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National Wildlife Refuge

Waterfowl, moose and black bear depend on the Innoko River for their survival.
40 Tonzona Avenue
P.O. Box 69
McGrath, AK   99627
E-mail: Innoko@fws.gov
Phone Number: 907-524-3251
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The Innoko River is the heart of this National Wildlife Refuge
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Innoko National Wildlife Refuge

Remote and isolated even by Alaska standards, the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most important waterfowl areas in West Central Interior Alaska. It was established by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980. Conservation of fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity is a focus of the refuge.

Innoko National Wildlife Refuge can be roughly divided into two distinct habitat types. Approximately half of the refuge consists of black spruce muskeg, wet meadows, and sedge or horsetail marshes, set with innumerable lakes and ponds of varying size. The rest of the terrain is marked by hills, most of which are less than one thousand feet in elevation. The refuge covers some 3,850,000 acres, with its 1,240,000 acres of designated Wilderness found in the south-east, bordered by the Innoko River on its western boundary and including portions of the Iditarod and Big and Little Yetna Rivers.

Given the extensive wetlands contained within the refuge, it's not surprising that Innoko is blessed with a wealth of avian life. It's estimated that 130 species of birds use these lands, and that more than 300,000 waterfowl and shorebirds nest on the refuge every spring.

Frequent flooding of Innoko's many rivers and streams helps fertilize surrounding soils and maintain the rich willow sandbar habitat that provides winter food for the refuge's moose population, as well as for the beaver that are common along virtually all of Innoko's waterways. Barren ground caribou from the Beaver Mountain herd winter on Innoko when deep snows move them down from the uplands, while both black and grizzly bear and wolves are present year around. Other fur-bearers include marten, lynx, red fox, river otter and wolverine.

Getting There . . .
The Innoko Refuge is not accessible by car. Access is by means of airplanes equipped for water landings during spring, summer and fall. Due to its extremely remote and isolated location, access to the refuge by watercraft is, in most cases, not practical. Watercraft transportable by small aircraft, such as inflatable rafts and folding kayaks, can be used for transportation within the refuge. The primary means of access include privately owned aircraft, commercial guiding and outfitting services, and commercial air taxi operators. Access is via the town of McGrath, which is served by commercial airlines operating out of Anchorage and Fairbanks.

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Wildlife and Habitat

More than 130 bird species are found on the refuge. The extensive wetlands provide habitat for more than 300,000 nesting waterfowl and shorebirds. Innoko is an important nesting area for white-fronted and lesser Canada geese, pintail, wigeon, shovelers, red necked grebes, lesser yellow legs and Hudsonian godwits. Neotropical birds that nest on the refuge include the alder flycatcher, varied thrush, Swainson's thrush, yellow warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, northern waterthrush, fox sparrow and savannah sparrow.

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One of the primary reasons the Innoko Refuge was created was its importance as a waterfowl area in Interior Alaska. The Innoko Refuge provides a vast area of wetlands crucial for waterfowl nesting, resting, staging, and molting.

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Management Activities
Management programs are focused on long-term resource protection and stewardship. Ongoing studies and investigations are developing basic information about key ecosystem components such as soils, vegetation, climatic conditions, etc., and the roles of natural processes, primarily wildfire and flooding, in shaping the refuge's habitats. Specific projects include the development of population inventories for, and monitoring of, key species of fish and wildlife; describing and locating critical wildlife habitat; monitoring contaminants and water quality; wildfire management, and water system studies. The Innoko Refuge staff has been actively pursuing the application of modern technology and new statistical approaches in support of the above efforts. Refuge staff use Geographical Information Systems (GIS), various types of satellite imagery, digital elevation models, precise Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation and resource selection function statistics. These "tools" allow for the development and manipulation of multiple layers of information on a landscape scale which, in turn, provide the basis for sound resource management decisions.

Public uses on the refuge are managed and monitored to ensure they are compatible with the refuge's mission to conserve fish and wildlife resources in their natural diversity.