Togiak National Wildlife Refuge  

  • Size: 4.7 million acres
  • Established: A small portion was first protected in 1969 as Cape Newenham National Wildlife Refuge; vastly expanded and renamed in the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

The Togiak Refuge, on Alaska’s southwest coast, is a cornucopia of biological diversity. Thirty one species of land mammals are found there, including two herds of caribou numbering more than 150,000 animals. Another 17 species of marine mammals cruise the waters off the 600 miles of coastline in the Refuge.

The skies are dense with birds – 201 species have been documented, including murres, peregrine falcons, dowitchers, and Lapland longspurs. The ground is an even richer fount of diversity, with 500 species of plants.

Archeological sites show that humans have lived in the area for at least the last 2000 years, and at least one settlement may date from 4,000 years ago. Captain James Cook was the first European known to contact Native peoples in the area, back in 1778.

This part of the state was quiet until canneries discovered red gold – aka salmon – in the 1880s. Real gold was found later near Goodnews Bay, but it was a small-scale strike that did not transform the region.

The Refuge’s natural abundance serves as a backyard grocery store for the region’s Natives, who rely on the same wild game, fish and plants as their forebears did and maintain many of their cultural traditions.

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