The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska consists of 19 million acres — including a 1.5 million acre coastal plain seen as the potential source of at least 7.7 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil.
But in addition to reservoirs of untapped oil, the coastal plain is home to caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, migratory birds and threatened polar bears, and it has been labeled by conservationists as “America’s Serengeti.”
The conflict between advocates of developing the area’s bountiful energy resources and supporters of preserving the diverse wildlife has raged in Congress for decades. Click here for some milestones of the long-running fight.
In 2013 the Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to release a final comprehensive conservation plan for ANWR, which would update the one finalized by the Reagan administration in the 1980s. The revised plan is likely to recommend that Congress designate the coastal plain as wilderness, permanently taking it off-limits to oil and gas development.