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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

 

October 14, 1998

Ken Burton (202) 208-5634
Sharon Rose (303) 236-7917 x 415

 

NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE WEEK OFFERS AMERICANS CHANCE TO RECONNECT WITH THEIR WILDLIFE HERITAGE

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is issuing an open invitation to the public to celebrate their wildlife heritage by visiting one or more of America's 514 national wildlife refuges during National Wildlife Refuge Week, October 11-17.

"The National Wildlife Refuge System is the world's largest network of lands protecting plant and animal habitats . . . there just isn't anything else like it anywhere!" said Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark. "During this special week, we make every effort to showcase refuges and thank the American public for helping conserve these remarkable natural areas. Visiting a refuge and actually seeing and learning something about the wildlife there can be a refreshing, even inspiring, experience."

During National Wildlife Refuge Week, the Service is laying out the welcome mat to the public as it hosts hundreds of events nationwide, such as nature and birding tours, hunting and fishing events, wildlife art contests, environmental education programs, nature photography demonstrations, special volunteer tributes, clean-up days, and a host of other activities.

The National Wildlife Refuge System--the only network of Federal lands devoted specifically to wildlife--began when President Theodore Roosevelt set aside tiny Pelican Island, Florida, as the first refuge in 1903 to protect nesting brown pelicans from plume hunters. Today, the system encompasses almost 93 million acres of spectacular, incredibly diverse, and carefully managed wildlife habitat in every state.

Many refuges and hundreds of smaller waterfowl production areas are located along the four major migratory bird flyways where they play a critical role supporting ducks, geese, shorebirds, and songbirds during breeding seasons and long annual migrations every fall snd Spring. Some 60 refuges are set aside primarily for endangered species such as bald eagles, manatees, desert pupfish, and whooping cranes.

An increasing number of refuges are located a short drive from major metropolitan areas such as John Heinz at Tinicum (Philadelphia), Don Edwards San Francisco Bay (San Francisco), Marais des Cygnes (Kansas City), Great Swamp (New York City), San Diego (San Diego), Mason Neck (Washington, DC), Bayou Sauvage (New Orleans), Great Meadows (Boston), Bosque Del Apache (Albuquerque), and Minnesota Valley (Minneapolis-St. Paul).

October and November are spectacular months to visit many national wildlife refuges as millions of ducks, geese, and other birds hop-scotch from refuge to refuge during their massive southern migration. During this time, magnificent concentrations of snow geese, Canada geese, sandhill cranes, and even bald eagles intermingle with resident populations of white-tailed deer, grouse, wild turkeys, elk, moose, coyotes, and other wildlife to delight refuge visitors.

More than 30 million Americans visited national wildlife refuges last year, taking advantage of hiking trails, hunting, fishing, birdwatching, and nature photography or just enjoying an outdoors getaway. Hundreds of thousands of school children visit refuges yearly to learn more about nature and the environment. An economic study estimates recreational visits to national wildlife refuges generated more than $400 million in sales in regional economies during 1995, providing nearly $170 million in payrolls supporting some 10,000 jobs.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.

For more information about National Wildlife Refuge Week Special Events, go to http://refuges.fws.gov/ on the Internet, then click on "Special Events." For more information about national wildlife refuges and waterfowl production areas generally, or for a map of the refuge system or a copy of the National Wildlife Week poster, call 1-800-344-WILD (1-800-344-9453). For information about individual refuge activities, call the refuge nearest you: look under "Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service" in the U.S. government listing of your telephone directory.

NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE SYSTEM
OUTDOOR RECREATION ACTIVITIES

Birdwatching:

Because the National Wildlife Refuge System's origin is rooted in the protection of migratory birds, many refuges have been established along the four major migration flyways, as well as the prairie pothole region of the Upper Midwest, often dubbed "The Duck Factory." Excellent bird-watching opportunities abound on refuges. Here are just a few:

Cape May National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey is the first refuge giving top priority to the protection of migrating songbirds. A most interesting spectacle occurs on the Delaware Bay in the summer as horseshoe crabs come ashore to mate and are greeted by millions of shorebirds, including hundreds of thousands of red knots, thousands of short-billed dowitchers, Atlantic sanderlings, and ruddy turnstones, all of which greedily feed on crabs' eggs. In the fall, tens of thousands of raptors use the refuge, including peregrine falcons, osprey, kestrels, and sharp-shinned hawks.

The largest concentrations of waterfowl in North America can be seen on six Klamath Basin national wildlife refuges on the California-Oregon border. Twenty different duck species and snow, Ross', Canada, and white-fronted geese number in the millions during migration, darkening the skies. In the fall, about 10,000 tundra swans use the refuges as well. Hundreds of bald eagles make up the largest concentration in this country outside of Alaska. Nesting birds include white pelicans, white-faced ibises, and eared grebes; breeding birds include avocets, coots, and black-necked stilts; and smaller birds such as hermit warblers, tricolored blackbirds, and mountain quail are also present on these refuges.

Wading birds are a sight to see on Florida's J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, especially during November through April. Snowy and reddish egrets, white ibises, and roseate spoonbills are among the great spectacles. Other birding attractions are yellow- and black-crowned night herons, black skimmers, shorebirds such as plovers and dowitchers, bald eagles, osprey, brown and white pelicans, and red-shouldered hawks. Songbirds include warblers, indigo and painted buntings, cedar waxwings, and mangrove cuckoos.

Shorebird birding at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah can't be beat. Spring and fall are the best times to catch sight of millions of migrating birds such as eared grebes, marbled godwits, and long-billed dowitchers. Located where Bear River empties into the Great Salt Lake, the refuge also hosts 12,000 tundra swans in the fall--the largest concentration anywhere. Shovelers, green-winged teal, pintails, canvasbacks, cinnamon teal, and other ducks number about a half-million in the fall. Other refuge birds include avocets, white pelicans, Western grebes, curlews, spotted sandpipers, bald and golden eagles, and great blue and black-crowned night herons.

Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge in Montana hosts 250 different species of birds. Franklin's gulls, black terns, black-crowned night herons, eared grebes, and white-faced ibises nest in the bulrush marshes of Lake Bowdoin while white pelicans, double-crested cormorants, great blue herons, and California and ring-billed gulls occupy its islands. More than 30 shorebird species, including piping plovers, avocets, marbled godwits, and black-necked stilts nest or stop over on the refuge. In the winter, snowy owls, snow buntings, Bohemian waxwings, northern goshawks, bald and golden eagles, and rough-legged hawks are often present.

Erie National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania hosts more than 200 bird species: nesting songbirds such as the rare Henslow's sparrow in the spring and summer; shorebirds such as sandpipers and yellowlegs use the mudflats during summer and fall; and black-capped chickadees, nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, and dark-eyed juncos spend the winter.

Forty million seabirds of 30 different species breed and nest on the slopes, cliffs, burrows, and rock crevices of Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Interspersed on the Aleutian Islands and off the west coast of Alaska, five units of this refuge host huge seabird colonies including fulmars, storm petrels, cormorants, kittiwakes, murres, auklets, and puffins--many of these populations setting world records. The Pribolof Islands host the largest bird colony in North America, with up to 3 million murres, puffins, and red- and black-legged kittiwakes.

Fishing:

Three-hundred-seven national wildlife refuges are open to fishing, offering outstanding opportunities for the Nation's 35 million anglers. Some notable contenders:

Wetting a line on any of Valentine National Wildlife Refuge's nine sportfishing lakes can yield trophy northern pike and bluegill renowned throughout the State of Nebraska.

The wildlife-rich estuary making up Florida's Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, a new refuge, is a great spot for redfish, snook, sea trout, and tarpon fishing.

The Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, stretching 220 miles along the river through the states of Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, sports walleye, bass, perch, catfish, and crappie, among others.

Seney National Wildlife Refuge in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan offers great northern pike, bass, and brook and brown trout fishing. Winter ice fishing is popular.

Fighting bluefish and stripers are much sought after by saltwater fishermen visiting Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge in Rhode Island.

At Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana, a brand new refuge, anglers can seek bass, bluegill, and crappie in the 1,600-acre Black Bayou Lake, an oxbow lake amidst bottomland hardwoods.

The emerald-green waters of the Kenai River offer trophy king salmon for anglers casting a line on Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Rainbow trout and kokanee can be fished in the refuge's numerous lakes.

The Togiak, Kanektok, and Goodnews rivers on Alaska's Togiak National Wildlife Refuge offer some of the world's finest remote salmon and trout fishing. The 1,500 miles of riverine habitat at Togiak teem with five species of Pacific salmon, rainbow trout, Arctic grayling, Dolly Varden, and Arctic char.

Hunting:

More than 1 million people out of the 14 million hunters in this country seek their quarry on national wildlife refuges. From big game to waterfowl, 290 national wildlife refuges offer hunting. A few excellent programs include:

At Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in Nebraska, hunters can walk the rolling and ruggedly beautiful hills in pursuit of upland game birds such as grouse, prairie chicken, and pheasant, or try for white-tailed and mule deer.

Moose hunting is a popular pastime on many of Alaska's interior refuges, including Innoko, Kanuti, Koyukuk, Nowitna, and Yukon Flats national wildlife refuges. These refuges also offer black and brown bear, barren-ground caribou, and Dall's sheep hunting programs.

Delaware's Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge is an excellent place for hunting snow geese, ducks, and white-tailed deer.

In addition to snipe, pheasant, and quail hunting, Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon offers tremendous goose and duck hunting.

White-tailed deer hunting is a main attraction at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama, as well as squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, and opossum and quail hunting.

J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota is noted for its snow and Canada goose and duck hunting, as well as grouse, partridge, pheasant, turkey, and white-tailed deer hunting programs.

Environmental Education:

Hundreds of national wildlife refuges have environmental education programs ranging from interpretive nature walks for local school children to full-scale teacher-training programs. Many have environmental education centers. Hundreds of thousands of school children visit refuges to learn about the environment. A few popular environmental education refuges are:

Thousands of school children who visit Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge each year learn about habitat conservation, especially the importance of saltmarsh habitat to migratory birds and endangered species. The refuge hosts outdoor classroom and other activities as well as an environmental education center in San Jose.

Walnut Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa just opened a new Prairie Learning Center, where school children and others learn about the refuge's extensive efforts to restore the tallgrass prairie, including reintroduction of bison on the refuge. The learning center has many educational exhibits on prairie management and restoration, a simulation of an underground burrow giving the illusion of being an insect in the soil, as well as interactives and theaters.

Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland offers wildlife management demonstration areas and outdoor education sites for school classes year-round. The refuge hosts an extensive teacher-training program for environmental learning. Its visitor center focuses on wildlife research and management practices, as well as endangered species and habitat conservation.

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis provides curriculum-based field trips for students ranging from pre-school through high school, a river stewardship program

focusing on water quality, and helps Boy and Girl Scouts hone natural resource management skills. The refuge has a visitor center with interactive exhibits explaining the history of the Minnesota River and how wetlands are managed for waterfowl and other wildlife.

October 14, 1998 Ken Burton 202-208-5634


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