National Wildlife Refuge System

Chief’s Corner

For a Legacy to Endure

photo of Greg Siekaniec
Greg Siekaniec

By managing more than 671 million acres—roughly one–third of the lands in the United States—the federal government is the nation’s biggest land caretaker. How well the National Wildlife Refuge System manages the 150 million acres we steward—including natural, cultural and historic resources—is critical to the physical and social well–being of the nation.

That’s why the Refuge System has worked so hard for the better part of a year to solicit Americans’ opinions about our future direction and management.

That’s also why the America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) Initiative spent months last year conducting 51 public listening sessions across the country. More than 10,000 people participated live; more than 105,000 comments were submitted. The national conversation that President Obama started through AGO will reinvigorate America’s enjoyment, conservation and stewardship of the nation’s outdoors.

The Refuge System’s Conserving the Future conversation is doing much the same thing for lands and waters that are visited annually by more than 44 million people and create tens of thousands of private sector jobs.

The land we steward belongs to the American people. That principle is at the heart of the Refuge System’s Conserving the Future vision and the AGO Initiative action plan, which is available at

Apparent in both the Refuge System vision and the AGO Initiative action plan is the concept that the federal government must be a better partner and supporter of local conservation. We have to maximize the conservation benefits of every taxpayer dollar, bring private landowners and a broad range of conservation partners into the picture and, ultimately, engage a new generation of Americans.

Americans are seeking a 21st–century approach to conservation. The Refuge System stands ready to deliver. In today’s economic climate, the Refuge System and other government agencies must be wise in how we spend taxpayer dollars. But the nation must also be wise enough to understand that investment in natural resources protection is an investment in the future.

photo of canoeists
That the land we steward belongs to the American people is the principle at the heart of both the Refuge System’s Conserving the Future vision and the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.
Credit: Steve Hillebrand

Those who have commented via the Conserving the Future Web site,, clearly understand that. Government working in partnership with state agencies, private landowners, sportsmen and interested citizens can ensure that future generations will have the benefits of the conservation legacy we inherited. That is the most important message we heard from both the Conserving the Future process and the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.

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Refuge Update May/June 2011

Last updated: May 10, 2011