USFWS
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Alaska Region   

Icon of Blue Goose Compass. 
      Click compass to view Refuge map.

Summary of Wilderness Review Findings

This page summarizes the conclusions drawn for the inventory and study phases of the Arctic Refuge Wilderness Review (Appendix H of the CCP. It's a 2.4 mb pdf file that includes maps). We encourage you to read the entire Wilderness Review to put these findings in context. Also available is the minimum criteria for wilderness (40 kb pdf file).

Map of three wilderness study areas - USFWS

Brooks Range Wilderness Study Area

The Brooks Range Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is a large area of rugged relief that straddles the Continental Divide on the western side of Arctic Refuge. It extends from the western boundary of the Refuge near the Dalton Highway to the existing Refuge wilderness, just past the East Fork of the Chandalar River.

With the exception of a 39,549-acre area in the vicinity of Arctic Village, Old John Lake, and a travel corridor between them, all Refuge lands and waters within the Brooks Range WSA are exemplary in the degree to which they meet Wilderness Act criteria.

Currently, public uses in the WSA are largely wilderness-associated and would not interfere with management of the area as wilderness. However, a 181,077-acre area around Arctic Village has been determined to be not suitable for wilderness designation. This area is in addition to the areas around and between Arctic Village and Old John Lake that were found not qualified for wilderness status. The area proximate to Arctic Village is non-suitable because it is a high-use area for Arctic Village residents, and some activities such as firewood and house log cutting could make it difficult to manage as wilderness. Motorized activity is frequent in this area. It also contains a large number of private land inholdings.

The qualified and suitable portion of this WSA totals 5,719,523 acres, or approximately 29 percent of the Refuge. The Brooks Range WSA is sufficiently large, protected, and distant from substantial threats to enable almost all of it to be managed as wilderness. With the exception of the non-qualified and non-suitable areas, this WSA is highly suitable for wilderness designation and is preliminarily recommended for wilderness designation.

Porcupine Plateau Wilderness Study Area

The Porcupine Plateau Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is located south of the Brooks Range and extends from just east of the East Fork of the Chandalar River to the Canadian border. It is an area of scattered mountains and rolling hills.

All Refuge lands and waters within the 4.4 million acre Porcupine Plateau WSA meet Wilderness Act criteria. This WSA is exemplary in the degree to which it meets the criteria, with the exception of localized impacts associated with trapping cabins and a 1950s bulldozer trail. Current public uses are largely wilderness-associated and would not interfere with management of the area as wilderness.

The Porcupine Plateau WSA comprises about 23 percent of the Refuge. It is sufficiently large, protected, and distant from substantial threats to enable it to be managed as wilderness. This WSA is highly suitable for wilderness designation and is preliminarily recommended for wilderness designation.

Coastal Plain Wilderness Study Area

The Coastal Plain Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is comprised of the portion of the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain not presently designated as wilderness. The Coastal Plain WSA is sometimes called the "1002 Area" after the section of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) in which the area is described. Extending from the northern foothills of the Brooks Range to the Beaufort Sea, the WSA includes 121 miles (79 percent) of the Refuge's coastal habitat. With the exception of an area within two miles of Kaktovik, all lands and waters within the Coastal Plain WSA are exemplary in the degree to which they meet Wilderness Act criteria.

Current public uses are largely wilderness-associated and would not interfere with management of the area as wilderness. However, a 29,160-acre area of lagoon waters near Kaktovik was determined to be not suitable for wilderness designation. It is a high-use area for Kaktovik residents that sees frequent use of motorized vehicles.

The qualified and suitable portion of the Coastal Plain WSA totals 1,607,433 acres, or about 8 percent of the Refuge. This WSA is sufficiently large, protected, and distant from substantial threats to enable almost all of it to be managed as wilderness. There are no known external threats that would affect the area's manageability as wilderness, although potential oil development beyond the area's western boundary or nearby in the Beaufort Sea could adversely affect the area's wilderness characteristics for the life of the development. With the exception of the non-qualified and non-suitable areas in the vicinity of Kaktovik, this WSA is highly suitable for wilderness designation and is preliminarily recommended for wilderness designation.


Return to CCP web page.


August 12, 2011