Thursday, April 3, 2014

Refuge System Turns 111 Years Old

From the National Wildlife Refuge Association:
Happy Birthday to the world’s largest network of lands and waters conserved for wildlife – the National Wildlife Refuge System! Angered at the slaughter of birds for the women’s millinery trade in the late 19th Century, President Theodore Roosevelt knew something must be done to protect some of our most important natural resources – our native wildlife. With the stroke of a pen, on March 14, 1903, he created, through executive order, a sanctuary for birds at a small bird island in the Indian River Lagoon on the east coast of Florida (Pelican Island).
During his tenure, Roosevelt protected such jewels as the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Oklahoma, the National Bison Range in Montana, the Hawaiian Islands NWR in Hawaii and the Three Arch Rocks NWR in Oregon to name a few.  From it’s humble 3-acre beginning at Pelican Island, the Refuge System is now the world’s largest network of publicly owned lands and waters dedicated to the conservation of wildlife spanning 150 million acres.
Without these 562 refuges and 38 wetland management districts, many bird, plant, reptile, mammal, insect and fish species would not be thriving as they are today. These lands and waters, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, provide vital habitat for thousands of species across the nation.
While the System itself is still woefully underfunded to fully implement its conservation mission – the staff at these amazing places are some of the most dedicated workers you will ever meet.  One refuge employee summed up it up after being asked why they stay with the Service after years of budget cuts, frozen salaries and never enough resources, “We are paid in sunrises and sunsets, birds, bears and bunnies, and knowing we are leaving our world a better place for our children.”
But there is still plenty to celebrate! National Wildlife Refuges are economic engines in local communities, providing an average of $4.87 in local communities for every dollar appropriated by Congress. According to a report released late last year by the FWS, (Banking on Nature Report) refuges generate more than $2.4 million in economic output and create 35,000 jobs. The Refuge System is an economic and conservation powerhouse and has become a haven for hunters, anglers, bird and wildlife watchers, photographers, scientists and children learning about our natural world.
President Theodore Roosevelt would be proud.
NOTE:  Hagerman NWR, established in 1946, celebrated its 68th birthday in February.

No comments:

Post a Comment