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Information iconBald eagle. (Photo: Lisa Hupp/USFWS)


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.

Lands and Waters

The Refuge System protects some of the country’s most iconic ecosystems and the fish and wildlife that rely on them: prairies of the heartland, teeming with native pollinators and bison; hardwood forests of the Southeast, a source of regional and cultural pride; desert Southwest landscapes, home to vibrant and rare plant communities that draw new life during the summer monsoon season. The Refuge System also conserves waterways that give life to all of them — critical ecosystems along rivers, streams, wetlands, coasts and marine areas.

What Makes the Refuge System Special

The National Wildlife Refuge System lands and waters serve a purpose distinct from that of other U.S. public lands: Wildlife conservation drives everything on national wildlife refuges, from the purposes for which each refuge was established, to the recreational activities offered, to the resource management tools used.

Wildlife-Driven Purpose

Each refuge is established to serve a statutory purpose that targets the conservation of native species dependent on its lands and waters. All activities on those acres are reviewed for compatibility with this statutory purpose.

For example, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts, established to provide habitat for migratory birds, restricts night beach fishing in spring, when tiny piping plovers breed and nest. The beach is reopened once piping plover breeding season ends.


Information iconLaguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas. (Photo: Ian Shive/USFWS)