Preserving a Glorious Heritage

Preserving a Glorious Heritage Panel

"I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the nature resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us." (Theodore Roosevelt, Osawatomie, Kansas, August 31, 1910).


Mission Statement

The Mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.  

Guiding Principles

  • We are land stewards, guided by Aldo Leopold's teachings that land is a community of life and that love and respect for the land is an extension of ethics. We seek to reflect that land ethic in our stewardship and to instill it in others. 
  • Wild lands and the perpetuation of diverse and abundant wildlife are essential to the quality of the American life. 
  • We are public servants. We owe our employers, the American people, hard work, integrity, fairness, and a voice in the protection of their trust resources. 
  • Management, ranging from preservation to active manipulation of habitats and populations, is necessary to achieve Refuge System and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service missions. 
  • Wildlife-dependent uses involving hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, interpretation, and education, when compatible, are legitimate and appropriate uses of the Refuge System. 
  • Partnerships with those who want to help us meet our mission are welcome and indeed essential. 
  • Employees are our most valuable resource. They are respected and deserve an empowering, mentoring, and caring work environment. 
  • We respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of our neighbors. 

Current Organization

The National Wildlife Refuge System website has an abundance of information and links providing overview of the current organization. Of special interest to you, the reader, would be the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-57) that details and answers why Refuges do what they do.   

1st Designated Refuge 

Photo of Warden Paul KroegelTo understand the Refuge System better, let's start from the beginning; President Theodore Roosevelt issued an Executive Order March 3, 1903 establishing Pelican Island as a bird sanctuary. Paul Kroegel became the first "Refuge Employee" when he became a warden protecting colonially nesting birds there. Digital materials (Pelican Island support group) and a National Conservation Training Center virtual exhibit tell the story well. Current happenings at Pelican Island are on their website.  

Origins and Histories of the National Wildlife Refuge System 

President Roosevelt and his administration went on to establish 51 other bird sanctuaries. Most were eventually re-designated as National Wildlife Refuges; here are two links detailing origins and history of the National Wildlife Refuge System.  

Conservation History

 Photo of Rachel CarsonOther conservation milestones that had happened already or were concurrently active with the Refuge System history are recorded at several online sites: