Refuge System Marks 115 Proud Years

Snow Geese Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Snow geese take flight at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware.
Photo: Benjamin Hoffman

Get outdoors and celebrate your wildlife heritage. On Wednesday, March 14, the National Wildlife Refuge System marks its 115th anniversary.

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 Teddy Roosevelt created the first wildlife refuge on March 14, 1903, when he protected brown pelicans at Pelican Island, Florida, from slaughter by market hunters.

Today’s Refuge System includes 566 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts, and covers about 150 million acres of land. The Refuge System also includes five marine national monuments. There’s at least one national wildlife refuge in every state and one within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas.

By providing hard-to-beat opportunities for fishing, hunting, hiking, birding, canoeing and nature photography, refuges also generate income for local communities. They pump $2.4 billion into the national economy and support more than 35,000 jobs, according to the Service’s Banking on Nature report. More than 53 million people visit refuges every year.

No matter where you live or travel, you can enjoy nature at a refuge near you. Use our zip code finder to locate a national wildlife refuge or wetland management district near you.

Some things you can do on wildlife refuges: