National Wildlife Refuge System

NWRS - About

A Hundred Years in the Making

Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge, OR
Credit: Roy W. Lowe
A hundred years in the making, the National Wildlife Refuge system is a network of habitats that benefits wildlife, provides unparalleled outdoor experiences for all Americans, and protects a healthy environment.

Today, there is at least one wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan area. Find one close to you.

National wildlife refuges provide habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species and more than 1,000 species of fish. More than 280 threatened or endangered plants or animals are protected on wildlife refuges. Each year, millions of migrating birds use refuges as stepping stones while they fly thousands of miles between their summer and winter homes.

Great day fishing
Rufous hummingbird
Credit: Roy W. Lowe
Refuge System law enforcement officer Frank Simms IV and dad Frank Simms III after an elk bow hunt.
Credit: USFWS

Refuges welcome more than 45 million visitors each year, who participate in a wide variety of recreational activities:


Specific events and activities are listed on the Special Events calendar and on individual refuge Web sites.

The Refuge System is a division of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within the Department of the Interior

Last updated: February 22, 2019