Tuxedni Wilderness Air Quality Information
Congress designated Tuxedni as a wilderness area in 1970, declaring that the area should remain undeveloped and "unimpaired" for future generations. It now has a total of 5,566 acres. In 1977, Congress further acknowledged the uniqueness of Tuxedni Wilderness by designating it a Class I air quality area, affording it special protection under the Clean Air Act. Congress gave the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), as the Federal Land Manager of Tuxedni Wilderness, the responsibility to protect the air quality and air quality related values (AQRVs) of the area from manmade air pollution. AQRVs include vegetation, wildlife, soils, water quality, visibility, odor, and cultural and archeological resources.
Little is known about the effects of air pollution on air quality and AQRVs in Tuxedni. Potential air pollution threats to Tuxedni include oil and gas development in Alaska, especially in the Cook Inlet, and long-range transport of air pollutants from other sources, including sources in Asia. Pollutant haze may obscure visibility at the wilderness area part of the time.
The FWS has begun a program to better understand air pollution causes and effects at Tuxedni, in partnership with the national Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) program. As part of this program, FWS operates a fine particle sampler that measures the pollutants in the air responsible for visibility impairment at Tuxedni.
In addition, FWS is surveying the vegetation of Tuxedni and evaluating potential air pollution impacts to vegetation. Lichens are significant components of Tuxedni’s flora, and lichens have been shown to be sensitive to air pollution in other areas of Alaska and North America. Surveys of lichens, bryophytes, and vascular plants were conducted from 1987 to 1993 to obtain baseline information on distribution and occurrence of species.
The FWS is working cooperatively with the State of Alaska to reduce air pollutant emissions and protect the air quality and AQRVs of Tuxedni. If Tuxedni is not protected, unique wildlife and scenic values could be threatened or lost. The FWS hopes to preserve and protect this special area of wilderness for future generations.