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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's mission is, working with others, to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.


  • Land Acquisition

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    The Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Act (The Duck Stamp Act) authorizes the purchase of lands using the revenue from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps for the purpose of improving the production of migratory birds, especially waterfowl. Under this program both fee title lands and easements are purchased to protect migratory bird habitat.

    Waterfowl Production Areas

    WPAs are public lands purchased with Federal Duck Stamp revenue. While many National Wildlife Refuges protect large blocks of land, WPAs are small, ranging in size from as little as 10 acres to nearly 2,000 acres. They are often broadly dispersed over many counties. More than 3,000 WPAs have been purchased since 1958 when Congress authorized the use of Duck Stamp monies for purchasing small wetlands.

    Wetland Easements

    The Duck Stamp Act also funds the purchase of wetland and habitat easements. The wetland easement involves a signed agreement with a landowner protecting wetlands on their land from being burned, drained, filled, or leveled in perpetuity. The landowner receives a one-time payment for protecting the wetlands. When protected wetlands go through dry cycles, they can be farmed, grazed or hayed without violating the agreement. The land remains in private control, and the landowner controls access to these wetlands. 

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    Grassland Easements

    Grassland easements generally protect both grassland and wetland habitat, but again the property remains in private control and the landowner allows access. The landowner can hay or harvest seed after July 15th each year, which allows most ground nesting birds to hatch their eggs before any cutting is done. The haying and grazing option allows the landowner to hay after July 15 and graze at any time.  The landowner receives a one-time payment for the rights that the Service purchases from them.

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  • National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act

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    National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997: The NWRS Improvement Act defines a unifying mission for all refuges, including a process for determining compatible uses on refuges, and requiring that each refuge be managed according to a CCP. The NWRS Improvement  Act expressly states that wildlife conservation is the priority of System lands and that the Secretary shall ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of refuge lands are maintained. Each refuge must be managed to fulfill the specific purposes for which the refuge was established and the System mission. The first priority of each refuge is to conserve, manage, and if needed, restore fish and wildlife populations and habitats according to its purpose.

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  • Comprehensive Conservation Plan

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    Refuge conservation plans are called “comprehensive conservation plans” (CCPs). The purpose of a CCP is to specify a management direction for the Refuge for the next 15 years. The goals, objectives, and strategies for improving Refuge conditions—including the types of habitat we will provide, partnership opportunities, and management actions needed to achieve desired conditions – are described in the CCP. The Service’s preferred alternative for managing the Refuge and its effects on the human environment, are described in the CCP as well.

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  • Land Protection Plan

    Dakota Grassland land protection

     We use land protection planning to study opportunities to conserve land through purchase, conservation easement, or long-term lease. This planning involves the detailed identification of lands suitable for addition to the National Wildlife Refuge System, description of the lands’ natural resource values, and explanation of how the lands would enhance the Refuge System. We look at individual land tracts as well as lands at the landscape, or ecosystem, scale.

    Strategic habitat conservation is our brand name for landscape-scale conservation of habitats. This science-intensive approach to planning has an emphasis on socially viable solutions—working with communities to protect habitats. Strategic habitat conservation is a different way of thinking that leads us to find out, across a landscape or ecosystem, what design of land protection will best achieve habitat conservation. We identify focus areas with priorities for protecting fish, wildlife, and plants.

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Page Photo Credits — John Heinz city refuge - USFWS, Great Swamp credit: USFWS, Credit:  USFWS
Last Updated: Jun 05, 2014
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