About Us

Established in 1968, San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge is a diverse refuge that protects salt marsh salt marsh
Salt marshes are found in tidal areas near the coast, where freshwater mixes with saltwater.

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and saltwater lakes, coastal prairies, freshwater lakes and marshes, intermittent streams, and  riparian riparian
Definition of riparian habitat or riparian areas.

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and bottomland forests. The refuge protects more than 70,000 acres from the Gulf beach to over 50 miles inland along the Brazos and San Bernard River floodplains.  

Originally established for the protection of coastal wetlands for wintering waterfowl and migratory birds, the refuge expanded its focus in 1997 to conserve inland forests for migrating Nearctic-neotropical migrants and other migrant and resident wildlife. The refuge’s forest habitat serves as an entry point for neotropical migratory songbirds. Some are headed north to their summer breeding grounds, exhausted from their 600-mile crossing of the Gulf of Mexico, while others are fall migrants flying south. 
More than 320 species of birds call the refuge home for all or part of the year, making it a bird-watcher’s paradise. San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge and its companion refuges, Brazoria and Big Boggy, were designated an Internationally Significant Shorebird Site by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. 
While the refuge is managed for the benefit of wildlife, it is also here for you. San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge is a place for people to enjoy nature and the outdoors. Wildlife watching, photography, hunting, fishing, and environmental education programs are all available to the public. 

Our Mission

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. 

Our Purpose

Every national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

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was 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. 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. 

From enabling legislation, San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge has three purposes:  

  1. To serve as an inviolate sanctuary for migratory birds. The Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Act uses money from Duck Stamp sales to purchase refuge lands. Many lands purchased with Duck Stamp funds were defined as inviolate sanctuaries. These lands, under most circumstances, must be at least partially closed to migratory bird hunting to allow birds a place of refuge and protection where they cannot be harmed.  
  2. For development, advancement, management conservation and protection of fish and wildlife resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans. 
  3. To provide for fish and wildlife-oriented recreation while protecting natural resources and conservation of threatened and endangered species.

Our History

November 7, 1968 – The first parcel (Poole Ranch) was acquired, establishing the refuge. 

1997 – After the Service completed the Austin’s Woods Conservation Plan, a 640-acre tract, named Dance Bayou was donated to the Refuge to initiate conservation efforts to protect 28,000 acres of bottomland forests within the Brazos and San Bernard River floodplains. 

March 1, 2013 – San Bernard received approval from Service Director Dan Ashe to expand the Austin’s Woods Conservation Plan to protect 70,000 acres of bottomland forests within the Brazos and San Bernard River floodplains.