Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

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Polar Bear, © William Bonilla

© William Bonilla
At 19 million acres, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the largest land-based unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It is also one of the last intact landscapes in America. Established in 1960 to protect its extraordinary wildlife, wilderness and recreational qualities, the Arctic Refuge is a place where natural processes remain mostly uninfluenced by humans.

But for all its unique beauty, the Arctic Refuge is under assault. The oil industry and its political allies continue to launch attacks to open this national treasure to destructive oil and gas drilling, while climate change threatens to disrupt its habitats faster than wildlife can adapt. Defenders of Wildlife is committed to protecting the Arctic Refuge and the wildlife that calls this remarkable place home.

New Conservation Plan for the Arctic Refuge

On August 15, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released the draft comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This long-term plan, expected to be finalized in late 2012, will guide all aspects of the refuge’s management. Defenders is working to make sure the CCP keeps the refuge and its wildlife healthy and protected for years to come.

Watch the video below to learn more about the draft CCP and what it means for the future of the Arctic Refuge.

Climate Change and the Arctic Refuge

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is at ground zero for climate change impacts. What does that mean for the array of specialized mammals who call the refuge home?

Using an analytical tool developed by NatureServe, Defenders determined which mammals in the Arctic Refuge are the most vulnerable to climate change, and what we can do to protect them.

Read the report. (PDF) >>

Watch the Video

Drilling in the Arctic Refuge

The Arctic Refuge contains one of the most fragile and ecologically sensitive ecosystems in the world. Its environment is extremely vulnerable to long-lasting disturbance because the harsh climate and short growing seasons provide little time for species to recover.

Proposed oil and gas development would occur on the 1.5-million-acre coastal plain found along the Beaufort Sea. This area is considered the “biological heart” of the refuge, and habitat loss that occurs here will impact the entire Arctic Refuge.

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Called "skunk bear" by the Blackfeet Indians, the wolverine is the largest terrestrial member of the weasel family. It has a broad head, small eyes and short rounded ears.