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Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge

Red Marker Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge
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Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge was established to conserve trumpeter swans, various species of waterfowl and migratory birds, moose, caribou, martens, salmon, sheefish, and northern pike; to fulfill treaty obligations; to provide for continued subsistence uses; and to ensure necessary water quality and quantity.

The Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge headquarters is in Galena, a village of approximately 700 people located on the Yukon River. Galena was established before 1920 as a supply point for the mining of Galena (lead sulphite ore) south of the Yukon River.  Typical of rural Alaska, the area can be accessed only by river boat in the summer, snowmachine in the winter, or small airplanes which are able to fly in year-round (depending on the weather).

Until the mid 1800's, the only inhabitants of the area were the Koyukon Athabascans, a nomadic people who moved with the seasons (winter camp, spring camp, summer fish camp, and fall camp) to harvest available resources. Today, most people live in surrounding villages year-round, although they still utilize seasonal camps to some extent. Although Athabascan is the predominant culture of the area, a diverse group of people call this region home. Because of the harsh climate and the limited number of people who live here, the communities in the area share strong family and neighborly ties and enjoy the unique character of a small town in rural Alaska. Due to the Refuge’s remoteness, the majority of refuge use is by local area residents.

Sharing a commitment to our land, wildlife, and culture...
Many of the values and founding principles of National Wildlife Refuges are in harmony with Athabascan values and goals. Respecting and caring for our natural resources, ensuring wildlife populations remain healthy, and passing these values on to younger generations -- all are part of the mission of the Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge.

Elders, mostly in their 60's and 70's, from communities in and near the refuge have a vast and valuable knowledge of the area's natural history. These people are among the last generation who grew up living off the land completely by hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering. Their insight about past changes in animal abundance and habitat conditions are extremely valuable because wildlife studies were very limited before the refuges were established.

Viewed from the air, the Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge presents a mosaic of wet meadows, white spruce and black spruce forests, paper birch, balsam poplar, alders and willows. These communities are characteristic of interior Alaska but the refuge has more forested lands than most Alaskan refuges. The area is characterized by two main floodplains: the Yukon and Nowitna Rivers. These and numerous smaller rivers are constantly changing course by forming and then cutting through oxbow bends, creating isolated oxbow lakes which are ideal nesting areas for swans, geese and ducks. White spruce occurs in dense stands along rives in well drained soils. Black spruce muskegs or bogs are common in lowlands and on north-facing slopes where permafrost occurs. Alpine vegetation (tundra) occurs on the tops of hills and ridges.

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