National Wildlife Refuge System Funding

National Bison Range  Credit_ Dave Fitzpatrick _ USFWS.jpg

Building a system we can be proud of

What is at stake

National wildlife refuges protect at least 700 bird species, 220 mammal species, 250 kinds of reptiles and amphibians, 1,000 species of fish, and countless invertebrates and plants — some 293 of which are threatened or endangered. 

Wildlife refuges also play a critical role in keeping at-risk species, such as greater sage-grouse and gopher tortoise, from being listed under the Endangered Species Act, preventing the need to regulate private land.

The National Wildlife Refuge Association’s highest priority is securing adequate funding for wildlife conservation programs. National wildlife refuges have been underfunded since President Theodore Roosevelt created the first refuge in 1903 and Congress refused to appropriate money to manage it. 

Without adequate funding, habitats are not restored, invasive species are left unchecked, poaching and other illegal activities occur, and our nation’s wildlife suffers. The National Wildlife Refuge Association is committed to ensuring our nation’s wildlife conservation programs have the resources they need so future generations can enjoy our wildlife legacy.

The Threat

The responsibility to the public of operating the world’s largest mosaic of public lands and waters is enormous - the Refuge System is operating at an enormous deficit, while at the same time, management responsibilities have grown by hundreds of millions of acres with the public demanding more and more of what the Refuge System has to offer.

The last several years have included small increases to the overall Operations & Maintenance funding, but these small increases are not keeping pace with inflation or demand.  The Refuge System continues to make cuts to programs and staff because of the lack of adequate funding.

Our Solution

We know that fully investing in our Refuge System is a sound investment. We are seeking from Congress funding of $586 million for the Refuge System.   

This funding will help our Refuge System and the communities near refuges.  Every dollar appropriated to the Refuge System returns an average of $4.87 to local economies. Wildlife refuges generate approximately 35,000 jobs and $2.4 billion in economic output each year.  

National wildlife refuges provide the American public with $33 billion dollars worth of clean water and other environmental benefits such as clean air and a cool climate.