By Jim Kurth, Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System
National wildlife refuges offer worlds to be explored.
Spanning more than 150 million acres, more than 550 units and 38 Wetland Management Districts, the Refuge System has every kind of ecosystem – from temperate, tropical and boreal forests, to wetlands to deserts and tundra.
It crosses 12 times zones, from the Virgin Islands to Guam.
With more than 47 million visits to wildlife refuges each year, we generate about $2.1 billion in economic activity and create more than 34,000 private sector jobs.
But statistics aren’t what’s important about the Refuge System.
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, NV. (Photo: Cyndi Souza/USFWS)
It’s what we bring to the American people: Abundant wildlife and habitat; clean air and water; and a promise that there always will be a place for wildlife in our midst.
That’s what we celebrate during National Wildlife Refuge Week, October 14-20.
Sure, people know us for conserving the nation’s wildlife wonders. People can also discover that our lands protect thousands of cultural and historical sites -- from 11,000-year-old Paleo-Indian sites to the remains of prehistoric seafaring communities to the 19th century places that tell the story of America’s frontier.
Best of all, refuges give you a chance to see amazing wildlife. So what are you waiting for?
Travel to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico to see tens of thousands of snow geese and sandhill cranes take flight in the brisk air of a November morning. Plan a trip to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida for the annual Monarch Festival on October 27 to view thousands of monarch butterflies as they prepare for their long journey across the Gulf of Mexico to wintering grounds in Mexico. Treat yourself to the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, where the land has changed little from the days of Lewis and Clark, where even today elk mule deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, sharp-tailed grouse and bald eagles are plentiful.
Visiting a wildlife refuge is like taking a trip back in time to see the natural world as it was meant to be. Refuge Week is a great time to celebrate what we’ve saved.