Managing Refuges for Wildlife
The National Wildlife Refuge System celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2003. The system has grown to manage more than 95 million acres on 540 national wildlife refuges in one of the world’s few networks of land set aside specifically for wildlife management. Refuges promote and conserve wildlife diversity and protect habitat. Wetlands, among the most threatened and altered habitats, are a primary component of many Northeast refuges. They provide high-quality wildlife habitat, and they serve as natural water filters and sponges, holding flood waters.
In the Northeast Region, 71 refuges protect more than 490,000 acres of wildlife habitat. These refuges range in size from 1.5 acres at Susquehanna National Wildlife Refuge in northern Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, to 109,709 acres at Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia and North Carolina. More than 6 million people visit refuges in the Northeast each year. These visitors enjoy wildlife compatible recreational and learning opportunities such as hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education and interpretation. Managing refuges is a huge task — one that the Service cannot do alone. Refuges in the Northeast have 36 Friends groups that run bookstores, fund habitat improvement projects and provide community support. Partnerships leverage more than $2.5 million each year and thousands of hours of labor to improve wildlife habitat on refuges and on the lands that nourish them. In addition, each year more than 5,200 volunteers provide more than 205,000 hours helping with tasks as varied as bird banding or staffing visitor centers.