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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

A Plan for Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

When the sea is rising, you’d better have a plan.

At Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on the Virginia coast, rising sea levels and severe weather are wreaking havoc with visitor parking and threaten to completely reshape the landscape by the end of the century.

Chincoteague PoniesPhoto: Emma Kerr/USFWS

“I don’t know how many more storms we can take,” says Refuge Manager Lou Hinds. The visitor parking lot adjacent to the recreational beach has been washed out nearly a dozen times in the past several years, forcing the Refuge and the National Park Service to spend about $500,000 a year in taxpayer dollars to repair the damage.


What's a National Wildlife Refuge?

As someone who works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I’m occasionally asked about what a National Wildlife Refuge is.  My first response is always, "well, it's sort of like a park, but different."

That is, of course, true, but I always want to give more of an explanation.  So, without further adieu, here it is:

Within the Department of the Interior, you’ll find both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – which manages national wildlife refuges -- and National Park Service – which manages national parks.  Both work toward preservation of our natural world, but, there are differences.

Arctic Refuge AlaskaThinking on a mountain at Arctic Refuge in Alaska Photo: Steve Chase/USFWS


5 Green Building Projects from our National Wildlife Refuge System

We are going green.  Did you know that we're working to make our facilities, our vehicles--and everything else for that mattter--completely carbon neutral in just 8 years?  It's true!  

To meet our 2020 goal, we're designing, building, and refurbishing in a way that cuts our reliance on greenhouse gases and saves taxpayer dollars

Here are five (now award winning) sustainable design projects from around the Refuge System that you probably didn’t know about. If you live in the area, be sure to check them out in person!

Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge

This Sudbury, Massachusetts Refuge now boats 5,879 square-foot sustainably designed visitor center. The building features passive solar architecture, a cool roof, daylighting and much more. The 19 megawatt-hours of renewable power generated offsets 13.1 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Low flow plumbing fixtures and waterless urinals conserve 3,000 gallons of water a year. 


Let's Go Outside! Featured Refuge Events Week of November 1

The National Wildlife Refuge System has 555 refuges across the country, which means there’s always something going on! Each week, we feature some of the events on our Facebook or Twitter pages, but now we’re bringing them to you here as an easier way to access them in one place. Check out our list each week for ideas on what to do outside.

Go out and experience nature – then share with us what you did and what you thought!

Biking on nature trails at a Refuge


The Weekly Wrap: October 2nd - October 8th

It's been an interesting week here at Open Spaces. Today we are relaunching our weekly wrap up series where we summarize all of the posts over the last week.

So enjoy! Simply click the title or the picture to catch up on what you might have missed.

As always, please leave your comments and let us know how we're doing. Your feedback about how we are doing, both good and bad, is always valuable.

Looking Back: Spotlight on Rudolph Dieffenbach

On Sunday we started a regular feature to highlight the insanely interesting, but little known, history of your National Wildlife Refuge System. The first post was dedicated to Rudolph Dieffenbach, a man who acquired more land for American wildlife than any other figure before or after his era.