Thursday, October 24, 2013

Celebrating the Refuge

Observation of  National Wildlife Refuge Week – October 13 – 19 – was lost this year in the shutdown, but every day we can celebrate Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and all of the refuge system, which continues to become more and more important to wildlife the more new development takes place.

You could say we owe it all to the Egret! The early 1900’s saw the near-extinction of egrets, valued by hunters who could earn big bucks from the sale of plumes for ladies hats.  An ounce of feathers was said to be worth as much or more than an ounce of gold!

Snowy Egret in Breeding Plumage, by Donna Niemann
Then the Conservationist-in-Chief, President Theodore Roosevelt stepped up to the plate and established the first “bona fide” refuge,  setting aside federal land for the protection of these birds, and Pelican Island was officially termed a Federal Bird Reservation.  During this same period,  the conservation movement was picking up steam with support from groups such as the American Ornithologists Union and the National Association of Audubon Societies for legislation protecting non-game birds.

Today there are over 500 refuges across the US, protecting 150 million acres of land and water.  According to the National Wildlife Refuge System website,
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 380 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.
In addition, more than 45 million visitors to refuges annually means that refuge are also a ”refuge for people” from everyday hustle and bustle and an opportunity for enriching experiences in a natural environment

Closer to home, Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1946 as an overlay of a portion of the Big Mineral arm of Lake Texoma in north-central Texas. The purpose of the approximately 12,000 acre Refuge is to provide and manage habitat for migratory birds, wildlife, and plants native to this area. A total of 338 species of birds, 36 species of mammals, 60 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 61 species of fish have been documented there, so far. The refuge also offers wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities, including wildlife observation and photography, fishing, hunting, and hiking, and educational programs, all carried out with respect to the goal that wildlife comes first.

Great Blue Silhouette, by Lee Hatfield
We are very thankful for Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and the refuge system!

Resources for  information given here:

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