National Wildlife Refuge
|6 Main Street
PO Box 270
Dillingham, AK 99576
Phone Number: 907-842-1063
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|Pacific Walrus find sanctuary on Togiak at their largest haulout on a National Wildlife Refuge.|
Continued . . . Archaeological evidence indicates that the Cape Newenham/Togiak region of southwestern Alaska has been continuously occupied for at least 2,000 years. One site at Security Cove shows evidence of possible human occupancy dating back 4,000 to 5,000 years. Abundant fish and marine mammal resources supported local people, supplemented by waterfowl and other birds. Archaeological evidence shows that caribou were harvested as well. The first known European contact with Native peoples in southwest Alaska came in 1778, with the expedition of Captain James Cook.
Today the native peoples of this region are collectively known as Yup'ik Eskimos. Many native people continue the traditional ways of their ancestors, living a subsistence lifestyle. Subsistence users rely on the plants and wildlife of the refuge as a source of food, clothing, and raw materials. A main purpose of Togiak National Wildlife Refuge is to continue to provide subsistence opportunities for local people.
The fur trade and reindeer herding were both important in the early economy of southwest Alaska. The Alexandrovski Redoubt, a Russian fort, was built at Nushagak (near the present day city of Dillingham) in 1818 and handled over 4,000 furs annually. In 1900, gold was discovered in the vicinity of Goodnews Bay, and a flood of hopeful miners followed. Some mine claims in the area are still active. Reindeer herding was introduced in the region around 1904, but this trade essentially died out by 1940.
In the 1880s, salmon canneries were established in the area and the commercial salmon fishery quickly became the primary industry in the area. This importance continues to the present day, with fishing fleets based in most communities. Herring and halibut fisheries are also important sources of income.
Prior to 1969, the area that was to become Togiak National Wildlife Refuge was public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. In 1969, part of these lands were set aside as the Cape Newenham National Wildlife Refuge. In 1980, under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), the 265,000 acre Cape Newenham Refuge was expanded and renamed, becoming the 4.7 million acre Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. The northern 2.3 million acres of the refuge are designated as a Wilderness Area. Since 1969, staff have worked to document the abundance and life history strategies of fish, wildlife, and plants, have successfully reintroduced a caribou herd to the Nushagak Peninsula, and to educate the public as partners in our appreciation and conservation of this amazing place.
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