Proposed Drilling in the 1002 Area of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, AK

Located in North West Alaska, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is a 20 million acre refuge for a variety of flora and fauna[1]. ANWR’s 1002 Area is a site of high contention. The controversy surrounding the site involves the potential for billions of barrels of oil ready to be extracted[2].

In the Past 30 Years: ANWR drilling has come to a congressional vote nine different times[3].

  • However, this refuge boasts an extensive variety of flora and fauna, including Caribou calving grounds[4].
  • Native Alaskans that live near the site rely upon it for subsistence hunting, and will be most directly affected by any development[5].

About the Site

 1960: United States established the Arctic National Wildlife Range[6]

1980: United States Congress passed the “Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act”[7]

  • Site was renamed: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)[8]
  • ANWR became nearly 20 million acre refuge[9]
  • Congress also set apart 1.5 million acre section of land[10]

Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) Section 1002 Stated:

  • 5 million acre section set aside for studies to be performed
  • Studies will determine potential impacts of oil drilling on the environment[11]
  • Since this stipulation was carried out in the 1002 section of this act, the land to be studied was named the 1002 Area[12]
“ANWR Map” (Grafton 2015).

Potential Oil in ANWR

The U. S. Geological Survey Determined that in the 1002 Area:

  • 7 billion barrels of recoverable oil including oil that lies within native Lands[13]
  • 4 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the area, excluding Native Lands[14]

The Institute for Energy Research: found that the 1002 area could produce at a rate of one million barrels of oil per day[15], equivalent to 20% of current U.S. domestic production[16]. This would make ANWR the largest producing field in North America[17] and could create up to 736,000 jobs for American workers[18]. However, not just American companies are vying for the right to drill[19].

Potential Consequences of Drilling

Impact on Caribou: Porcupine Herd[20]

  • Largest herd of Caribou in the world[21]
  • 1002 Area is situated directly in the calving grounds[22],[23] (see map)
  • Drilling could disturb the calving process, leading to significant population decreases[24],[25]

Often overlooked: The Native Alaskan Voices

  • Individuals living near ANWR would be most directly impacted[26]
  • The Gwich’in trace their establishment on the land through oral history to 20,000 years ago[27]
  • Relied historically and still do today on caribou for subsistence hunting[28]
  • Inupiat at Kaktovik rely on Caribou as well as the sea life which would be negatively impacted if there was ever an oil spill[29]

Native Alaskans have been marginalized since contact with Russian fur trappers[30]

  • Nomadic lifestyle was forced to end to adapt to the western economy[31]
  • Purchase of Alaska: many Native Alaskans forced up ancestral religions that tied them to the land and to its creatures[32],[33]
  • Native Alaskan’s connections to their land and heritage have been lost due to industrialization, economic marginalization, and institutional racism[34],[35]
“Western Arctic Caribou Herd” (Northern Alaska Environmental Center 2009).

Larger Context

Alaska: Historical economy focused on resource extraction

  • Fur trade, then gold rush, and most recently oil drilling[36]

Oil Drilling

Production in 1988: 738 million barrels of oil (25% of the nation’s produced oil)[35]

Production has since been in decline 2013 production amounts totaling 188 million barrels (7% of the nations production)[37]

  • This has lead to economic decline and job losses in oil production industries, and has also led to greater dependence on foreign oil[38]
  • ANWR drilling has been cited to increase jobs, and to decrease America’s dependence on foreign oil[39]
  • However, many companies that would be drilling are not American owned, which would lead to an outsourcing of jobs[40]

If ANWR were opened up to drilling would be the loss of public land to private companies[41]. The Institution of Energy Research cites there is an estimated 10.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil[42].

  • This EIA number contains all possible recoverable oil, including that in native lands. Indicates oil companies intend to acquire large amounts of federal and native land reserves for private gain.

Native Alaskan Life

  • Gwich’in and Inupiat have strong oral traditions[43]
  • Missionaries enforced English writings, resulting in a loss of their historical knowledge, negatively impacting their sense of community and place in society[44]
  • Due to privatization of land are unable to continue nomadic lifestyle[45]
  • Within villages – high rates of unemployment and poverty[46]
  • Alaska Native suicide rate is 4 times greater than that of other races[47]

In the villages where ANWR is being proposed for drilling: unemployment rates nearly quadruple statewide average unemployment rates[48]. Food needs in rural areas comes from subsistence hunting and gathering[49]. These are communities that are rural, impoverished, and depend vitally on the land to survive.[50],[51]

  National Average Native Alaskan Averages
Life Expectancy 76.7 69.4
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) 11.5% 26.5%
Post Neonatal Mortality 2.5% 4.5%
Population Below US Poverty Level Standard 17.8% 25.7%
Unemployment (men) 5.1% 27.3%
Unemployment (women) 5.4% 16%

Comparison of National averages and Native Alaskan averages. (data from: AAANative Arts 2016).

“Porcupine Caribou herd calving” (USGS 2014).


Injustices towards Native Alaskans can be explained through Sociopolitical means and Racial Discrimination[52].

The EPA regulates drilling sites, but no process is ever completely free of contamination or alteration to the environment[53]. Opposition to ANWR drilling centers around the Caribou herd, not the protection of Inupiat of Gwich’in and their exposure to the processes associated with extraction of oil or natural gas.


  • Mohai’s Theory: Industry and government pursue areas of least resistance in regards to pollution and hazardous waste.

The villages do not hold great political sway. Rural isolation and poverty make it difficult to rally and organize to form a political action committee, or launch “not in my backyard” campaigns. Native Alaskans are underrepresented in Alaskan Government and at Nation’s Capital. Therefore, oil companies will be more inclined to drill near the Native Alaskan population.

Racial Discrimination:

  • Native Alaskans were forced to abandon their nomadic lifestyle to live in an established permanent village now have to deal with extraordinarily high food and energy prices[54],[55].
  • Efforts to establish health care, infrastructure, and education to provide a bustling economy has been neglected[56],[57].

Caribou are essential means of survival. Removing native’s ability to hunt the caribou due to herd depletion will impact their health and food supplies for the winter[58].

ANILCA states “Production of oil and gas from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is prohibited and no leasing or other development leading to production of oil from the range shall be under-taken until authorized by an Act of Congress” (ANILCA” Section 1003, 1980). Native Alaskans who oppose the opening up of ANWR for drilling do not have lobbyists or funding to represent them as an interest group in the policy process due to environmental injustices[59]. Policy makers that do oppose development do so on the basis of protecting the Caribou, not the Native Alaskans.

Potential Resolutions

Resolution of the environment can come about through multiple approaches, including Ecological economics and environmental economics[60].

Ecological economics argues that economic growth is harmful to sustainability[61]. The laws of thermodynamics ultimately set limits the amount of energy that can be utilized, in this case fossil fuels[62]. Oil usage results in the permanent loss of energy via heat, as well as the release of CO2, which is responsible for climate change[63]. The Arctic is sensitive to temperature changes, and unsustainable economic development will harm the environment[64]. If production were capped, this would ensure that the environment would be sustained.

Environmental Economics theory: companies interested in extracting oil haven’t internalized the externalities. If Caribou numbers are depleted, tundra destroyed, or an oil spill on land or sea were to occur, the company would not have figured into the price of its oil the cost of the environment[65].

There is no federal or state law that has quantified and put a price on nature, the externalities has not been internalized by the company. If development occurs the environment would pay the cost, without aid from profiting oil companies.

Resource curse: Communities with high resource reserves are ones most economically impoverished[66]. These Native communities would be subject to the resource curse, as have many Native Alaskan and Native Indian communities near development sites have in the past[69].

According to the theories of political economists, capitalism is not a viable economic system to have if one wants to preserve the environment[67]. Surplus value is only gained through either the exploitation of workers or the land. If the oil companies were regulated to ensure the environment was recovered, and that the Alaska workers at the 1002 Area were given the wages they have truly earned, there would be no capitalists[68].


The ANWR 1002 Area brings forth contentious debate, with those in favor of drilling and those opposed to drilling presenting valid arguments. However, the opinion of the Native Alaskans, who will be the ones most directly impacted, needs to be given proper attention and addressed as a critical factor.



[1] About the Refuge – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” Arctic – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Department of the Interior, 2004. Web. Accessed 18 Oct. 2014.

[2] Malcom-Brown, Jamie. “Alaska Natives Mount Resistance to Latest ANWR Drilling Legislation.” Cultural Survival: Partnering with Indigenous Peoples to Defend Their Lands, Languages, and Cultures. Cultural Survival, 2002. Web. Accessed 23 Oct. 2014.

[3] Farese, Jeffery. “Caribou in the Arctic Refuge.” Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. University of Connecticut, 1987. Web. Accessed 23 Oct. 2014.

[4] Malcom-Brown (2002)

[5] About the Refuge (2004)

[6] Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA)” Pub. L. No. 96-487. 94 STAT. 237. Section 1002-1004 (December 2, 1980)

[7] Department of the Interior (2004)

[8] Department of the Interior (2004)

[9] ANILCA (1980)

[10] ANILCA (1980)

[11] “Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 1002 Area, Petroleum assessment, 1998, Including Economic Analysis” U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, 1998. Web. Accessed 22 Oct. 2014.

[12] U.S. Geological Survey (1998)

[13] “U.S. Government Shuts Out Increased Alaskan Oil Production” Institute for Energy Research: latest Analysis. Institute for Research Analysis. 2011. Web. Accessed 5 Oct. 2014.

[14] Institute for Research Analysis (2011)

[15] Institute for Research Analysis (2011)

[16] “Employment: ANWR Information Brief” ANWR could create 736,000 jobs. Arctic Power. 2002. Web. Accessed 20 Oct. 2014

[17] ANWR Information Brief (2002)

[18] “BP Plans $1B in New Investment, Adding Two Drillin Rigs and 200 Jobs in Alaska” British Petroleum. BP Press Office. 2013. Web. Accessed 18 Oct. 2014–1b-in-new-investment–adding-two-drilling-rigs-and-200.html

[19] Mitchell, John, and John Dunne. “Arctic National Wildlife Refuge” Arctic National Wildlife Refuge at National Geographic, 2002. Web. Accessed 23 Oct. 2014.

[20] Farese, Jeffery. “Caribou in the Arctic Refuge.” Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. University of Connecticut, 1987. Web. Accessed 23 Oct. 2014.

[21] Lemke, Deana. “About the Herd.” The Herd. Porcupine Caribou Management Board, 22 Apr. 1987. Web. Accessed 23 Oct. 2014.

[22] Mitchell (2002)

[23] Farese (1987)

[24] Malcom-Brown (2002)

[25] Larocque, Bridget. “Gwich’in Council International: The Gwich’in.”Gwich’in Council International: The Gwich’in. Gwich’in Council International, 2004. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.

[26] Larocque (2004)

[27] “Alaska Natives, Villages and Alaskan Indian Communities.” Alaskan Natives. Alaska Native Arts, 1999. Web. Accessed 23 Oct. 2014.

[28] Blum, Justin. “Alaska Town Split Over Drilling in Wildlife Refuge.” The Washington Post. Post Business. 2005. Web. Accessed 21 Oct. 2014.

[29] Barnhardt, Ray. “Culture, Community and Place in Alaska Native Education.” Alaska Native Knowledge Network. University of Alaska Fairbanks, 1996. Web. Accessed 20 Oct. 2014.

[30] Barnhardt (1996)

[31] Malcom-Brown (2002)

[32] Malcom-Brown (2002)

[33] Barnhardt (1996)

[34] Malcom-Brown (2002)

[35] “Alaska” Encyclopedia: Dictionary of American History. The Gale Croup. 2003. Web. Accessed 25 November 2014.

[36] “U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA – Independent Statistics and Analysis.” How Much Oil Is Produced in Alaska and Where Does It Go? U.S. Department of Energy, 2008. Web. Accessed 23 Oct. 2014.

[37] US Department of Energy (2008)

[38] Institute for Research Analysis (2011)

[39] Arctic Power (2002)

[40] BP Press Office (2013)

[41] US Department of the Interior (1998)

[42] Institute for Research Analysis (2011)

[43] Bandhart (1996)

[44] Bandhart (1996)

[45] Bandhart (1996)

[46] Alaska Native Arts (1999)

[47] Alaska Native Arts (1999)

[48] Alaska Native Arts (1999)

[49] Alaska Native Arts (1999)

[50] Alaska Native Arts (1999)

[51] Bandhart (1996)

[52] Mohai, P., Pellow, D., Roberts, T. “Environmental Justice.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources. 2009: 34: 405 – 430

[53] Lemke (1987)

[54] Bandhart (1996)

[55] Alaska Native Arts (1999)

[56] Bandhart (1996)

[57] Malcom-Brown (2002)

[58] Alaska Native Arts (1999)

[59] Malcom-Brown (2002)

[60] Daly, Herman. (1996) “Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development” Beacon Press, Boston, MA.

[61] Daly, Herman. (1996) “Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development” Beacon Press, Boston, MA.

[62] Daly, Herman. (1996) “Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development” Beacon Press, Boston, MA.

[63] Farese (1987)

[64] Farese (1987)

[65] Farese, Jeffery. “Caribou in the Arctic Refuge.” Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. University of Connecticut, 1987. Web. Accessed 23 Oct. 2014.

[66] Malcom-Brown (2002)

[67] Robbins, Hintz, and Moore. “Chapter 7-12” in Environment and Society, 2nd Edition. New York, Blackwell, 2014.

[68] Robbins, Hintz, and Moore. “Chapter 7-12” in Environment and Society, 2nd Edition. New York, Blackwell, 2014.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s