Permits Overview

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Do I need a Special Use Permit?

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 if:

1) You conduct a commercial activity such as guiding, film-making, or providing commercial transportation; or 
2) You propose to conduct scientific or geological research or other non-recreational activities. 


When may I apply for a Special Use Permit?
Arctic Refuge has established application periods for most types of Special Use Permits. 

Commercial Activities: There are two applications periods – January 1 until April 15 and October 1 until November 30. 

Scientific Research Activities: October 1 until November 30 (for activities proposed the following calendar year)

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

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.


How do I begin the permit process?

1) If a permit is required for your desired activity, determine which type of permit you should apply for. If you need help determining whether your proposed activity requires a Special Use Permit, please contact Arctic Refuge Permits Specialist, Maria Berkeland, via email at arctic_permits@fws.gov or at (907) 456-0512.

2) Visit the webpage containing specific information about your activity type.

Recreational Guiding and Educational Group Guiding
Water Taxi Operators
Air Transporter/Taxi Operators
Videography/Photography
Scientific Research

3) Follow the steps outlined for your activity type. Fill out the associated application and

email it to arctic_permits@fws.gov. Call (907)456-0512 to pay any applicable fees.


How long does the permit process take?

In general, once we receive a completed permit application the review process can take up to 45 days, so applications should be submitted as early as possible. In order to protect Refuge values, we may require revision of schedules, locations, 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.

Please be aware that there will be increased ground and air activity across the 1002 portion of the Arctic Refuge's coastal plain. 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.

Attention Drone Users: The use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS/drones) is no longer allowed for any US Fish and Wildlife Service supported or permitted use. This prohibition applies to the use of drones for commercial filming and scientific research, even if the use of drones was previously authorized via special use permit. Secretarial Order 3379, issued by Interior Secretary Bernhardt on January 29, 2020, mandates that all non-emergency UAS flights cease until further notice. UAS flights in support of emergencies, such as wildfires and search and rescue missions, will continue.

Additional Information:

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 Maria Berkeland for more information.

Permits Specialist: Wildlife Refuge Specialist Maria Berkeland
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
101 12th Avenue, Room 236
Fairbanks, AK 99701

phone: 907-456-0512 (direct line) or 800/362-4546
fax: 907/456-0428
Email: arctic_permits@fws.gov

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