[Federal Register: March 28, 1996 (Volume 61, Number 61)]
[Presidential Documents]               
[Page 13647-13648]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

                        Presidential Documents 

                Executive Order 12996 of March 25, 1996

                Management and General Public Use of the National 
                Wildlife Refuge System

                By the authority vested in me as President by the 
                Constitution and the laws of the United States of 
                America, and in furtherance of the purposes of the Fish 
                and Wildlife Act of 1956 (16 U.S.C. 742a), the Fish and 
                Wildlife Coordination Act (16 U.S.C. 661), the National 
                Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act (16 U.S.C. 
                668dd), the Refuge Recreation Act (16 U.S.C. 460k), the 
                Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531), the 
                Emergency Wetlands Resources Act (16 U.S.C. 3901), the 
                North American Wetlands Conservation Act (16 U.S.C. 
                4401), the National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 
                4321), and other pertinent statutes, and in order to 
                conserve fish and wildlife and their habitat, it is 
                ordered as follows:

                Section 1. The Mission of the National Wildlife Refuge 
                System. The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge 
                System (``Refuge System'') is to preserve a national 
                network of lands and waters for the conservation and 
                management of fish, wildlife, and plant resources of 
                the United States for the benefit of present and future 

                Sec. 2. Guiding Principles. To help ensure a bright 
                future for its treasured national heritage, I hereby 
                affirm the following four guiding principles for the 
                management and general public use of the Refuge System:

                    (a) Public Use. The Refuge System provides 
                important opportunities for compatible wildlife-
                dependent recreational activities involving hunting, 
                fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and 
                environmental education and interpretation.
                    (b) Habitat. Fish and wildlife will not prosper 
                without high-quality habitat, and without fish and 
                wildlife, traditional uses of refuges cannot be 
                sustained. The Refuge System will continue to conserve 
                and enhance the quality and diversity of fish and 
                wildlife habitat within refuges.
                    (c) Partnerships. America's sportsmen and women 
                were the first partners who insisted on protecting 
                valuable wildlife habitat within wildlife refuges. 
                Conservation partnerships with other Federal agencies, 
                State agencies, Tribes, organizations, industry, and 
                the general public can make significant contributions 
                to the growth and management of the Refuge System.
                    (d) Public Involvement. The public should be given 
                a full and open opportunity to participate in decisions 
                regarding acquisition and management of our National 
                Wildlife Refuges.

                Sec. 3. Directives to the Secretary of the Interior. To 
                the extent consistent with existing laws and 
                interagency agreements, the Secretary of the Interior, 
                in carrying out his trustee and stewardship 
                responsibilities for the Refuge System, is directed to:

                    (a) recognize compatible wildlife-dependent 
                recreational activities involving hunting, fishing, 
                wildlife observation and photography, and environmental 
                education and interpretation as priority general public 
                uses of the Refuge System through which the American 
                public can develop an appreciation for fish and 
                    (b) provide expanded opportunities for these 
                priority public uses within the Refuge System when they 
                are compatible and consistent with sound principles of 
                fish and wildlife management, and are otherwise in the 
                public interest;
                    (c) ensure that such priority public uses receive 
                enhanced attention in planning and management within 
                the Refuge System;
                    (d) provide increased opportunities for families to 
                experience wildlife-dependent recreation, particularly 
                opportunities for parents and their children to safely 
                engage in traditional outdoor activities, such as 
                fishing and hunting;
                    (e) ensure that the biological integrity and 
                environmental health of the Refuge System is maintained 
                for the benefit of present and future generations of 
                    (f) continue, consistent with existing laws and 
                interagency agreements, authorized or permitted uses of 
                units of the Refuge System by other Federal agencies, 
                including those necessary to facilitate military 
                    (g) plan and direct the continued growth of the 
                Refuge System in a manner that is best designed to 
                accomplish the mission of the Refuge System, to 
                contribute to the conservation of the ecosystems of the 
                United States, and to increase support for the Refuge 
                System and participation from conservation partners and 
                the public;
                    (h) ensure timely and effective cooperation and 
                collaboration with Federal agencies and State fish and 
                wildlife agencies during the course of acquiring and 
                managing National Wildlife Refuges;
                    (i) ensure appropriate public involvement 
                opportunities will be provided in conjunction with 
                refuge planning and management activities; and
                    (j) identify, prior to acquisition, existing 
                compatible wildlife-dependent uses of new refuge lands 
                that shall be permitted to continue on an interim basis 
                pending completion of comprehensive planning.

                Sec. 4. Judicial Review. This order does not create any 
                right or benefit, substantive or procedural, 
                enforceable at law or equity by a party against the 
                United States, its agencies, its officers, or any 

                    (Presidential Sig.)

                THE WHITE HOUSE,

                    March 25, 1996.

[FR Doc. 96-7774
Filed 3-27-96; 8:45 am]
Billing code 3195-01-P