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To celebrate the nation’s enduring connections to the natural world and the unique ways nature touches everyone’s lives, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is celebrating National Wildlife Refuge Week from October 11-17, 2015.
National wildlife refuges, managed by the Service, have been part of America’s rich natural heritage since 1903, when President Theodore Roosevelt established the first national wildlife refuge on Pelican Island in Florida. Today, you can visit a refuge to fish, hunt, hike, birdwatch or simply commune with nature. While you’re there, learn how refuges protect natural spaces and improve life for you and your community.
“Americans are fortunate to have access to a wide network of national wildlife refuges close to where they live, from protected areas near cities like Philadelphia and Los Angeles to the coasts of the Pacific Northwest and Southeast,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “National Wildlife Refuge Week highlights the value of these protected spaces to wildlife and people alike and is a great time to explore your local refuge.”
“National Wildlife Refuge Week provides an ideal opportunity to discover the precious legacy that refuges represent,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “I hope Americans use this occasion to visit a refuge and recommit to preserving these special places for generations to come.”
Since 1995, refuges across the country have celebrated National Wildlife Refuge Week during the second full week of October with festivals, educational programs, tours and other events. Refuges offer world-class recreation, from fishing, hunting and wildlife observation to photography and environmental education. Learn more about this year’s celebration here.
Refuges do more than provide great outdoor recreation: they help conserve wildlife, protect against erosion and flooding and purify our air and water. They also support regional economies, teach children about nature and offer safe places to connect with nature. Find a refuge in Oklahoma here.
The National Wildlife Refuge System is the nation’s premier habitat conservation network, encompassing more than 150 million acres in 563 refuges and 38 wetland management districts. Every state has at least one national wildlife refuge, and there is a refuge within an hour’s drive of most major cities.
National wildlife refuges also pump $2.4 billion into the national economy and support more than 35,000 jobs, according to the peer-reviewed report by the Service, Banking on Nature. More than 47 million people visit refuges every year. “Nowhere else do I feel such a deep sense of connection with the land, the plants and the wildlife,” offered one visitor.
Refuges are also part of President Obama’s new Every Kid in a Park initiative, which aims to connect children to the outdoors and the natural world by providing free access to federal lands to fourth-graders and their families.
Check the special events calendar for National Wildlife Refuge Week events in your area and around the country.