The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — America’s largest wildlife refuge and one of the largest intact ecosystems in the world — is an almost mythical place, both beautiful and rugged. Found in the northeastern corner of Alaska where the Brooks Range bulges up near the Arctic Ocean to create a unique combination of arctic, subarctic, and alpine habitats, the Arctic Refuge stretches approximately 200 miles by 200 miles, covering almost 20 million acres.
The Arctic Refuge provides critical habitat for polar bears, huge migrating herds of caribou, muskoxen, wolves, Dall sheep, brown bears, arctic foxes, and more than 200 species of birds. Beluga and bowhead whales migrate along the coast of the Arctic Refuge with ringed and bearded seals.
In 1980, Congress designated 7.1 million acres of the Refuge as the Arctic Wildlife Refuge Wilderness (later changed to Mollie Beattie Wilderness), the highest level of protection our government affords to any land.
In 2015, based on the best available science and extensive public comment, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recommended adding nearly the entire Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — including the Coastal Plain — to the Arctic Refuge Wilderness. This recommendation to add 12.28 million acres to the Arctic Refuge Wilderness was transmitted by President Obama to Congress on April 3, 2015, but Congress did not act.
Fast-forward to 2020 and there are currently two bills in the U.S. Congress (S. 2461 and H.R. 5999), which would designate 1,559,538 acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s Coastal Plain as Wilderness.
Wilderness Watch supports S. 2461 and H.R. 5999, and we're calling on our supporters to urge their senators and representative to take the next step and add all 12.28 million acres of recommended lands in the Arctic Refuge to the National Wilderness Preservation System, which would establish a 19.4 million-acre Arctic Refuge Wilderness!
Wilderness designation for the entire Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is sorely needed. The oil and gas industry — and the politicians they support with millions of dollars in campaign contributions — have specifically targeted the Coastal Plain for drilling, and Refuge land beyond the coastal plain are just as wild and deserving of Wilderness protection.
Congress passed the Wilderness Act in 1964 to protect America’s most spectacular landscapes and ecosystems, and now is not the time to short-change the millions of acres of Wilderness-deserving lands within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Telling your members of Congress to co-sponsor and support S. 2461 and H.R. 5999 while also urging Congress to protect all of the remaining recommended lands within the Arctic Refuge as Wilderness as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended, is something that future generations will be grateful we did.
Thank you for taking action to protect one of America’s most cherished wild ecosystems!
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