Fisheries & Ecological Services
Alaska Region


Environmental Contaminants

On Refuges

Alaska’s wild lands, including its National Wildlife Refuges are often envisioned as pristine, but even the most remote areas of the state often have a legacy of contamination. Past and current activities that have introduced contaminants to Alaska’s refuges include oil exploration and production, mining, military activities, and even nuclear weapons testing on Amchitka Island. Sites of past activity were often abandoned, and dueTanaga Island, Alaska Maritime NWR. USFWS. Click to Enlarge to the high cost of removal, debris and entire structures were left to decay. In some areas, hazardous materials were spilled with little or no cleanup. Abandoned, and usually empty, 55-gallon drums dot the landscape on many refuges. These drums eventually rust and release any remaining contents. Long range atmospheric transport and even migrating fish and wildlife can also bring detectable concentrations of contaminants from distant sources to National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska.

The Environmental Contaminants Program helps address refuge contaminant issues by providing technical assistance to refuge managers and their staff, by conducting studies of refuge resources, and conducting refuge-scale contaminant assessments. We also work with other programs to initiate refuge cleanup projects, coordinate Service pesticide use as part of a refuge's integrated pest management, and evaluate land transfers to ensure the Service does not acquire contaminated property.

Tanaga Island, Alaska Maritime NWR. USFWS. Click to Enlarge


Last updated: April 29, 2011