Permits Overview

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Please be aware that there will be increased ground and air activity across the 1002 portion of the Arctic Refuge's coastal plain this year. This increased activity is related to the collection of data prior to oil and gas lease sales included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.


Do I need a Special Use Permit?

The Arctic Refuge is open to the public year-round. If you are visiting the Refuge on your own or as a member of a recreational group, no permit is required. If, however, you conduct a commercial activity such as guiding, film-making, or providing commercial transportation; or if you propose to conduct scientific or geological research or other non-recreational activities, a Special Use Permit is required.

If you are a nonresident hoping to hunt for Dall sheep or grizzly bear, you are required to use an authorized hunting guide.


When may I apply for a Special Use Permit?

If you are interested in applying for a commercial permit, which includes videography and/or photography, recreational guiding, and air taxi services (FAA certified, point to point aircraft transportation on Refuge lands and waters), you must apply during one of two application periods: January 1 to April 15, or October 1 to November 30. Complete applications received during these time periods will be processed within 45 days of receipt. Incomplete applications will be returned to you after the closing date. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that the application is complete and all fees are paid by the closing date. Applications received outside of these periods will be processed during the next open period.

If you are interested in applying for a research permit, you must apply during the October 1 to November 30 application period.

Applications for other proposed Refuge activities may be submitted at any time.

NOTICE TO COMMERCIAL POLAR BEAR VIEWING TOUR GUIDES AND BOAT CAPTAINS: Because of a recent significant increase in the number of polar bear viewing visitors, we are directing immediate attention toward a narrow planning effort focused on the management of polar bear viewing at the Refuge, now and into the next 15 years. One goal for the effort is to minimize interruptions to the ecotourism industry during the planning effort by continuing to renew authorizations for polar bear viewing guide permit holders who possessed permits in 2016, if their operation plans remain essentially unchanged. The Refuge is SUSPENDING THE ISSUANCE OF NEW PERMITS for the activity until the plan is implemented, hopefully in 2020. Renewing permittees may submit their renewal applications as indicated on the standard Special Use Permit Application Form FWS 3-1383-C. Permit renewals will be received until April 15, 2019. Only permit applications postmarked by Monday, April 15, 2019 will be accepted.


How do I begin the permit process?

1) Read through this "Permits" page to see if a permit is required for your desired activity. If one is, determine which type of permit you should apply for.

2) Before you request a permit, please become familiar with the wildlife, wilderness, and recreational values for which the Arctic Refuge was established and which must be protected. Additional information about the Refuge is available on this web site in the "About the Refuge," "Wildlife & Habitat," "Rules and Regulations," and "Visitors Activities" sections. Read these sections to gain further insights about what activities might be allowed on the Refuge.

3) To apply for a Special Use Permit, fill out the necessary application and contact Arctic Refuge Assistant Manager Heather Bartlett via email, or at 907-456-0322.


How long does the permit process take?

Once we receive your completed permit application the process can take up to 45 days so a request for a Special Use Permit should be submitted as early as possible. In order to protect Refuge values, we may require revision of schedules, location, means of access, party size, and/or methods.


What special considerations do I need to be aware of?

Refuge staff members take into consideration Refuge management plans and policies as well as a number of federal and state laws when considering each permit application. Among them are 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 Act, the Marine Mammals Protection Act, and the Arctic Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan. These mandates and guidelines require particularly careful scrutiny of any Refuge use not allowed to the general public. Some issues given special attention are:

1) 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.

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

3) Areas of special designation - Areas with special designation, including designated Wilderness, three Wild River corridors, two Research Natural Areas, and nine recommended National Natural Landmarks, may have special considerations and regulatory requirements.

4) 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.

5) 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.


What type of permit is of interest to you?

Commercial Permits:
Recreational Guiding and Educational Group Guiding
Polar Bear Viewing Guides and/or Water Taxi Operators
Air Transporter/Taxi Operators
Videography/Photography

Scientific Research


Permit requests which do not fit under any of the above categories may be allowed on the Arctic Refuge if they are compatible with the purposes of the Refuge. A $100 fee may be required. Contact Heather Bartlett for more information.

Permits Specialist: Assistant Manager Heather Bartlett 
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
101 12th Avenue, Room 236
Fairbanks, AK 99701

phone: 907-456-0322 (direct line) or 800/362-4546
fax: 907/456-0428
Email: heather_bartlett@fws.gov


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