U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Historic Preservation
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The Fells - John Hay National Wildlife Refuge, New Hampshire Animated graphic that says - Learn, discover, protect


    Click the icon for more background information about Preserving America in the FWS.

In March 2003, the President issued Executive Order 13287 to reaffirm our nation's commitment to preserving heritage resources while assessing Federal land management agencies' approaches to overseeing and managing these important assets.

What does the Executive Order require?

In its broadest sense the Executive Order seeks to:
  • Provide leadership in preserving America's heritage by actively advancing the protection, enhancement, and contemporary use of the historic properties managed by the Federal Government.

  • Promote intergovernmental cooperation and partnerships for the preservation and use of historic properties.

  • Direct Federal agencies to increase their knowledge of historic properties under their care and enhance the management of these assets.

  • Encourage agencies to seek partnerships with State, tribal, and local governments and the private sector to make more efficient and informed use of their resources for economic development and other recognized public benefits.

  • Better combine historic preservation and nature tourism by directing the agencies to assist in local and regional tourism programs and historic properties that are a significant feature of many State and local programs.
How is the USFWS meetings its Preserve America Responsibilities?

Please click on a Property to learn more about it and how it illustrates the USFWS commitment to the Preserve America initiative.

Jack Longstreet Cabin (51 KB PDF)

Cathlapotle Archaeological Program (191 KB PDF)      Click here for a video tour of the Cathlapotle Plankhouse.

Looking Glass Village Site (164 KB PDF)

Historic Sod House Ranch (160 KB PDF)

Midway Atoll (104 KB PDF)

Matagorda Island Lighthouse (97 KB PDF)

Huron Island Lighthouse (111 KB PDF)

ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge (145 KB PDF)

Floyds Island/Hebard Cabin and Chesser Island Homestead (136 KB PDF)

Allee House (129 KB PDF)

Cape Ann (Thatcher Island) Light Station (95 KB PDF)

Great Dismal Swamp (108 KB PDF)

D.C. Booth National Fish Hatchery (113 KB PDF)

Goetz Archaeological Site (192 KB PDF)

The Lodore School Building (148 KB PDF)

Steamboat Bertrand (220 KB PDF)

Sqilantnu Archaeological District and Mining Cabins (178 KB PDF)

How has better management of historical resources benefited the USFWS?


In FY 2003, national wildlife refuges were involved with thousands of partnerships with national, state and local governments and organizations. The Service enters into partnership arrangements with a wide range of entities to protect resources, conduct research, improve wildlife habitat, and offer visitor programs, including environmental education and interpretation. Partnerships contribute substantially to the Service's mission.

During the same year, approximately 44,000 volunteers contributed over 1.6 million hours of work to the Service on a variety of projects, including work on historic properties.

The Service also relies on the support of over 230 nonprofit community organizations, or "Friends" groups. These groups contribute substantially to a variety of projects and programs, including habitat restoration, interpretive programs, and the monitoring and control of invasive species. Many of these organizations are community stakeholders with a deep and vested interest in their local national wildlife refuge and its programs.

These community support groups are becoming increasingly interested in documenting history and protecting historic properties that reflect local community traditions and values. Projects include the preservation of valuable museum collections, where many volunteers spend countless hours cataloging and curating archival documents and objects at field stations such as the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery in South Dakota and the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa, where the entire cargo of the Steamship Bertrand is stored and on display.

Visitor Programs and Community Economic Benefits

Over 400 national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries are open to the public. Many of these field stations offer interpretive and educational programs that include information about their local history and prehistory. Additionally, the Service operates hundreds of visitor facilities that share information through exhibits and public programs.

The Service completed a study in 2004 on the economic benefits of national wildlife refuges and their programs to local communities (Banking on Nature: The Economic Benefits to Local Communities of National Wildlife Refuge Visitation, Division of Economics, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington D.C., 2005). (The report is 442 pages and 1.2 MB in size). The study clearly validates that communities near national wildlife refuges benefit economically from tourism and other refuge programs. The study found visitors to national wildlife refuges contributed over $1.4 billion toward employment income in local communities in FY 2004. While the study did not provide an analysis of the economic benefits derived specifically from heritage tourism, there is a possibility of including a section in future reports devoted to the topic.

National trends indicate that Americans are interested in many outdoor activities and visiting historic and cultural sites. Historic properties are playing more prominent roles in the economic well-being of communities. For example, travelers along the country's national scenic byways may stop at national wildlife refuges to enjoy natural splendors and historic sites. Over 21 national scenic byways and four All-American Roads cross or are adjacent to 46 national wildlife refuges. Funding available through the Service's Refuge Roads Program allows for improvements on roads that are near or adjacent to designated scenic byways. In fact, to qualify for funding, some Refuge Roads projects have focused on making historical sites more accessible to national scenic byway travelers and other refuge visitors. A number of national wildlife refuges have received transportation funding through State Departments of Transportation for projects that improve access and interpretation of historic sites, such as along the Lewis and Clark National Historical Trail. Currently, segments of eight national historic trails cross national wildlife refuges.

Many refuges also have hiking, water, or auto trails that interpret historic properties along their routes, allowing visitors to maximize their outdoor recreational experiences. This is especially important in remote areas, where visitors who have traveled a distance enjoy getting the most "mileage" out of their visit. The refuge "wins" because people enjoy and gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the refuge's programs and the area's history and traditions. The local community "wins" because visitors pay for lodging, food, and other goods and services. Often, these "wins" are accomplished through partnerships.

What will the USFWS continue to do to enhance its historical resource management activities?
  • Visitation to national wildlife refuges is increasing by roughly 2-3% per year. Offering quality visitor programs (including education and interpretation) will need to keep pace with public demand.

  • The number of visitors to national wildlife refuges involved in education and interpretation programs is growing at a substantially greater rate than the overall visitation trends.

  • Community organizations are becoming increasingly interested and involved in heritage projects that protect important community values and traditions. Future initiatives to increase or expand our partnerships will need to take this level of interest into account.

  • New partnerships opportunities with non-traditional partners will need to be pursued. Such partnerships will not only benefit the management of historic properties, but reap benefits for all National Wildlife Refuge System conservation programs.

  • A more diversified historic preservation workforce will be needed to respond to management needs for an array of historic properties under the Service's control. As noted earlier, much of the Service's work has been traditionally driven by Section 106 of the NHPA. A program that responds to the Executive Order's broader objectives will require different types of expertise and sources of technical assistance to address the maintenance and use of historic buildings, for example.

  • Improving how we collect and manage information on historic properties will be essential in order to respond to Federal Stewardship reporting requirements, the Department's Strategic Plan, individual project reviews, and refuge comprehensive conservation planning. The implementation of a GIS-based spatial database for archaeological resources and historic properties will hopefully improve tracking and accountability and connect with the RPI and other Refuge System database systems.

  • The Service will continue with efforts to account for its museum collections in cooperation with partners. We will begin to examine standardized approaches for documenting and conserving important collections, and in turn, help to expand the use of valuable collections for use in interpreting our conservation mission to visitors and communities.

  • Efforts to improve the management and use of historic properties will also benefit through internal training and information sharing programs. The Service is currently developing a program that can be linked with existing environmental education efforts at refuges and hatcheries. The intent of the program is to use outreach, classroom experiences, and distance learning to underscore the importance of historic properties and how they contribute to our understanding of the lands that we manage, how and why natural landscapes and wildlife populations have changed over time, and the need for developing meaningful partnerships that perpetuate community traditions and values.

The National Wildlife Refuge System and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announce the National Wildlife Refuge Preserve America Grant Program. This grant program provides competitive grants ($10,000 - $15,000) to help fund national wildlife refuge interpretive and education projects on history and historic sites and how they contribute to our conservation and understanding of natural resources.

In 2007, seven proposals (Excel) were chosen to receive funding. Projects ranged from rehabilitation of historic structures to development of Web-based learning materials. The 2008 application periods will be announced soon.

In 2006 11 proposals (Excel) were chosen to receive funding. Projects ranged from rehabilitation of historic structures to development of Web-based learning materials. The 2007 application periods will be announced soon.

For more information on Preserve America in the USFWS please contact Eugene Marino, Service Archaeologist.


Last Updated: March 8, 2011

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