Laws and Regulations
National Wildlife Refuge System Laws
Refuges are special places where wildlife comes first. All activities allowed on refuges must be evaluated to make sure each activity will not conflict with the reason the refuge was founded. The refuge system has special regulations about what you can do. You can find these regulations in the 50 Code of Federal Regulations - Subchapter C.
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act
For almost a century, the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System had been managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under a variety of laws without an "Organic Act" or comprehensive legislation spelling out how it ought to be managed and used by the public. On October 9, 1997, President Clinton signed the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-57). The Act amends the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 in a manner that provides an “Organic Act” for the Refuge System.
The Improvement Act was passed to ensure that the Refuge System is managed as a national system of related lands, waters, and interests for the protection and conservation of our Nation's wildlife resources. The only system of Federal lands devoted specifically to wildlife, the National Wildlife Refuge System is a network of diverse and strategically located habitats. National wildlife refuges and waterfowl production areas across the United States teem with millions of migratory birds, serve as havens for hundreds of endangered species, and host an enormous variety of other plants and animals. They also host millions of people each year, who visit refuges to enjoy a wide range of wildlife-related recreational opportunities.
The passage of the Improvement Act gave guidance to the Secretary of the Interior for the overall management of the Refuge System. The Act's main components include:
- a strong and singular wildlife conservation Mission for the Refuge System;
- a requirement that the Secretary of the Interior maintain the biological integrity, diversity and environmental health of the Refuge System;
- a new process for determining compatible uses on refuges;
- a recognition that wildlife-dependent recreational uses involving hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and environmental education and interpretation, when determined to be compatible, are legitimate and appropriate public uses of the Refuge System;
- that these compatible wildlife-dependent recreational uses are the priority general public uses of the Refuge System; and
- a requirement for preparing a comprehensive conservation plan for each refuge.