Birthday Gift Ideas for the National Wildlife Refuge System!

It’s the National Wildlife Refuge System’s 113th birthday this week and I have a great idea for a gift: Let’s show how important these national treasures are to us and other living creatures by giving them the support they deserve.

Here are a few ideas:

Better fund the refuges

caribou on the Arctic Coastal Plain
Caribou on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS

Our public lands include more than 560 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts covering more than 150 million acres and more than 418 million acres of marine national monuments. They provide habitat for 700 types of birds, 220 types of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species, 1,000 fish species and are refuge for 280 endangered species. As E&E reports, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is requesting a $1.6 billion in its new budget, a 4% increase. Considering what Americans get in return, that seems like a bargain.

“This incredible network of lands and waters supports 2,170 species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, hosts 47 million visitors each year, and generates $2.4 billion of economic return for America.”
– the National Wildlife Refuge Association

Reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Late last year, Congress allowed the 50-year-old  law to expire despite widespread support for the program that has provided critical funding for wildlife, land and water conservation, historic preservation, trails, open space, state recreation areas, partnerships with private landowners and other projects nationwide. It used no taxpayer dollars. The money came from revenue generated by offshore oil and gas leases.

Only twice in 50 years did Congress appropriate the full $900 million authorized annually for the fund. The Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition says more than $18 billion of this revenue was diverted into general revenues in the last 50 years.

Support the Resource Protection Act

Sandhill cranes in the Baca National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Kate Miyamoto, USFWS
Sandhill cranes in the Baca National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Kate Miyamoto, USFWS

This proposal, which has been tried a few times in Congress, would allow the USFWS to recover the costs of repairing damage to wildlife refuges. Now, any fines collected from perpetrators go to the U.S. treasury. The need for this legislation is even more urgent in the wake of the damage done during the 41-day armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

More than a month after the last illegal occupiers surrendered, the refuge remains closed as law enforcement gathers evidence and refuge employees assess and repair the damage. USFWS staff and authorities told The Oregonian newspaper that the occupiers ran heavy equipment over roads and the grounds, rifled through artifacts and left behind garbage. Important work to remove invasive carp and repair the refuge’s irrigation system has been disrupted.

Buy Federal Duck Stamps

Doug Inkley, NWF's senior scientist, is among those who've bought federal Duck Stamps to help national wildlife refuges. Photo: NWF
Doug Inkley, NWF’s senior scientist, is among those who’ve bought federal Duck Stamps to help national wildlife refuges. Photo: NWF

When armed militants seized the Malheur refuge, demanding that the public lands be turned over to local governments, the National Wildlife Federation and its state affiliates called on authorities to peacefully end the illegal occupation – and urged the public to buy federal Duck Stamps. The goal is to support our national wildlife refuges and say “No!” to attacks on our public-lands legacy.

Every waterfowl hunter has to buy a stamp every year. The stamp, which sells for $25, is also bought by bird watchers, collectors, and other wildlife enthusiasts. Nearly 98 percent of the money raised through duck stamps goes to acquire and conserve wetlands and other wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Refuge System.

To buy a duck stamp, go here

To stay informed about national wildlife refuges and other public lands and to help defend them, fish and wildlife, sign up here.

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