Refuge History

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The Innoko National Wildlife Refuge was established by Congress in 1980 as part of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which set aside lands for National Wildlife Refuges, National Parks, National Wild and Scenic Rivers, and wilderness areas throughout Alaska.

One of the primary reasons the Innoko Refuge was created was to protect one of the largest waterfowl habitat areas in interior Alaska. The Innoko Refuge provides a vast area of wetlands that are crucial for waterfowl nesting, resting, staging, and molting. Other special values that the refuge is noted for include habitat for avian raptor populations, as well as the natural water and fire regime that creates excellent habitat for moose.

ANILCA established the refuge in two units encompassing 4.6 million acres. The Northern Unit (751,000 acres) of the Refuge, also called Kaiyah Flats, is located adjacent to the Yukon River southwest of Galena. The Southern Unit (3.85 million acres) surrounds the Innoko River.

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Innoko National Wildlife Refuge is managed together with Koyukuk and Nowitna refuges out of a shared headquarters in Galena.  In the past, Innoko Refuge was headquartered in McGrath, but was joined with the others in 2013 as a cost-saving measure.