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"America’s Last Great Wilderness" – the phrase goes back to the early 1950s, to the thoughts
of a group of prominent scientists and conservationists whose work led to establishment of the
Refuge founders Olaus and Margaret
Murie, George Collins, Lowell Sumner and Justice William O.
Douglas recognized the value of this remote corner of Alaska for its renowned caribou herds, its
moose, sheep, wolves, grizzly and polar bears. But their campaign to preserve this remnant
landscape focused on a deeper, all-encompassing quality: wilderness. Here was one of the last
large, wild and untrammeled systems remaining on American soil; a place where natural ecological
and evolutionary processes continue as they have for millennia.
For biologist Lowell Sumner, this vast wilderness was an enduring symbol of freedom:
. . .freedom to continue, unhindered and forever if we are willing, the particular story of
Planet Earth unfolding here . . . where its native creatures can still have freedom to pursue
their future, so distant, mysterious. . .
This freedom is the essence from which wilderness values flow. The founders saw the Arctic Refuge
as a touchstone to our cultural heritage. As park planner George Collins put it:
This area offers what is virtually America’s last chance to preserve an adequate sample of the
pioneer frontier, the Stateside counterpart of which has vanished.
Also recognized was the opportunity to experience a deeper, older connection. Biologist Olaus
Murie described it as:
The urge to go places . . . to explore . . . to discover . . . This urge has come down to us
from the earliest time and we must not ignore it if we believe in progress of the human spirit.
The Arctic Refuge is an adventuring ground; a place where the sense of unknown, of horizons
unexplored, and of nameless valleys remains alive. It's a place that evokes humility, reverence
and respect. The founders believed that modern society needs the vision such places inspire – to
think outside the context of what we do, and beyond the boundaries of our life and lifetime.
This was the inspiration for Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas’ pronouncement that:
. . . this last American living wilderness must remain sacrosanct.
No refuge was established for more visionary purposes. Here the founders discovered values that
are enduring and that transcend physical boundaries. These values touch millions of Americans
who might never visit, but who find inspiration and hope believing that the Refuge will always
be wild and free.
Note: This is the MapCruzin.com archive of the FWS Arctic National Wildlife Refuge website. In December, 2001 FWS took this website offline, making it unavailable to the public. It includes 90 plus pages of information and many maps. As of 2006 the important information contained in this, the original "unsanitized" version of the FWS website, has yet to return to the internet, so we will continue to maintain it here as a permanent archive to help inform activists and concerned citizens. If you find any broken links, please report them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will attempt to make the repairs. January, 2008 update - A small part of the original information that was present in 2001 has made it back into the current ANWR website. There is also an archive that contains a small amount of the original information, but it is not readily available from the main website.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2001. Potential impacts of proposed oil and gas
development on the Arctic Refuge’s
coastal plain: Historical overview and
issues of concern. Web page of the Arctic National
17 January 2001. http://arctic.fws.gov/issues1.html
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