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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

Implementing the Refuge Vision

Remember our entries on Open Spaces last summer from the Conserving the Future Conference in Madison? Well, charting a bright future for the National Wildlife Refuge System didn’t stop there. Here’s an update on the implementation of the vision document that came out of the conference.

Transparency was a driving principle when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed Conserving the Future as the vision that will guide the National Wildlife Refuge System for the next decade.  That same transparency is evident as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service begins implementing the vision. 

Implementation Plan Cover


5 Things you Need to Know About Wetlands

World Wetlands Day occurs each year on February 2 to highlight the importance of wetlands to animals and people around the globe.  It celebrates the day the Ramsar Wetlands Convention was signed in 1971 (the Convention celebrated its 40th Anniversary last year).  The Wetlands Convention promotes the conservation and wise use of wetlands through international cooperation. Today, 1,994 Ramsar sites covering more than 474 million acres have been designated as Wetlands of International Importance.

ChincoteagueChincoteague National Wildlife Refuge


Photo Tour: Camera Traps

Have you ever heard of camera traps?  

They're cameras triggered by a combination of motion and heat to capture images of wildlife.  The following images were part of a four-camera project involving students from New Mexico's Rio Rancho High School who worked with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and the staff of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge to record mammal life on the refuge.  

About 200 students sorted through the resulting 16,000 photographs to document the presence and behavior of 11 mammal species, including some that were previously not known to inhabit the refuge!

Here's what the camera looks like to take the pictures - scent post were placed near the cameras.

The Camera Trap cameraCamera used in Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, NM camera trap project by Matthew Farley, Jennifer Miyashiro and James Stuart.  Photo made available by J.N. Stuart, Creative Commons


Let's Go Outside! Refuge Events for the Week of November 21st

Looking for fun ideas to get outside with family and friends this holiday weekend?  Look no further than the National Wildlife Refuge System. Below you'll find a list of Refuge events from all over the country.

Let's go outside!

A Group of Kids Visit Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge Credit: USFWS


Looking Back: Spotlight on Rudolph Dieffenbach

Every so often it's good to look into the past to revisit the people who got us where we are today. Looking Back is a new series on the people who helped shape the National Wildlife Refuge System. The series is based on "A Look Back," a regular column written by Karen Leggett, from the Refuge System Branch of Communications, which appears in each issue of the Refuge Update newsletter.


Rudolph Dieffenbach acquired more land for American wildlife than any other figure before or after his era.  Born in 1884 in Westminster, MD, Dieffenbach spent 44 years working for the federal government, 27 of them for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


Looking Back: Spotlight on Ira Gabrielson

Every so often it's good to look into the past to revisit the people who got us where we are today. Looking Back is a new series on the people who helped shape the National Wildlife Refuge System. The series is based on "A Look Back," a regular column written by Karen Leggett, from the Refuge System Branch of Communications, which appears in each issue of the Refuge Update newsletter.

“When I learned there were actually jobs where people were paid for studying birds and mammals, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.”

-Ira Gabrielson

Ira Noel Gabrielson devoted his life not only to studying animals but also to protecting them and conserving their habitats. Born in Sioux Rapids, Iowa, “Dr. Gabe” began working with the Bureau of Biological Survey in 1915.  

He replaced J.N “Ding” Darling as director of the Survey in 1935, and when the Survey and the Bureau of Fisheries became the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1940, Gabrielson became its first director.  Six years later, he left the Service to head the Wildlife Management Institute and later helped to organize and preside over the World Wildlife Fund.

Gabrielson releasing a duck


Putting a Stamp on Conservation

The Federal Duck Stamp.  To be honest, before I started working here, I really didn’t know much about it.  Maybe you’re like me, and you don’t know there’s a national art contest to create the new Duck Stamp each year.   If you’re an artist, you may want to consider creating something for the contest.  While time might be running a little thin to submit something this year (entries must be postmarked by midnight on August 15th), maybe you’ll consider entering next year.

2011 Duck StampCurrent Duck Stamp, Artist: James Hautman

What’s the purpose of the Duck Stamp, though?  Of course art contests can be fun, but here’s what it is all about.  Aside from being required for hunting waterfowl, the Duck Stamp serves as a very important conservation tool.  Ninety-eight cents of every dollar generated from Duck Stamps goes directly to buy or lease wetlands for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System, making the Duck Stamp one of the best dollar-for-dollar investments in the future of America’s wetlands.


New Service Voices: Social Media at the Upper Miss Refuge

Cortney White

Cortney White, 
Park Ranger, Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge

Today we’re continuing our series "New Service Voices" with guest blogger Cortney White.  Cortney has been with the service since 2009 at Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, first as a clerk, now as a Park Ranger in the Student Career Employment Program (SCEP).  Cortney completed her B.A. in Public Relations from Winona State University in 2010 and is finishing her M.S. in Outdoor Education.  She has concentrated her work at WSU on how to promote positive environmental attitudes in young children.

When I started working with the Service, my job description as a clerk at the Upper Miss Refuge included helping the new refuge Friends group start using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. When I learned I would be able to communicate the mission of conservation using social media I was excited to help display the refuge in a new spotlight.

At that time social media was new to the Service, and providing a resource for the Friends group to advertise the refuge online helped expand the refuge to a new audience. Like many organizations, the refuge traditionally depended on print or television media to promote a refuge story and communicate to viewers.  Social media however, allows the refuge the ability to communicate directly with those interested in its mission.


Call to Action: Excerpts from Dan Ashe's Speech at the Conserving the Future Conference

Below you'll find excerpts from our Director Dan Ashe’s “Call to Action” speech, delivered July 14, at the Conserving the Future Conference in Madison, Wisconsin.  Learn more about the conference at http://www.americaswildlife.org.  

We must, in effect, win over the hearts and minds of the American people. That’s a call to action for each of us—both professional and citizen conservationists.

First, I am asking the Refuge System staff to take the work we have done this week and incorporate the best ideas into the final vision for Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation. I want the final vision document completed by Refuge Week in mid-October.

I want this vision to define a future state, but I want it to respect the past and the partnerships and traditions that have brought us to this point.

The Refuge System Leadership Team will guide the implementation of our vision. I am signing a charter today that spells out that charge. The Leadership Team will meet in October and lay out a detailed set of priorities and timelines for implementation of the final vision.

I am establishing today the first three vision implementation teams.


Teddy Roosevelt and the History of the National Wildlife Refuge System

Today, there are 553 refuges across the country, with at least one in every state, providing safety to more than 250 threatened or endangered plants and animals.  Have you ever wondered how we got there?

President Roosevelt, known for his love of nature and wildlife established Pelican Island as our first national refuge in 1903.  Though he didn’t know it at the time, Roosevelt had set the nation on the path to building the largest national Refuge System in the world. 

Throughout his presidency, refuges were established around the country, and by the time he left office in 1909, he had declared 53 refuges in 17 states and three territories.