United States Minor Outlying Islands

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United States Minor Outlying Islands

The United States Minor Outlying Islands (USMOI) are a group of nine insular areas of the United States, consisting of small, remote islands scattered across the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. These islands are unincorporated territories of the United States, and with the exception of Palmyra Atoll, they do not have permanent residents.


The USMOI includes eight islands or groups of islands in the Pacific Ocean: Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Atoll, Palmyra Atoll, and Wake Island; and one in the Caribbean Sea: Navassa Island. These islands are significant for their natural resources, strategic locations, and unique ecosystems, often serving as wildlife refuges and important sites for scientific research and environmental monitoring.


The history of the USMOI is marked by periods of exploration, military significance during World War II, and their eventual designation as wildlife refuges. Many of the islands played critical roles as airfields and naval outposts during the war. Following the war, the islands have been primarily used for scientific research and are managed by various U.S. federal agencies, including the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Office of Insular Affairs.


The USMOI are located in two strategic regions: the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Each island or atoll has its own unique geographical characteristics, ranging from coral reefs and atolls to rocky islets. These islands are known for their diverse ecosystems, home to many endemic species and critical habitats for migratory birds, marine life, and other wildlife.


The climate of the USMOI varies by location. Pacific islands generally experience a tropical climate with little seasonal temperature variation, while Navassa Island in the Caribbean has a tropical monsoon climate. The islands are subject to periodic tropical storms and hurricanes.

Biodiversity and Conservation

The isolation and limited human impact on the USMOI have allowed for the preservation of unique ecosystems. These islands serve as vital nesting, foraging, and breeding grounds for seabirds, sea turtles, and other marine species. Efforts to eradicate invasive species and protect native flora and fauna are ongoing, with several islands designated as National Wildlife Refuges.

Legal Status and Governance

As unincorporated territories of the United States, the USMOI do not have permanent populations and are directly managed by the federal government. The islands do not have local governments or indigenous populations, and access is restricted primarily to scientific and military personnel. Environmental management and jurisdiction over these territories are shared among various federal agencies.

Economic and Strategic Importance

The strategic location of these islands, especially during World War II, highlighted their military significance. Today, while they do not support significant economic activities, their value lies in scientific research, environmental conservation, and their strategic positioning for national defense and space tracking operations.


  • United States Fish and Wildlife Service. (n.d.). Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Retrieved from [1]
  • Office of Insular Affairs. (n.d.). United States Department of the Interior. Retrieved from [2]