National Wildlife Refuge System



Two Dogs, One Cat and Three Refuge Manuals

By Tom Worthington


photo of Ira Gabrielson
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Ira Gabrielson—shown fishing at Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge—issued the first Service Field Manual of General Administration in 1941, a year after the Bureau of Biological Survey merged with the Bureau of Fisheries to create the Service.
Credit: USFWS

Leadership has communicated with staff members nationwide for years through the Refuge Manual. What follows is a brief history of the manual and a glance at some quirky language and trivia surrounding it.


In 1940, the Bureau of Biological Survey merged with the Bureau of Fisheries to create the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In July 1941, Director Ira Gabrielson issued the first Service Field Manual of General Administration. In a two-page preface on Washington letterhead, Gabrielson stated that there was nothing “new” in the manual, but rather it pulled together policies and guidance that already had been in practice within the two bureaus.


Perhaps sensing that the regions were too independent in their approach to running things, he cautioned that “Regional Directors should not issue general memoranda supplementing or explaining subject matter contained in this manual.” Rather, they should contact the Washington Office to make clarifications.


The next year, the first Field Manual for Wildlife Refuges was issued. Each copy of that sturdy black-bound binder with its metallic screw hinges was numbered. When Refuge System chief J. Clark Salyer signed the transmittal page, interestingly, his letterhead was not from Washington, DC, but rather from the Service’s temporary World War II headquarters in Chicago. And only five regional offices were in existence then.


In 1957, Service Director Daniel Janzen issued the second Refuge Manual. That single volume updated policies, covered a wider scope of habitat management and restoration activities, and described a master plan process each refuge should initiate. Finally, in 1982, the familiar brown two–volume Refuge Manual was issued.


Thus, there have been three Refuge Manual editions, growing from one volume in 1942 to two volumes over the course of 40 years. I can’t resist noting that the Administrative Manual grew from one volume in 1941 to the shelf-busting seven binders in 1981.


Today, the Service Manual has replaced the Refuge Manual and the Administrative Manual. *(Correction below) Its online features at http://www.fws.gov/policy/manuals/ make for quick searches and policy retrieval. Still, you can’t beat paging through old manuals, where you will discover that:

  • In 1942, the Policy on Use of Electrically Operated Equipment When Power Supplied by Generator Units in refuge housing prohibited refrigerators, waffle irons, percolators, hot plates, heaters, electric stoves, electric clocks, hair dryers, heating pads, infra–red lamps, cookers and sun lamps.


  • The limit on how many chickens, dogs and cats are allowed in refuge housing has not changed in 70 years. Even today, one may have no more than 25 domestic fowl. And, showing uncommonly good sense, policy allows two dogs, but only one cat.


  • While I can find no established uniform policy in 1942, there was personal grooming advice: “Refuge personnel are the Service’s representative in the refuge community … Employees should always be neatly dressed and freshly shaved. A man can present a neat appearance in 'cover–alls' with little effort.”


  • In 1942, telephone lines were still being strung to remote stations and the cost of long–distance calls was an issue. “Time permitting,” the manual stated, “air mail is a much more satisfactory way of handling urgent matters than radiograms, telegrams, or long–distance telephone calls, since by this means, it is possible for the sender to make a complete discussion of the matter.” However, even air mail was discouraged in one instance. Employees who wanted salary checks sent via airmail had to pay the extra 5 cents. Ouch.

Tom Worthington is deputy regional refuge chief in the Great Lakes/Big Rivers Region.


*Correction: The Refuge Manual and the Administrative Manual have not been revoked and remain in effect until superseded by newer policy. Development of the Service Manual is ongoing and many provisions of the Refuge Manual and the Administrative Manual remain in effect. The Service Manual has replaced the Refuge Manual and the Administrative Manual as the primary method for issuance of new Service policy. - P. Steblein, Chief, Branch of Policy, United States Fish and Wildlife Service,2/28/2014.



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Refuge Update March/April 2011

Last updated: February 28, 2014