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U.S. Congressman, Silvio O. Conte of Massachusetts, representing the First District of Massachusetts, had a dream to better conserve the Connecticut River Watershed (Watershed) and introduced legislation in Congress to create a national wildlife refuge to help protect the Watershed. Congressman Conte passed away, and in his honor, Congress renamed the bill in his honor and made it law in 1991 – The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Act (Public Law 102-212; Conte Refuge Act) – to establish a refuge in the Watershed to protect the fish and wildlife resources and their habitat.

Currently, the Refuge is over 34,000 acres in size and includes six divisions and seven units in the four state area that includes portions of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Land acquisition activities have resulted in the protection of key habitats for neotropical migratory birds, waterfowl, and threatened and endangered species. Through partnerships and a Challenge Cost Share grants initiative, the Service has reached across the Watershed to support and encourage conservation and environmental education efforts by others. Additionally, the Refuge has conducted conservation, education, and interpretation activities since the Refuge was established, including the establishment of two partnerships based visitor centers, two visitor contact station, and a variety of visitor contact points.