Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Brief History of the Refuge

Prior to 1968, Alaska's North Slope was the largest intact wilderness area in the United States. In the late 1950s, U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas visited northeast Alaska at the invitation of the well-known Alaskan naturalists, Olaus and Margaret Murie. Impressed with the grandeur of the region, he, together with the Murie's, persuaded then-President Eisenhower to set aside 8 million acres as an Arctic Wildlife Range. This Act brought into being the first legislation protecting the Porcupine Caribou Herd's most important habitat - the Coastal Plain calving ground. Approximately a decade later in 1968, the Atlantic Richfield Oil Company discovered the largest oil field in North American history at Prudhoe Bay. In 1980, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act [ANILCA] was passed, expanding the Range to 19 million acres and renaming it the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The 1.5 million acre Coastal Plain was excluded from wilderness protection pending study of the area's potential petroleum reserves. This Act carried special importance in that it included the concept that 'national-interest lands,' i.e., wilderness lands, in the state could be set aside for the interest of American's as a whole. The result preserved an even greater portion of the Porcupine Caribou Herd's range, but continued to leave vulnerable the herd's calving grounds.


Environmentalists and the Oil Companies

Inupiat and the Gwich'in

White House, Congress, and the State of Alaska

The International Dimension: Canada and the United States