Midwest Region



Martha Nudel

Claire Cassel

Midwest National Wildlife Refuges Receive High Marks from Visitors

An overwhelming percentage of visitors to national wildlife refuges in the Midwest region in  2010 and 2011 were favorably impressed with its recreational opportunities, education and services, according to a peer-reviewed government survey released May 15, 2012. 

Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge and Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge were featured in the peer-reviewed survey, commissioned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The survey was designed, conducted and analyzed by researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey who evaluated responses from more than 10,000 adult visitors surveyed at 53 of the country’s 556 national wildlife refuges between July 2010 and November 2011.

The National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the nation's premier system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve wildlife and wildlife habitat. Refuges protect thousands of species; more than 400 also are open to the public and are popular recreation sites, noted for their hunting and fishing, paddling and hiking, environmental education programs and wildlife observation. More than 45 million people visited national wildlife refuges in 2011.

Some surveyed visitors (14%) at Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge reported they had only been to the McGregor District stretch of the refuge once in a 12 month period while most (86%) reported they were repeat visitors with multiple visits.  These repeat visitors reported they had visited the refuge an average of 23 times during that same 12-month period. 

"One of our respondents said that visiting the refuge was a once in a lifetime experience that words could not do justice,” noted Refuge Manger Kevin Foerster. “For those of us living along this river refuge we realize what a treasure we have right here in the heartland of America - a place where conservation efforts allow wildlife to thrive and visitors can appreciate their wildlife heritage,” continued Foerster.

Of survey participants, 

• 92 percent reported satisfaction with recreational activities and opportunities;
• 79 percent reported satisfaction with information and education about the refuge;
• 72 percent reported satisfaction with services provided by refuge employees or volunteers; and
• 84 percent reported satisfaction with the refuge’s job of conserving fish, wildlife and their habitats.

Some survey participants also volunteered enthusiastic comments, such as this one: “Refuges make me aware that I am a part of the American experience and not just an observer. Nowhere else do I feel such a deep sense of connection with the land, the plants, and the wildlife. Visiting a refuge is truly a spiritual experience.”

Among the most popular refuge activities visitors engaged in were wildlife observations, bird watching, photography, hiking and auto-tour-routes.  Most visitors also reported viewing refuge exhibits, asking information of staff or volunteers and visiting a refuge gift shop or bookstore.

USGS social scientist Natalie Sexton was the lead researcher on the report. The survey is available at 

For more information on the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service visit


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Last updated: June 15, 2016