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Permits

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Commercial Permit Changes:

ATTENTION COMMERCIAL VIDEOGRAPHERS and PHOTOGRAPHERS: The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge announces that commercial videography and commercial still photography operations will be subject to permit application periods beginning for the 2015 permit year. Businesses seeking to commercially film or photograph in the winter and spring of 2015 should apply October 1 to November 30, 2014, and those seeking to commercially film or photograph in the summer and fall of 2015 should apply January 1 to April 15, 2015.


Do I need a Special Use Permit?

The Arctic Refuge is open to the public year-round. If you are visiting the Refuge on your own or as a member of a recreational group, no permit is required. If, however, you conduct a commercial activity such as guiding, film-making, or providing commercial transportation; or if you propose to conduct scientific or geological research or other non-recreational activities, a Special Use Permit is required. If you are a non-resident conducting big-game hunting activities, you are required to use an authorized hunting guide.

Requirements for motor boat businesses and operators for polar bear viewing. (250 kb PDF)


When may I apply for a Special Use Permit?

If you are interested in applying for a commercial, recreation-related permit, which includes recreational guiding and Air taxi services (FAA certified, point to point aircraft transportation on Refuge lands and waters), you must apply during one of two application periods: January 1 to April 15, or October 1 to November 30. Complete applications received during these time periods will be processed within 45 days of receipt. Incomplete applications will be returned to you after the closing date. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that the application is complete and all fees are paid by the closing date. Applications received outside of these periods will be processed during the next open period.

Applications for other proposed Refuge activities may be submitted at any time.


How do I begin the permit process?

1) Read through this "Permits" page to see if a permit is required for your desired activity. If one is, determine which type of permit you should apply for.

2) Before you request a permit, please become familiar with the wildlife, wilderness, and recreational values for which the Arctic Refuge was established and which must be protected. Additional information about the Refuge is available on this web site in the "Overview," "Wildlife/Wild Lands," " History & Culture," and "Visitors & Educators" sections. Read these sections to gain further insights about what activities might be allowed on the Refuge.

3) To apply for a Special Use Permit, contact the staff member listed below for the type of permit in which you are interested.


How long does the permit process take?

Once we receive your completed permit application the process can take up to 45 days so a request for a Special Use Permit should be submitted as early as possible. In order to protect Refuge values, we may require revision of schedules, location, means of access, party size, and/or methods.


What special considerations do I need to be aware of?

Refuge staff members take into consideration Refuge management plans and policies as well as a number of federal and state laws when considering each permit application. Among them are the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), the Refuge Administration Act, the Refuge Improvement Act of 1997, the Wilderness Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Marine Mammals Protection Act, and the Arctic Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan. These mandates and guidelines require particularly careful scrutiny of any Refuge use not allowed to the general public. Some issues given special attention are:

1) Motorized equipment - All requests for motorized access not specifically allowed by ANILCA (e.g., helicopters, all-terrain vehicles, airboats) are carefully scrutinized and may be prohibited.

2) Installations - Placement of installations (e.g., data collection stations, weather stations, remote video, and rock bolts) are carefully scrutinized and may be prohibited.

3) Areas of special designation - Areas with special designation, including designated Wilderness, three Wild River corridors, two Research Natural Areas, and nine recommended National Natural Landmarks, may have special considerations and regulatory requirements.

4) Wildlife - The potential for the proposed activity to interfere with or attract wildlife, or its potential for causing dangerous interactions between wildlife and humans, will be carefully examined and may result in modification or denial of the proposed activity.

5) Group size - Total group size for permitted commercial recreational activities is limited to seven people for groups on foot and ten people for float trips. These numbers include guides. For float trips, each company is limited to one group on an individual river at a time. Other Special Use Permit holders such as scientific groups are limited to personnel directly involved in program activities.


What type of permit is of interest to you?

Commercial Operations - Recreational Guide, Educational Group, Air Taxi Operator, Hunting Guide, Videographer, and Still Photographer

Scientific or Geological studies and all other proposed activities



Special Use Permits for Commercial Operations:


For commercial permits, please request a permit application form and send completed application packets to the person listed below for each type of permit.


Recreational Guide

A Special Use Permit is required for all commercial operations on National Wildlife Refuges, including any activities for which participants pay a fee for any services rendered or goods delivered on Refuge lands. This includes guided/outfitted trips for river floating, backpacking, and related activities. Currently there are no limits on the number of non-hunting guides permitted on the Arctic Refuge, but there are group size and other limitations. A $100 administrative fee is required.

Complete applications received during one of two application periods--January 1 to April 15, or October 1 to November 30--will be processed within 45 days of receipt. Incomplete applications will be returned to you after the closing date. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that the application is complete and all fees are paid by the closing date. Applications received outside of these periods will be processed during the next open period.

Contact Alfredo Soto for this permit application and application information. 

Alfredo Soto, Refuge Operations Specialist
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
101 12th Avenue, Room 236
Fairbanks, AK 99701

phone: 907/456-0303 (direct line) or 800/362-4546
fax: 907/456-0428
Email: alfredo_soto@fws.gov


Educational Group

A Special Use Permit is required for all commercial operations on National Wildlife Refuges, including any activities for which participants pay a fee for any services rendered or goods delivered on Refuge lands. This includes instructor-led educational groups where students earn educational credits for an accredited course. Currently there are no limits on the number of such groups permitted on the Arctic Refuge, but there are group size and other limitations. Because of this, an early teleconference or a meeting between Refuge staff and the project leader is recommended. A $100 administrative fee is required.

Contact Alfredo Soto for this permit application and application information. 

Alfredo Soto, Refuge Operations Specialist
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
101 12th Avenue, Room 236
Fairbanks, AK 99701

phone: 907/456-0303 (direct line) or 800/362-4546
fax: 907/456-0428
Email: alfredo_soto@fws.gov


Air Taxi Operator

A Special Use Permit is required for all companies providing flights for which passengers pay a fee, or for any services rendered or goods delivered on Refuge lands. Currently there are no limits on the number of air taxi operators or flights permitted on the Arctic Refuge. A $100 administrative fee is required.

Complete applications received during one of two application periods--January 1 to April 15, or October 1 to November 30--will be processed within 45 days of receipt. Incomplete applications will be returned to you after the closing date. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that the application is complete and all fees are paid by the closing date. Applications received outside of these periods will be processed during the next open period.

Contact Alfredo Soto for this permit application and application information. 

Alfredo Soto, Refuge Operations Specialist
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
101 12th Avenue, Room 236
Fairbanks, AK 99701

phone: 907/456-0303 (direct line) or 800/362-4546
fax: 907/456-0428
Email: alfredo_soto@fws.gov


Hunting Guide

Big game guide permits on the Arctic Refuge, as well as on the other 15 National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska, are awarded through a competitive selection process. Permits for exclusive guide use areas are awarded for a five-year period with an option for one five-year extension contingent upon managerial review and satisfactory performance. Areas are offered periodically as permits expire or as incumbents choose to discontinue their operations.

Contact Alfredo Soto for this permit application and application information. 

Alfredo Soto, Refuge Operations Specialist
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
101 12th Avenue, Room 236
Fairbanks, AK 99701

phone: 907/456-0303 (direct line) or 800/362-4546
fax: 907/456-0428
Email: alfredo_soto@fws.gov


Videography for Commercial Use

Permits are required for all commercial videography, including filming of documentaries, travelogues, feature stories, and advertising. News gathering organizations are exempt from fee, insurance, and bonding requirements, but may require a Special Use Permit to ensure compatibility with Refuge purposes, public use, ongoing research, or to protect Refuge resources. Because of this, an early teleconference or a meeting between Refuge staff and the project leader is recommended. A $100 fee may be required.

Contact Alfredo Soto for this permit application and application information. 

Alfredo Soto, Refuge Operations Specialist
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
101 12th Avenue, Room 236
Fairbanks, AK 99701

phone: 907/456-0303 (direct line) or 800/362-4546
fax: 907/456-0428
Email: alfredo_soto@fws.gov


Still Photography for Commercial Use

Permits are required for all commercial still photography that uses models or props which are not part of the site’s natural or cultural resources. News gathering organizations are exempt from fee, insurance, and bonding requirements, but may require a Special Use Permit to ensure compatibility with Refuge purposes, public use, ongoing research, or to protect Refuge resources. An early teleconference or a meeting between Refuge staff and the project leader is recommended to determine if a permit is required. If a permit is needed, a $100 fee may be required.

Contact Alfredo Soto for this permit application and application information. 

Alfredo Soto, Refuge Operations Specialist
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
101 12th Avenue, Room 236
Fairbanks, AK 99701

phone: 907/456-0303 (direct line) or 800/362-4546
fax: 907/456-0428
Email: alfredo_soto@fws.gov


Commercial Videography and Photography of Polar Bears

Please contact Alfredo Soto at 907/456-0303 or alfredo_soto@fws.gov if you plan to commercially film or photograph polar bears on Refuge lands or waters. The following information applies:

The lagoon waters surrounding Barter Island are under Refuge jurisdiction. If you plan to conduct commercial filming or photography on Refuge waters, you are required to 1) have a Refuge-issued commercial filming/photography special use permit; and 2) use the services of a Refuge-permitted boat operating business. This combination allows you to conduct filming and/or photography activities that do not change the behavior of polar bears. Permitted boat operators are required to operate in a way that does not affect polar bear behavior; your activities would be held to the same standard.

If your filming and/or photography has the potential to disrupt a bear’s natural behavior, you are also required to – in advance of your activity – obtain through the Division of Management Authority (DMA) a separate, additional permit which authorizes limited disturbance to polar bears. Having a DMA permit authorizes your project a prescribed level and quantity of disturbance. Work with your boat operator to stay within the limits of your prescribed disturbance levels and quantities.

If disturbance to polar bears occurs as a result of your activities and you do not have a DMA permit (or you violate the conditions of your DMA permit), you would be in violation of the Marine Mammals Protection Act and/or the Endangered Species Act and you could be held legally responsible. 

Alfredo Soto, Refuge Operations Specialist
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
101 12th Avenue, Room 236
Fairbanks, AK 99701

phone: 907/456-0303 (direct line) or 800/362-4546
fax: 907/456-0428
Email: alfredo_soto@fws.gov


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Special Use Permits for Scientific or Geological Studies, and other activities:



For scientific and geological studies, and all other activities, please contact: 

Alfredo Soto, Refuge Operations Specialist
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
101 12th Avenue, Room 236
Fairbanks, AK 99701

phone: 907/456-0303 (direct line) or 800/362-4546
fax: 907/456-0428
Email: alfredo_soto@fws.gov


Scientific Studies

A special use permit is required for all scientific studies or research activities occurring on National Wildlife Refuges where the US Fish and Wildlife Service is not an active participant in the activity. The permit application and a study or operational plan should give Refuge staff the information needed to determine whether or not to allow the activity and to decide what special conditions may be needed to safeguard Refuge resources and the experiences of visitors. Because of this, an early teleconference or a meeting between Refuge staff and the project leader is recommended.

Contact Alfredo Soto for this permit application and application information.


Geology Studies

A Special Use Permit is required for all geological studies occurring on National Wildlife Refuges. The permit application and an operational plan should give Refuge staff the information needed to determine whether or not to allow the activity and what special conditions may be needed to safeguard Refuge resources and the experiences of visitors. Because of this, an early teleconference or a meeting between Refuge staff and the project leader is recommended. A $100 fee may be required.

Contact Alfredo Soto for this permit application and application information.


Permits for other Activities

Permit requests which do not fit under any of the above categories may be allowed on the Arctic Refuge if they are compatible with the purposes of the Refuge. A $100 fee may be required.

Contact Alfredo Soto if you have questions about permits for other activities.


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Page Photo Credits — All photos courtesy of USFWS unless otherwise noted.
Last Updated: Sep 30, 2014
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