For the past ten years, AWL has taken the lead in the fight to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from being opened to oil and gas development, and its leadership has made a significant impact in this area. The organization has rallied public support and successfully stopped numerous attempts by Congress to open the refuge to development.
In 2001 AWL and its supporters helped fund photographer Subhankar Banerjee’s ground-breaking winter field photography in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The photos he took were published in the book Seasons of Life and Land . Banerjee’s photographs of the Refuge were exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, and controversy erupted when his caption for the photos were altered and the exhibit was moved to a far corner of the museum. Some charged that that Alaska Senator Ted Stevens had used political pressure to remove the exhibit from the spolight because Sentaor Barbara Boxer had held up Banerjee’s book during a Senate floor debate over oil drilling in the Refuge, but the museum maintained the changes were made “for artistic reasons”.
Starting in 2004 AWL expanded it work to include ecologially significant areas of Alaska’s vast National Petroleum Reserve, the Tongass National Forest, and the outer continental shelf areas of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.
AWL's work has had long-standing support from President Jimmy Carter, who remains the Honorary Chairman of their Board of Directors.