Resource Management


The Nowitna Refuge (1,560,000 acres), the Koyukuk Refuge (3,550,000 acres) and Northern Unit Innoko (350,800 acres) are managed out of the headquarters office in Galena, Alaska.

The main purpose of the Refuge is to conserve fish, wildlife and habitats in their natural diversity. Fish and wildlife species targeted by the legislation establishing the Refuge include: trumpeter swans, white-fronted geese, canvasback ducks, moose, caribou, marten, wolverines, salmon, sheefish, and northern pike. Other Refuge purposes are to fulfill international treaty obligations, to provide for continued subsistence opportunities and to insure water quality and quantity.

Refuge programs are aimed at maintaining its lands in their natural state, gathering baseline biological data, maintaining healthy populations of fish and wildlife, and providing information and education to the public.  Refuge management is complicated by a matrix of differing land jurisdictions and authorities (federal, state and private), especially near Ruby and Tanana, two villages along the Yukon River near the Refuge. 

The task of monitoring refuge resources extends beyond its borders, and involves partners including local village tribal councils, other State and Federal agencies, and research associates in other countries. The Refuge currently has cooperative studies underway in Canada and Mexico, two countries which host many of Nowitna's important migratory bird species during parts of their annual life cycles.

Subsistence hunting, gathering and trapping by local residents, mainly Koyukon Athabascan Indians, is the main public use on the Refuge. However, moose are eagerly sought by locals and visitors alike, and moose management has required increased attention in recent years. Controversies about allocation of fish and game resources (especially salmon and moose) among user groups, along with increased commercial guiding and transporting activities for moose hunting and pike fishing, have made dialog between refuge staff and the various user groups a priority of the Service.

The Refuge strives to maintain the region's natural fire cycle by carefully managing fires near settlements but allowing nature to take its course in areas where naturally occurring fires pose little hazard to humans. 

Comprehensive Conservation Plan

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act requires a  Comprehensive Conservation Plan for all refuges in Alaska. 

  • Revised Comprehensive Conservation Plan
  • Revised Comprehensive Conservation Plan Decision Summary with FONSI  

To help plants and wildlife, refuge staff uses a variety of habitat management techniques to maintain, recover or enhance plant and wildlife values. Refuge staff carefully considers any management techniques and employ them in varying degrees according to the situation. 

Water levels are carefully monitored and controlled to foster desired plant growth. Sometimes, sensitive areas are closed to the public so that the land can recover more quickly.   Prescribed burning, mowing, experimental bio-control insect releases, and seeding are also some of the techniques used to help native plants recover on national wildlife refuges.

Standardized ground and aerial wildlife surveys and vegetation surveys are conducted on some refuges throughout the year to inventory populations and document habitat use. Units are evaluated by how well they met habitat and wildlife use objectives. 

Public involvement and input are important to us and to the planning process, and we hope you will take an active interest in the process, individually and as a community.