America’s wildest place on the edge of destruction
It's no wonder that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is called the crown jewel of our refuge system. The Arctic Refuge is the only refuge where you’ll find the spectacle of polar bears denning and massive migrations of caribou thundering through the land each year.
This vast refuge of coastal lands, boreal forests and alpine tundra supports an exceptional array of wildlife from musk oxen and Arctic fox to all three types of North American bear species and hundreds of bird species. It is one of the finest examples of large, intact wilderness left on Earth.
Such an exceptional wild place cannot sustain human activity on an industrial scale, and yet the refuge is threatened by oil and gas development. If fossil fuel interests succeed, one our wildest places will be lost forever.
The refuge is one of the world’s last untrammeled wild places. The health of Arctic species like polar bears and caribou depends on the refuge staying wild and intact.
For decades, oil and gas interests and their friends in Congress have fought to open the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas development. In 2017, they gained significant ground. That year, Congress passed a backdoor provision that allowed the Trump administration to begin the process for leasing vulnerable refuge lands to oil companies.
The Arctic Refuge is now facing a pivotal moment. Oil companies are making plans to conduct damaging seismic testing in the refuge. Meanwhile the government is fast-tracking required environmental reviews.
Oil development would bring roads, airstrips, heavy machinery and noise and pollution. This would damage the refuge’s fragile tundra ecosystem and disrupt age-old migration and denning patterns for caribou, polar bear and other animals.
While the threat to the refuge is higher than ever, the fight is not over. We have made great strides building conservation champions in Congress who aim to counteract the latest threats. Many of them wish to permanently protect the refuge through legislation.
What we're doing
Going to court
While Congress has been busy greasing the wheels for drilling, the Trump administration has taken illegal actions to fast-track required environmental reviews. We’re challenging these wrongful attempts in court.
Applying corporate pressure
Should the government get away with fast-tracking the steps for drilling, an important arm of our defense is to pressure oil and gas companies not to develop in the Arctic Refuge.
Advocating for permanent protections
We’re advancing national legislation to designate the refuge as federally protected wilderness, the government’s highest form of land protection. This will end the threat of drilling once and for all.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
The Porcupine caribou herd's migration through the Arctic Refuge is one of the largest land migrations on earth.
Arctic foxes and other wildlife call the Arctic Refuge home.
The Porcupine caribou herd travels to the Arctic Refuge's coastal plain every spring.
The Hulahula River drains from the Brooks Range into the Arctic Refuge's coastal plain.
Mason Cummings, TWS
The Brooks Range is a vast expanse of mountains in the heart of the Arctic Refuge.
Mason Cummings, The Wilderness Society
Mason Cummings, TWS
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is roughly the size of South Carolina and contains no roads. It is one of the last true wildernesses in North America.