National Wildlife Refuge System

Sportsmen and Sportswomen

Sportsmen and women have been important supporters of National Wildlife Refuge System since the establishment of the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in 1903. They have been in the forefront, advocating the creation of new refuges and helping as volunteers to maintain and improve wildlife habitat.

Some examples:

  • Will Dilg, founder of the Izaak Walton League, was instrumental in establishing the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Refuge in 1924 after his son drowned in the river. It was the first “fish” refuge and also the first to have hunting.
  • Another ardent sportsman, cartoonist J. N. “Ding” Darling, started the Duck Stamp in 1934 to buy waterfowl habitat for the refuge system. He also served as head of the U.S. Biological Survey, predecessor agency to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Since that time, Duck Stamp sales have contributed about $477 million to purchase wetland habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System.
  • The 275,173-acre Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in Oregon was established in 1936 with the help and support of local sportsmen.
  • Ducks Unlimited has spent nearly $7 million in the Rocky Mountain Region providing habitat for wildlife that, in many cases, could not have been accomplished any other way.
  • At Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Maine, the Ruffed Grouse Society has contributed $10,000 to $15,000 in matching grants to support habitat management on and off the refuge. The Calais Rod and Gun Club has contributed 100 hours of volunteer time annually for trail maintenance and bird surveys, while Ducks Unlimited contributed $10,000 for marsh restoration.
  • A $25,000 contribution from Ducks Unlimited helped acquire some refuge islands for Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge (Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia). The Lewis/Wetzel County National Wild Turkey Federation volunteered for wood duck banding and the Ohio River Clean-up Sweep on refuge properties.
  • The Massachusetts Beach Buggy Association and the Plum Island Surfcasters, both surf-fishing groups, have conducted annual clean-ups of the 6.3 miles of refuge beach and planted dune grass at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge since the 1970s.
  • At Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, a local sportsman donated $500 for an interpretive kiosk; a rod and gun club helped fund a diorama depicting a bald eagle nesting scene; and the State University of New York Chapter of The Wildlife Society, whose members are mainly young sportsmen and -women, donated $400 to rehabilitate grassland for brood, feeding, and nesting habitat for waterfowl.
  • Sportsmen and -women at Bombay Hook and Prime Hook national wildlife refuges in Delaware annually help conduct hunting programs and serve as instructors for the Young Waterfowlers Program, teaching gun safety, waterfowl hunting techniques, bird identification, and hunter ethics. At Prime Hook, sportsmen assist in deer stand placement, transport hunters to stands, operate the checking station, and build waterfowl blinds.
  • The Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited raised $1 million for the initial acquisition and development of waterfowl habitat on the 2,100-acre Frank Belrose Waterfowl Reserve at Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Illinois. They're working with the Illinois Department of Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect and restore 60,000 acres of the 475,000-acre Cache River watershed, of which the refuge is a part.
  • Ducks Unlimited has been a major supporter of habitat improvements at Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin, which boasts some of the highest waterfowl breeding densities in the state.
  • Wisconsin Waterfowl Association contributed more than $8,000 and Ducks Unlimited, Inc., more than $20,000 for a 350-acre cooperative wetland restoration program on Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, where the principal public uses are wildlife observation, hunting for white-tailed deer and small game, fur trapping, fishing, and berry picking.
  • At Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in Illinois, Quail Unlimited provided seed and fertilizer and planted 20 acres of mixed native prairie grasses and forbs under a challenge cost-share agreement.
  • In South Dakota, four local sports clubs sponsored a full-page ad to inform landowners of restoration programs at Fergus Falls Wetlands Management District in South Dakota. A local sportsmen's club paid for a water control structure, Ducks Unlimited paid for the “dirt work,” and the Delta Waterfowl Foundation contributed more than $3,700 through the Adopt-A-Pothole program. Whitetails Forever donated $500 for alfalfa for Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge's deer herd and helped distribute the feed.
  • In North Dakota, a Minot fishing club has provided fishing reefs in Lake Darling at Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge, the Lewis and Clark Wildlife Club in Bismarck has helped rehabilitate goose nesting structures at Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and a local sportsmen's club plants and maintains a wildlife food plot at Tewaukon National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Colorado Duck Stamp funds were used for habitat work at Brown's Park, Arapaho, Alamosa, and Monte Vista refuges.
  • In Wyoming, the National Elk Foundation contributed $10,000 for interpretive exhibits for the sleigh ride program at National Elk Refuge and Trout Unlimited spent $8,000 on habitat improvement in the Green River on Seedskadee refuge.
  • Bassmasters sponsors a fishing derby for the physically challenged at Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge in Montana.
  • Sporting groups near Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah contributed extensive funds to rehabilitate dikes and habitat destroyed in the flood.
  • Ducks Unlimited has contributed more than $20,000 for wetland restoration projects on three refuges in the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Washington.
  • Ducks Unlimited and the California Waterfowl Association have made major contributions to wetlands restoration on the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex in California over 3 years, including $55,000 to Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge and $93,800 to Merced National Wildlife Refuge. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation contributed $18,000 to build a wildlife observation platform at San Luis refuge.
  • At the Grasslands Wildlife Management Area in California's Central Valley, local duck club members have contributed $134,850 to restore and enhance wetlands on 40 Fish and Wildlife Service easement areas.
  • On the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex in California's Central Valley, Ducks Unlimited has contributed $328,000 over 6 years for wetland habitat restoration and enhancement projects, while the California Waterfowl Association has contributed more than $20,000 for both wetland restoration and wildlife interpretation projects.
  • Sporting groups were instrumental in gaining support for the “Backcountry Management Plan” at Key West and Great White Heron national wildlife refuges in the Florida Keys, which will provide additional protection for a vast area of islands and open water.
  • Local sporting groups help with hunting and fishing day activities at Wheeler and Eufaula refuges in Alabama, as they do elsewhere across the country.
Last updated: November 8, 2012