At 19.2 million acres, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge supports the greatest variety of plant and animal life of any park or refuge in the circumpolar Arctic and is a crown jewel among Alaska’s wilderness areas. On December 16, 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the original 8.9 million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Range. Twenty years later, President Jimmy Carter more than doubled its size, and established the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The coastal plain “1002 area” remains unprotected. Repeated attempts to open this area to oil drilling have been narrowly defeated.
Hulahula River valley, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. © ART WOLFE.
Pacific loon nesting on the coastal plain. More than 180 species of birds migrate to the Arctic coast from six continents and all fifty states to feed on abundant insect life, and breed and raise young before returning to their native winter grounds. © SUBHANKAR BANERJEE.
Because large herds of Porcupine caribou converge on the coastal plain to calve each spring, the region is known as the “American Serengeti.” © FLORIAN SCHULZ.
The once-endangered musk ox is a relic of the ice age, and lives year-round on the Arctic Refuge coastal plain. Musk oxen give birth to their young between mid-April and mid-May, when the region is still fully covered in snow. The original Alaska musk oxen were exterminated in the late 1800s, but through conservation efforts beginning in the 1930s, the species is being gradually reestablished. ©ART WOLFE.
A buff-breasted sandpiper engages in a courtship dance on the coastal plain, Jago River. These sandpipers migrate each year from Argentina to the Arctic Refuge to nest and rear their young. The species has a small world population estimated at only 15,000 birds, and has been identified as one of the top five species at greatest risk if there is oil development on the Arctic Refuge coastal plain. ©SUBHANKAR BANERJEE.
Arctic wolf tracks appear overnight on the banks of the Canning River. © DAVE SHREFFLER.
Red fox hunting voles on the Arctic coastal plain during an early autumn snowstorm. © HUGH ROSE PHOTOGRAPHY.
Willow ptarmigan in early fall on the north side of the Brooks Range along the edge of the mountains and the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge. © HUGH ROSE PHOTOGRAPHY.
Northern hawk owl hunting for voles in the boreal forest within the Arctic Refuge. © HUGH ROSE PHOTOGRAPHY.
Polar bears are uniquely adapted to the harsh demands of the wild Arctic landscape, and are integral to the web of life that flourishes on the Arctic ice pack. © STEVEN KAZLOWSKI.
Subadults play-wrestle in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Human consumption of fossil fuel has placed this fragile land and the polar bear in peril, and the continued survival of this mammal is uncertain. © STEVEN KAZLOWSKI.
Upper Jago River region, Alaska. © ART WOLFE.
Semipalmated plovers prefer rocky Arctic riverbeds for nesting sites. © ART WOLFE.
Caribou at Joe Creek, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. © AMY GULICK.
Caribou crossing the Kongakut River, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. © AMY GULICK.
Oil development at Prudhoe Bay, west of the Arctic Refuge. © AMY GULICK.
Grizzly bear. All three species of North American bears (black, polar, and grizzly) range within the borders of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It is a place of timeless ecological and evolutionary processes where one can experience solitude, self-reliance, and adventure. ©FLORIAN SCHULZ.