Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Happy Birthday, National Wildlife Refuge System! Wildlife Conservation Network Marks 112 Years

February 26, 2015


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

If you love nature and wildlife, join us on March 14 in celebrating the 112th birthday of the National Wildlife Refuge System, the world’s premier network of public lands dedicated to wildlife conservation.

Many of America’s birds, mammals, reptiles and fish depend for survival on the 562 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts in the Refuge System. Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, refuge lands provide vital habitat for thousands of species. President Teddy Roosevelt created the first national wildlife refuge on March 14, 1903, at Pelican Island, Florida, to protect brown pelicans from market hunters looking to profit from their slaughter.

Today, the Refuge System includes more than 560 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts covering over 150 million acres plus more than 418 million acres of marine national monuments. There’s at least one national wildlife refuge in every state and one within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas.

National wildlife refuges make life better for people, too, by cleaning our air, filtering our water, and providing a natural buffer against flooding and erosion.

By providing hard-to-beat opportunities for fishing, hunting, hiking, canoeing and nature photography, refuges also generate essential income for local communities. They pump $2.4 billion into the national economy and support more than 35,000 jobs, according to the Service’s peer-reviewed report Banking on Nature. More than 47 million people visit refuges every year.

The Service’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program, launched in 2013, is providing new opportunities for residents of America’s cities to learn about and take part in wildlife habitat conservation.

No matter where you live, you can enjoy nature at a refuge near you.

What refuges can offer you
See great flocks of migratory birds. Hear spring peepers’ joyful chorus. Enjoy guided hikes, nature tours, a chance to see live birds of prey, and much, much more. See how refuges conserve some of our nation’s most cherished natural treasures.

Any time is a good time to visit a national wildlife refuge. You can plan a refuge visit around a bird festival or a wildlife tour. Or just enjoy being outdoors or taking a drive along a wildlife viewing route.

Get Started!
Check out other Refuge System birthday events on our special events calendar. Use the “Find Your Refuge” feature here to look for happenings on a nearby refuge.

Find Your Way
Every state has at least one national wildlife refuge. There’s a refuge within an hour’s drive of most major cities. Find a refuge near you with a quick zip code or state search at

Get Psyched
National wildlife refuges protect wildlife habitat on awe-inducing landscapes that range from Oregon’s rocky cliffs to Texas lagoons, from Alaska wilderness to woods and ponds within Philadelphia city limits. Refuges are great places to experience seasonal wonders, such as spring bird migration, the arrival of monarch butterflies or elk bugling for a mate in fall.

Information contained in older news items may be outdated. These materials are made available as historical archival information only. Individual contacts have been replaced with general External Affairs office information. No other updates have been made to the information and we do not guarantee current accuracy or completeness.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel and download photos from our Flickr page.