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Get Outside for National Wildlife Refuge Week
This week (October 9-15) is National Wildlife Refuge Week, commemorated for the first time by the Senate in a historic resolution last year and officially recognized this year. First initiated under President Bill Clinton, Refuge Week is a celebration of our national refuges and America’s majestic wildlife heritage.
Since Theodore Roosevelt established the first national wildlife refuge in 1903, the National Wildlife Refuge System has been preserving native habitats to protect hundreds of animal and plant species. Not only do refuges provide protection for wildlife and plants, they also provide excellent recreational opportunities to get people interacting with nature. However, refuges need our help to continue to be the world’s premier habitat conservation system.
A Safe Haven for Wildlife
The refuge system’s top priority includes protecting wildlife and preserving native lands. As the largest refuge in the lower 48 states, the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge contains approximately 1,100,000 acres. Animals protected within the Charles M. Russell refuge include mule deer, bighorn sheep, black-footed ferrets, approximately 235 species of birds, and hopefully soon, American bison.
The National Wildlife Federation has been actively engaged in bison restoration in the Charles M. Russell. To help restore this once prevalent and majestic creature to its native habitat, you can help protect bison by taking action.
Interacting with Refuges
National Wildlife Refuges provide many opportunities for outdoor recreation including:
- Wildlife Observation
- Environmental Education
Annually, the 45 million visitors contribute nearly $1.7 billion to local economies and support tens of thousands of local jobs and additionally, studies estimate that refuges return over $874 for every $1 spent in refuge services. Every state has at least one national wildlife refuge, and there’s a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major cities. Find out where your nearest National Wildlife Refuge is located.
Help Threatened Habitats
The Refuge System faces some serious problems, including:
The total operations and maintenance backlog for the Refuge System exceeds $3.3 billion.
- More than 2.5 million acres of refuge lands are overrun with non-native invasive plants, while nearly 4,000 invasive animal populations ravage millions more acres.
- Drug production and smuggling, wildlife poaching, illegal border activity, assaults, natural resource violations and other crimes are on the rise in the Refuge System, yet only 213 full-time law enforcement officers are available to patrol the System’s 150 million acres.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is especially threatened. The oil and gas industry wants to drill in the refuge, endangering the future of iconic wildlife species, such as caribou, gray wolves, polar bears, and more, due to toxic spills and habitat degradation. You can help support NWF’s efforts to stop the attack on arctic wildlife.
Contribute to the Future of Refuges
Go bird-watching, take pictures, or walk on the nature trails – your support and engagement in the refuges helps protect habitats and wildlife for future generations. Every state has at least one refuge, many located within an hour’s drive of most major U.S. cities. You can also observe local wildlife and find parks, trails, and other nature sites using NWF’s NatureFind.