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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Insular Affairs
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Baker and Howland Islands

Baker Island


Howland Island


From 1850 to 1891, American interests worked the rich guano deposits on Baker and Howland Islands. The United States asserted its claim to the islands based on the Guano Act of August 18, 1856.

The Guano Act provided that whenever any citizen of the United States discovers a deposit of guano on any island, rock, or key, not within the lawful jurisdiction of any other government, and takes peaceable possession thereof, and occupies the same island, rock, or key, it appertains to the United States.

The guano industry gradually disappeared on Baker and Howland Islands. Both islands were regarded as barren outposts of no real value until the aviation era began in the 1930's. In 1934, the United States reasserted its claim to the islands with a few colonists landing on the islands in1936. They were removed following Japanese air and naval attacks on the island in 1942. The islands have remained unoccupied since that time.

Howland Island is related to the tragic disappearance of Amelia Earhart and Fred J. Noonanduring the round-the-world flight in 1937. They left New Guinea on July 2, 1937, for Howland, but were never seen again. The Amelia Earhart lighthouse was partially destroyed during World War II, but has been rebuilt in memory of the famed aviatrix.

Political Status
Baker and Howland Islands are both national wildlife refuges, not within the jurisdiction of any state or other United States territory. Administrative authority was transferred from the Officeof Territorial Affairs to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on June 27, 1974.

Howland Island, located at latitude 0 degrees, 48 minutes north, and longitude 176 degrees, 38 minutes, west, lies approximately 1650 nautical miles southwest of Honolulu. A flat coral island, Howland is about two miles long, with an average width of a half mile. Its land area is approximately 400 acres. The highest elevation is 20 feet above sea level. Various types of birds inhabit the island, and marine life in the surrounding waters is abundant. Howland Island is almost totally covered with a moderately heavy growth of green vegetation. A few trees are located in the central area.

Baker Island is located at 0 degrees, 14 minutes, north and longitude 176 degrees, 28 minutes west, approximately 1650 miles southwest of Honolulu and 36 miles southeast of Howland. It is a saucer-shaped island of coral formation about one mile long and 1500 yards wide. Its highest elevation is about 20 feet above sea level. It has sparsely scattered vegetation with no trees. On Baker Island, the vegetation consists of four kinds of grass, a few low shrubs and weedy herbs. Marine life is plentiful and varied. There are abundant seabirds nesting on Baker Island.

Both islands receive scant rainfall, constant wind, and burning sun. The islands provide important nesting and roosting habitat for about 20 species of seabirds and shorebirds numbering well over one million individuals. Reptiles and crustaceans account for most of the animal life observed on the islands. The green and hawksbill turtles forage in the shallow waters on the reef along with hundreds of species of fish, coral, and other invertebrates.

Transportation Facilities
The airstrip is no longer serviceable.

For Additional Information
Public use is restricted to scientists and educators by special permit. For additional information on these islands and their use permits contact :
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Refuge Complex Office
P.O. Box 50167
Honolulu, Hawaii 96850

Pet Quarantine
All plants and animals are strictly prohibited at Howland and Baker Islands in order to prelude introduction of alien species to the fragile islands ecosystem.

Emergency Contact
The islands are uninhabited and not open for public visitation. Any problems should be reported to the Refugee Manager of the Pacific Remote Islands National Wildlife Refuge.