October 4, 2017
National Wildlife Refuge Week, observed this year on October 8-14, 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. There is no better time to rediscover the rivers and trails that put national wildlife refuges on the “must visit” list for millions of Americans.
National wildlife refuges have been part of America’s proud 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, who kicked off Refuge Week early today while visiting with staff and touring Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. “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 alone, 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. More than 101.6 million Americans, or 40 percent of the United States’ population 16 and older, pursued wildlife-related recreation.
“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. “Refuge Week is a good time to remind ourselves of what America would be like without access to these amazing places.”
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.
This year’s Refuge Week launches a year-long celebration of America’s rivers and trails in partnership with federal agencies and non-profit organizations, leading up to the 50th anniversaries of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and National Trails System Act on October 2, 2018. Take the opportunity to #FindYourWay to national wildlife refuges: walk, hike, bike, float, paddle, serve and learn alongside our nation’s wild and majestic birds, mammals and fish that call these unique places home. There are more than 340,000 miles of river that flow through refuges to #MakeYourSplash, as well as more than 2,100 miles of land trails on refuges across the country.
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.
During National Wildlife Refuge Week, held annually during the second full week of October, you can find special events, festivals, tours and even chances to volunteer to help wildlife. While you’re there, learn how refuges protect green spaces and improve life for you and your community.
Learn more about this year’s celebration by visiting: https://www.fws.gov/refuges/visitors/RefugeWeek2017.html.