Transactions for Arctic Refuge 50th Symposium

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“For the immediate present, the most pressing need is to establish and maintain for scientific use an undisturbed research area of adequate size in the heart of the last and greatest remaining Arctic Wilderness region. For the future needs of Alaska and the entire nation, this superb area should be planned and dedicated now for perpetual preservation as a scientific field laboratory and also for the education, enjoyment, and inspiration of all outdoor minded people.” —George Collins and Lowell Sumner, 1952


Read the complete Symposium Transactions from "Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: The First 50, A Historic Symposium" (2 mb PDF file)


In January 2011, the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge presented the Arctic National Refuge 50th Anniversary Historic Symposium in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. NCTC is home to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and is a center for the history of the Service and the American conservation movement. The NCTC has a 15-year tradition of commemorating important historic milestones and figures in American conservation. Arctic Refuge is one of the Service’s greatest stories. 

The symposium was planned to share the Refuge's history with many of the living principle players and the legions of wilderness aficionados who see Arctic Refuge as a crown jewel of the American wilderness system. These 150 or so participants were a “who’s who” of the conservation and wilderness fields. The Symposium Transactions (linked above) capture the spirit and scholarship of this seminal event. For three days symposium participants explored and discussed the history, science, and uniqueness of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Some highlights included a fascinating conversation with Arctic refuge managers, including the legendary Ave Thayer; the Voices of the South’s play "Wild Legacy," with George Schaller and Bob Krear, two characters in the play, actually in the audience; a screening of the film "America’s Wildest Refuge: Discovering the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge;" and a visit from Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States. 

Day one featured America’s finest conservation historians and some of its most prominent conservation leaders, who told stories of the arduous and trial-marked creation of the Refuge. Day two examined the unique place that is Arctic Refuge through the eyes of former refuge managers, early and contemporary explorers of the Refuge, and writers and academics who have made the Refuge and its intangible values a focus of their scholarship.The final day examined the rich scientific heritage of Arctic Refuge, presented by prominent scientists who have studied the birds, fish, mammals, geology, and climate of this wild landscape over the last 50 years. These speakers also addressed future scientific programs at the Refuge, and conservation challenges to its delicate ecosystem.

For 50 years the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has stood as a place rich in wildlife, spectacular scenery, rugged landscapes and what Olaus Murie called “intangible resources.” In addition to its extraordinary natural history, the Refuge is also an important repository of cultural history. We welcome you, through this document, to relive those extraordinary three days.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is important not only for its immense physical size but also for the monumental impact it has had in shaping our understanding of Refuges, wildlife, wilderness and the American spirit.


Read the complete Symposium Transactions from "Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: The First 50, A Historic Symposium" (555 kb PDF file)