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Information iconPelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida (Photo: George Gentry)

Celebrating the National Wildlife Refuge System

Hooray for America’s nature. The National Wildlife Refuge System helps ensure that nature is ours to treasure. The Refuge System, the world’s premier network of public lands devoted to wildlife conservation, traces its start to March 14, 1903.

On that date, President Teddy Roosevelt established the first national wildlife refuge at Pelican Island, Florida, to protect brown pelicans and other birds from market hunters. Today, the Refuge System includes more than 560 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts covering more than 95 million land acres plus more than 740 million acres of submerged lands and waters.

fishing at KENAI nwr photo by ian shive
Fishing at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge (Photo: Ian Shive)

National wildlife refuges protect habitat for thousands of animal and plant species and offer access to fishing and hunting as well as nature watching, hiking, biking and boating. National wildlife refuges conserve dramatic landscapes that range from Oregon’s rocky cliffs to Texas lagoons, and from Alaska wilderness to woods and ponds within Philadelphia city limits. Wildlife refuges are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Many of America’s most iconic wildlife species — including bison, American alligators and sandhill cranes — are found on wildlife refuges. Refuges also provide great health and economic benefits, buffering property from storms and floods, purifying air and water, and generating $3 billion a year from recreation visits for local communities.  

There’s at least one national wildlife refuge in every state and within an hour’s drive of most major cities.

Get a healthy dose of nature at a national wildlife refuge. See how refuges conserve some of our nation’s most cherished natural treasures. 

Information iconA pod of of white pelicans at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, NC (Photo: Eve Turek)