Resource Management

Working on Palmyra

The operation and management of remote island refuges, such as Palmyra, pose different challenges compared to other refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Costs to manage these refuges are generally high due to the expenses of transporting goods and personnel to a remote location. It has also proven costly to maintain operations and equipment in harsh marine climates.


The management of Palmyra Atoll NWR focuses on 3 main areas.

Invasive Species Management:

Invasive Species Management: Remote atoll ecosystems are havens of biological diversity, but vulnerable to ecological invasions. At Palmyra Atoll Refuge, invasive plants, and insects are unraveling well-established relationships between terrestrial and marine systems.  In 2011 the USFWS, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and Island Conservation, were able to rid introduced rats from all the islands in the atoll.   Native plant and animal populations are now flourishing where they were once suppressed by being eaten by rats. For more information about how this complex project was carried out go to the Palmyra Rat Eradication Final Environmental Impact Statement.   The USFWS and its partners have designed a proactive, adaptive, and integrated invasive species management approach to curtail and prevent the influence of invasive species on private and federal lands at Palmyra. Refuge invasive species management focuses on...

  • Restoration of biological integrity through control/eradication of focal invasive species;
  • Implementation of innovative and unique prevention measures as the first line of defense against new invasions and;
  • Early detection and rapid response efforts to increase the likelihood that invasions are localized and within containment/eradication capabilities.

Recreation Management: Boat captains and crew are required to be trained on the scope, restrictions, and associated rationale for the sportfishing program.

Research Management: Palmyra Atoll attracts field researchers from a variety of disciplines to study unperturbed wildlife and functioning ecological communities. The absence of  a human population to impact terrestrial and marine natural resources at Palmyra offers scientists the opportunity to study how undisturbed ecological communities are structured and function in as close to the original ecological condition as can be found anywhere on earth.  

In July 2004, The Nature Conservancy established the Palmyra Atoll Research Consortium (PARC) with researchers from around the globe (Stanford University, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, American Museum of Natural History, California Academy of Sciences, University of California at Santa Barbara, University of California at Irvine, University of Hawaii, U.S. Geological Survey, and Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand). This group of scientists is researching various international environmental issues ranging from climate change to disappearing coral reefs and invasive species at Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef NWRs.

Annual Special Use Permit (SUP) applications are received and processed on two application dates (October 1 and February 1). The Service will review and issue SUPs for up to 24 research projects per year within 90 days of the application date. Research projects may be conducted within the refuge at any time of the year and on any of the islands and/or surrounding waters within the refuge, as approved within the SUP. However, the refuge may limit the time and location of research projects to ensure that negative impacts to refuge resources are avoided or limited.

Refuge research themes and research questions will be prioritized to address both applied and basic science. Research priorities for applied science address the threats and stressors that degrade or damage refuge community structure, ecosystem integrity, function, and health as well as monitor the temporal changes to the physical and biological environments of the refuge. Basic science priorities will secondarily address the “natural state” of refuge resources and the fundamental understanding of organizational structure of species composition, diversity, and ecological interactions at various spatial scales. Further information on attaining a refuge special use permit can be found at the link below.

Special Use Permits