President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Refuge in 1941 to protect Kodiak bears and their habitat. Today, the refuge strives to instill regard for bears, salmon, and other wildlife; to protect interdependent species of fish, wildlife and plants within the largest intact, pristine island ecosystem in North America; and to ensure compatible management of wildlife, subsistence, recreation, and economic uses of refuge resources.
That brown bear, fish, and other wildlife populations will continue to thrive on Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge in their natural diversity, living in pristine habitats. Refuge management will blend public and private partners in a dynamic alliance that fulfills the purposes and goals of Kodiak Refuge. The Refuge will provide a lasting legacy of resource stewardship for the use and enjoyment of current and future generations.
Each unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System is established to serve a statutory purpose that targets the conservation of native species dependent on its lands and waters. All activities on those acres are reviewed for compatibility with this statutory purpose. Alaska's 16 Refuges conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity (for Kodiak, this includes but is not limited to Kodiak brown bears, salmonids, northern sea otters, sea lions, and other marine mammals and migratory birds); fulfill international treaty obligations of the United States with respect to fish and wildlife and their habitats; provide opportunities for continued subsistence uses by local residents; support scientific research; and protect water quality and quantity.
President Benjamin Harrison established the Afognak Forest and Fish Culture Reserve in Alaska in 1892, principally for the conservation of sockeye salmon. This salmon refuge returned to Alaska Native peoples in 1980. The Afognak and Yes Bay Fish-Cultural Stations operated in Alaska under the banner of the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries (a precursor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) from 1906 to 1933, shuttering as cost-saving measures during The Great Depression.
By the early 20th century, increasing pressure from Russian and American settlements led to a declining Kodiak brown bear population. At the same time, the world began to take notice of the incredible size and unique natural history of the iconic animals. Inspired by concerned sportsmen and conservationists, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge in 1941 to protect the natural feeding and breeding range of the brown bears and other wildlife on Uganik and Kodiak Islands. The Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act of 1980 (ANILCA) added 50,000 acres of land on Afognak and Ban Islands to the refuge. Thorough the 1990s, nearly 275,000 acres of valuable wildlife habitat were reacquired through purchase or donation of fee title,and limited development easements.
The Kodiak Refuge Visitor Center opened in 2007 in downtown Kodiak.