arctic National Wildlife Range.
1971President Richard Nixon signed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The Act gave the Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation surface rights to 69,000 acres along the arctic coast within the Range.
1980President Jimmy Carter signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The Act expanded the Arctic Range to approximately 18 million acres, renamed it the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, designated eight million acres as Wilderness, designated three rivers as Wild, and called for wildlife studies and an oil and gas assessment of 1.5 million acres of the Refuge coastal plain.
1983The Chandler Lake land exchange agreement conveyed subsurface ownership of Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation lands to the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation.
1983Nearly one million acres were added to the south side of the Refuge when the State of Alaska decided not to retain control of lands it had selected under the Statehood Act.
1987The governments of the United States and Canada signed an international agreement for management and long-term protection of the Porcupine Caribou herd.
1988Congress added 325,000 acres to the south side of the Refuge, bringing the total area managed by the Refuge to approximately 19.3 million acres and making Arctic the largest Refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
1997President William Clinton signed the "National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act." This Act provides specific guidance to the Refuge System, and establishes the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System "to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans."
1997The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that the barrier islands and the lagoons which they enclose, along the northeast coast of Alaska, are within the boundaries of the Arctic Refuge. The State of Alaska had hoped to claim ownership of these lagoons and to lease them for oil and gas exploration and development.
Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 2004.