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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

The Right Time in the Right Place

This week on Open Spaces, we have a special guest blogger: our new Director, Dan Ashe.  You can meet Dan on his new Director's Corner Page. 

After more than a year of planning and anticipation, Conserving the Future: National Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation is here.  

When I got here yesterday, I was greeted with dark clouds and claps of thunder. Some might think this was an inauspicious beginning, but I thought it was perfect, an exciting start to our history-making event.

A lot has changed since the last time we did this.  In 1999, Fulfulling the Promise became the National Wildlife Refuge System’s guiding vision.

Today, we face more – and more complex – conservation challenges. There’s the U.S. population – more urban, older and  more diverse -- that has grown by 58 million in the past 20 years. There are increasing threats to fish, wildlife and habitats and the added challenge of a changing climate. Add to these the rapid changes in communication fostered by the web and social media.

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Teddy Roosevelt and the History of the National Wildlife Refuge System

Today, there are 553 refuges across the country, with at least one in every state, providing safety to more than 250 threatened or endangered plants and animals.  Have you ever wondered how we got there?

President Roosevelt, known for his love of nature and wildlife established Pelican Island as our first national refuge in 1903.  Though he didn’t know it at the time, Roosevelt had set the nation on the path to building the largest national Refuge System in the world. 

Throughout his presidency, refuges were established around the country, and by the time he left office in 1909, he had declared 53 refuges in 17 states and three territories.

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Happy 235th America!

Bald eagle in Flight
Bald eagle soaring in flight from the USFWS Pacific Region Download.

We hope our series on climate change gave you a better understanding about how climate impacts nature across the country.  While that series is now over, the Open Spaces blog has just begun!  Visit often for new stories about what we’re doing in the Service to conserve and protect wildlife and their habitats.

In honor of our nation’s birthday, we dedicate today’s post to an American icon and one of our greatest conservation success stories in the Service: the bald eagle.  In our nation’s history, the eagle has always been a shining symbol of freedom and strength, but the story of this majestic bird has not always been as bright.

A little more than a half-century ago, the bald eagle was facing extinction.  Widespread use of DDT, loss of natural habitat, and overhunting were major factors contributing to a massive population decline of the eagle.  In 1967 it was declared an endangered species, and shortly after, the EPA banned the use of DDT. Successful efforts to restore eagle habitats and restrict hunting allowed populations of the birds to steadily increase, and on August 9th, 2007 the bald eagle was officially delisted and declared recovered, healthy and growing.

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