National Wildlife Refuge System Funding

Friends and FWS employees re-planting trees
Friends and FWS employees re-planting trees | USFWS

The Refuge System has been underfunded since its inception. Modern challenges such as invasive species, climate change, pollution, encroachment from urbanization and even crime have only made refuge staffers’ jobs harder. Adequate federal funding for the System is critical to:

  • Address a crippling operations and maintenance backlog of more than $3.3 billion.
  • Tackle chronic understaffing, which has left more than one third of refuges without any onsite staff.
  • Address a severe shortage of law enforcement personnel. Currently there are only 213 officers, but 815 are needed to patrol the System’s 150 million acres.
  • Treat more than 2.5 million acres of refuge lands overrun with non-native, invasive plants.

Shortchanging the National Wildlife Refuge System is shortchanging the future of our wildlife heritage.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is the federal agency within the Department of the Interior charged with managing the National Wildlife Refuge System, the Endangered Species Program and other programs that protect and benefit wildlife throughout the country. The FWS employs top biologists and conservation professionals to manage the world’s premier wildlife conservation programs and protect endangered species. Adequate funding for the FWS is an investment in the future of America’s natural places and wildlife heritage.

What NWRA is Doing…

NWRA advocates on Capitol Hill for funding for the Refuge System and other wildlife conservation programs. In written testimony and appearances before Congress, NWRA uses examples from around the nation to show refuge needs. From FY 2008 to FY2010, with leadership from the NWRA, the Refuge System’s operations and maintenance accounts grew by $105 million.  NWRA organizes refuge Friends to submit testimony, visit their elected officials and, above all, get elected officials out to their refuges to understand the challenges created through a lack of funding.

NWRA chairs the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement, or CARE, a diverse coalition of 22 hunting, conservation, scientific and fishing organizations representing more than 15 million Americans. CARE works to secure adequate funding for the Refuge System.  The coalition  releases an annual report highlighting the budget shortfalls of the System and advocates for higher funding levels. Read more about CARE’s work and download the 2011 report. 


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