Open Spaces : Outdoors

Reasons to Celebrate: The Refuge System's 109th Birthday

How do you mark a 109th birthday?  

In style.  

All the more so when the honoree is an American icon, respected the world-over as a conservation force and national treasure.   

Ducks in Flight, ChincoteagueDucks take off at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Steve Hillebrand

The birth of the National Wildlife Refuge System on March 14, 1903, ensured that our children and our children’s children will inherit an America that still has natural spaces and the wild creatures.

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Get Involved: Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest

Know any budding Picassos or Georgia O’Keeffes?

Tell them to grab their art supplies and enter the 2012 Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest! They’ll need to use their creativity to visually portray one or more land- and/or ocean-dwelling endangered species—animal or plant—found in the United States.

The contest is open to ­­­all K-12 students and entries must be postmarked by March 15, 2012.

A prestigious panel of artists, photographers, and conservationists will judge the entries. Winners will be chosen in four categories: K-Grade 2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8 and Grades 9-12, along with one overall national winner. Complete rules for the contest can be found on the Endangered Species Day website.

Some of last year’s semi-finalists include: 

Coho Salmon[Coho Salmon] by Gordon Li of California

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Let's Go Outside! Featured Refuge Events for the Week of December 12th

Is holiday shopping, cooking, and preparing making you say "Bah-Humbug" more than "Happy Holidays!"?  Take a break from all the running around and head outside to get a breath of fresh air. Even though the temperature is dropping there are still things to do and see.

Here are some of the events happening at refuges across the country this week, some in the spirit of the season.  Check out this link for more events happening in December on our refuges.

As always, make sure you head over to the Refuge System's homepage and use their searchable map to find events at a Wildlife Refuge near you.

Let's go outside!

SnowshoeingGuests snowshoe at Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge in the Mountain-Praire Region, Photo: Jennifer Jewett

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What's a National Wildlife Refuge?

As someone who works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I’m occasionally asked about what a National Wildlife Refuge is.  My first response is always, "well, it's sort of like a park, but different."

That is, of course, true, but I always want to give more of an explanation.  So, without further adieu, here it is:

Within the Department of the Interior, you’ll find both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – which manages national wildlife refuges -- and National Park Service – which manages national parks.  Both work toward preservation of our natural world, but, there are differences.

Arctic Refuge AlaskaThinking on a mountain at Arctic Refuge in Alaska Photo: Steve Chase/USFWS

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Fee Free Days 2012: The Big Dates that You Need to Know

Everyone likes free, right?  Today, the Department of the Interior announced the 2012 federal fee free (try saying that three times) days on public lands like National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges.  

While many of us are just getting into the autumnal mood, 2012 is right around the corner. It's never too early to start planning that dream family vacation or reflective long weekend in the outdoors.

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Everything you need to know about National Wildlife Refuge Week

Next week is one of our favorite times of the year here at Open Spaces: National Wildlife Refuge Week!   

Of course, anytime is a good time to visit a National Wildlife Refuge.  But no week on the calendar is as filled with as many events as National Wildlife Refuge Week, celebrated each year during the second full week of October. 

So, as promised, here’s everything you need to know to help celebrate your National Wildlife Refuge System:

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Apps for the Outdoors: 5 Ways to use Mobile and Social Media in Nature

Go online or head outside; these used to be mutually exclusive activities. 

Not any more. 

Smartphones like iPhones, Androids, or Blackberries are everywhere. In fact, the Nielson research firm now estimates that 40 percent of mobile users in the U.S. are using smartphones.  One of the coolest features of smartphones are apps, or applications, that you can use with your phone.

With the rise of social media and the mobile web, there are a ton of ways to use your smartphone to engage with nature and the outdoors. Here's our top 5 in no particular order:

    A visitor on iNature Trail at J.N. "Ding" Darling NWR in Florida. (Chelle Koster Walton)

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Last updated: June 21, 2012