About the Refuge

Scenic Photo of Refuge

"To the biologically oriented individual, there is no better place [Cold Bay, Alaska] on earth, and few that will match it.  It is alive with creatures.  The Alaska brown bear, caribou, river otters, sea otters, waterfowl of several different species, sea life,--just never away from wildlife there."   ~ Bob "Sea Otter" Jones


The Izembek National Wildlife Refuge is 310,000 acres and one of the most ecologically unique of Alaska's refuges. Most of the refuge was designated as Wilderness in 1980 under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. This diverse wilderness protects a wide variety of fish and wildlife species and their habitats. These include five species of salmon; furbearers such as wolf, fox and wolverine; large mammals such as caribou, moose and brown bears; shorebirds; seabirds; and an incredible array of waterfowl, to name just a few.

Salmon returns to natal streams fuel this coastal ecosystem during the summer and fall. This rich fishery provides quality forage for coastal brown bears and other predators. The Southern Alaska Peninsula Caribou Herd (2,700 animals in 2018) also inhabits the Refuge. Several species of marine mammals either inhabit or pass through Refuge coastal waters and lagoons. These include harbor seal, sea otter, walrus, the threatened Stellar's sea lion, and gray, minke, killer and humpback whales.

At the heart of the Refuge is the 150-square mile Izembek Lagoon. The lagoon and its associated state-owned tidal lands have been protected by the State of Alaska since 1960 as the Izembek State Game Refuge. Here, shallow, brackish water covers one of the world's largest beds of eelgrass, creating a rich feeding and resting area for hundreds of thousands of waterfowl. Virtually the entire population of Pacific black brant (150,000 birds on average), Taverner's Canada goose (55,000), and emperor goose (6,000) inhabit the lagoon each fall. Approximately 23,000 threatened Steller's eiders also molt, rest, and feed at Izembek each autumn.

  • Refuge Purpose 

    The lands known today as the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge were set aside in 1960 by public land order. These lands were originally a part of the Aleutian Islands National Wildlife Refuge. With passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) in 1980, these lands were officially designated as
    the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and 300,000 acres were officially designated as the Izembek Wilderness Area. In addition,ANILCA established the purposes of the refuge which are:

    (1) to conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity including, but not limited to, waterfowl, shorebirds, and other migratory birds, brown bear, and salmonoids.
    Izembek National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Services Review

    2) To fulfill the international treaty obligations of the United States with respect to fi sh and wildlife and their habitats; (3) To provide, in a manner consistent with purposes set forth in subparagraphs (1) and (2), the opportunity for continued subsistence uses by local residents; and (4) To ensure, to the maximum extent practicable and in a manner consistent with the purposes set forth in subparagraph (1), water quality and necessary water quantity within the refuge.

  • Draft Vision Statement

    (Draft CCP, March 2007):Izembek National Wildlife Refuge lands will continue to be a pristine habitat, abundant with natural diversity, and serving as a place of rest, rejuvenation, and sustenance for both wildlife and the human spirit. The Refuge (spanning mountains, volcanoes, glaciers, and rocky cliffs to lowland tundra, wetlands and eelgrass-filled coastal lagoons) will continue providing a wind-swept pathway for migrant species moving globally, regionally, and locally, a vital link between a national system of refuges and global ecosystems. This will be a place where people develop relationships tied closely to the natural environment, whether for subsistence,

    recreation or a passion for wildness.