Press Release
Interior Department Announces Expansion of Four National Wildlife Refuges to Conserve Habitat, Protect Species and Support Recreation
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WASHINGTON — The Department of the Interior today announced the expansion of four existing national wildlife refuges, which will allow for the voluntary conservation of up to 1.13 million acres of wildlife habitat in New Mexico, North Carolina and Texas. 

Investing in and expanding the National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, furthers the Biden-Harris administration’s work to support community-driven efforts to conserve and restore the nation’s lands and waters through the America the Beautiful initiative. 

Under Secretary Haaland’s leadership, the Department has also established four new Refuges that will help conserve important fish and wildlife habitat, support working lands, and expand opportunities for outdoor recreation. 

"The National Wildlife Refuge System and the tremendous work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service play an invaluable role in providing vital habitat for wildlife species, offering outdoor recreation access to the public, and bolstering climate resilience across the country,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “By recognizing that nature is one of our best allies in addressing the climate crisis, today’s expansion of our Refuge System helps advance our locally led vision to conserve and protect our treasured outdoor spaces for current and future generations.” 

“Today’s announcements are the culmination of longstanding partnerships with states, conservation partners and local communities to conserve and restore vital landscapes that are important to all of us and numerous fish and wildlife species,” said Service Director Martha Williams. “By working with our partners including Tribes and private landowners, the Service will conserve important habitat that supports recreation and working lands, protects species, addresses the biodiversity crisis and builds resilience in the face of climate change climate change
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The Service works with willing property owners to expand refuge boundaries through fee title or voluntary easement acquisitions. The new expansion areas include:

  • Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge (NC)may now conserve up to 287,000 acres of floodplain habitat along a 137-mile stretch of the Roanoke River from Weldon to the Albemarle Sound, to support rare and at-risk species like the Atlantic sturgeon, cerulean and Swainson's warblers, bald eagles and migratory waterfowl. The refuge was established in 1991 to protect the forests in the Roanoke River floodplain, considered to be the largest intact, and least disturbed, bottomland forest ecosystem remaining in the mid-Atlantic region.
  • Aransas and Big Boggy National Wildlife Refuges (TX) may now conserve up to 150,000 additional acres of habitat in the Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes ecoregion of Texas to support whooping crane, Eastern black rail, Attwater's prairie chicken, mottled duck and other wintering waterfowl. Established in 1937, Aransas NWR serves as a refuge and breeding ground and for migratory birds and other wildlife and is best known as the wintering home of the last wild flock of endangered whooping cranes. Establishing in 1983 and designated an Internationally Significant Shorebird Site by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, Big Boggy NWR is a stronghold for the threatened eastern black rail and provides seasonal and year-round habitat for large populations of waterfowl, wading birds, waterbirds, and shorebirds.
  • Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge (NM and TX) may now conserve up to 700,000 acres of habitat in the Southern High Plains along the Texas-New Mexico border to support sandhill crane, pronghorn and lesser prairie chicken, as well as a full suite of other wildlife that rely on the grasslands, playa wetlands and saline lake habitats of the Central Grasslands. Established in 1935, the refuge is the oldest national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
    A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

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    in Texas and is best known for hosting one of the largest concentrations of lesser sandhill cranes in North America.

The four final Land Protection Plans for these expansions were developed through public processes and informed by input from local landowners, Tribal leaders, state wildlife agencies, and other stakeholders. The Plans outline land protection priorities for these refuges that will inform the Service’s interest in acquiring parcels from landowners who are willing to sell property (fee-title) or property rights (conservation easements or cooperative agreements) through purchase or donation.

The Service develops Land Protection Plans to fully evaluate the establishment of new refuges as well as expansions to existing refuges. The approved expansion boundaries, which guide future refuge acquisitions, include priority areas where conservation efforts will have the highest anticipated benefit to wildlife and habitat. These priorities all contribute to fulfilling the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System. 

Under the Biden-Harris administration, the Service has added over 500,000 acres through willing seller land acquisition and conservation easements. With today’s expansions, this Administration has approved the potential to acquire more than 1.6 million acres in fee-title and easements across the Refuge System through voluntary action. Notably, these efforts are locally supported and showcase a commitment to a collaborative and inclusive approach to conservation.

This year marks the 121st anniversary of the National Wildlife Refuge System – an unparalleled network of 571 national wildlife refuges, 38 wetland management districts and 5 marine national monuments. There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas – hosting some 67 million visits every year – almost all offering free admittance year-round. National wildlife refuges provide vital habitat for thousands of species and access to world-class recreation, from fishing, hunting and boating to nature watching, photography, and environmental education.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit and connect with us on social media:  FacebookInstagramX (formerly known as Twitter), LinkedInFlickr and YouTube.

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Habitat conservation
Habitat restoration