(Abbreviated as ANWR
) 19.8-million acre National Wildlife Refuge
's North Slope
. Sandwitched between the US-Canada border
and the Arctic Ocean
, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
is located in the northeast corner of Alaska
, and occupies a chunk of land the size of South Carolina
. Much of this land is dominated by the mountains of the Brooks Range
, while the northern portion (part of Alaska
's North Slope
) consists of tundra
that is frozen for most of the year.
Although very barren, the Wildlife Refuge is nonetheless home to a biologically diverse community of animals, including 36 species of land mammals, nine species of marine mammals, and 160 bird species of various sorts. Of these animal species, the area has a particular reputation for its large population of caribou, and is also home to one of the arctic's major caribou calving grounds.
The refuge was initially established in 1960 as the Arctic National Wildlife Range, but was expanded and renamed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. It wasn't until 1986, however, that the oil-related issues now surrounding the area began. At this time, oil exploration geologists working for Chevron, Inc. drilled a hole three miles into the ground. What is at the bottom of this hole, known as KIC-1, remains even today a secret of Chrevron and British Petroleum. The issue contents of KIC-1, however, is of vital importance in today's ANWR-drilling controversy, and will probably play a role in determining whether oil drilling is allowed or not.
In any event, in the late 1980s, oil companies began lobbying to drill up the refuge; and they were supported by western congressmen such as Alaska's Don Young, Ted Stevens and Frank Murkowski. They were beginning to get their way on the issue when the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill occurred, causing plans for ANWR drilling to be scrapped for the time being.
During the '90s, the pro-oil crowd had little success in their efforts to get the issue of drilling re-opened, due partly to Bill Clinton's environmental policies. But with George W. Bush now in office, ANWR drilling has once again been catapulted to the front burner, drawing national attention. While Bush (who of course has many familial ties to the oil industry) would very much like to get the refuge open to oil exploration, the chances of this seem a little bit dubious in light of strong resistance from environmentalists.