What We Do

The National Wildlife Refuge System is a series of lands and waters owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the refuge system. It drives everything we do from the purpose a refuge is established, to the recreational activities offered there, to the resource management tools we use. Selecting the right tools helps us ensure the survival of local plants and animals and helps fulfill the purpose of the refuge.

Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge was established to preserve and enhance wildlife habitat in the South San Francisco Bay; protect migratory birds and threatened and endangered species; and provide opportunities for wildlife-oriented recreation and nature study for the surrounding communities.

Management and Conservation

The National Wildlife Refuge System is a series of lands and waters owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the refuge system. It drives everything we do from the purpose a refuge is established, to the recreational activities offered there, to the resource management tools we use. Selecting the right tools helps us ensure the survival of local plants and animals and helps fulfill the purpose of the refuge.

Several conservation and restoration plans guide the conservation priorities of the refuge.   

Comprehensive Conservation Plan (2012)

The Comprehensive Conservation Plan guides management 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. 

Weed Management Plan (2013)

This plan identifies goals, objectives and priorities for the control or eradication of target weed species on the Refuge, according to their impacts on native species and communities, particularly impacts on threatened and endangered species.

Natural Resource Management Plan and Inventory and Monitoring Plan (2019)                                                                                                                                        

The Open Standard for the Practice of Conservation was used to reflect on and refine our conservation and public engagement practices as part of developing a Natural Resources Management Plan and the Inventory and Monitoring Plan. The process helped us to identify our highest priorities, refine conservation goals and objectives, align outreach and education efforts with conservation priorities, narrow the field of strategies and surveys, and build a foundation for regular evaluation, learning, and adaptation.   

 

National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) 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 requires 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 of the Interior shall ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of refuge lands are maintained.  

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 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. More than 567 national wildlife refuges and thousands of 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. Over 39 million people visit units of the National Wildlife Refuge System each year to enjoy a wide range of wildlife-related recreational opportunities.

The passage of this 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • A requirement for preparing a comprehensive conservation plan for each refuge

Law Enforcement

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers have a wide variety of duties and responsibilities. They work closely with state and local government offices to enforce federal, state and refuge hunting regulations that protect migratory birds and other game species from illegal take and preserve legitimate hunting opportunities. Officers help visitors understand and obey wildlife protection laws.