U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service logo A Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System
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Alaska Maritime
National Wildlife Refuge

The Alaska Maritimes research vessel heads towards Mount Cleveland to drop off scientist conducting research in the Aleutian Islands.
95 Sterling Highway, Suite 1
Homer, AK   99603 - 8021
Phone Number: 907-235-6546
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
The refuge's research vessel, the M/V Tiglax, with Mount Cleveland in the background. Mount Cleveland is located on Chuginadak in the Aleutian Islands.
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Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge is a place of great distances and greater dramas. Here winds whip through the grasses of rugged, wave-pounded islands; and active volcanoes simmer, venting steam above collars of fog. It is a place of contrasts, where relics of a past war slowly rust in deserted valleys, while, nearby, great forests of kelp team with life. It is, and has long been, a place of refuge, and has seen some of the most dramatic wildlife conservation stories in our nation's history.

Containing some of the first conservation-unit areas to be established in America, today's Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge includes lands that were formerly parts of ten previously established refuges. Many of these units are still represented among the ten distinct congressionally-designated Wilderness areas included in Alaska Maritime, which range in size from the approximately 1.3 million acre Aleutian Islands Wilderness to the 32 acre Hazy Islands Wilderness. Because it is spread out along most of the 47,300 miles of Alaska's coastline, the sheer span of this refuge is difficult to grasp. Its more than 2,500 islands, islets, spires, rocks, reefs, waters and headlands extend from Forrester Island, to the north of Canada's Queen Charlotte Islands deep in the southeast tongue of the state, to the westernmost tip of the Aleutians (and of America!), and north to Cape Lisburne on the Arctic Ocean. Traveling between its farthest-flung points would be the equivalent of taking a trip from Georgia to California.

No other maritime National Wildlife Refuge in America is as large or as productive. Alaska Maritime's seashore lands provide nesting habitat for approximately 40 million seabirds, or about 80% of Alaska's nesting seabird population.

Getting There . . .
The refuge is headquarterd in the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center located in Homer, which is at the end of the Sterling Highway, approximately 225 miles south of Anchorage. Regularly scheduled flights are available from Anchorage. The Alaska State Ferry System also serves Homer. Since most of the refuge is very remote, access is difficult and expensive. Visitors should contact the refuge for specific information about particular sites.

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Wildlife and Habitat

Stretching from the Arctic Ocean to the southeast panhandle, the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge protects breeding habitat for seabirds, marine mammals and other wildlife on more than 2,500 islands, spires, rocks and coastal headlands. Some of these isolated islands host unique species not found elsewhere. This Refuge may be the frontier where the next new bird or plant will be discovered.

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More than 9,000 years ago, marine mammals and birds fed and clothed Alaska's earliest coastal peoples and gave rise to prosperous civilizations. Aleut/Unangan, Yup'ik, Inupiat, Dena'ina Athabascan, Alutiiq, Haida and Tlingit all have roots on this refuge.

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    Recreation and Education Opportunities
Environmental Education
Wildlife Observation
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Management Activities
The Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge is the most remote and far flung unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Management activities are complicated by the remoteness and isolation of islands and headlands scattered thousands of miles along Alaska's coastline. Activities focus on long-term ecosystem monitoring, marine resource research, and invasive species management.

The refuge hosts seabird populations of both national and international significance. It provides nesting habitat for an estimated 40 million seabirds, representing 80% of all seabirds in North America. Long-term monitoring of seabirds can uncover trends in the ocean environment that are profoundly important to marine ecosystem conservation. The refuge also provides valuable habitats for marine mammals.

The refuge was established, in part, to make possible a program of national and international scientific research on marine ecosystems. Facilitated by our 120-foot ship, M/V Tiglax, this mandate allows refuge staff to focus investigations on observed changes within wildlife populations and to collaborate research with other entities on a marine ecosystem basis.

The ultimate goal of refuge invasive species management is to restore the natural diversity its lands. Introduced foxes and shipwrecked rats have had catastrophic impacts on seabird populations, intertidal diversity, and archeological remains. Foxes have been removed from more than one million acres on over 40 islands to date. The successful delisting in 2000 of the endemic Aleutian Canada Goose as an endangered species was only made possible by removing fox from their nesting islands. Rats pose a greater threat to island ecosystems than even an oil spill, because rats can remain forever. Prevention is the key. When a ship wrecks on a remote refuge island, a "rat spill" response team is assembled to prevent a rat introduction. Our next challenge is to develop more efficient methods for removing already established rats from islands.