September 29, 1997

Diana M. Hawkins or

Vicki M. Boatwright



OCTOBER 12 - 18, 1997

There are hundreds of special places across the country where you can see bald eagles soar, watch buffalo roam, hear the honk of a Canada goose and the cry of the loon, marvel at the flutter of an endangered butterfly, or wet a line for trophy trout.

These special places are called national wildlife refuges, and there are more than 500 of them throughout the United States, many within an hour's drive of major cities. The 92-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System is a unique part of America's natural heritage, one which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been in the business of safeguarding for nearly 100 years.

During its annual celebration of National Wildlife Refuge Week the second week of October, the Fish and Wildlife Service showcases the special scenic beauty and bountiful wildlife that seek refuge on the world's largest and most diverse network of lands and waters dedicated to plants and animals and their habitat.

"We hope the American people will consider National Wildlife Refuge Week an open invitation to come learn about and enjoy our rich wildlife resources on national wildlife refuges," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "I'd like to think people also will come away with a respect and appreciation for the National Wildlife Refuge System and its wildlife conservation mission."

This year's National Wildlife Refuge Week celebration takes place October 12-18, during which time hundreds of special events across the country are planned, with activities such as fishing derbies, nature walks, birding tours, special hunts, nature photography and wildlife art contests, and environmental education.

The National Wildlife Refuge System includes scenic lands of astounding beauty and remarkable variety, from the tall-grass prairie in Iowa to the moss-draped cypress stands in the swamps of Louisiana, from yucca forests of Nevada to the icy Arctic Slope of Alaska, from the great Okefenokee swamp on the Florida-Georgia border to the gentle waterfalls on the island of Kauai.

What all these special places have in common, however, is they are prime wildlife habitats. Hundreds of national wildlife refuges strategically located along the four major "flyways" ensure ducks, geese, and even tiny songbirds have places to rest on their long, annual migrations. About 60 refuges are home to endangered species like the bald eagle, Florida manatee, and whooping crane. Still others host buffalo, elk, antelope, and bighorn sheep. From wildflowers to caribou, national wildlife refuges are places where plants and animals reign supreme.

This was President Teddy Roosevelt's idea when he established tiny Pelican Island in Florida in 1903 as the first national wildlife refuge. At the turn of the century, millions of birds were being wantonly killed or slaughtered for their feathers to meet the fashion demands of the day. Roosevelt's mission was clear: protect Pelican Island's birds from poachers and plume hunters. With that simple promise of wildlife protection, the National Wildlife Refuge System was born.

The Service's Acting Southeast Regional Director, Dale Hall, said that refuges are not only havens for wildlife, they are also scenic getaways for nearly 30 million Americans each year. Hiking nature trails, birdwatching, hunting, fishing, and nature photography are all popular activities on refuges. Hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren visit refuges each year to learn about nature and the environment. Hall noted that throughout the Southeast, hundreds of activities have been scheduled to attract visitors to refuges and he encouraged individuals and families to attend some of the events in their area. Listed below, by state and refuge, are events being held all across the Southeast:











Release #: R97-86.

1997 News Releases

Go to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region Home Page