Chances are you didn’t realize that National Wildlife Refuge Week is just around the corner. National Wildlife Refuge Week occurs annually in the second week of October, which in 2022 is October 9-15. Celebrations actually commence on October 8, which is Urban Wildlife Conservation Day, a day meant to highlight activities and programs that foster access to green space, education, and outdoor recreation for urban dwellers.
What Is A National Wildlife Refuge?
National Wildlife Refuges are part of the National Wildlife Refuge System administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency in the Department of the Interior and funded by federal tax dollars. There are 568 refuges in this system. They are often referred to as “units,” and included among these are 101 urban refuges, 38 wetland management districts, and five marine national monuments.
Why Are There National Wildlife Refuges?
The first National Wildlife Refuge - Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge on the central east coast of Florida - was established on March 14, 1903 to protect nesting birds. The newest unit - The Lost Trail Conservation Area in northwestern Montana - was created on July 13, 2022 to conserve important big game corridors and recreational areas.
These and other units in the system provide vital habitat for thousands of wildlife species, as well as access to recreation for anglers, hunters, boaters, birders, and all manner of wildlife enthusiasts. The Fish & Wildlife Service manages these units for the purpose of conserving and restoring fish, wildlife, and plant resources.
Where Are The Refuges?
Refuges exist all across continental North America, as well as in Alaska, Hawaii, other Pacific Islands, and Puerto Rico. The quickest way to find one is to go to the Fish & Wildlife Service directory and search by state or zip code. Note that there is a refuge within an hour’s drive of most metropolitan areas, and almost all offer free admittance.
What Is National Wildlife Refuge Week and Why Is It Important?
National Wildlife Refuge Week is a time for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and partner agencies and conservation organizations to call attention to the programs and benefits of refuges and encourage the public to visit one and possibly join in special commemoration activities. Check with individual refuges to see what, if any, special events are planned. If you can’t visit a refuge at this time, you should still check out this list of benefits that refuges have. All of these refuges belong to you.