Who We Are

The Branch of Air Quality, in partnership with refuges and others, works to preserve, protect, enhance, and understand air quality and other resources sensitive to air quality in the National Wildlife Refuge.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for preserving, protecting, and enhancing air quality and air quality-related values in units of the National Wildlife Refuge System by ensuring compliance with the requirements of the Clean Air Act, Wilderness Act, and and the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act. Air quality-related values include visibility, flora, fauna, cultural and historical resources, odor, soil, water and virtually all resources that are dependent upon and affected by air quality.

Together with refuges and FWS regional offices, we monitor air quality in refuge units; review permit applications for proposed major emitting sources, air quality legislative and regulatory proposals, and other federal or state air quality plans; develop data on sensitive resources; research causes and effects of visibility impairment and acid deposition; develop meterological and atmospheric dispersion modeling methodologies; and produce informational materials.


Responsibilities of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Air Quality Program

Pursuant to the Clean Air Act, as amended in 1977, the Service has an affirmative responsibility to protect air quality related values on national wildlife refuges, with special emphasis on Class I Wilderness Areas (areas in excess of 5,000 acres formally designated as Wilderness prior to August, 1977). Congress gave the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), a Federal Land Manager (FLM) of Wilderness Areas, the responsibility to protect the air quality and natural resources, including visibility, of the area from man made air pollution. Polluted air injures wildlife and vegetation, causes acidification of water, degrades habitats, accelerates weathering of buildings and other facilities, and impairs visibility.

Fish and Wildlife Service responsibility is addressed primarily by the staff of the Division of Refuges, Branch of Air Quality (BAQ), located in Denver, Colorado. The Branch's activities include:

  • Reviewing air quality permits
  • Monitoring air quality visibility
  • Modeling air quality impacts
  • Conducting special studies to evaluate air pollution impacts to resources
  • Identifying and inventorying resources sensitive to air pollution
  • Providing technical assistance to refuges and regional offices
  • Working on prescribed burning issues relevant to air quality
  • Providing input on State and Federal policy/regulatory development
  • Enhancing public awareness of air quality issues

The BAQ participates in nationwide air quality monitoring and modeling programs:

  • The IMPROVE (Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments) Program coordinates visibility monitoring
  • The National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) monitors pollutants in wet deposition.
  • IWAQM (Interagency Workgroup on Air Quality Modeling) develops recommendations on modeling analysis techniques for Class I areas.


To get in contact with the Branch of Air Quality continue to our contacts page.