The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: The Epitome of Remoteness

As an avid elk hunter in Idaho and Wyoming, I often marvel at how elk country, even when very close to cars and civilization, can feel wild. Entering a tight, timbered canyon, especially when elk may be near, is awe inspiring, even when the trailhead is only a quarter mile away.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge feels wild in a different way. The 19-million-acre refuge is the epitome of remoteness. The feeling of being immersed in such a large tract of land largely untouched by man is staggering. It is a truly intact ecosystem that stretches from the southern slopes of the Brooks Range over high, glaciated peaks and across the Coastal Plain to the Arctic Ocean. This place is unique and there is nothing else like it. We would never be able to create its equal.  But you don't need to take my word for, check it out for yourself here:

I have had the opportunity to travel to the Refuge several times. Prior to my most recent trip last June, I had the chance to meet Dr. Bob Krear. Dr. Krear is a biologist and was part of the 1956 Sheenjek Expedition to the Brooks Range, which was organized by conservation legends Olaus and Mardy Murie. A biological survey and a film created by the team were used to convince Congress and President Eisenhower to designate the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in 1960.

Dr. Krear is also a World War II veteran. He fought in the mountains of Italy with the 10th Mountain Division. In his memoir, he writes that the 1956 Sheenjek Expedition and the small part he played in the formation of the Arctic Refuge were was among the proudest achievements of his life. Those are powerful words coming from a World War II veteran. 

The Central Arctic around Barrow and Prudhoe Bay have been developed into the some of the largest oil fields in the country. The Western Arctic is designated as the National Petroleum Reserve. The Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the only remaining segment of our Arctic Ocean Coastline, is now being strongly considered for oil and gas development. This debate has gone on for decades, but now there is language in the recently passed Senate tax bill that would allow drilling in the Refuge. The Senate and House need to reconcile their bills that will go to the president.

If you are opposed to drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, now is the time to speak up and let your senators and representatives know.

These words from Mardy Murie are even more powerful for me today, as drilling in the Arctic Refuge becomes a real possibility, than when I first read them:

“Beauty is a resource in and of itself. Alaska must be allowed to be Alaska, that is her greatest economy. I hope that the United States of America is no so rich that she can afford to let these wildernesses pass by – or so poor that she cannot afford to keep them.”- Mardy Murie, Alaska Lands Bill testimony June 5, 1977, in Denver, Colorado.

About Donald Carpenter