National Wildlife Refuges In The United States: Significance In Conservation

Pelican Island in Florida was the nation's first wildlife refuge, created in 1903.
Pelican Island in Florida was the nation's first wildlife refuge, created in 1903.

With over 80% of the US citizens living in urban area, the challenge to make sure that the natural resources are protected, conserved, and valued by the people is becoming more complex and challenging.The US is home to a high biodiversity defining its ecosystem. Wildlife conservation is given top priority by the government to protect both the native and the endangered species in the country. Conservation laws such as Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Conservation Act have been put up to define the US stance on conservation. Another system established as a conservation measure is the National Wildlife Refuge System. The NWRS is a system in the US whereby the particular protected areas such as public land and marine are set aside to conserve the US biodiversity such as fish, wildlife, and plants.

Overview Of The National Wildlife Refuge

The NWRS maintains and preserves the integrity, diversity, and safety of the environment and natural resources and enables the safe enjoyment of these resources by the public. The NWRS manages a broad range of habitat types such as the wetlands, coastal areas, prairies, boreal forest, and marine areas among other habitats. The management of each habitat forms a web which controls or eradicates evasive species and assuring adequate water resources while assessing external threats. The national refuges house about 700 birds’ species, 220 mammalian species, and over 250 species of reptiles. Endangered species are given priorities with over 60 refuges established with the primary aim of protecting 285 endangered species. NWRS are also established so that the public can take part in several recreational activities with the facilities hosting over 50 million people annually. The employees of the NWR are responsible for the planning, monitoring, and conservation of the habitat

History Of The National Wildlife Refuge

President Theodore Roosevelt established Pelican Island NWR through an executive order in 1903 after series of plans hatched by members of the Boone and Crockett Club to set refuge systems across the US. However, the concept of protecting wildlife through preservation of habitat dates back to the mid-19th century by the Western explorers.The first Federal action intended to protect wildlife in designated areas was through the Act of Congress of June 30, 1864. The Act transferred Yosemite Valley to the state of California from the public domain. The earliest efforts to set aside a federally owned area for wildlife occurred in 1868 when the action was taken to protect Pribilof Island in Alaska. The provisions of the Forest Reserves Act of 1891 allowed for the creation of Afognak Island Forest and Fish Culture Reserve under the executive order of President Benjamin Harrison. The increased awareness of the importance of fish and wildlife resources led to the creation of several reserves and protected areas and establishment of departments and organizations to champion for these conservation measures.

Management Activities

The NWRS works internally and externally to achieve effective conservation by leveraging on resources. It works collaboratively with other federal agencies and non-governmental organizations through meaningful engagements at regional and integrated levels. Some of the management activities conducted by the NWRS include monitoring plant and animal populations, preventing and controlling wildlife disease outbreak, restoring the natural habitats, and assessing water quality and quantity among other activities


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