National Wildlife Refuge

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National Wildlife Refuge System
IUCN category IV (habitat/species management area)
NWRS Logo.png
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LocationFlag of the United States.svg  United States
Areaover 150 million acres
Established1903
Visitors47 million(in FY 2014)
Governing body U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

National Wildlife RefugeSystem is a designation for certain protected areas of the United States managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife, and plants. Since President Theodore Roosevelt designated Florida's Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge as the first wildlife refuge in 1903, the system has grown to over 562 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts encompassing more than 150,000,000 acres (607,028 km2).

Protected areas of the United States

The protected areas of the United States are managed by an array of different federal, state, tribal and local level authorities and receive widely varying levels of protection. Some areas are managed as wilderness, while others are operated with acceptable commercial exploitation. As of 2015, the 25,800 protected areas covered 1,294,476 km2 (499,800 sq mi), or 14 percent of the land area of the United States. This is also one-tenth of the protected land area of the world. The U.S. also had a total of 787 National Marine Protected Areas, covering an additional 1,271,408 km2 (490,893 sq mi), or 12 percent of the total marine area of the United States.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service US Federal Government agency

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is an agency of the US Federal Government within the US Department of the Interior dedicated to the management of fish, wildlife, and natural habitats. The mission of the agency is "working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people."

Theodore Roosevelt 26th president of the United States

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was an American statesman, politician, conservationist, naturalist, and writer who served as the 26th president of the United States from 1901 to 1909. He previously served as the 25th vice president of the United States from March to September 1901 and as the 33rd governor of New York from 1899 to 1900. As a leader of the Republican Party during this time, he became a driving force for the Progressive Era in the United States in the early 20th century. His face is depicted on Mount Rushmore, alongside those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. In polls of historians and political scientists, Roosevelt is generally ranked as one of the five best presidents.

Contents

Background

The mission of the refuge system is "To administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of the present and future generations of Americans" (National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997). The system maintains the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of these natural resources and enables for associated public enjoyment of these areas where compatible with conservation efforts.

National Wildlife Refuges manage a full range of habitat types, including wetlands, prairies, coastal and marine areas, and temperate, tundra, and boreal forests. The management of each habitat is a complex web of controlling or eradicating invasive species, using fire in a prescribed manner, assuring adequate water resources, and assessing external threats such as development or contamination.

Among these, hundreds of national refuges are home to some 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species, and more than 1000 species of fish. Endangered species are a priority of National Wildlife Refuges in that nearly 60 refuges have been established with the primary purpose of conserving 280 threatened or endangered species.

National Wildlife Refuges are also places where visitors can participate in a wide variety of outdoor recreational activities. The National Wildlife Refuge System welcomes nearly 50 million visitors each year. The system manages six wildlife-dependent recreational uses in accordance with the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, including hunting, fishing, birding, photography, environmental education, and environmental interpretation. Hunters visit more than 350 hunting programs on refuges and on about 36,000 waterfowl production areas. Opportunities for fresh or saltwater fishing are available at more than 340 refuges. At least one wildlife refuge is in each of the 50 states.

Hunting Searching, pursuing, catching and killing wild animals

Hunting is the practice of killing or trapping animals, or pursuing or tracking them with the intent of doing so. Hunting wildlife or feral animals is most commonly done by humans for food, recreation, to remove predators that can be dangerous to humans or domestic animals, or for trade. Lawful hunting is distinguished from poaching, which is the illegal killing, trapping or capture of the hunted species. The species that are hunted are referred to as game or prey and are usually mammals and birds.

Fishing Activity of trying to catch fish

Fishing is the activity of trying to catch fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping. “Fishing” may include catching aquatic animals other than fish, such as molluscs, cephalopods, crustaceans, and echinoderms. The term is not normally applied to catching farmed fish, or to aquatic mammals, such as whales where the term whaling is more appropriate. In addition to being caught to be eaten, fish are caught as recreational pastimes. Fishing tournaments are held, and caught fish are sometimes kept as preserved or living trophies. When bioblitzes occur, fish are typically caught, identified, and then released.

Photography Art, science and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation

Photography is the art, application and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film. It is employed in many fields of science, manufacturing, and business, as well as its more direct uses for art, film and video production, recreational purposes, hobby, and mass communication.

National Wildlife Refuge System employees are responsible for planning, biological monitoring and habitat conservation, contaminants management, visitor services, outreach and environmental education, heavy equipment operation, law enforcement, and fire management.

Habitat conservation

Habitat conservation is a management practice that seeks to conserve, protect and restore habitats and prevent species extinction, fragmentation or reduction in range. It is a priority of many groups that cannot be easily characterized in terms of any one ideology.

The National Wildlife Refuge System is dealing with such issues as urban intrusion/development, habitat fragmentation, degradation of water quantity and quality, climate change, invasive species, increasing demands for recreation, and increasing demands for energy development. [1] The system has had numerous successes, including providing a habitat for endangered species, migratory birds, plants, and numerous other valuable animals, implementation of the NWRS Improvement Act, acquisition and protection of key critical inholdings, and establishing leadership in habitat restoration and management.

Habitat fragmentation

Habitat fragmentation describes the emergence of discontinuities (fragmentation) in an organism's preferred environment (habitat), causing population fragmentation and ecosystem decay. Causes of habitat fragmentation include geological processes that slowly alter the layout of the physical environment (suspected of being one of the major causes of speciation),and human activity such as land conversion, which can alter the environment much faster and causes the extinction of many species.

Climate change Change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns for an extended period

Climate change occurs when changes in Earth's climate system result in new weather patterns that last for at least a few decades, and maybe for millions of years. The climate system is comprised of five interacting parts, the atmosphere (air), hydrosphere (water), cryosphere, biosphere, and lithosphere. The climate system receives nearly all of its energy from the sun, with a relatively tiny amount from earth's interior. The climate system also gives off energy to outer space. The balance of incoming and outgoing energy, and the passage of the energy through the climate system, determines Earth's energy budget. When the incoming energy is greater than the outgoing energy, earth's energy budget is positive and the climate system is warming. If more energy goes out, the energy budget is negative and earth experiences cooling.

Invasive species Organism occurring in a new habitat

An invasive species is a species that is not native to a specific location, and that has a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment, human economy or human health.

The agency has created Comprehensive Conservation Plans (CCPs) for each refuge, developed through consultation with private and public stakeholders. These began a review process by stakeholders beginning in 2013. The CCPs must be consistent with the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) goals for conservation and wildlife management. [2] [3]

The CCPs outline conservation goals for each refuge for 15 years into the future, with the intent that they will be revised every 15 years thereafter. The comprehensive conservation planning process requires several phases, including a scoping phase, in which each refuge holds public meetings to identify the public’s main concerns; plan formulation, when refuge staff and FWS planners identify the key issues and refuge goals; writing the draft plan, in which wildlife and habitat alternatives are developed, and the plan is submitted for public review; revision of the draft plan, which takes into consideration the public’s input; and plan implementation. [4] [5]

Each CCP is required to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and must contain several potential alternatives to habitat and wildlife management on the refuge, and identify their possible effects on the refuge. Additionally, NEPA requires FWS planners and refuge staff to engage the public in this planning process to assist them with identifying the most appropriate alternative. [2]

Completed CCPs are available to the public and can be found on the FWS website. [3] [4]

History

Management activities (as of September 30, 2015)

Pelican Island in Florida was the nation's first wildlife refuge, created in 1903. PelicanIslandNWR.jpg
Pelican Island in Florida was the nation's first wildlife refuge, created in 1903.

Comprehensive wildlife and habitat management demands the integration of scientific information from several disciplines, including understanding ecological processes and monitoring status of fish, wildlife, and plants. Equally important is an intimate understanding of the social and economic drivers that impact and are affected by management decisions and can facilitate or impede implementation success. Service strategic habitat conservation planning, design, and delivery efforts are affected by the demographic, societal, and cultural changes of population growth and urbanization, as well as people’s attitudes and values toward wildlife. Consideration of these factors contributes to the success of the service’s mission to protect wildlife and their habitats.

The refuge system works collaboratively internally and externally to leverage resources and achieve effective conservation. It works with other federal agencies, state fish and wildlife agencies, tribes, nongovernmental organizations, local landowners, community volunteers, and other partners. Meaningful engagement with stakeholders at a regional, integrated level adds to the effective conservation achievements of the FWS and allows individual refuges to respond more effectively to challenges.

Wildlife and habitat management activities include:

  1. Monitoring plant and animal populations
  2. Restoring wetland, forest, grassland, and marine habitats
  3. Controlling the spread of invasive species
  4. Reintroducing rare fish, wildlife and plants to formerly occupied habitats
  5. Monitoring air quality
  6. Investigating and cleaning contaminants
  7. Preventing and controlling wildlife disease outbreaks
  8. Assessing water quality and quantity
  9. Understanding the complex relationship between people and wildlife through the integration of social science
  10. Managing habitats through manipulation of water levels, prescribed burning, haying, grazing, timber harvest, and planting vegetation

During fiscal year 2015, the refuge system manipulated 3.1 million acres of habitat (technique #9 from the preceding list) and managed 147 million acres of the system without habitat manipulation (using techniques #1 through 8 from the preceding list).

Refuges attract nearly 50 million visitors each year who come to hunt, fish, observe, and photograph wildlife, and are a significant boon to local economies. According to the FWS's 2013 Banking on Nature Report, visitors to refuges positively impact the local economies. The report details that 47 million people who visited refuges that year:

The refuge system has a professional cadre of law enforcement officers that supports a broad spectrum of service programs by enforcing conservation laws established to protect the fish, wildlife, cultural, and archaeological resources the service manages in trust for the American people. They also educate the public about the FWS’s mission, contribute to environmental education and outreach, provide safety and security for the visiting public, assist local communities with law enforcement and natural disaster response and recovery through emergency management programs, and help protect native subsistence rights. They are routinely involved with the greater law enforcement community in cooperative efforts to combat the nation's drug problems, address border security issues, and aid in other security challenges.

Prevention and control of wildland fires is also a part of refuge management. Completion of controlled burns to reduce fuel loading, and participation in the interagency wildland fire suppression efforts, are vital for management of refuge lands.

A considerable infrastructure of physical structures is also essential to proper management of refuge lands. As of September 30, 2015, the refuges had 13,030 roads, bridges, and trails; 5,284 buildings; 8,007 water management structures; and 7,886 other structures such as visitor facility enhancements (hunting blinds, fishing piers, boat docks, observation decks, and information kiosks). The overall facility infrastructure is valued at nearly $30 billion.

Physical features

The area of the refuge system is heavily influenced by large areas devoted to protecting wild Alaska and to protecting marine habitats in the Pacific Ocean; however, the number of units and public visitation overwhelmingly occurs in the lower 48 states, though these refuges and wetland management districts constitute only a little over 1% of the system.

Geographic areaNo. of unitsSize of NWRS (Sept 30, 2014)Notes
State of Alaska1676.9 million acres51% of total refuge system acres are in AK; about 18% of AK is set aside as national wildlife refuges
Hawaii and Pacific Marine Areas2254.8 million acres37% of total refuge system acres are located in the Pacific; nearly all these acres are in four marine national monuments; these areas are predominantly coral reefs and open ocean.
Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Navassa NWR90.4 million acresLargest refuge is Navassa Island, which is nearly 365,000 acres
Lower 48 states55318.3 million acres12% of total NWRS acres are in the lower 48 states; the NWRS constitutes about 0.9% of lower 48 acreage. By unit count, 92% of NWRS units are in the lower 48; 515 are refuges (14.2 million acres) and 38 wetland management districts (3.8 million acres).
Entire refuge system600150.3 million acres562 refuges and 38 wetland management districts

Visitation

Volunteers

Personnel

Special designation areas

In addition to refuge status, the "special" status of lands within individual refuges may be recognized by additional designations, either legislatively or administratively. Special designation may also occur through the actions of other legitimate agencies or organizations. The influence that special designations may have on the management of refuge lands and waters may vary considerably.

Special designation areas within the refuge system as of September 30, 2014, included:

See also

Related Research Articles

Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge

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Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge place in Florida listed on National Register of Historic Places

Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is a United States National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), and part of the Everglades Headwaters NWR complex, located just off the western coast of Orchid Island in the Indian River Lagoon east of Sebastian, Florida. The refuge consists of a 3-acre (12,000 m2) island that includes an additional 2.5 acres (10,000 m2) of surrounding water and is located off the east coast of Florida of the Indian River Lagoon. Established by an executive order of President Theodore Roosevelt on March 14, 1903, Pelican Island was the first National wildlife refuge in the United States. It was created to protect egrets and other birds from extinction through plume hunting.

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

The Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is a 147,392-acre (596.47 km2) wildlife sanctuary is located west of Boynton Beach, in Palm Beach County, Florida. It includes the most northern remnant of the historic Everglades wetland ecosystem.

National Wilderness Preservation System

The National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) of the United States protects federally managed wilderness areas designated for preservation in their natural condition. Activity on formally designated wilderness areas is coordinated by the National Wilderness Preservation System. Wilderness areas are managed by four federal land management agencies: the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. The term "wilderness" is defined as "an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain" and "an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions." As of 2016, there are 765 designated wilderness areas, totaling 109,129,657 acres (44,163,205 ha), or about 4.5% of the area of the United States.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is a 402,000‑acre (1,627 km2) National Wildlife Refuge located in Charlton, Ware, and Clinch Counties of Georgia, and Baker County in Florida, United States. The refuge is administered from offices in Folkston, Georgia. The refuge was established in 1937 to protect a majority of the 438,000 acre (1,772 km2) Okefenokee Swamp. The name "Okefenokee" is a Native American word meaning "trembling earth."

Seney National Wildlife Refuge

The Seney National Wildlife Refuge is a managed wetland in Schoolcraft County in the U.S. state of Michigan. It has an area of 95,212 acres (385 km2). It is bordered by M-28 and M-77. The nearest town of any size is Seney, Michigan. The refuge contains the Seney Wilderness Area and the Strangmoor Bog National Natural Landmark within its boundaries.

Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge

Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge is located in the fertile Willamette Valley of northwestern Oregon, 12 miles (19 km) south of Salem. The valley was once a rich mix of wildlife habitats. Valley wetlands were once extensive, with meandering stream channels and vast seasonal marshes. Today, the valley is a mix of farmland and growing cities, with few areas remaining for wildlife.

Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge

The Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge is a 950-acre (384.5 ha) National Wildlife Refuge in ten units across the U.S. state of Connecticut. Located in the Atlantic Flyway, the refuge spans 70 miles (110 km) of Connecticut coastline and provides important resting, feeding, and nesting habitat for many species of wading birds, shorebirds, songbirds and terns, including the endangered roseate tern. Adjacent waters serve as wintering habitat for brant, scoters, American black duck, and other waterfowl. Overall, the refuge encompasses over 900 acres (364.2 ha) of barrier beach, intertidal wetland and fragile island habitats.

History of the National Wildlife Refuge System

The National Wildlife Refuge System in the United States has a long and distinguished history.

Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge Protected area in Ulster County, New York

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Pearl Harbor National Wildlife Refuge

The Pearl Harbor National Wildlife Refuge is a National Wildlife Refuge on the island of Oʻahu, Hawaii. It was created in 1972 to mitigate the wildlife resource disturbances caused by construction of the Honolulu International Airport Reef Runway. The Refuge includes three units, the Honouliuli, Waiwa and Kalaeloa. The Honouliuli and Waiawa Units are managed under a cooperative agreement with the United States Navy. The Kalaeloa Unit was established during Base Realignment and Closure proceedings in 2001. Through these cooperative efforts with the Federal Aviation Administration, the State of Hawaii, and the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made Pearl Harbor NWR a reality.

Gravel Island National Wildlife Refuge

Gravel Island National Wildlife Refuge is a National Wildlife Refuge located off the Door Peninsula in Wisconsin. Founded in 1913, the refuge consists of two Lake Michigan islands that act as nesting grounds for native bird species. The refuge is part of the Wisconsin Islands Wilderness Area, and as such it is off-limits to the public to preserve the habitat of the islands. It is inhabited by large colonies of shore birds and waterfowl in addition to hosting a pair of great black-backed gulls, one of farthest westward breeding sites of the species.

Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge

Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge is one of the northernmost National Wildlife Refuges in the Atlantic Flyway, a migratory route that follows the eastern coast of North America. The refuge provides important feeding and nesting habitat for many bird species, including waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, upland game birds, songbirds, and birds of prey.

Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge

Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge was established in 1997 to conserve, protect and enhance the abundance and diversity of native plant, fish and wildlife species and the ecosystems on which they depend throughout the 7,200,000-acre (29,000 km2) Connecticut River watershed. The watershed covers large areas of Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. It contains a great diversity of habitats, notably: northern forest valuable as nesting habitat for migrant thrushes, warblers and other birds; rivers and streams used by shad, salmon, herring and other migratory fishes; and an internationally significant complex of high-quality tidal fresh, brackish and salt marshes.

Sayville National Wildlife Refuge

The Sayville National Wildlife Refuge is a 127-acre (51 ha) National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) located in West Sayville, New York about two miles (3.2 km) inland from the Great South Bay. Sayville NWR is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a sub-unit of Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge and part of the Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex. It is the only land-locked refuge in the complex.

Fox River National Wildlife Refuge

Fox River National Wildlife Refuge, managed by staff at Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, encompasses 1,054 acres (4.27 km2) of wetland and upland habitat along the Fox River in the Town of Buffalo, in Marquette County, Wisconsin.

Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge

The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge is a 2,553-acre (10.33 km2) protected area located along the Central Coast of California, in southern San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara Counties.

Refuge Water Supply Program

The Refuge Water Supply Program (RWSP) is administered by the United States Department of the Interior jointly by the Bureau of Reclamation and Fish and Wildlife Service and tasked with acquiring a portion and delivering a total of 555,515 acre feet (AF) of water annually to 19 specific protected wetland areas in the Central Valley of California as mandated with the passing of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act signed on October 30, 1992 by President George H. W. Bush.

Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area

The Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, created in 2012, the newest addition and 556th unit of the United States National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) System, began with 10 acres (4.0 ha) donated to the conservation effort as part of the Obama administration's America's Great Outdoors Initiative.

References

  1. Crafton, R. Eliot; Comay, Laura B.; Humphries, Marc (May 9, 2018). Oil and Gas Activities Within the National Wildlife Refuge System (PDF). Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  2. 1 2 National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, 1997.
  3. 1 2 United States Fish and Wildlife Service. "National Wildlife Refuge System: Refuge Planning- by Region",2010
  4. 1 2 National Wildlife Refuge Association. "Comprehensive Conservation Plans"
  5. Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (C.A.R.E.). "Comprehensive Conservation Plans: Coming to a Refuge Near You!", 2007
  6. 2008 actuals from RAPP Annual Report

Further reading