arch 14, 2003 marks a milestone in the history of wildlife conservation in America - the Centennial anniversary of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The National Wildlife Refuge System is America's only network of federal lands dedicated specifically to wildlife conservation, representing a steadfast commitment to protecting our wild heritage.
President Theodore Roosevelt fostered this conservation legacy when in 1903 he set aside tiny Pelican Island on Florida's East Coast as a refuge for birds. What has become the National Wildlife Refuge System now includes more than 530 refuges and thousands of waterfowl production areas, spanning nearly 100 million acres across the United States and its territories.
This vast network of prime habitats gives hundreds of critically endangered species a chance to recover, provides stepping stones for millions of migrating birds, and protects premier fisheries. The National Wildlife Refuge System safeguards plants and animals of virtually every variety, from cactus to caribou, butterflies to bison, and salmon to songbirds.
As the land management arm of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Wildlife Refuge System helps fulfill a critical part of the agency's overarching mission: to conserve the nature of America by protecting fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.
More than 35 million Americans visit national wildlife refuges each year to enjoy unique outdoor experiences. Most people come during peak periods of bird migration, when refuges are thriving with wildlife. Hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren visit national wildlife refuges each year to learn more about our natural world. Sportsmen come to fish or hunt, while others savor the solitude of these special places.
And over the last several years, more and more people and a variety of organizations have united to protect and strengthen the National Wildlife Refuge System. This surge in support is most visible through new legislation and other Congressional action, and growth in community advocacy, volunteerism, and partnerships. However, a large segment of the American people have yet to discover their National Wildlife Refuge System.
Poised for a
These efforts include support for historic legislation, the National Wildlife Refuge System Centennial Commemoration Act of 2000, as well as a special, nationwide outreach campaign. The Act would establish a Centennial Commission of distinguished private-sector individuals to leverage with partners in carrying out the outreach campaign. The Act also endorses a long-term plan to address the major operations, maintenance, and construction needs of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
The National Wildlife Refuge System Commemoration Act of 2000 would help broaden visibility, strengthen partnerships, and fortify facilities and programs for wildlife and habitat conservation and recreation. It would be instrumental in building a stronghold of support for the National Wildlife Refuge System.
A Lasting Legacy
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a Refuge System Visitors Guide