WHY TO LOVE THIS PLACE
In the southwest corner of the Reserve, in the shadow of the Brooks Range, lays a lush grassland ecosystem — calving grounds and insect relief for the Western Arctic caribou herd. Here you’ll also find the highest concentration of grizzly bears in the Arctic, as well as large populations of moose, wolves and wolverines. Many Pacific golden plovers who nest in this area migrate to Hawaii, but their migration can extend all the way to New Zealand.
More than forty villages across the northwest Arctic and Norton Sound region rely on the Western Arctic caribou herd as a subsistence resource. The area is home to the Utukok River, a 225-mile long waterway that empties into Kasegaluk Lagoon and the Chukchi Sea. The Utukok River Uplands Special Area is the largest of the five special areas at approximately four million acres, or about 22% of the Reserve.
The uplands cover more than 4 million acres, or about one-fifth of the entire Reserve. The Utukok River flows for 225 miles, eventually emptying into the Arctic Ocean.
For birds including the peregrine falcon and golden plover, as well as the Western Arctic caribou herd.
Caribou, moose, wolverines, raptors, migratory birds and the largest concentration of brown bears in Arctic Alaska.
“Utukok” means “old” or “ancient” in Iñupiaq.
40+ villages continue to use the river, lands and caribou as part of a traditional lifestyle.
Protecting the Utukok River Uplands is critical to preserving this Special Area’s wildlife and subsistence values; however, potential development could bring great harm to key resources in the Utukok, which provides migration routes and birthing grounds for the Western Arctic caribou herd as well as important habitat for bears, wolverines and other wildlife.
Climate change is also having a profound effect on the region — average temperatures are increasing in both summer and winter, which affects everything from the stability of permafrost to the growing seasons for and availability of various vegetation for wildlife.