The Arctic is a fragile and challenging environment. This vast landscape contains five ecological regions: from the southern boundaries of the boreal forest to the forest-tundra transition of the Brooks Range northward to the alpine tundra and then along the coast to the coastal plain tundra, salt marshes, lagoons and Arctic beaches.
Despite its unique landscapes and marine qualities shaped by unpredictable weather including extreme cold, snow and powerful winds, the Arctic is home to resilient wildlife adapted to withstand and even thrive in these tough conditions. From musk oxen and caribou to lemmings and Arctic foxes to polar bears and snowy owls, Arctic wildlife rely on the changing seasons and wild landscapes. Birds that migrate from all 50 states use the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain as a breeding ground during the summer. Ice-dependent seals, beluga whales, orcas and narwhals prey on Arctic fish species, including Arctic cod and Arctic char, which are a vital part of the marine food chain. Humpback, bowhead, fin and gray whales remain in Arctic waters for longer periods of time each year than previously thought.
Alaska Natives and other indigenous people have lived in the Arctic for thousands of years, living off the land and sea and adapting their homes, clothing and lifestyle to survive Arctic conditions.
Warming is causing a host of problems for northern Alaska villages, where Alaska Natives have traditionally been able to store food in the ground. In order to prevent conflict, Defenders is working with families to implement coexistence strategies, proactively helping to install food storage lockers and sharing information with communities that are seeing or could see more hungry polar bears wandering through their towns.
Defenders is advocating for protection of vital habitat in the Arctic and litigating against proposed development. We are speaking up publicly and submitting detailed scientific comments about the impacts oil and gas development will have on Arctic wildlife and habitat. Around the country, we are fighting climate change by promoting wildlife-friendly renewable energy development and encouraging a reduction of carbon emissions.