National Wildlife Refuges

Region 7
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Region 7 includes Alaska Wildlife Refuges.

Aleutian Islands Wilderness Area - (AK)
Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

The Aleutian Islands Unit is comprised of over 200 islands that total about 2.7 million acres, 1.3 million of which is currently designated wilderness. The chain of islands is 20-60 miles wide and extends more than 1,100 miles from Unimak Island west to Attu. The Pacific Ocean on the south and the Bering Sea on the north dramatically effect climate and weather. The maritime climate is characterized by cool temperatures, precipitation, fog, and frequent strong winds. The mean annual temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit, however, winds, sometimes approaching 100 mph, cause much colder wind chill factors. Volcanic in origin, the Aleutian Islands continue to experience frequent volcanic and seismic activity. Vegetation of the Aleutian Islands Unit is classified as maritime tundra. Uplands and mountain slopes support mosses, lichens, and low-growing alpine plants while lower areas are covered with herbaceous meadows. The islands are treeless except for a few hardy Sitka spruce introduced by man. Three threatened species are endemic to the Aleutian Islands: the Aleutian Canada goose, Steller sea lion, and the Aleutian shield-fern (Polystichum aleuticum). The Aleutian Islands Unit also provides nesting habitat for millions of marine birds and is an important wintering area for emperor geese (Chen canagica) and other waterfowl. This chain of islands has several endemic subspecies of animals, including green-winged teal, rock sandpiper, whiskered auklet, rock ptarmigan, winter wren, song sparrow, and rosy finch.

Bering Sea Wilderness Area - (AK)
Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

Consists of the St. Matthew Island group, which totals approximately 81,340 acres. These islands have elevations exceeding 1,500 feet and are located approximately 275 miles southwest of Nome and 230 miles west of the Kuskokwim River deltas. St. Matthew Island is the largest island, totaling over 77,000 acres in size. The climate in this area is greatly influenced by arctic and continental air masses in the winter and maritime air masses during summer. Annual precipitation, including snowfall, ranges from 10-17 inches in Norton Sound. Wind speeds are usually high and fog can be present year-round. Vegetation consists of a low-growing and arctic tundra type. Only annual forbs and grasses exceed one foot in height. Willows include only dwarf varieties. A lake on St. Matthew Island contains a unique population of land-locked chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). Dolly Varden (Salvelinus malma) and Arctic char (S. malma) use streams on St. Matthew Island, as well. This island group also supports a unique isolated population of singing voles (Microtus abreviatus) and some arctic fox, and provides nesting habitat for most of the world's population of McKay's bunting (Plectrophenax hyperboreus). Large concentrations of seabirds nest on Pinnacle Island (180,000), Hall Island (1,000,000), and the northern and southern parts of St. Matthew Island (1,000,000). Murres (common and thick-billed), northern fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) and least auklets (Aethia pusilla) are the predominant species. Other birds that inhabit these islands in significant numbers include black-legged kittiwakes, parakeet auklets (Ayclorrhynchus psittacula), and crested auklets (Aethia cristatella). Hall Island also provides a haul-out site for Pacific walruses.

Bogoslof Wilderness Area - (AK)
Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

The Bogoslof Wilderness encompasses Bogoslof Island, Fire Island, and other unnamed rocks and small islands that total approximately 390 acres. Bogoslof Island, the largest, contains approximately 175 acres and has a maximum elevation of 333 feet. Bogoslof Island has changed in size and shape a number of times since it first rose out of the Bering Sea in May 1796. Volcanic events have occurred at Bogoslof at least six times this century, including a major dome building event in the summer of 1992. Elevation of the new dome is estimated to be 300 feet. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel aboard the M/V Tiglax were near Bogoslof on several occasions during the summer, but could not get ashore because of dome building activity. National Marine Fisheries Service personnel had a similar experience. Bogoslof provides nesting habitat for nearly 100,000 marine birds, including red-legged kittiwakes (Rissa brevirostris), which are known to breed at only four sites in the world. Bogoslof also contains a rookery of threatened Steller sea lions. Both sea lions and marine birds were present during dome building activity, but did not appear to be seriously affected by the event.

Chamisso Wilderness Area - (AK)
Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

Chamisso Island and Puffin Island consist of 455 total acres and are located in Kotzebue Sound, just south of the Choris Peninsula, in northwestern Alaska. The vegetation of Chamisso and Puffin islands is classified into three broad categories: beach zone, tundra, and marsh/bog. Thirty-nine species have been identified on Chamisso Island and assigned to these three classifications. Vegetation on Puffin Island is not very diverse, probably numbering fewer than 15 species, including grasses, which are the dominate vegetative cover. Relatively small, but still very significant, colonies of birds inhabit these islands. Approximately 25,000 seabirds nest on Puffin Island, while approximately 3,000 seabirds breed on Chamisso Island. The seabird populations on Puffin Island are comprised of common murres (Uria aalge), thick-billed murres (Uria lomvia), horned puffins (Fratercula corniculata), and large numbers of black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla). Horned puffins are the primary species found on Chamisso Island.

Forrester Island Wilderness Area - (AK)
Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

This area is mountainous and heavily forested with salmonberry, blueberries, Pacific red elder, and devil's club. This island supports the largest population (approximately 1,000,000 birds) of seabirds on its 2800 acres. The most numerous species are the nocturnal burrow-nesters, such as Leach's storm-petrels (Oceanodroma leucorhoa), fork-tailed storm-petrels (O. furcata), Cassin's auklets (Ptychoramphus aleuticus), and rhinoceros auklets (Cerorhinca monocerata). Visits to the island by people are rare and primarily occur during the summer season when commercial charters take birdwatchers there. This island has the largest known colony of ancient murrelets (Synthliboramphus antiquus), which numbers approximately 60,000 birds. The only known colony of Cassin's auklets in the unit is also found on this island and numbers approximately 32,700 birds. A significant colony of rhinoceros auklets, numbering approximately 108,000 birds is also present on the island.

Hazy Islands Wilderness Area - (AK)
Alaska Maritime National Wildlife

Very little vegetation is evident on these islands. Spanning only 32 acres, these five small islands are home to ten species of birds. A total of 3,600 birds nest here, including Brandt's cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus), which breed on only a few other sites in Alaska.

St. Lazaria Wilderness Area - (AK)
Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

This area is a rugged, low-elevation volcanic island at the entrance to Sitka Sound. The middle one-third of the island is bare rock, which is frequently wave-washed during high tides and storms. The two low summits at each end of the island are vegetated with old-growth Sitka spruce and form 20-90-foot cliffs at water's edge. This island supports 500,000 breeding birds with storm-petrels being the most numerous species. This island is readily accessible by charter boat or pleasure craft and sees about 2,000 visitors each year.

Semidi and Simenof Wilderness Areas - (AK)
Alaska Maritime National Willdlife Refuge

Consists of the Sanak Islands, Simeonof Island and islets, and the Semidi Islands, which total approximately 390,870 acres. The Semidi Islands were designated part of the Refuge System in 1932 and the Simeonof Islands in 1958. Most of this unit is accessible by boat, but due to the rocky, rugged shoreline on most of the islands, access is difficult. This unit has a moderate polar maritime climate characterized by high winds, mild temperatures, cloud cover, and frequent precipitation. Fog and drizzle are frequent in summer and severe storms are possible year-round. Vegetation on the Sanak Islands consists primarily of lyme grass, as well as other grasses, and umbellifers.

The dominant plant cover on Simeonof Island is mesic crowberry heath, but mesic grasses are also abundant. Vegetation on the Semidi Islands consists of maritime tundra communities. Walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma), Pacific cod (Gadus macrocephalus), sablefish (Anaplopoma fimbria), sandlance (Mallotus villosus), and Pacific herring (Clupea harengus pallasi) are important marine fishes that live within the waters of this unit. Dungeness (Cancer magister), red king (Paralithodes camtschatica), brown crab (Lithodes aequispina), tanner crab (Chionoecetes bairdi), scallops (Patinopecten caurinus), and shrimp (Pandalus borealis) are all abundant. Species important to commercial fisheries include salmon, Pacific cod, walleye pollock, sablefish, and crab. The Semidi Islands are extremely important to seabirds. About 2,400,000 birds nest there during summer, of which 1,730,000 are murres. Aghiyuk Island has the largest concentration of seabirds with over 500,000 birds occurring there. About 370,000 horned puffins nest on the Semidis. Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) number from approximately 22,000 to 30,000 in this unit. Sea lion (Eumelopius jubatus) numbers have decreased drastically in this island group in recent years with some colonies declining by as much as 84 percent. The presence of red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) on these islands has had a severely pronounced negative effect on seabird populations. Seabirds and other species have markedly increased on some islands from which fox were removed. Aleutian Canada geese (Branta canadensis leucopaceia), a threatened species, nests on two islands in the Semidi Island group.

Tuxedni Wilderness Area - (AK)
Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

Consists of the Tuxedni Subunit made up of Chisik and Duck Islands, the St. Lazaria Subunit, the Hazy Islands Subunit, and the Forrester Island Subunit. Wilderness acreage totals about 8,477, which is approximately 2 percent of the total acreage of this unit. These subunits were part of the Refuge System prior to inclusion under ANILCA into the Alaska Maritime NWR. This unit has the most moderate climate of all units in the Refuge. Precipitation, mostly rain, is heaviest in fall and winter. Snowfall is minimal along the coast. Vegetation within this unit is diverse, varying from heavily forested communities in southeastern Alaska to maritime tundra in the northern portions of this unit. Major vegetation types include coastal western hemlock-Sitka spruce forest, high brush, alpine tundra, and moist tundra. Primary marine fish occurring in this unit include walleye pollock, salmon, capelin (Ammodytes hexapterus), sandlance, Pacific herring, sablefish, halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis), and Pacific cod. Some of the shellfish that are present in this unit include dungeness, king and tanner crab, and shrimp. Commercial fishing has generally replaced subsistence fishing in this area.

The Chisik/Duck Islands are located along the northwest edge of Cook Inlet. The largest seabird colony in Cook Inlet is found on these islands. Black-legged kittiwakes and common murres are the two most common species. Approximately 6,000 horned puffins are found on the islands. This area is readily accessible to recreational use by visitors and is used for salmon set-net operations, which includes the use of cabins. Special Use Permits are issued for these operations.

Unimak Wilderness Area - (AK)
Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

The 910,000-acre Unimak Island Wilderness is located within the Unimak Island administrative unit of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. The designated Wilderness area includes the majority of this largest member of the Aleutian Islands chain. The Unimak Island Wilderness was designated in 1980 with the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA - P.L.96-487). The habitats of the area vary from low coastal wetlands to the icefields of the Island's volcanic peaks. Much of the area is characterized by low-growing Ericaceous tundra, extensive ash flats and lava flows, and permanent icefields at the higher elevations. The Island supports a healthy brown bear population sustained by the seasonal abundance of salmon in many of the river and lake systems. Caribou and wolves occur in smaller numbers along with a variety of furbearer species such as red fox, river otter, and mink. A subpopulation of essentially non-migratory tundra swans utilizes Unimak Island each winter and disperses to nest across the Island and lower Alaska Peninsula.

Arctic Wilderness Area - (AK)
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

This 8-million-acre wilderness area, the largest in the Refuge System, is located within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska. The area contains a unique mix of habitats (e.g. arctic tundra, rugged mountains, riparian areas, boreal forests) with outstanding wildlife, scenic, recreational, scientific, and aesthetic values. Special features of the area include its vastness, remoteness, natural character, and opportunities for primitive recreation. The area is considered by many to be the Nation's finest example of wilderness. Unique wildlife of the area includes the international Porcupine caribou herd, polar and brown bears, wolves, muskoxen, Dall sheep, moose, wolverine, Arctic char, eagles, peregrine falcons, and a variety of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds. Allowed uses include research, subsistence, and wildlife-oriented recreation, especially those activities that are dependent on and do not diminish the area's wilderness character. Various means of traditional motorized access are also permitted.

Becharof Wilderness Area - (AK)
Becharof Wildlife Refuge

This 400,000-acre area is located within the Becharof National Wildlife Refuge on the Alaska Peninsula. This area represents a variety of superlative pristine habitats. The area is bounded by the dramatic Kejulik Pinnacles to the north, Becharof Lake to the south and west, and the Aleutian Mountain Range and Pacific Coast to the east. Through the center flows the Kejulik River and mountain valley. Treeless, heath tundra dominates the area with pockets of cottonwoods along the river, and alder and willow thickets along the mountainsides. The Kejulik Pinnacles support hanging glaciers, and rocky cliffs are interspersed with sandy beaches along the coast. Large seabird colonies and marine mammal haul-outs highlight the coast, with brown bears, moose, and caribou abundant throughout the wilderness area. The tributary streams along Becharof Lake, renowned for their spawning runs of sockeye salmon, provide nursery habitat for the multimillion-dollar Bristol Bay salmon industry. Allowed human uses include subsistence and sport harvest of caribou, moose, brown bears, and fish, as well as flight-seeing, backpacking, and float-trips.

Innoko Wilderness Area - (AK)
Innoko National Wildlife Refuge

This 1,240,000-acre area is located within the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge in west central Alaska. The Innoko River forms the north and west border of the Innoko Wilderness Area while the Iditarod and Yetna Rivers flow through it. The terrain is relatively flat with water dominating the landscape. The habitat consists of extensive water bodies and wetlands. The major plant communities are typical of the transition zone between the boreal forest of interior Alaska and the shrublands and tundra types common in western and northern Alaska. The area is rich and diverse in wildlife. Large mammals include moose, caribou, wolf, and both grizzly and black bears. Impressive numbers of waterfowl are produced across the area, primarily wigeon, pintail, scaup, white-fronted geese, Canada geese, tundra, and trumpeter swans. Essentially all furbearer species common to interior Alaska are present. Fish, including migrating salmon, are common in the rivers. Resident species, especially northern pike, abound in refuge streams and lakes. Allowable consumptive use includes hunting, fishing, and trapping both for recreational and subsistence purposes. Allowable non-consumptive uses include wildlife observation, camping, and float trips.

Izembek Wilderness Area - (AK)
Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

The 300,000-acre Izembek Wilderness is located within the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge at the tip of the Alaska Peninsula. The Wilderness area was designated in 1980 with the Passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA - P.L.96-487). The habitat of the area varies from coastal wetlands to permanent icefields. The majority of the area is characterized by low-growing Ericaceous tundra interspersed with numerous lakes, streams, and ponds. This area is part of the United States' first Designated Wetland of International Importance as designated under the provisions of the RAMSAR Convention. The area supports seasonal populations of great numbers of waterfowl including black brant, emperor geese, and Steller's eiders, as well as the seasonally abundant salmon runs. Resident wildlife includes brown bear, ptarmigan, caribou, and red fox.

Kenai Wilderness Area - (AK)
Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

This 1,345,000-acre area is located within Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on the Kenai Peninsula in south central Alaska. The habitat ranges from the perpetual winter of the Harding Ice Field to the lowland boreal forest and lake country of the central Kenai Peninsula. The area supports a wide variety of wildlife including moose, Dall sheep, mountain goat, caribou, eagles, wolves, brown bear, black bear, trumpeter swans, lynx, beaver, other small mammals, and 146 species of resident and migratory birds. In addition, four species of Pacific salmon, as well as many resident fish, spawn and thrive within the area.

Allowed uses include all forms of compatible wildland outdoor recreation activities. Access is by motorized and non-motorized methods of transportation, although motorized access restrictions are in place in certain areas in order to protect wildlife and wilderness values.

Koyukuk Wilderness Area - (AK)
Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge

The Koyukuk Wilderness area is located in the western part of the Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge. It is a 400,000-acre area of designated ANILCA wilderness. Contained within this area are the 10,000-acre Nogahabara Sand Dunes, one of only two active dune fields in Alaska. The vegetation consists mostly of black spruce in the highlands with willow-dominant lowlands near the Koyukuk River. At least one rare plant species, (carex sabulosa), has been found in the dune area.

Selawik Wilderness Area - (AK)
Selawik National Wildlife Refuge

This wilderness area consists of 240,000 acres along the northern border of the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge. The area provides the major immediate watershed for the highly productive Selawik lowlands. The peaks rise from the broad Selawik River valley to approximately 2,100 feet. The foothills are dotted with small sand pockets, which indicate the area's vegetated dune origin. This area borders the Kobuk Valley Wilderness to the north. The sand soils within the Waring Mountains create a unique habitat of alternating sand dunes, revegetated lichen-birch woodlands, and unvegetated blowout areas. Some areas are nearly devoid of vegetation. This area is largely unused by people in the summer months and would provide good opportunities for solitude and hiking. This terrain provides easy walking compared to the abundant tussock tundra prevalent in the region.

Togiak Wilderness Area - (AK)
Togiak National Wildlife Refuge

The Togiak Wilderness Area includes the northern 2.3 million acres of the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), which is located in southwestern Alaska. The habitat consists of rivers, lakes, steep mountain slopes, broad glacial valleys, and tundra wetlands. The three major rivers in the Togiak NWR begin at large lakes within the Togiak Wilderness Area. These scenic mountain lakes include Togiak, Goodnews, and Kagati Lakes.

The Togiak Wilderness Area is internationally known for its fishery resources. The refuge and adjacent waters support world-class sport fishing for five anadromous salmon species, Dolly Varden/arctic char, grayling, rainbow trout, and others. Wildlife, such as brown bear, caribou, moose, furbearers, raptors, waterfowl, passerines, and other birds, can be seen through out the Togiak Wilderness Area.

There is a wide diversity of activities that take place in the Togiak Wilderness Area. Subsistence is a major activity during all four seasons of the year. Subsistence activities include fishing, hunting, trapping, and gathering berries and other wild edibles. The primary recreational activities are rafting and sportfishing. Other recreational activities include sport hunting, backpacking, and birding.

Andreafsky Wilderness Area - (AK)
Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge

This is a 1.3-million-acre wilderness area located in the north central part of the refuge. The main geological features are the main fork and the east fork of the Andreafsky River that run through the mountainous region. This area is extremely important for bristle-thighed curlews, brown bears, moose, wolves, raptors, grayling, dolly varden, and four species of salmon. There are no major management concerns at this time.

Nunivak Wilderness Area - (AK)
Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge

This 600,000-acre wilderness area is located in the southern half of Nunivak Island. The main geological features are coastal shoreline and large cliffs on the southwest side of the island. The wilderness habitat's main wildlife species are nesting seabirds, waterfowl, muskox, and both red and Arctic foxes. This is a grazing area for introduced reindeer. This activity began prior to Wilderness designation and will be allowed to continue as provided for in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and the legislation that designates the area a Wilderness.

Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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