Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Federal Legislation Affecting the Refuge

Disposition of federal lands in Alaska has been the subject of intense debate since the 1950s. In 1959, the Alaska Statehood Act granted title to approximately 28 percent of Alaska's land mass (about 104 million acres) to the new state, to be selected ove r a period of years. The following year (1960), the Arctic National Wildlife Range was established for the purpose of preserving unique wildlife, wilderness, and recreational values while at the same time allowing for oil and gas leasing; the initial with drawal involved approximately 8.9 million acres. The same land order opened the region between the Colville and Canning rivers to selection under the Statehood Act and to homesteading. The state of Alaska selected considerable acreage in the region, inclu ding the lands where the Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk oil fields were later discovered. Land transfers ceased, however, when the Secretary of the Interior issued a land freeze in 1967, blocking further state selections until Native land claims were settled fou r years later.

During the eight years between passage of the Alaska Statehood Act and the Department of the Interior's 1967 land freeze, title to approximately 12 million acres of public land was transferred to the state. Further land transfers within the state remained "frozen" until 1971 when Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). Granting to Alaska Natives land selection rights to over 40 million acres, ANCSA paved the way for construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and allowed state selec tions to resume. Section 17(d)(2) of the Act, popularly known as "D-2," authorized the Secretary of the Interior to withdraw up to 80 million acres of land for inclusion in national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, and wild and scenic rivers.

Although ANCSA opened Alaskan lands to state and Native selections for a brief time, a series of freezes was imposed on federal land transfers until the D-2 withdrawals were accomplished. Following intense debate regarding management of federal lands in A laska, Congress passed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) on December 2, 1980, ending an era of uncertainty. ANILCA changed ANWR's name to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and added about 9 million acres to double the size of the Refuge to approximately 19 million acres.

ANILCA reiterated the purpose for which ANWR was established including conservation of fish and wildlife populations and their habitats, fulfillment of international treaty obligations relating to migratory wildlife, continuation of subsistence uses by lo cal residents, and maintenance of water quality. Congress required [in Sec. 304(a)] that administration of the Refuge be in accordance with laws governing the National Wildlife Refuge System and required [in Sec.304(g)] preparation of a comprehensive cons ervation plan for ANWR. The Coastal Plain was specifically addressed in Sec.1002 which required the Secretary of the Interior to report to Congress on the following issues: