With nearly 100 recommendations to guide the growth and management of the National Wildlife Refuge System for the next decade or so, the Conserving the Future draft vision covers the gamut of wildlife conservation issues. It is available at http://americaswildlife.org/ for public comment through Earth Day, April 22.

“The American public too often discounts wildlife conservation threats as being too far away, not relevant to their everyday lives and even temporal,” says the draft vision. “The finest minds, the strongest partnerships and the greatest innovation must be brought to the task of increasing society’s conservation literacy to fulfill the agency’s mission for the continuing benefit of the American people.”

Among the draft vision’s recommendations are:

  • To work with tribes and other federal land management agencies to develop a National Conservation Strategy that works across landscapes with private landowners to increase the representation, size and connectivity of protected areas.

  • To implement a plan to guide the Refuge System’s land conservation work and overhaul the Land Acquisition Prioritization System to help determine the importance of new and existing acquisition projects, including the establishment of national wildlife refuges in urban areas.

  • To encourage a Friends group for every staffed refuge; there are now about 230 Friends groups.

  • To review the Appropriate Use Policy, so a wider variety of nature-based experiences may be possible. The draft notes that jogging, picnicking, sunbathing, bicycling and dog–walking often are considered outside of the wildlife–dependent recreation definition that guides strict interpretation of refuge appropriate use. “Refuge managers have become rightly cautious because they have seen what happens to wildlife resources when participation is too large and incompatible,” the draft says.

  • To engage youth in an array of work and volunteer programs.

  • Within the next 10 years, to more than double the number of minorities and people with disabilities who work for the Refuge System, in part by reaching high school and college youth from diverse communities and exposing them to Service conservation careers.

  • To develop an environmental education strategy that not only inventories existing programs but also identifies priorities for investment of staff and funds and outlines basic standards for national wildlife refuges.

  • To develop standards for credibility, efficiency and consistent application of science in planning and management.

  • Working with state fish and wildlife agencies, to prepare a strategy to double youth participation in hunting and fishing by 2020, paying special attention to individuals of all ages with disabilities.

  • To develop a five–year plan to “green” the Refuge System.

The draft also makes recommendations regarding climate change, law enforcement, fire management, marine ecosystems, invasive species, wilderness stewardship, and conservation science and research.

The draft vision is the work of 70 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees as well as the National Wildlife Refuge Association, a partner in the Conserving the Future process. A vision document is scheduled to be presented to the Service Director and top management in late May.