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Appreciating National Wildlife Refuges

National Wildlife Refuge Week is in full swing and we couldn’t be more excited about all the events that have happened and continue to happen. Amidst all of the celebrations, we are reminded to stop and think about why we are celebrating in the first place. What is so great about the National Wildlife Refuge System anyways? If you were wondering, you came to the right place to find out.

Havens for Wildlife

Pronghorn Family, one of the many species that benefits from large tracts of connected land | Bob Gress
Pronghorn Family, one of the many species that benefits from large tracts of connected land | Bob Gress

The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to “administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.”

Wildlife refuges provide large tracts of land that provide safe and healthy habitat for wildlife, plants, insects, etc. Different than national parks or forests, wildlife refuges are managed for wildlife first to ensure their protection. Refuge managers make management decisions based on what is best for the wildlife on the refuge and in the surrounding areas.

Wildlife also benefits sheerly from the land being protected. Without the land being developed, wildlife has more habitat. In addition, having large tracts of land reduces fragmentation which can lead to edge effects and separated populations. Both fragmentation and edge effects result in reduced populations of wildlife species.

Also, large swaths of land allows species to migrate and shift their ranges in response to seasonal and climatic fluctuations. Climate change is resulting in warmer average temperatures resulting in species shifting their ranges either north or south to reach ideal climates. Refuges give them space to do this so that they are less likely to shift into developed areas.

Without wildlife refuges, the world’s largest network of public lands and water, many wildlife species would be extinct by now. Refuges ensure that wildlife will be around for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.

Benefits to surrounding communities:

Not only are wildlife refuges vital for some species’ survival, they also provide many additional benefits to the surrounding communities.

Many wildlife refuges act as outdoor classrooms where visitors of all ages can come and learn about the local ecology, and the environment in general. Programs range from bird watching for the blind, to boardwalk tours that teach about different kinds of animal scat.

Refuges also provide economic benefits. Refuges:

Puddle Stompers at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. One of the many programs across the Refuge System that provides environmental education to America's youth. | USFWS
Puddle Stompers at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. One of the many programs across the Refuge System that provides environmental education to America’s youth. | USFWS
  • Generate more than $2.4 billion for local economies and create nearly 35,000 U.S. jobs annually;
  • Protect clean air and safe drinking water for nearby communities;
  • Attract approximately 46.5 million visitors each year, offering activities such as wildlife-watching, hunting, fishing, photography, hiking, canoeing, kayaking and environmental education;

For every $1 appropriated to the Refuge System, an average of $4.87 is returned to local economies.

National wildlife refuges provide places for people to get out into nature and reconnect with the natural world. They also provide a place to recreate and hike, fish, birdwatch, photograph, and much more!

Wildlife refuges provide immense benefits that are worth celebrating. We hope you enjoy your Refuge Week and don’t forget about what you are celebrating!


The National Wildlife Refuge Association works to protect these refuges and the surrounding areas. We can’t do it without your help. Please consider making a donation to help us protect even more wildlife and habitat.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2014/10/appreciating-national-wildlife-refuges/

2 comments

  1. Kat Ranalli says:

    I don’t know who is composing your Facebook posts, but I must say something. Yesterday it was “I bet”, which should be “I’d bet” or “I would bet”. Today it is “anyways” instead of “anyway”! Yikes! Find an editor, please.

  2. Darude-Sandstorm says:

    kys

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