Division of Planning
Southeast Region


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FAQ's for Land Acquisition Planning

American Wigeon. Credit: USFWS

American Wigeon. Credit: USFWS

Q: What does the establishment of a new acquisition boundary mean?

  • A: The initial consequences of boundary establishment are not as drastic as many people believe. Essentially, boundary establishment draws a line on a map. The Service is authorized to begin purchasing or otherwise acquiring an interest in lands from willing sellers within this line. The boundary itself does not give the Service any special jurisdiction or control over these lands. Lands become part of the National Wildlife Refuge System when they are purchased from willing sellers or placed under agreements with willing participants. Some landowners choose not to sell, and they continue to manage their lands as before. Others choose to sell, donate, or enter into special agreements, and their lands are added to the refuge. These lands can then be managed for the protection of wildlife and habitat.

Q: What happens if my property is included in an acquisition boundary and I don't want to sell?

  • A: It is the policy of the Service to purchase lands only from willing sellers. You should be unaffected by the establishment of the new boundary, except for the fact that a national wildlife refuge is now one of your neighbors.

Q: Why can't you guarantee how the refuge will be managed, and what uses will be allowed, before you establish a new refuge acquisition boundary?

  • A: To put it simply, we can't guarantee the specifics of refuge management because we haven't yet asked you (the public) how you think it should be managed. However, before the Service begins acquiring land, we can tell you which wildlife-dependent recreational uses currently occurring will be allowed to continue on that land.

    Determining how a refuge will be managed requires a similar process to that required for establishing a new boundary. The boundary must be established first; then the Service may begin developing a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) that will guide the refuge for the next 10-15 years. Public involvement is a critical part of CCP development, and you will once again have an opportunity to express your opinions.

    The Conceptual Management Plan, released with the Environmental Assessment documents, does describes the Service's vision of how the new refuge or addition might be managed, as well as which uses will be allowed during the interim period.
King Crab snagged and released. Credit: USFWS

King Crab snagged and released. Credit: USFWS

Q: Will land-use and zoning change within the refuge boundary?

  • A: Zoning and land-use regulations continue under the jurisdiction of local government. The Fish and Wildlife Service acts as a landowner and manages only its own property, or property in which it has acquired an interest.

Q: If I want to sell my land or otherwise make it part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, what options do I have?

  • A: The Service acquires interest in lands in a variety of ways: fee-title purchase, donation, lease, conservation easement, and cooperative agreement/memorandum of understanding. If you are interested in any of these options, and your land is inside an acquisition boundary, please contact us and we will explain the possibilities.

Q: How does the Fish and Wildlife Service decide which public uses will be allowed on a refuge?

  • A: Legislation offers clear guidance for determining appropriate public uses of refuge lands and waters. All uses of a refuge must be compatible with the purposes for which that particular refuge is established.

    Six wildlife-dependent public uses have been given priority consideration over other public uses. Priority public uses include hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and environmental education and interpretation. If these uses are determined to be compatible with refuge purposes, and funds are available to manage them, they will be allowed. The specifics of public use will be addressed in a refuge's Comprehensive Conservation Plan.

Q: How will tax revenues be affected if lands become part of the National Wildlife Refuge System?

  • A: It's true that the federal government does not pay property tax on its own lands. Two factors help offset this potential hardship to communities. First, refuge lands demand very little in the way of expensive services or infrastructure from county government. Second, under the provisions of the Refuge Revenue Sharing Act (Public Law 95-469), the Service annually reimburses counties to compensate for revenue lost as a result of acquisition of private property. This law states that the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) shall pay to each county in which any area acquired in fee title is situated, the greater of the following amounts:
    • An amount equal to the product of 75 cents multiplied by the total acreage of that portion of the fee area which is located within such county.
    • An amount equal to three-fourths of 1 percent of the fair market value, as determined by the Secretary, for that portion of the fee area which is located within such county.
    • An amount equal to 25 percent of the net receipts collected by the Secretary in connection with the operation and management of such fee area during such fiscal year. However, if a fee area is located in two or more counties, the amount for each county shall be apportioned in relationship to the acreage in that county.

    There have been occasions when payments to the counties have been less than the legislated amounts because of funding deficits. Congress may appropriate, through the budget process, supplemental funds to compensate local governments for any shortfall in revenue sharing payments. The Refuge Revenue Sharing Act also requires that Service lands be reappraised every five years to ensure that payments to local governments remain equitable. Payments under this Act would be made only on lands which the Service acquires in fee title. On lands where the Service acquires only partial interest through easement, all taxes would remain the responsibility of the individual landowner.


Last updated: March 2, 2012