Arctic Refuge 101: What is “ANWR?”
Learn about the place behind the lingo and why conservationists reject the term “ANWR.”
The Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain by Pamela A. Miller.
What is "ANWR"?
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) protects intact ecosystems and vibrant arctic life. Located in the northeast corner of Alaska, it is the only refuge specifically designed for wilderness purposes. It's habitats range from boreal forests, north over the Brooks Range, to sweep across rivers, tundra, lakes, wetlands to coastal lagoons, barrier lands and bays of the Arctic Ocean.
The Arctic Refuge is home to a rich diversity of over 250 species of wildlife and the Gwich'in and Inupiat people. Its spiritual, recreational, aesthetic, historical, cultural, and scientific values make the Arctic Refuge a place worth protecting with the strongest possible measures.
“ANWR” is a 4-letter word!
Places like the Arctic Refuge cannot be explained by acronyms. We find it more respectful and accurate to call the place by its full name.
“The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should be referred to as such, not ANWR. The acronym is intimately associated with the refuge’s oil resources and, if it is referred to as simply ANWR, we are at risk of losing and discounting the greater values associated with this land.”
- Lynn Greenwalt, Former Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
What is Coastal Plain (“1002 Area”)?
Congress designated most of the original refuge as wilderness in 1980 but left out the critical Coastal Plain area-the Refuge’s biological heart. Since then, this area has been repeatedly threatened by dirty oil and gas development and exploration.
A prime value of the Arctic Refuge is its wholeness as a remarkable intact ecosystem connecting migratory pathways and sinuous rivers in watersheds from boreal forests to Brooks Range peaks to rivers flowing northward across tundra to Beaufort Sea coasts. The coastal plain is not an isolated bit of the Arctic Refuge, but a vital beating heart connecting caribou, clean air, pure water, and freedom across time and vast landscapes for future generations.
Our wilderness heritage is part of what makes us American. Wilderness bills pending in Congress will add stronger protection for the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge to keep a promise for future generations and show our commitment to investments in a clean energy future.
History of Protection:
1960: President Eisenhower established the Arctic National Wildlife Range in 1960 “to preserve wilderness, wildlife, and recreation.”
1980: President Carter signed the Alaska Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) which expanded the Arctic Refuge's size, changed its name, and broadened its purposes to include to:
- Conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity.
- Fulfill international fish and wildlife treaty obligations of the United States of America.
- Provide the opportunity for continued subsistence uses by local residents.
- Ensure water quality and quantity within the refuge.
2010: The Arctic Refuge celebrated 50 years of bipartisan protection!
Alaskans have played a key role throughout the Refuge's 50-year history. Read more here.