Time Line: Establishment and management of Arctic Refuge

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President Theodore Roosevelt established the National Wildlife Refuge System, designating Pelican Island in Florida as its first unit.


The National Park Service began a recreational survey in Alaska to identify areas with special natural values.


The National Park Service recommended that the undisturbed lands in the northeastern corner of Alaska be preserved for their wildlife, wilderness, recreation, scientific, and cultural values.


The Department of Interior announced plans to ask Congress to establish an 8,000 square-mile wildlife reserve in the area identified by the National Park Service study.


The Secretary of Interior in the Eisenhower administration signed a Public Land Order establishing the 8.9 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Range.


President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act, establishing the National Wilderness Preservation System and provisions for wilderness use and protection.


President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, establishing the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, which protects designated rivers as either wild, scenic, or recreational.


The first manager was hired for the Arctic National Wildlife Range.


President Richard Nixon signed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). The Act gave the Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation (KIC) surface rights to 92,160 acres of federal lands adjacent to the village. ANCSA allowed 69,120 of these acres to be selected within the Arctic Range and the remaining lands to be selected outside the Range.


President Jimmy Carter signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). The Act re-designated the Range as part of the larger, approximately 18 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, designated eight million acres as Wilderness, and designated three rivers as Wild. It also called for wildlife studies and an oil and gas assessment of 1.5 million acres of the Refuge coastal plain. In addition, ANILCA allowed KIC to relinquish their selected lands outside the Refuge and instead to select the remainder of their Corporation lands within the Arctic Refuge. Section 1003 of ANILCA states that the "production of oil and gas from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is prohibited and no leasing or other development leading to production of oil and gas from the [Refuge] shall be undertaken until authorized by an act of Congress." 


The Chandler Lake land exchange agreement conveyed subsurface ownership of KIC lands from the federal government to the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation. This exchange also allowed an exploratory oil well be drilled on KIC lands. Exchanged lands can not be developed until Congress opens the Refuge coastal plain for such activities.


Nearly one million acres were added to the south side of the Refuge when the State of Alaska decided not to retain control of lands it had selected under the Statehood Act.


The governments of the United States and Canada signed an international agreement for management and long-term protection of the Porcupine Caribou herd.


Congress added 325,000 acres to the south side of the Refuge, bringing the total area managed by the Refuge to approximately 19.3 million acres and making Arctic the largest Refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System.


President William Clinton signed the "National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act." This Act provided specific guidance to the Refuge System, and established the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System "to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans."


The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that the barrier islands and the lagoons which they enclose, along the northeast coast of Alaska, are within the boundaries of the Arctic Refuge.