National Wildlife Refuge System
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Caribou graze on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Caribou graze on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain with the Brooks Range to the south.
Credit: USFWS

Conservation Milestones

Two famous refuges in Alaska are planning milestone celebrations during 2010, when both the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Izembek National Wildlife Refuge reach the mid-century mark.

The remote Arctic Refuge, the northernmost in the National Wildlife Refuge System, encompasses a vast 19.3 million acres famed for its polar bears, grizzlies and caribou herds. Plans for its anniversary are being made on a commensurate scale. They include releasing a feature–length documentary film, staging a play about Arctic explorers Olaus and Mardy Murie and mounting a photo exhibit by noted landscape photographer Jeff Jones. A companion book, Arctic Sanctuary, featuring photos by Jones and poetry and essays by Fairbanks writer Carolyn Kremers, is slated for publication next fall by the University of Alaska Press.

Izembek, the smallest of Alaska’s refuges at about 400,000 acres (300,000 of them designated as wilderness), plans a series of events culminating in a celebration on December 6, 2010, the anniversary of its founding. Visitors, including hunters and anglers, can reach the refuge only by state ferry (which now runs once a month May through October) or by air, weather permitting. The refuge, near the tip of the Alaska peninsula encompasses Izembek Lagoon, a world-renowned wetland and a pivotal stopover for hundreds of thousands of migratory waterbirds. The Izembek Refuge protects a range of species, including salmon, caribou, sea otter and brown bears.

The Eisenhower administration established the Arctic National Wildlife Range in December 1960. In 1980, the range was expanded and renamed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Izembek was also first established in 1960 as a national wildlife range and renamed a refuge in 1980.

Next year also marks the 30th anniversary of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, a sweeping land conservation measure that protected more than 100 million acres of federal lands in Alaska and doubled the size of the Arctic Refuge.

For more information:

Jimmy Fox, Deputy Refuge Manager, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 907-456-0250 or or Email:

Nancy Hoffman, Refuge Manager, Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, 907-532-2445 or

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