It’s that time of year again… when we celebrate America’s unique, natural treasures! This year, National Wildlife Refuge Week serves as an official reminder to cherish and protect these special places.
Established in 1903 by President Teddy Roosevelt, the National Wildlife Refuge System offers a crucial sanctuary for America’s fish, wildlife and plants. Each year, the refuge system attracts around 41 million visitors for wildlife watching, environmental education, hunting and fishing, and generates nearly $2 billion for local communities. Ecologically, it provides an incredible diversity of habitats for 280 federally listed threatened and endangered species, as well as countless others.
America’s natural places are already woefully fragmented and plagued by invasive species, pollution and an array of other threats, so having protected lands that are set aside for wildlife conservation is critical.
But the refuge system is becoming even more important. As climate change alters ecosystems, many animals will be forced to find more hospitable homes. America’s natural places are already woefully fragmented and plagued by invasive species, pollution and an array of other threats, so having protected lands that are set aside for wildlife conservation is critical. With approximately 150 million acres across 552 refuges and 38 wetland management districts, the refuge system is well positioned to serve as the foundation of a new era of conservation.
On September 24, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution formally recognizing National Wildlife Refuge Week, which has been celebrated during the second week of October since the mid-1990s. The resolution reaffirms the value of the National Wildlife Refuge System to America’s people, its economy and – of course – its wildlife!
With national wildlife refuges in every state and within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas, nearly all of us can find unsurpassed opportunities to take photographs, watch wildlife, participate in interpretive programs and otherwise enjoy our nation’s wild places during Refuge Week and throughout the year. To find the national wildlife refuge nearest you, visit refuges.fws.gov or call 1-800-344-WILD (9453).