Special Use Permits are required for commercial operations, scientific research and some other uses of refuge lands and waters. Examples of uses requiring special use permits are commercial filming, salvage operations, sand and gravel removal, guiding and transporting, archeological and biological studies, and set net sites. Specific uses are discussed below with links to download special use permit applications and special instructions.

  • Commercial Services such as Guiding/Outfitting and Transporting 

Hunting, fishing, birding, kayaking and other types of commercial guides/outfitters require special use permits for operating on refuge lands or waters. Big game guides have a different application process than other commercial users. See Big Game Guiding below.

Transporters such as water taxis and air charters must obtain permits if they transport goods or clients onto refuge lands or waters.

Cruise ships and tour boats that put visitors ashore on refuge islands or use refuge waters also need special use permits. Permits from the refuge are NOT required for tour boats or ships that only use State waters to view wildlife on refuge islands such as the Chiswells.

The application process is different for Big Game Guides. These permits are awarded through a competitive selection process, and are valid for a five-year period with an option for a five-year extension contingent on satisfactory performance. Areas are offered periodically as permits expire or as incumbents choose to discontinue their operations. Alaska Maritime Refuge has three big game guide use areas: AKM-01, Ann-Stevens Cape Lisburne and Cape Thompson Subunits of the Refuge, AKM-02, Sutwik Island, and AKM-03, refuge lands on Adak Island. AKM-01 and AKM-02 were last offered in 2003, and AKM-03 in 2006. Qualified Alaska big game guides may apply when these areas are open.

  • Videographers  

Commercial filming, television filming and soundtrack recording on the refuge will require special use permits.

  • Use and Occupancy of Refuge Lands  

Special Use Permits are required for use of cabins, long-term tent camps, and sites used in commercial fisheries operations. Other land uses involving structures, facilities or equipment may require a Right-of-Way Permit issued by the Division of Realty of the Fish and Wildlife Service instead of a Special Use Permit. Please contact the refuge for further information about permits for land use.

  • Scientific Research-Related Investigations  

All scientific research activities such as biological, seismic, archaeological, and geologic surveys and studies require a permit.

Activities Allowed Without a Permit 


The general public does not need special use permits to visit the refuge and engage in wildlife-dependent recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, photography, environmental education, interpretation, hiking and camping. While enjoying the refuge, visitors must adhere to all pertinent refuge regulations, State and federal laws, and State hunting regulations.