|National Wildlife Refuge System|
IUCN category IV (habitat/species management area)
|Area||over 150 million acres|
|Visitors||47 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 568 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts encompassing more than 150,000,000 acres (607,028 km2).
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.
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.
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.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.
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.
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.
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.
Completed CCPs are available to the public and can be found on the FWS website.
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:
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.
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 area||No. of units||Size of NWRS (Sept 30, 2014)||Notes|
|State of Alaska||16||76.9 million acres||51% of total refuge system acres are in AK; about 18% of AK is set aside as national wildlife refuges|
|Hawaii and Pacific Marine Areas||22||54.8 million acres||37% 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 NWR||9||0.4 million acres||Largest refuge is Navassa Island, which is nearly 365,000 acres|
|Lower 48 states||553||18.3 million acres||12% 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 system||600||150.3 million acres||568 refuges and 38 wetland management districts|
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:
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."
The Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge is a 15,022 acres (60.79 km2) (2014) wildlife refuge located in White County, Arkansas about two miles south of the town of Bald Knob. The refuge is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuge features large numbers of migratory waterfowl and bald eagles during the winter months.
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.
The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is located in southern New Mexico. It was founded in 1939 and is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is a favorite spot to watch the migration of the Sandhill cranes in the fall. The reserve is open year-round and provides safe harbor for its varied wildlife.
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.
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 2019, there are 803 designated wilderness areas, totaling 111,368,221 acres (45,069,120 ha), or about 4.5% of the area of the United States.
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."
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 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.
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.
The National Wildlife Refuge System in the United States has a long and distinguished history.
The Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge is a wildlife refuge located in Ulster County, New York, United States. Formerly the Galeville Military Airport, it was decommissioned in 1994 and turned over to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in 1999. It serves as a waypoint for grassland-dependent migratory birds.
According to the California Protected Areas Database (CPAD), in the state of California, United States, there are over 14,000 inventoried protected areas administered by public agencies and non-profits. In addition, there are private conservation areas and other easements. They include almost one-third of California's scenic coastline, including coastal wetlands, estuaries, beaches, and dune systems. The California State Parks system alone has 270 units and covers 1.3 million acres (5,300 km2), with over 280 miles (450 km) of coastline, 625 miles (1,006 km) of lake and river frontage, nearly 18,000 campsites, and 3,000 miles (5,000 km) of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails.
James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge is a National Wildlife Refuge on the island of Oʻahu, Hawaii. It was established in 1976 to permanently protect an ecologically-intact unit and to provide habitat for native and migratory fauna and native flora. It established critical habitat for Hawaii's four endangered waterbirds, the ʻalae kea, koloa maoli, ʻalae ʻula, and āeʻo and many migratory seabirds, endangered and native plant species, and the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and green sea turtle. It also provides increased wildlife-dependent public uses and flood control within the refuge and the local community.
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 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.
Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge was established to provide a means of working with individuals, groups, private organizations, and government entities to permanently preserve a portion of the remaining remnant tracts of northern tallgrass prairie in Minnesota and Iowa. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is acquiring remnant prairie tracts for the refuge in both easement and fee title interests from willing sellers.
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.
The John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge is a national wildlife refuge of the United States, located along the Narrow River on the southern coast of Rhode Island.
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.
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