National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act


The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 established, for the first time, a clear mission of wildlife conservation for the national wildlife refuges.

The Act states that the Service will manage each refuge to:

• fulfill the mission of the Refuge System;

• fulfill the individual purposes of each refuge;

• consider the needs of fish and wildlife first;

• fulfill the requirement of developing a comprehensive conservation plan for each unit of the Refuge System, and fully involve the public in the preparation of these plans;

• maintain the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of the Refuge System; and

• recognize that wildlife-dependent recreational activities including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, and environmental education and interpretation, are legitimate and priority public uses.


Following passage of the Act in 1997, the Service immediately began efforts to carry out the direction of the new legislation, including the preparation of comprehensive conservation plans for all refuges. Consistent with the Act, the Service has prepared all refuge comprehensive conservation plans in conjunction with public involvement.