Much of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and the surrounding lands were once part of the Great Black Swamp. The 1,500 square mile Great Black Swamp was a vast network of forests, wetlands and grasslands. Established in 1961 under the authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act for use an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds, the refuge manages about 8,100 acres of wetland, grassland and wooded habitat. It provides valuable habitat for a diversity of waterfowl and other migratory birds, resident wildlife and endangered and threatened species. It provides a place for people to enjoy wildlife-dependent activities and learn about the complexities of the natural world through education and interpretive programming. The refuge adds to the richness of the community by holding in trust a portion of the natural heritage of the Great Lakes ecosystem for the continuing benefit of the American people.
In recognition of its value to wildlife, the refuge has received the following designations: Globally Important Bird Area through the American Bird Conservancy, Important Bird Area through Audubon Ohio and Regionally Significant Site in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.
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.
Everywas created for a special purpose. Some were created to protect migratory birds, others to protect threatened or endangered species or unique habitats, while others fulfill another special purpose. All activities allowed on refuges must be evaluated to make sure each activity will not conflict with the reason the refuge was founded.
The primary purpose of the refuge is to protect, restore, and manage wetlands. To provide resting, nesting, feeding and wintering habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds. To protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats and to provide for biodiversity.
July 28, 1961 - The refuge was established under the authority of the Migratory Bird Conservation Act for use an inviolate sanctuary or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds.
May 19, 2003 - Additional expansion and purposes for the refuge complex were established by the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Complex Expansion Act.
May 12, 2007 - The visitor center opened, providing an introduction of the refuge to the public and a space for field trips and events.
Other Facilities in this Complex
The staff at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge also manage West Sister Island and Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuges and the Schoonover Waterfowl Production Area, in Michigan. These refuges provide both nesting and feeding locations for a variety of migratory birds. The water around West Sister Island is too deep for most of the birds nesting there to feed. They must make the nine-mile trip to the coastal marshes to feed.