Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Cottongrass in bloom on the Wildlife Refuge coastal plain

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge covers about 8,900,000 acres (36,000 km²) in northeastern Alaska, in the North Slope region. It was originally protected by the United States Congress in 1960, through the lobbying efforts of Olaus and Mardy Murie, with the Wilderness Society.

Great efforts have been taken to keep the area's wilderness pristine. In fact, there are presently no roads within or leading into the Refuge. The only way for visitors to access the land is by airplane.

ANWR and Oil

Oil interest in the region goes back to the early nineties. ANWR is just east of Prudhoe Bay, North America's largest oil field. From 1990 to 2000, the area accounted for 25% of U.S. domestic oil production.

In 1989, many in Congress were interested in exploratory drilling in and around ANWR. That interested waned shortly after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound.

Environmentalists pressed U.S. President Bill Clinton to declare ANWR a Refuge Monument. Doing so would ban any and all drilling within ANWR. However, it would not ban slant drilling around the perimeter of the land. While he did create several refuge monuments, ANWR was not on Clinton's list.

The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, alleged by some to be backed by the oil industry, pushed to perform exploratory drilling for oil and gas in and around the refuge. The House of Representatives voted in mid-2000 to allow drilling. In April 2002, the Senate rejected it.

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