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.

Management and Conservation

Refuge Planning 

National Wildlife Refuge planning sets the broad vision for refuge management and the goals, objectives, strategies, and actions required to achieve it. Planning ensures that each refuge meets its individual purposes, contributes to the Refuge System’s mission and priorities, is consistent with other applicable laws and policies, and enhances conservation benefits beyond refuge boundaries. 

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

Comprehensive Conservation Plan (2010)

Comprehensive Conservation Plans (CCPs) are the primary planning documents for National Wildlife Refuges. As outlined in the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, as amended, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is required to develop CCPs that guide refuge management for the next 15 years. CCPs articulate the Service’s contributions to meeting refuge purposes and the National Wildlife Refuge System mission. CCPs serve as a bridge between broad, landscape-level plans developed by other agencies and stakeholders and the more detailed step-downs that stem from Refuge CCPs.  

The 2010 Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan for Ellicott Slough National Wildlife Refuge can be found here: https://ecos.fws.gov/ServCat/Reference/Profile/1418 

Step-down Plans 

CCP step-down plans guide refuge-level programs for: (1) conserving natural resources (e.g., fish, wildlife, plants, and the ecosystems they depend on for habitat); (2) stewarding other special values of the refuge (e.g., cultural or archeological resources, wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, etc.); and (3) engaging visitors and the community in conservation, including providing opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation. Like CCPs, step-down plans contribute to the implementation of relevant landscape plans by developing SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) objectives, strategies, implementation schedules, and decision support tools to fulfill refuge visions and goals. This ensures that refuges are managed in a landscape context and that conservation benefits extend beyond refuge boundaries.  

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

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.                                                       

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

Our Projects and Research

In addition to protection of and habitat restoration for sensitive amphibian species, Ellicott Slough National Wildlife Refuge strives to provide and enhance other native wildlife populations including birds, reptiles, mammals, invertebrates, and fish.  Strategies include:

  • Monitoring and inventorying species on the refuge
  • Surveying the health of amphibians
  • Researching the spread of disease and parasites of native amphibians and follow best management practices to prevent their spread
  • Controlling invasive species invasive species
    An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

    Learn more about invasive species
  • Working with partners
  • Offering volunteer opportunities to promote stewardship and appreciation of the refuge.