Newsroom Midwest Region

Celebrating the future and appreciating the past

Historic photo by USFWS.

This series of articles is inspired by the long history of land managers and biologists who protect, restore and conserve our National Wildlife Refuge System lands. As our midwest refuges reach milestone anniversaries, we will highlight what makes them special. Look for historic photos, lesser known biological and geological tidbits and reflections from the people who know them best - refuge field staff.

Follow along as we highlight milestones for each National Wildlife Refuge in the region. Check out each article to learn more!

Wisconsin sandhill crane sanctuary celebrates 40 years

Sandhill cranes in flight. Photo by USFWS.
Sandhill cranes in flight. Photo by USFWS.

We're celebrating Fox River National Wildlife Refuge, which was established 40 years ago this week. The refuge encompasses 1,054 acres of wetland and upland habitat along the Fox River in Wisconsin. Take a moment to learn about this special place and some of the wildlife that calls it home.

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Karner blue butterfly home celebrates 80 years

Female Karner blue butterfly at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Jill Utrup/USFWS.
Female Karner blue butterfly at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Jill Utrup/USFWS.

We're celebrating Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, which was established 80 years ago today. Nestled in central Wisconsin is a landscape that was epitomized by early homesteaders as the Great Wisconsin Swamp, this refuge is both welcoming and offers visitors much-needed peace and quiet for Americans from all walks of life. Take a moment to learn more about this serendipitous place and plan a trip to experience it first-hand.

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30 years of conservation among Minnesota’s wetlands and prairie

Male greater prairie-chickens on prairie breeding grounds. Photo by USFWS.
Greater prairie-chickens on prairie breeding grounds. Photo by USFWS.

We're celebrating Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge, which was established 30 years ago in early January. The refuge is nestled within Minnesota’s working landscape of agriculture, industry, conservation and the tight-knit communities that weave them together. Take a moment to learn more about this prairie gem and plan a trip to experience it first-hand.

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Michigan migratory bird hotspot turns 65

Blue-winged teal on a wetland. Photo by USFWS.
Blue-winged teal on a wetland. Photo by USFWS.

We're celebrating Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, which was established 65 years ago this week. This refuge has a wide range of habitats, from bottomland forests of maple, oak and hickory to grasslands filled with prairie flowers and butterflies. Take a moment to learn about this peaceful refuge and plan a trip to experience it first-hand.

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Tallgrass prairie and wetland gem turns 80

Trumpeter swans preening. Photo by USFWS.
Trumpeter swans preening. Photo by USFWS.

We're celebrating Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge, which was established 80 years ago. Today, the refuge encompasses 3,334 acres of both marsh and upland habitat and is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals. Take a moment to learn about this migratory waterfowl refuge located in the southern end of the Prairie Pothole Region and plan a trip to experience it first-hand.

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Key migration stopover turns 60

Riverine bottomlands of Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.
Riverine bottomlands of Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.

Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge in Illinois and Missouri is celebrating its 60th birthday this week! This river refuge is only 20 air-miles from St. Louis, Missouri and almost 3 million people, yet it offers a quiet retreat for birding, fishing, hunting and so much more. We invite you to join us and learn what makes this refuge so special.

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Riverine sanctuary celebrates 60 years of conservation

Muscatine Slough at Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.
Muscatine Slough at Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.

Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge is turning 60 this week! Bordering Iowa and Illinois, this river refuge was established in 1958 to provide habitat for migratory birds along the Mississippi flyway. Stopover habitat is essential for providing waterfowl places to rest and refuel. We invite you to join us and learn what makes this refuge so special.

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Gem in the heart of Minnesota turns 80

Kayaking at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.
Kayaking at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.

We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are celebrating Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, which was established 80 years ago today. The refuge has a wide range of habitats, from forests of tamarack, black spruce and balsam fir to ponds and wetlands. Take a moment to learn about this peaceful refuge and plan a trip to experience it first-hand.

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From hognose snakes to chorus frogs: Meredosia is more than a flyway

Solitary sandpiper. Photo courtesy of Mark Moschell/Creative Commons.
Solitary sandpiper. Photo courtesy of Mark Moschell/Creative Commons.

Meredosia National Wildlife Refuge is turning 45 today! Even though it’s relatively young compared with many national wildlife refuges, Meredosia has ties that date back to the 1930s. Help them celebrate by learning about what makes this flyway hotspot so special.

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Great Lakes oasis turns 105

Caspian terns at Gravel Island National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.
Caspian terns at Gravel Island National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.

Today marks the 105th birthday of a small refuge in the middle of Lake Michigan. For more than a century, we have been managing this remote refuge out of the limelight to protect an oasis for resident and migratory birds. Gravel Island National Wildlife Refuge is made up of 23-acre Spider Island and four-acre Gravel Island and is located off the tip of Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula in Lake Michigan. In honor of their birthday, let’s take some time to learn about what makes this place so special.

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Five years of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge

Tamarack tree in fall color. Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS.
Tamarack tree in fall color. Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS.

One of the midwest’s newest national wildlife refuges is celebrating its fifth anniversary today! Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge was established in 2012 to connect and restore a large landscape that includes blocks of grasslands, wet prairies and natural streams interspersed with cities and towns. Help us mark the occasion by learning a little about what makes this young refuge so special.

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Restoring habitat along the Missouri River for 25 years

Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.
Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.

As Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge celebrates its 25th anniversary, we wanted to take a moment to recognize this restoration success story. Land managers, hydrologists and biologists work together to restore habitat and bring a Missouri River gem back for hunters, anglers, birders and all recreationalists to enjoy. The refuge provides critical feeding, resting and spawning habitat for endangered pallid sturgeons and a wealth of other wildlife.

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70 years of birding, fishing and camping in Illinois

Purple coneflower. Photo by Veronica Kelly/USFWS.
Purple coneflower. Photo by Veronica Kelly/USFWS.

Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in Illinois is celebrating its 70th birthday! While all of America’s national wildlife refuges have special aspects, this refuge really stands out for its diverse mission and focus. Established on August 5, 1947 in southern Illinois, this 44,000 acre national wildlife refuge is the only one in the Midwest that has congressionally mandated purposes outside of the traditional focus of wildlife conservation and recreation.

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Protecting the Indiana bat for three decades

Rock outcroppings at Pilot Knob National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.
Rock outcroppings. Photo by USFWS.

Happy 30th birthday to Pilot Knob National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri! For three decades, this refuge has quietly gone about the business of protecting a large hibernacula of Indiana bats and today we’d like to take a moment to recognize this special place.

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From degraded land to essential habitat: Agassiz turns 80

Waterfowl at Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Gary Huschle/USFWS.
Waterfowl. Photo by Gary Huschle/USFWS.

When you look at Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge, it’s hard to believe that 80 years ago it was severely degraded from years of deforestation, draining, and overtrapping. Today, the refuge offers a variety of habitat from oak savanna and sedge meadow to coniferous bog wilderness. Visitors can see healthy populations of trumpeter swans, buffleheads, sandhill cranes and more.

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Providing essential migratory waterfowl habitat for 80 years in Missouri

Mallards at Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.
Mallards. Photo by USFWS.

Today marks the 80th birthday for Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri. Established in 1937 by Franklin D. Roosevelt through executive order as a breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife, the refuge continues to be an essential network of lands and waters for migratory birds including waterfowl, geese, and shorebirds.

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Monarch migration stronghold turns 105

Monarch butterfly on climbing fumitory at St. Martin Island. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.
Monarch butterfly. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.

Monarch habitat in the middle of Lake Michigan? Yes! Today marks the 105th birthday of one of our oldest national wildlife refuges and Great Lakes migration routes for migratory birds and other species, like monarchs. Take a few minutes to learn more about this remote beauty.

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25 years of a prairie pothole gem

Cross country skiing at Rydell National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.
Cross country skiing. Photo by USFWS.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of Rydell National Wildlife Refuge in northwestern Minnesota. This 2,070-acre gem lies on the eastern edge of the prairie pothole region, smack dab in between the tallgrass prairie, to the west, and the broadleaf forest, to the east.

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Flyway refuge turns 80

Snow Geese at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge. Photo Bob Barry/USFWS.
Snow Geese at Chautauqua. Photo Bob Barry/USFWS.

Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt 80 years ago on this day through an executive order which authorized the federal government to purchase land owned by the former Chautauqua Drainage and Levee District. Largely made up of backwater lakes and bottomland forests, the refuge has small upland woodlands and prairies which welcome a huge diversity of birds.

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The only international wildlife refuge is turning 15

Winter on the refuge. Photo by Dick Skoglund/USFWS.
Winter on the refuge. Photo by Dick Skoglund/USFWS.

On this day in 2001, Congress established our first and only international wildlife refuge. In less than two decades, the habitats and fisheries that once defined Detroit River as degraded are now world class. Let’s take a moment to celebrate the conservation gem that Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge has become in 15 years.

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Marking 25 years of protecting cave habitats in Missouri

Ozark cavefish. Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation.
Ozark cavefish. Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation.

Sometimes our best work happens quietly, behind the scenes. Let’s take a moment to recognize what is perhaps one of our best kept secrets and lesser known refuges as they celebrate 25 years of conservation on October 22. National wildlife refuges play a key role in the recovery of many endangered species. In the Midwest region alone, we’ve established refuges to protect Iowa pleistocene snails, Kirtland's warblers, Ozark Cavefish and Indiana Bats. Ozark Cavefish National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri, has been protecting sensitive cave habitat since the early 1990s.

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Urban oasis celebrates 40 years of conservation

Peterson Pond. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.
Peterson Pond. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, one of the National Wildlife Refuge System's best kept secrets, is celebrating its 40th birthday tomorrow. Ranging from urban to rural, the refuge provides a unique opportunity to enjoy wildlife-related recreation in the shadows of skyscrapers. It's a place where coyotes, bald eagles, and trout live next door to more than three million people.

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From seedless persimmons to river otters: 50 years of conservation in Indiana

Muscatatuck River. Photo by Susan Harner/USFWS.
Muscatatuck River. Photo by Susan Harner/USFWS.

Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in Indiana is turning 50 today! At just under 8,000 acres in size, this relatively small national wildlife refuge has been quietly going about the business of conservation for decades.

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80 years of protecting Mississippi’s bluffs, vistas and sand prairies

Blazing star at Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.
Blazing star at Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.

Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge celebrates their 80th birthday this weekend. Nestled along the eastern edge of the Mississippi River, this refuge was established by Executive Order in 1936 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide resting and breeding habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. The refuge is a significant part of the Mississippi flyway, providing more than 6,446 acres of wetland, river and sand prairie habitats.

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Birdwatcher’s paradise turns 55

Sunrise at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Ron Huffman/USFWS.
Sunrise at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Ron Huffman/USFWS.

Today marks the 55th anniversary of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. At nearly 10,000 acres, Ottawa Refuge conserves and protects some of the last remaining Great Lakes coastal wetlands in Ohio.

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An Island of Prairie Habitat in an Ocean of Agriculture: Restoring Iowa Prairie for 25 Years

Short-eared owl. Photo by Karen Viste-Sparkman/USFWS.
Short-eared owl. Photo by Karen Viste-Sparkman/USFWS.

It was 25 years ago that Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa acquired its first land and began restoration. At a young age, this refuge is already an incredible success story.

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Horicon National Wildlife Refuge: Internationally Celebrated Wetland Turns 75

Horicon Marsh. Photo by Ryan Hagerty/USFWS.
Horicon Marsh. Photo by Ryan Hagerty/USFWS.

Horicon National Wildlife Refuge marked its 75th anniversary on January 24, 2016. The refuge was established in 1941 to provide resting and breeding habitat for a number of migratory birds and waterfowl - especially the redhead duck. Horicon Refuge encompasses the northern two-thirds of the 33,000 acre Horicon Marsh and is one of the largest intact freshwater wetlands in the U.S. This important staging area for migratory birds was added to the Ramsar Convention in 1990, making it an internationally significant wetland.

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Rugged and Remote: Seney National Wildlife Refuge Turns 80

Seney National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.
Seney National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.

Seney National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1935 and is located in the east-central portion of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Halfway between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, the refuge includes Seney Wilderness Area, which makes up 26% of the 95,238-acre designation. Seney Refuge is a place of excitement, serenity and wonder. With a rich mosaic of ecosystems that support an array of wildlife and plant communities, the refuge is a great place to watch wildlife and experience nature.

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80 Years of Habitat Conservation at Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.
Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.

In the 1930s, the Midwest was hit hard by drought and the economic free fall of the Great Depression. In the midst of all of this human hardship and uncertainty, Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge was born. Established on October 31,1935, during the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, this 18,000 area refuge was established to preserve valuable habitat for waterfowl. Today, Roosevelt’s vision of habitat conservation is still alive and well.

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Valuing Wilderness in the Great Lakes - Huron National Wildlife Refuge Turns 110!

Huron National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.
Huron National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.

October 10, 2015 marks the 110th birthday of Huron National Wildlife Refuge, the oldest refuge in the Midwest Region. This collection of eight small islands is off of the southern shores of Lake Superior, in Marquette County, Michigan. President Theodore Roosevelt set aside this bird sanctuary as a breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife in 1905. Because of early conservation efforts like this, many bird populations that had been over-harvested by plume hunters and egg collectors in the 1800s and early 1900s, returned to healthy populations levels.

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Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge Turns 15 today!

Northern Tallgrass Prairie. Photo by USFWS.
Northern Tallgrass Prairie. Photo by USFWS.

Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge was established in 2000 with a goal of protecting and maintaining 77,000 acres of the last remnants of the once vast northern tallgrass prairie that covered about 25 million acres in western Minnesota and northwestern Iowa alone. This refuge provided a means of working with individuals, groups, and other government entities to permanently preserve and restore a portion of the northern tallgrass prairie. Today, almost 6,000 acres of prairie have been preserved through our management actions and those of our partners.

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Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge Celebrates 50 Years!

Sherburne oak savanna sunset. Photo by USFWS.
Sherburne oak savanna sunset. Photo by USFWS.

In honor of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge’s 50th birthday, we wanted to reflect on what makes this Minnesota refuge so special. Celebrated both for its wildlife and for its extraordinary recreational opportunities. This 30,700-acre refuge is defined by dynamic upland habitats that range from grasslands to oak savanna.

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Celebrating 35 years of Kirtland’s Warbler Wildlife Management Area

An aerial view of Kirtland's Warbler Wildlife Management Area in Michigan. Photo by USFWS.
Kirtland's Warbler Wildlife Management Area in Michigan. Photo by USFWS.

Kirtland’s Warbler Wildlife Management Area was established on September 3, 1980 in response to the need for more land dedicated to the recovery of the endangered Kirtland’s warbler The management area is made up of 125 tracts of land totaling more than 6,000 acres located throughout eight counties in the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. It is one of few wildlife management areas in the Midwest Region.

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Happy 80th Birthday to Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge

Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy of Jason Miller.
Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy of Jason Miller.

Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge was established on August 23,1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt through the Migratory Bird Conservation Act as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife and is recognized as an internationally Important Bird Area. The refuge is strategically located between two major migratory bird corridors, the Mississippi and Central Flyways, which causes a bottleneck effect, attracting high numbers of birds during peak migration. If you time your visit right, you can see more than 300 bald eagles, 100,000 waterfowl or more than a million snow geese!

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25 Years of Protecting the Cache River Watershed

Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.
Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.

Today is the 25th anniversary of Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge. Located in southern Illinois between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers within the Cache River Watershed, the refuge is part of the largest remaining swamp wetland in the Midwest and includes some of the oldest living trees east of the Mississippi.

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A River of Birds: Supporting the Mississippi Flyway

Waterfowl at Great River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.
Waterfowl at Great River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.

Happy birthday to Great River National Wildlife Refuge and Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge! While these stretches of the Mississippi River were previously part of Mark Twain National Wildlife Refuge, they became individual refuges 15 years ago this week. Regardless what you call these areas, migrating birds consider them the heart of their journey between breeding grounds to the north and overwintering areas to the south. These refuges form part of what is known as the Mississippi Flyway - a migration corridor for more than 325 species.

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Seeing Landscapes Over Time at Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge

Ball cactus flower on granite outcrops. Photo by USFWS.
Ball cactus flower on granite outcrops. Photo by USFWS.

Happy 40th birthday Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge! Acquired as part of the Big Stone-Whetstone River Project of Minnesota and South Dakota, this refuge was created in 1975 and consists of 11,586 acres of tallgrass prairie, wetlands, granite outcrops, and river woodlands. In honor of this anniversary, we wanted to offer up a few highlights of what makes Big Stone so special.

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America’s Smallest Refuge Turns 100!

Hennepin Island is managed as a nesting colony for the state-listed threatened common tern. Photo by USFWS.
Hennepin Island. Photo by USFWS.

President Woodrow Wilson established Mille Lacs National Wildlife Refuge on May 14, 1915 when he set aside Spirit Island to protect breeding habitat for native birds. Hennepin Island was later added to the refuge, increasing our national wildlife refuge system’s smallest refuge to just over half of an acre. These small patches of rock in Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake may not seem like much, but they are an important place for common terns, as well as other colonial nesting species like ring-billed gulls, herring gulls, and double-crested cormorants.

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