National Wildlife Refuge System 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).
|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|
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 Refuge 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 like 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 Refuge 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 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. There is at least one wildlife refuge in each of the fifty 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 CCCPs 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 fifteen years into the future, with the intent that they will be revised every fifteen 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.
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 impacted 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, non-governmental 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 Service 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 Service'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 Service’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 there were 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 even though these refuges and wetland management districts constitute only a little over 1% of the System. See highlights in the below table.
|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||562 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 following:
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR or Arctic Refuge) is a national wildlife refuge in northeastern Alaska, United States. It consists of 19,286,722 acres (78,050.59 km2) in the Alaska North Slope region. It is the largest national wildlife refuge in the country, slightly larger than the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is administered from offices in Fairbanks. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the biggest and the wildest land publicly owned by the United States. ANWR includes a large variety of species of plants and animals, such as polar bears, caribou, wolves, eagles, and migratory birds, that rely on the refuge.
Just across the border in Yukon, Canada, are two Canadian National Parks, Ivvavik and Vuntut.Baker Island
Baker Island is an uninhabited atoll located just north of the equator in the central Pacific Ocean about 3,090 km (1,920 mi) southwest of Honolulu. The island lies almost halfway between Hawaii and Australia. Its nearest neighbor is Howland Island, 42 mi (68 km) to the north-northwest; both have been claimed as territories of the United States since 1857, though the United Kingdom considered them part of the British Empire between 1897 and 1936.
Located at 0°11′41″N 176°28′46″W. the island covers 2.1 km2 (0.81 sq mi), with 4.8 km (3.0 mi) of coastline. The climate is equatorial, with little rainfall, constant wind, and strong sunshine. The terrain is low-lying and sandy: a coral island surrounded by a narrow fringing reef with a depressed central area devoid of a lagoon with its highest point being 8 m (26 ft) above sea level.The island now forms the Baker Island National Wildlife Refuge and is an unincorporated and unorganized territory of the U.S. which vouches for its defense. It is visited annually by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For statistical purposes, Baker is grouped with the United States Minor Outlying Islands. Baker Island and Howland Island are also the last pieces of land that experience the New Year (earliest time zone - UTC−12:00).Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuge
The Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuge is a wildlife refuge in the southwestern part of Klamath County, Oregon, near the California border. It was established in 1978 to protect the nesting areas of bald eagles. The refuge is part of the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex and has an area of 4,200 acres (1,700 ha) It is administered along with the other refuges in the complex from offices in Tulelake, California.Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge
Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge is a 13,450-acre (5,440 ha) U.S. National Wildlife Refuge located in northwestern Colorado. It is located in Moffat County in the extreme northwestern corner of the state, in an isolated mountain valley of Browns Park on both sides of the Green River, approximately 25 miles (40 km) below Flaming Gorge Dam. Established in 1965, the refuge is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service office in Maybell, Colorado. The refuge is approximately 53 miles (85 km) northwest of Maybell on State Highway 318. The refuge consists of bottomland and adjacent benchland. The western border of the refuge is the Colorado-Utah state line. The refuge is surrounded by adjacent lines of the Bureau of Land Management. The refuge contains the site of the former Fort Davy Crockett constructed in 1837 to protect trappers against attacks by Blackfoot Native Americans.Copalis National Wildlife Refuge
Copalis National Wildlife Refuge is the southernmost of the three refuges (along with Flattery Rocks and Quillayute Needles) which make up the Washington Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Complex, a group of 870 islands, rocks, and reefs extending for more than 100 miles along Washington's coast from Cape Flattery to Copalis Beach. These islands are protected from human disturbance, yet are close to abundant ocean food sources.They are a vital sanctuary where 14 species of seabirds nest and raise their young. During migration the total populations of seabirds, waterfowl, and shorebirds may exceed a million birds. Sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, and whales may also be seen around the islands.The refuge is within the boundary of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and Olympic National Park and is also incorporated into the Washington Islands Wilderness. The three agencies cooperate on research programs and other issues that may have impacts on the resources.Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge (DESFBNWR) is a United States National Wildlife Refuge located in the southern part of San Francisco Bay, California. The Refuge headquarters and visitor center is located in the Baylands district of Fremont, next to Coyote Hills Regional Park, in Alameda County. The visitor center is on Marshlands Rd, off Thornton Ave.Most of the refuge stretches along the marshy shoreline north and south of the Dumbarton Bridge, but Bair Island, in San Mateo County, is also part of the system. The southernmost extent of the refuge is in northern Santa Clara County.Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge
The Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge is a 187-acre (76 ha) National Wildlife Refuge in Noyack, New York. Much of the refuge is situated on a peninsula surrounded by Noyack and Little Peconic bays. The refuge is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
The refuge was established December 27, 1954, through a donation by the Morton family. It encompasses diverse habitats including bay beach, a brackish pond, a freshwater pond, kettle holes, tidal flats, salt marsh, freshwater marsh, shrub, grasslands, maritime oak forest, and red cedar. The refuge's diversity is critical to Long Island wildlife.
The north/south orientation of the refuge's peninsula creates important habitat for shorebirds, raptors and songbirds as they navigate the coastline during migration. Habitats along the beach attract nesting piping plovers, roseate terns, least terns, common terns, and shorebirds. The waters surrounding the refuge are considered critical habitat for juvenile Kemp's ridley sea turtles and are occasionally used by loggerhead sea turtles. Waterfowl use of the refuge peaks during the colder months. Long-tailed ducks, white-winged scoter, goldeneye and black ducks will most likely be spotted during winter.Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge
Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge includes the northern half of Smith Island (in Somerset County, Maryland), which lies 11 miles (18 km) west of Crisfield, Maryland, and Watts Island (in Accomack County, Virginia), which is located between the eastern shore of Virginia and Tangier Island. Both islands are situated in the lower Chesapeake Bay.
The refuge was established in 1954 when the late Glenn L. Martin donated 2,569 acres (10.40 km2) to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Since then, donation and purchase has increased the size of the refuge to 4,548 acres (18.41 km2). The tidal marsh, coves and creeks, and vegetated ridges of the refuge form an important stopover and wintering area for thousands of migratory waterfowl and nesting habitat for various wildlife species.
Martin National Wildlife Refuge is the largest unit of the Chesapeake Islands Refuges, which also includes Spring Island, Barren Island, and Bishops Head in Dorchester County, Maryland. The management of the Chesapeake Islands Refuges falls under the umbrella of the Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Located in Cambridge, Maryland, the complex also manages Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and Susquehanna River National Wildlife Refuge.J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge
The J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is part of the United States National Wildlife Refuge System, located in southwestern Florida, on Sanibel Island in the Gulf of Mexico. "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society (DDWS), a non-profit Friends of the Refuge organization, supports environmental education and services at the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It is named for the cartoonist Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling.The 5200 acre (21 km2) refuge was established in 1976, to protect one of the country's largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystems. The refuge is well known for its migratory bird populations. Hurricane Charley struck the refuge on August 13, 2004, causing major changes to the topography and ecology. The J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge Complex consists of the following: the Darling Refuge itself, and the Caloosahatchee, Island Bay, Matlacha, and Pine Island National Wildlife Refuges.
The northern section of the refuge is in the J.N. Ding Darling Wilderness Area, which was created in 1976 and currently protects 2,619 acres (1,060 ha) or 41% of the refuge.Marin Islands
The Marin Islands are the two small islands, named East Marin and West Marin, in San Rafael Bay, an embayment of San Pablo Bay in Marin County, California.Mark Twain National Wildlife Refuge Complex
The Mark Twain National Wildlife Refuge Complex was established for the protection of migratory birds including waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds. It is located along the Mississippi Flyway, one of the major routes for migrating waterfowl. Refuge units also provide important habitat for big-river fish and a variety of other native wildlife such as deer, fox, beaver, frogs, turtles, and snakes. Key goals are to conserve and enhance the quality and diversity of fish and wildlife and their habitats, to restore floodplain functions in the river corridor, and to provide wildlife-related recreational experiences for the public.
Several units within the Complex were established in the 1940s following construction of the lock and dam system. Those units were consolidated into Mark Twain National Wildlife Refuge in 1958. Since then, other areas have been added to Mark Twain, which now includes 45,000 acres (180 km2) scattered along 345 miles (555 km) of the Mississippi River and short distances up the Illinois and Iowa rivers.
In 2000, Mark Twain National Wildlife Refuge was split into five separate National Wildlife Refuges - Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge, Great River National Wildlife Refuge, Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge, Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge, and Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge Complex administration office, located in Quincy, Illinois, has retained the Mark Twain name.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is an agency of the Department of the Interior.Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge
The Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge is located on the Mississippi River downstream from St. Louis, Missouri. It is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Mark Twain National Wildlife Refuge Complex.The refuge consists of three parcels of Mississippi River bottomland, nearly all of it wetland. They are Meissner Island, near Valmeyer, Illinois; Harlow Island, near Festus, Missouri; and Wilkinson Island, near Gorham, Illinois.The Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge has a local headquarters at Rockwood, Illinois in Randolph County. In all, the refuge is located in parts of Jackson, Monroe, and Randolph counties in Illinois, and Jefferson and Perry counties in Missouri. The refuge relies for much of its staffing on the nearby Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge near Carbondale, Illinois.This Refuge was created in response to the Great Flood of 1993. The three parcels of bottomland that now make up this Refuge had been riverine polders, agricultural land protected by dikes. After the dikes were breached by this flood, the damaged land parcels were transferred to the federal government. The Fish and Wildlife Service has announced plans to slowly return these three parcels to the status of semi-natural bottomlands. Pursuant to these plans, the Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge was established in May 2000.Midway Atoll
Midway Atoll (colloquial: Midway Islands; Hawaiian: Pihemanu Kauihelani) is a 2.4-square-mile (6.2 km2) atoll in the North Pacific Ocean at 28°12′N 177°21′W. Midway is roughly equidistant between North America and Asia. Midway Atoll is an unorganized, unincorporated territory of the United States. Midway continues to be the only island in the Hawaiian archipelago that is not part of the state of Hawaii. Unlike the other Hawaiian islands, Midway observes Samoa Time (UTC−11:00, i.e., eleven hours behind Coordinated Universal Time), which is one hour behind the time in the state of Hawaii. For statistical purposes, Midway is grouped as one of the United States Minor Outlying Islands. The Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, encompassing 590,991.50 acres (239,165.77 ha) of land and water in the surrounding area, is administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The refuge and most of its surrounding area are part of the larger Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
Until 1993, the atoll was the home of the Naval Air Facility Midway Island. The Battle of Midway, which was fought between June 4 and 6, 1942, was one of the most important battles of the Pacific campaign of World War II. The United States Navy defeated a Japanese battle group, marking a turning point in the war in the Pacific Theater. USAAF aircraft based at the original Henderson Field on Eastern Island joined the attack against the Japanese fleet, which suffered losses of four carriers and one heavy cruiser.
Approximately 40 to 60 people live on the atoll, which includes staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and contract workers. Visitation to the atoll is possible only for business reasons (which includes permanent and temporary staff, contractors and volunteers) as the tourism program has been suspended due to budget cutbacks. In 2012, the last year that the visitor program was in operation, 332 people made the trip to Midway. Tours focused on both the unique ecology of Midway as well as its military history. The economy is derived solely from governmental sources and tourist fees. Nearly all supplies must be brought to the island by ship or plane, though a hydroponic greenhouse and garden supply some fresh fruits and vegetables.Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge
Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge is a United States National Wildlife Refuge located in southern Colorado. The refuge is located in the San Luis Valley south of the town of Monte Vista, Colorado in southeastern Rio Grande County, Colorado, in the watershed of the Rio Grande. It was established in 1953 by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission to provide a habitat for wildlife, particularly waterfowl, in the San Luis Valley.Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a U.S. National Wildlife Refuge on Oregon's coast. It lies in southern Tillamook County, on the state's northern coast. It is one of six National Wildlife Refuges comprising the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex and supports one tenth of the world's dusky Canada goose population. The refuge contains at least seven types of habitat, including tidal marsh, tidal mudflats, grassland, woodland, pasture, forested lagg—a transition between raised peat bog and mineral soil—and freshwater bogs, including the southernmost coastal Sphagnum bog habitat on the Pacific Coast.The Sphagnum bog provides habitat for many interesting and unusual species, such as the insect-eating sundew plant and the bog cranberry. Scientists have discovered many layers of sand and peat under Neskowin Marsh indicating a long history of tsunami activity which carries sand from the coastal sand dunes. These might be the best record of tsunami activity within the Cascadia subduction zone.Chinook and coho salmon, coastal cutthroat trout and steelhead are all native to the Nestucca Bay and River system. November through April, the refuge’s short grass pastures provide winter habitats for the previously mentioned dusky Canada goose and the Aleutian cackling goose. Notable winged residents include a variety of migrating shorebirds, peregrine falcons and bald eagles.The refuge was established in 1991, and is on Nestucca Bay at the confluence of the Nestucca and Little Nestucca rivers, ranging 3 to 5 miles (5 to 8 km) south of Pacific City. Across the bay to the west is Nestucca Spit and Robert W. Straub state parks.
The refuge is closed to all public use, except during two special events: one in February and one in October. A viewing area is planned for construction, probably in 2008.In 2010, Oregon writer Matt Love published a book about his experience serving as caretaker of the site for nine years during the restoration of the preserve from a one-time dairy farm back to its natural state. "Gimme Refuge: The Education of a Caretaker" Nestucca Spit Press. ISBN 9780974436449Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge
The Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge is a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System in the United States, located approximately 16 miles (26 km) northwest of Denver, Colorado.Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex
The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex is part of the United States system of National Wildlife Refuges (NWR). It is located in northern California, in the valley of the Sacramento River.
The Sacramento NWR Complex was created in an attempt to resolve the conflict between the needs of migrating birds using the Pacific Flyway, and those of agriculture.
The Sacramento NWR Complex headquarters and visitor center is located in the 10,819-acre Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge off of 99W, and features a wildlife exhibit, bookstore, and Discovery Room. Visitors can enjoy a six-mile auto tour with 3 viewing areas and two walking trails.Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge
Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge is the smallest urban unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The refuge is located in the City of Arvada, Jefferson County, Colorado, United States. The refuge consists of 72.2 acres (29.2 ha) of land, including 63.2 acres (25.6 ha) of uplands, 9.0 acres (3.6 ha) of wetlands, and three small ponds. The site sits in the midst of a region of suburban expansion of the Denver Metropolitan Area, and was saved from development in 1990 by a group of concerned citizens, now a Friend's group entitled the Two Ponds Preservation Foundation. The refuge was established in 1992 and continues to protect various animals as well as unique high prairie plants, and offers visitors many activities, including hiking, guided tours, and group educational opportunities.