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Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Turns 50

Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, reflects on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Caribou in the Arctic Refuge coastal plain, with the Brooks Range mountains in the background to the south. (by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Today, I join with the President, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and countless Americans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  Few places in America retain the natural beauty of the Refuge, which protects a broad swath of northeast Alaska and its shoreline.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has a long bipartisan history. Following the efforts of countless conservationists, in 1960 President Eisenhower signed an executive order to establish the Arctic National Wildlife Range “for the purpose of preserving unique wildlife, wilderness and recreational values” and followed many years of efforts by conservationists to protect our wild lands. These conservationists, including Olaus and Margaret Murie, sought to protect this unique American landscape. In 1980, under President Carter’s leadership, the area was renamed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and expanded to further recognize and protect the variety of wildlife found in the area.

Visitors to the Refuge can see roaming herds of caribou and muskoxen, and even grizzly bears, polar bears, and wolf packs. The 19.6 million acres of wild lands that make up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge also protect culturally significant areas, including important lands for the Inupiat and Gwich’in people. For thousands of years, the resources of the Refuge have sustained these populations and protected their indigenous culture and way of life.

Today, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge remains one of the most pristine lands in America and deserves continued protection.

On the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, let us be reminded to take the time to recognize the beauty and remarkable diversity of our country’s public lands.  As a lifelong advocate for the environment, I am thankful to know that a place as wild as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is protected in America. 

You can learn more about the 50th Anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Fast Facts

  • With over 19 million acres, it is the nation's largest and most northerly National Wildlife Refuge; South Carolina could almost fit inside its borders.
  • The Refuge is home to over 250 species of mammals, birds, and fish
  • The Refuge is the only place in America where polar bears can be found in their natural habitat.
  • It is open to public use year-round, offering unparalleled opportunities to experience solitude, challenge, and adventure.