Arctic Refuge Permits 

Arctic Refuge is open to the public year-round. No permit is required if you are visiting the refuge on your own or as a member of a recreational group. 

A special use permit is required for activities such as Recreational and Educational Group Guiding, Water Taxi Operators, Air Transporter or Taxi OperatorsVideography or Photography, and Scientific Research.

If you are uncertain if the activity you wish to conduct requires a special use permit, please email or call 907-888-5704.

To apply for a special use permit, follow the steps outlined on the web page above for that specific activity. A $100 fee may be required.

There are two open application periods for commercial activities

  • Applications should be submitted October 1 to November 30 for activities occurring in the spring.
  • Applications should be submitted January 1 to March 15 for activities occurring in the summer or fall.

There is one application period for scientific research: October 1 to November 30.

Application Processing

In general, the application review process can take up to 45 days, so applications should be submitted as early as possible. 

During the application review, refuge staff takes into consideration refuge management plans and policies and state and federal laws, including the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), the Refuge Administration Act, the Refuge Improvement Act of 1997, the Wilderness Act, the  Wild and Scenic Rivers Wild and Scenic Rivers
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 established the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, and authorizes Congress to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations. The act is notable for safeguarding the special character of these rivers, while also recognizing the potential for their appropriate use and development. The act encourages river management that crosses political boundaries and promotes public participation in developing goals for river protection.

Learn more about Wild and Scenic Rivers
 Act, the Marine Mammals Protection Act, and the Arctic Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan. 

Based on these management plans, policies, and state and federal laws, careful consideration is given to applications that include:

Motorized equipment - All requests for motorized access not specifically allowed by ANILCA (e.g., helicopters, all-terrain vehicles, airboats) are carefully scrutinized and may be prohibited.

Installations - Placement of installations (e.g., data collection stations, weather stations, remote video, and rock bolts) are carefully scrutinized and may be prohibited.

Wildlife - The potential for the proposed activity to interfere with or attract wildlife, or its potential for causing dangerous interactions between wildlife and humans, will be carefully examined and may result in modification or denial of the proposed activity.

Group size - Total group size for permitted commercial recreational activities is limited to seven people for groups on foot and ten people for float trips. These numbers include guides. For float trips, each company is limited to one group on an individual river at a time. Other special use permit holders such as scientific groups are limited to personnel directly involved in program activities.

Attention Drone Users: The use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS/drones) on Arctic Refuge is prohibited unless authorized in advance through a special use permit or letter of authorization.