The Alaska Coalition was founded in 1970 to speak up for potential national parks, national wildlife refuges, wilderness areas and wild rivers during the dividing up of Alaska federal lands that occurred in the early 1970s. The state and people of Alaska had been given right to takeover 103,350,000 acres of Alaska federal lands at the time of statehood (out of the total of 375,000,000 acres in Alaska) — by far the most generous statehood land grant in American history. Then, under pressure to open the way for the Trans Alaska Pipeline, Congress finally worked out a settlement of the aboriginal land claims of Alaska’s original people — the Alaska Natives, Indians and Aleuts. As the result of a vigorous campaign, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was enacted in 1971. Thanks to the work of the Alaska Coalition, it included a national interest lands section — known as 17(d)2; for the section of the law, 17(d)(2) — which required federal study to identify and given interim protection to as much as 80 million acres for future parks, refuges and wilderness areas.
On the basis of those studies, and after the biggest national conservation campaign in history, the hard work of the Alaska Coalition — and the leadership of President Jimmy Carter — led to the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) in 1980. This landmark law protected over 100 million acres of federal public lands as Wilderness, National Parks, and National Wildlife Refuges. While ANILCA achieved many great protections, it failed to grant full Wilderness protection to the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. So, the Alaska Coalition focused heavily on winning Wilderness protection for the coastal plain as well as defending it from attempts to open it for development in the 1980’s and 1990’s. While Congress has yet to grant Wilderness protection to the coastal plain, the support for doing so rises every year.
In the spring of 2007, Alaska Wilderness League integrated with the Alaska Coalition. This integration enhances the broader conservation community’s grassroots capacity to protect Alaska’s wilderness. The League and its staff now serve as the coordinators for both the national Coalition as well as state based coalitions formed under the Alaska Coalition.