National Wildlife Refuge System

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Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) - Bering Sea Unit


About Bering Sea Unit


Click on the picture to see a better view of the Bering Sea NWR
Bering Sea National Wildlife Refuge

The Bering Sea Unit was established in 1909 and 1976 was included in the Alaska Maritime NWR under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. It includes about 25 islands and headlands in the Norton Sound and the seabird and seal rookeries on the Pribilof Islands, as shown in the map to the right. The Pribilof Islands are located 400 km north of the Aleutian Chain. Also included are the Hagemeister Island near the coast west of Dillingham, and other smaller islands in the Bering Sea. Located within the Bering Sea Unit is Saint Matthew Wilderness Area. The St. Matthew Island group consists of St. Matthew and small nearby Hall island (north) and Pinnacle Island (south of St. Matthew). St. Matthew lies an additional 400 km north of St. Paul and 330 km south of St. Lawrence Island. St. Matthew is approximately 400 km from the Alaska mainland.

The Bering Sea Wilderness (St. Matthew island group) is also part of the Alaska Maritime NWR and provides sanctuary and nesting areas to large colonies of sea birds, including one of the few colonies of northern fulmars, and almost the entire world’s population of McKay’s buntings. Also found in this unit of the Alaska Maritime NWR are Northern sea lions, seals, walruses, Arctic foxes, and gray whales. An endangered bowhead whale is sometimes sighted and polar bears are also seen occasionally.


Refuge Area and Class I Designation

  • In 1970, Congress designated 81,340 acres of the Bering Sea as a wilderness area, declaring that the area should remain undeveloped and "unimpaired" for future generations.
  • In 1977, Congress acknowledged the uniqueness of the Bering Sea Wilderness by designating it as a Class I air quality area. As a wilderness area it is afforded special protection under the Clean Air Act.
  • Congress gave the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), as the Federal Land Manager (FLM) of Bering Sea Wilderness, the responsibility to protect the air quality and air quality related values (AQRVs) of the area from man-made air pollution. Despite this protection, many sources of man-made pollution have the potential to threaten The Bering Sea Unit, including oil and gas development in Alaska and long-range transport of air pollutants from other sources.
  • The FWS is working cooperatively with the State of Alaska to reduce air emissions and protect the air quality and AQRVs of the Bering Sea Unit.
  • If the Bering Sea Unit is not protected, unique wildlife and scenic values could be threatened or lost. The FWS hopes to preserve and protect this special area of wilderness for future generations.


Learn more about air quality at Bering Sea NWR


Little is known about the effects of air pollution on air quality and AQRVs in Bering Sea. Within this website are the resources to discover why air pollution poses a threat to Bering Sea NWR and what the FWS is doing to prevent the deterioration of air quality in this pristine area.

  • Learn the basics of air quality - Air Quality
  • Understand what are the air quality related values - AQRV
  • Learn about how air quality can affect natural and scenic resources - Impacts
  • Find real time monitoring data and studies being performed at the wilderness area - Studies & Monitoring



Addition Information:
Regional Air Quality Information (as provided by NPS)
Alaska Maritime NWR Website
Bering Sea WA 300km Radius Map (PDF 655KB)

Last updated: November 13, 2012