Creator of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge honoredEstes Park resident Dr. Robert Krear was one of the speakers for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Dr. Krear was invited to the headquarters of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service near Washington, D.C., the week of Jan. 17-21 to speak at the anniversary ceremony.
In Washington, he was reunited with Dr. George Schaller. Along with Krear, they are the only surviving members of the famous Murie Arctic expedition. The two were among the featured speakers at this symposium involving numerous Alaskan biologists, refuge managers and other members of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Among the other speakers was former president Jimmy Carter.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the largest wildlife refuge in the United States. It is an area of great natural beauty that has been called the Serengeti of North America because of the wildlife populations that exist there. Dr. Krear considers his participation in the creation of the Arctic refuge the greatest contribution of his life.
It all began in 1956, when Dr. Krear, a local retired biology professor and scientist, received a phone call from Dr. Olaus Murie of Jackson Hole, Wyo., who invited him to join Murie's expedition to the northeast corner of Arctic Alaska for the purpose of assisting in ecological studies during exploration of that primitive area. It had been determined by the nation's top environmentalists following World War II that that area of Alaska was the last pristine Arctic wilderness area remaining on the entire planet. There was an urgent necessity to preserve it from commercialization.
Dr. Murie, the director of the Wilderness Society and a famed Alaskan biologist, agreed to lead the expedition. He was assisted by his wife, Dr. Margaret Murie, Dr. Brina Kessell and Dr. George Schaller of the University of Alaska, and Dr. Krear of the University of Colorado. At that time, Dr. Krear was already a veteran of two northern expeditions, one in Labrador and one in the Bering Sea Pribilof Islands. He was also a veteran of the famed World War II American Alpine Troops (the 10th Mountain Infantry Division), a professional forester and a National Park Service seasonal naturalist in eight parks. Following the Brooks Range Expedition, he participated in one final northern expedition when he conducted sea otter research on the far western Aleutian island of Amchitka. He would end his career as a veteran of four Arctic and sub-Arctic research expeditions, and having taught in four universities.
The studies completed in the summer of 1956 in the Arctic Brooks Range area were a major contribution to the establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife Range by the Eisenhower administration in 1960. It was doubled in size (to 19.3 million acres) and renamed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by President Jimmy Carter in 1980.