For almost a century, the
95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System had been managed by the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under a variety of laws without an "Organic
Act" or comprehensive legislation spelling out how it ought to be
managed and used by the public.
On October 9, 1997, President Clinton signed the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-57 (text) (PDF)). The Act amends the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 in a manner that provides an Organic Act for the Refuge System.
It was passed to ensure that the Refuge System is managed as a national system of related lands, waters, and interests for the protection and conservation of our Nation's wildlife resources.
The only system of Federal lands devoted specifically to wildlife, the
National Wildlife Refuge System is a network of diverse and strategically
located habitats. More than 545 national wildlife refuges and thousands
of waterfowl production areas across the United States teem with millions
of migratory birds, serve as havens for hundreds of endangered species,
and host an enormous variety of other plants and animals. Over 39 million
people visit units of the National Wildlife Refuge System each year to
enjoy a wide range of wildlife related recreational opportunities.
The passage of this Act gave guidance to the Secretary of the Interior for the overall management of the Refuge System. The Act's main components include:
- a strong and singular wildlife conservation Mission for the Refuge System;
- a requirement that the Secretary of the Interior maintain the biological integrity, diversity and environmental health of the Refuge System;
- a new process for determining compatible uses on refuges;
- a recognition that wildlife-dependent recreational uses involving hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and environmental education and interpretation, when determined to be compatible, are legitimate and appropriate public uses of the Refuge System;
- that these compatible wildlife-dependent recreational uses are the priority general public uses of the Refuge System; and
- a requirement for preparing a comprehensive conservation plan for each refuge.
- Refuge Administration Act, as amended by Public Law 105-57.
Public Law 105-57 (text) (PDF)
- House Report 105-106
- a summary of the of the bill
Questions and Answers
about the legislation.
Notice of Intent
- Federal Register Notice of January 23, 1998 giving notice of intent to revise the Fish and Wildlife Service manual and to establish regulations.