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Midway Atoll is an unorganized, unincorporated territory of the United States and is the only atoll/island in the Hawaiian archipelago not part of the State of Hawai‘i. Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on behalf of the American people and has international significance for both its historic and natural resources.
In 1988, Midway became a National Wildlife Refuge, at the time subject to the primary jurisdiction of the Navy. In 1993, the Navy decided to close the Naval Air Facility, after more than 50 years of continuous operation. On May 20, 1996, custody and accountability for Midway Atoll transferred from the Department of the Navy to the Department of the Interior. President Clinton signed Executive Order 13022 on October 31, 1996, effectively superseding earlier orders assignment responsibility for Midway to the Navy. A new code of regulations governing activities at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge was published in the Federal Register on March 10, 1998.
At a formal transfer ceremony in April 1997, Navy Secretary John Dalton described the changing mission of Midway as a transition "from guns to gooneys." When Midway became a national wildlife refuge, it joined a network of more than 500 separate units of the National Wildlife Refuge System, encompassing nearly 93 million acres, throughout all 50 states and several territories and possessions. Refuges represent the only Federal lands set aside and managed principally for the conservation of fish and wildlife.
Nearly 30 million people visit refuges each year. Like other refuges, Midway attracts people who wish to observe, study and enjoy wildlife and historic resources. Midway is not a resort. Rather, it is a special place where visitors can experience an abundance of wildlife, up close and personal. Activities are carefully managed to avoid disturbance of the wildlife that call Midway home.