Why Alaska and the Arctic

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
USFWS Alaska
Alaska is America’s last great, wild frontier. In Alaska you can still see caribou migrating through vast valleys, salmon streams running through ancient forests and polar bears roaming icy shores of the Arctic Ocean.

Yet, Alaska’s wilderness faces constant pressure from the oil and gas and timber industries who want to gain more and more access to pristine Alaskan lands.

What’s at stake

Alaska’s wild places provide critical habitat for salmon, polar bears, caribou, black and grizzly bears, whales, walruses, migratory birds from multiple nations and numerous other species. But they are also home to Alaska’s indigenous people, who depend on wildlands as a source of food and clean water.

Alaska’s wildlands face unrelenting pressure from the oil and gas and timber industries who wish to gain more and more access to the pristine Alaska wilderness.

Threats to Alaska 

Stream degradation and loss of habitat threatens some of the world’s greatest wilderness and the survival of fish and wildlife. It also threatens the cultural survival of native communities with roots that date back thousands of years.

The threat of oil and gas development could endanger not only the sensitive lands and waters of the Western Arctic Reserve, the Arctic Ocean and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but could destroy critical habitat for caribou and other species in the far north.

While working to protect these unique places for future generations, The Wilderness Society’s efforts help preserve Alaskan Native culture in the Arctic and build stronger, more sustainable local economies for the communities of Southeast Alaska.

What we’re doing

The Wilderness Society is working to protect Alaska and the Arctic by:

  • Influencing national policy and legislation that impacts Alaska's wild places, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
  • Using the latest and best science to inform decisions made by land managers and the public
  • Working directly with local communities and federal agencies to protect wildlands
  • Mobilizing our members to influence Congress

From town halls to the floor of the U.S. Senate, our efforts build support for protecting wilderness and help regulatory agencies set higher standards to hold developers responsible for protecting our public lands and natural resources.


  • For three decades, we’ve managed to fend off almost yearly attempts by Congress to open the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas development.
  • Our work helped establish the Roadless Rule during the Clinton administration. The administrative rule has helped keep some of Alaska’s forests pristine.
  • We prevented the Bush administration from selling oil leases in the wild Teshekpuk Lake Special Area of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
  • We defended the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas development.

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