Transfer to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
A New Role to Protect Wildlife
In 1988, the Navy invited the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to establish a National Wildlife Refuge on Midway Atoll to protect its wildlife. The jurisdiction of Midway Atoll was transferred from the Navy to the Department of the Interior in 1992 at which time the Navy began a massive environmental cleanup: buildings were demolished and antenna lines, bright lights and toxic soil were removed. A rat eradication project was also successful. The U.S. Navy officially left Midway Atoll on June 30, 1997.
In 1996, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Midway Phoenix Corporation, under a Memorandum of Agreement, started a partnership to implement a visitors’ program. During this time, visitors were able to join a tour which focused on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge’s unique history and abundant wildlife and included options for scuba diving, snorkeling, and deep-sea fishing. Midway Phoenix and USFWS ended the partnership in early 2002.
In later years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge to visitors on a limited basis, but the visitor program was closed in 2013 due to low staffing levels in response to federal budget cuts. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has stated that it hopes to reopen Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge to commercial tours once the atoll has adequate staffing.
A small community of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge staff, volunteers and contractors live and work on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge (typically a few dozen). These numbers pale in comparison to the heyday of the 1950s when nearly 5,000 people called Midway home during its time as an active military base. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Volunteers spend up to six months on the atoll assisting with seabird monitoring, invasive plant removal, habitat restoration, marine debris removal, and maintenance of equipment and memorials. This remote Refuge could not exist without strong support from regional and national U.S. Fish and Wildlife offices, or the work of dedicated Refuge staff in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi.
The Base Operations Support Services contractor has resident staff who keep one of the world’s most remote field stations and airports functional, including: management of the airstrip Henderson Field; facilities management and maintenance (power, water, and sanitation); fuel farm operations; medical services; food and housekeeping services; and running a small store.