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.