National Wildlife Refuge
|1,600 miles southwest of
Phone Number: 808-792-9560
|Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Baker Island National Wildlife Refuge
Baker Island National Wildlife Refuge, 20 miles north of the equator and 1,600 miles southwest of Honolulu, is a nearly level saucer-shaped 405-acre island surrounded by a narrow reef and 30,504 acres of submerged land.
Most of the refuge is marine habitat, including extensive coral reefs and other inshore tropical ocean habitats. Uninhabited, it is low, flat, sandy, and vegetated only by grasses, prostrate vines, and low-growing shrubs due to the scant rainfall and intense sun.
Hundreds of thousands of seabirds breed at Baker. The refuge provides nesting and roosting habitat for about 20 species of seabirds and shorebirds. The most numerous breeding seabird species are the lesser frigatebird, brown noddy, and sooty tern. Of all shorebirds reported on Baker, the ruddy turnstone, bar-tailed godwit, sanderling, bristle-thighed curlew, and Pacific golden plover are considered species of High Concern in the national conseration priority scheme for shorebirds. The islands provide crucial wintering habitat and may also serve as rest stops for arctic-breeding shorebirds that winter farther south.
Visitation is by special use permit only. The refuge is part of the Pacific Remote Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, whose office is in Honolulu.
Polynesians visited Baker Island prior to its discovery by European navigators, but no traces of Polynesian remains have been found there. An archaeological survey in 1987 identified 20 surface sites, all less than 200 years old. These include a lighthouse, the remains of a settlement, a guano miners' stone structure, a cemetery, mounds, trenches, and runway matting. Learn More>>
The refuge is closed to the public.
Due to its extremely remote location, resource values are largely maintained by natural processes and the refuge is monitored on an infrequent basis to ensure that these values have not been compromised. In fact, the Baker Island Refuge is only visited, on average, once every two years.
Logistic support is complex and costly (over $60,000 for vessel charter) so staff from the complex office coordinates closely with the U.S. Coast Guard for periodic no-cost transportation to the refuge in association with their patrols of the United States Exclusive Economic Zone in the area of Baker Island.
Several trips have been conducted through coordination with ham radio operators who have been permitted to broadcast from the refuge. As part of their permit, they are required to transport at least one refuge staff member to monitor their activities.
Human activities have resulted in invasive species being introduced, including house cats, rats, various cockroach species, and plants such as coconut palm, tropical almond, ilima, Portuaca oleracea, and milo. The cats were introduced in 1937 and finally eliminated in 1965. The rats were documented as early as 1854 and in many accounts were described as extremely abundant.Learn More>>