The National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) Improvement Act of 1997 defines a unifying mission for all refuges, including a process for determining compatible uses on refuges. It also requires that each refuge be managed according to a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (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.