National Wildlife Refuge Week is Oct. 8-14. It celebrates the world-class recreation brought to Americans by the National Wildlife Refuge System, the nation’s largest network of public lands managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
National wildlife refuges have been part of America’s natural heritage since the first refuge was established in 1903. Refuges provide vital habitat for thousands of species and access to world-class recreation, from fishing, hunting and hiking to nature watching, photography and environmental education. You can find at least one refuge in every state and every U.S. territory.
“Americans are fortunate to have access to an unparalleled network of national wildlife refuges close to where they live,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Whether you are hunting, fishing or just enjoying the great outdoors, I encourage everyone to get out and visit a refuge near you. One of my top priorities is to open up access wherever possible for the public to enjoy these lands so that more families have the opportunity to pass down that heritage as I have with my children.”
In 2016, hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156.3 billion in economic activity across the United States, according to the Service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years.
“For hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers, photographers and hikers, the National Wildlife Refuge System is the jewel of our nation’s public lands,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Greg Sheehan.
Americans living in most of the nation’s largest communities can find a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive. Hunting, within specified limits, is currently permitted on 372 wildlife refuges. Fishing is currently permitted on 309 wildlife refuges.
The Refuge System includes 566 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts covering over 150 million acres of lands. More than 50 million Americans visit refuges every year. Refuges support regional economies to the tune of $2.4 billion per year and more than 35,000 jobs.
From the tamarack bogs of northern Minnesota to the cypress swamps in southern Illinois, here are eight national wildlife refuges off the beaten path.
Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service