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Information iconPronghorn at sunrise at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming. (Photo: Tom Koerner/USFWS)

March 14, 1903

What a great time to celebrate your wildlife heritage. The National Wildlife Refuge System marks its birthday on March 14.

National wildlife refuges, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, protect thousands of species and provide access to world-class recreation, from fishing and hunting to wildlife watching and nature photography.

President Theodore Roosevelt established the first national wildlife refuge on March 14, 1903 at Pelican Island, Florida, to protect brown pelicans there from slaughter by market hunters.

Today’s Refuge System includes more than 560 national wildlife refuges, 38 wetland management districts and 5 marine national monuments. It conserves more than 95 million acres of land and 760 million acres of submerged lands and waters as wildlife habitat in all 50 states and 5 U.S. territories. There’s at least one national wildlife refuge in every state and one within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas.

Refuge-based recreation, such as fishinghunting, birding and nature photography, benefits hundreds of communities by supporting more than 41,000 jobs and generating more than $3.2 billion in visitor spending each year. The Refuge System further enriches lives by connecting people to green space, cleaning our air and water, and buffering against storms. “11 Ways Wildlife Refuges Make Life Better.”

No matter where you live, you can enjoy nature at a national wildlife refuge near you.

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Information iconBird watching at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. (Photo: Susan Morse/USFWS)