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United States Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges

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While some were the sites of intense Second World War fighting, mysterious disappearances, and Cold War testing, a series of islands and atolls in the Pacific Ocean, the United States Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges, are now either uninhabited, or have only a small population of biologists and support personnel. With the exception of Midway, they form the Pacific Remote Islands National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Complex, which is managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Midway Atoll NWR has been included in a Refuge Complex with the Hawaiian Islands NWR and also designated as part of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.[1]

Only Midway is open to the public, with restrictions. Of the others, Johnston Atoll and Palmyra Atoll do have staff present; the rest are uninhabited.

Baker Island

An atoll in the North Pacific Ocean 1,830 nm (3,389 km) southwest of Honolulu, about half way between Hawaii and Australia

Howland Island

The last known position of Amelia Earhart, it is in the North Pacific Ocean 1,815 nm (3,361 km) southwest of Honolulu, about half way between Hawaii and Australia

Jarvis Island

Located in the South Pacific Ocean 1,305 nm (2,417 km) south of Honolulu, about half way between Hawaii and Cook Islands

Johnston Atoll

A guano mine in the late 19th century, under U.K and then U.S. jurisdiction, it was the US that mined the guano deposits until the late 1880s. Johnston and Sand Islands were designated wildlife refuges in 1926. The US Navy took over the atoll in 1934, and subsequently the US Air Force assumed control in 1948. The site was used for high-altitude nuclear tests in the 1950s and 1960s, and until late in 2000 the atoll was used to store chemical weapons, and destroy them in accordance with the [{Chemical Weapons Convention]]. Munitions destruction, cleanup, and closure of the facility was completed by May 2005.

The Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Air Force are exploring future management options; in the interim, Johnston Atoll and the three-mile Naval Defensive Sea around it remain under the jurisdiction and administrative control of the US Air Force. It is in the North Pacific, 717 nm (1,328 km) southwest of Honolulu, about one-third of the way from Hawaii to the Marshall Islands

Kingman Reef

About half way between Hawaii and American Samoa, it is in the North Pacific Ocean 930 nm (1,722 km) south of Honolulu, it was a way station for flying boats on Hawaii-to-American Samoa flights during the late 1930s. There are no terrestrial plants on the reef, which is frequently awash, but it does support abundant and diverse marine fauna and flora.

Midway Islands

The US took formal possession of the islands in 1867. The laying of the trans-Pacific cable, which passed through the islands, brought the first residents in 1903. Between 1935 and 1947, Midway was used as a refueling stop for trans-Pacific flights.

The Japanese target in the Battle of Midway included parts of an atoll in the North Pacific Ocean 1,260 nm (2,334 km) northwest of Honolulu near the end of the Hawaiian Archipelago, about one-third of the way from Honolulu to Tokyo. The U.S. Navy base there closed in 1993.

Today the islands are a National Wildlife Refuge and are the site of the world's largest Laysan albatross colony. There is an emergency airstrip. It is open to the public for wildlife-related recreation in the form of wildlife observation and photography.

Palmyra Atoll

In the North Pacific Ocean 960 nm (1,778 km) south of Honolulu, about half way between Hawaii and American Samoa, the State of Hawaii did not include Palmyra Atoll. It is now partly privately owned by the Nature Conservancy with the rest owned by the Federal government and managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. These organizations are managing the atoll as a wildlife refuge. The lagoons and surrounding waters within the 12 nm US territorial seas were transferred to the US Fish and Wildlife Service and designated as a National Wildlife Refuge in January 2001.

References

  1. Central Intelligence Agency, United States Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges, The World Factbook