Celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week, October 10-16, by participating in fishing derbies, nature walks, birding tours, special hunts, photography and wildlife art contests, environmental education activities, and many other events taking place at national wildlife refuges all across the country.
"National Wildlife Refuge Week is a great opportunity for those who have never experienced a refuge to visit one for the first time," said Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior. "The Refuge System has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance in recent years. There is strong support from the Administration, Congress, conservation organizations, and public visitation is at an all time high."
From a single three-acre island in 1903, the National Wildlife Refuge System has grown into a 93-million-acre network of lands and waters, protected and nurtured as habitat for an incredible variety of plant and animal species. From the half-acre Mille Lacs National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota to the 20-million- acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, the national wildlife refuge system is the only network of federal lands dedicated to wildlife conservation.
Many of the 520 national wildlife refuges are located along the major "flyways" used by migrating ducks, geese, and songbirds; others were set aside as sanctuaries for endangered species such as the bald eagle, whooping crane, and the Florida manatee. With the nation's urban areas expanding relentlessly, the public is relying on refuges to shoulder a growing portion of the burden of preserving the nation's natural heritage.
"Wildlife always comes first on refuges, but the system welcomes almost 35 million visitors each year," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "The special events make National Wildlife Refuge Week an especially good time to visit, and in some parts of the country, the fall migration will be getting underway for millions of birds."
Hunting, fishing, birdwatching, nature photography, environmental education, and interpretation are especially welcome on refuges, and most refuges provide opportunities to engage in one or more of these activities. The system's long range roadmap, a document called Fulfilling the Promise, calls for the system to expand recreational and educational opportunities and envisions refuges as places "where visitors feel welcome" and offer "a variety of opportunities to enjoy and appreciate America's fish, wildlife, and plants."
"Thanks to the strong support from our partners and from Congress, we are upgrading our visitor facilities, such as boardwalks, boat ramps, observation blinds, and interpretive signs, and are better able to accommodate the public," Clark said.
For more information about National Wildlife Refuge Week events, contact a refuge near you or point your browser to http://refuges.fws.gov and click on "Special Events." For a copy of a visitors guide, call 800/344-WILD.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93- million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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