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In 1980 I lived in Henderson, Kentucky. While I was serving as the Naturalist for John James Audubon State Park and was engaged in several local environmental battles during my time in Kentucky, I was also asked to become a Regional Coordinator of the Alaska Coalition. My agenda was focused on convincing the elected officials of the State of Kentucky that Alaska was important and that they should support legislation that had been introduced and ultimately create places such as the Arctic National Refuge. Let me say that task was not easy, because the “coal mentality” of those elected representatives did not foster a conservation ethic for Kentucky, let alone for Alaska.

In the end, thousands of people across the State of Kentucky (and the rest of the United States) stood up for passage of the Alaska Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). After much arm twisting, the two U.S. Senators both supported passage as did a number of Congressional members. I spent untold hours walking the halls of Congress, making telephone calls and attending meetings to urge passage of ANILCA. I was honored to be in the East Room of the White House on December 2, 1980 when President Carter signed the Act into Law.

Years later as an Adjunct Sustainability Professor with the University of Alaska Fairbanks I was pleased to be able to spend time in many of the areas that thousands of U.S. citizens helped to create, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was originally created in 1960 as the Arctic National Wildlife Range, and when ANILCA was signed into law in 1980 it was re-designated as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. That was 36 years ago. Now, in 2016 it is time to permanently protect this magnificent Refuge at the top of the world.

David Allen Sibley is an American ornithologist. He is the author and illustrator of The Sibley Guide to Birds, considered by many to be the most comprehensive guide for North American field identification. His interview featured in the video below, much more eloquently than I am able to express in words the importance of protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge once and for all.

This post was originally posted on ISC-Audubon's website