A history of protection

The Arctic National Wildlife Range was established in 1960 to preserve unique wildlife, wilderness and recreational values. In 1980, this was expanded and re-designated as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). The Refuge protects 19.6 million acres of northeastern Alaska with the stated purpose of: conserving fish and wildlife populations in their natural diversity, fulfilling international wildlife treaty obligations, providing opportunities for continued subsistence uses, and protecting water quality and quantity.

While the majority of the Refuge is designated as wilderness under ANILCA, 1.5 million acres of the Coastal Plain area has been in a constant state of limbo as Section 1002 of ANILCA deferred a decision on whether or not to allow oil and gas exploration and development in this area. This area has come to be referred to as the ‘1002’ lands.

Since this time, an act of U.S. Congress is required to either permanently protect the Coastal Plain of the Refuge or open it up to exploitation. For decades, efforts by various levels of government, Indigenous organizations, conservation groups and the public have prevented oil and gas exploration and development in the Refuge despite strong lobbying by big oil companies and the desire of some members of U.S. Congress.


President Theodore Roosevelt established the National Wildlife Refuge System.

National Park Service begins recreational survey in Alaska to identify areas with special natural values.

National Park Service recommends the northeastern corner of Alaska be preserved for their wildlife, wilderness, recreation, scientific, and cultural values.

Secretary of Interior signs Public Land Order establishing the 8.9 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Range.

Wilderness Act establishes the National Wilderness Preservation System and provisions for wilderness use and protection.

The first manager hired for the Arctic National Wildlife Range.tion.

Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) gives Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation (KIC) surface rights to 92,160 acres of federal lands adjacent to the village. ANCSA allowed 69,120 of these acres to be selected within the Arctic Range and the remaining lands to be selected outside the Range.

The MacKenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry is commissioned by the Government of Canada. Headed by Justice Thomas Berger, the inquiry investigated the social, environmental and economic impacts of proposed oil and gas industry in the Yukon and MacKenzie Valley. It recommends no development should occur because of the impact it will have on the people and animals of the area.

Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). The Act re-designated the Range as part of the larger, approximately 18 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, designated eight million acres as Wilderness, and designated three rivers as Wild. It also called for wildlife studies and an oil and gas assessment of 1.5 million acres of the Refuge coastal plain. In addition, ANILCA allowed KIC to relinquish their selected lands outside the Refuge and instead to select the remainder of their Corporation lands within the Arctic Refuge. Section 1003 of ANILCA states that the “production of oil and gas from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is prohibited and no leasing or other development leading to production of oil and gas from the [Refuge] shall be undertaken until authorized by an act of Congress.”

The entire Canadian Yukon North Slope from Alaska to the Northwest Territories is placed under a special Order In Council that prohibits industrial activity in this area to ensure a focus on conservation.

One million acres added to the south side of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge when the State of Alaska decides not to retain control of lands it had selected under the Statehood Act.

Inuvialuit Final Agreement signed, creating the Canadian Porcupine Caribou Management Board.

Ivvavik National Park established through the Inuvialuit Final Agreement. Its name means “a place for giving birth, a nursery’ in Inuvialuit.

The Porcupine Caribou Management Agreement is signed, formally establishing the Canadian Porcupine Caribou Management Board

Report and environmental assessment released to the U.S. Congress. Department of Interior undertakes consultation with Canada under Section 1005 of ANILCA.

U.S. Department of Interior recommended that U.S. Congress allow drilling in the Coastal Plain of the Refuge.

Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America on the Conservation of the Porcupine Caribou Herd outlines how the two countries will ensure the management and long-term protection of the herd. The agreement establishes the International Porcupine Caribou Board (IPCB) and the Porcupine Caribou Technical Committee (PCTC).

Congress adds 325,000 acres to the south side of the Refuge, bringing the total area to approximately 19.3 million acres and making Arctic the largest Refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement signed, recognizing the role of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board and identifying key conservation areas for caribou habitat protection.

The Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement is ratified, recognizing the role and importance of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board.

Vuntut Gwitchin Final Agreement signed. It recognizes the role and importance of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board.

Vuntut National Park is established under the Vuntut Gwitchin Final Agreement. Its primary purpose is protecting key Porcupine Caribou habitat.

US Congress passes budget legislation that includes provision for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The legislation was vetoed by President Clinton.

National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act provides guidance to the Refuge System, and established 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.”

U.S. House of Representatives repeatedly approves drilling in the Refuge as part of broad energy legislation but is rejected by U.S. Senate.

Old Crow Flats (Van Tat K’atr’anahtii) Special Management Area established. It includes objectives to protect caribou habitat.

North Yukon Regional Land Use Plan is established to protect the significant natural and cultural resources of the region while still allowing for current and future economic development opportunities. Caribou are considered a key value in the planning process.

President Obama recommends Congress designate 12 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge “Wilderness.” His bid is unsuccessful.

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law with provisions requiring the leasing of the ‘1002’ lands for oil and gas development, production and transportation.