Wildlife refuges at risk: Why their protection is vital but under threat


Harbor seal at Nantucket National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts


Amanda Boyd / USFWS

America’s National Wildlife Refuges are some of the absolute best places in the country for wildlife. They offer unparalleled opportunities to see birds, elk, deer and bears in their most natural habitats. 

Why Refuges Matter

National Wildlife Refuges are home to thousands of birds and mammals. Bird-watchers from across the globe come to America’s refuges to see warblers, swifts and eagles. More than 200 different types of mammals live on refuges, including the unique Porcupine caribou in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Refuges also provide learning opportunities to millions of American school kids every year. Programs at refuges teach kids important lessons about natural science. These hands-on experiences with nature can’t be found anywhere else.

America’s refuges face a grim future

Already underfunded and understaffed, National Wildlife Refuges are now facing even more budget cuts. And some members of Congress want to cut funding dramatically.

With already over $3 billion worth of incomplete projects, deeper funding cuts to National Wildlife Refuges could have catastrophic results. Further reductions could:

  • End popular wildlife education programs for school children
  • Close visitor centers
  • Lead to layoffs for law enforcement officers, biologists and maintenance staff who keep visitors and wildlife safe
  • Close entire Refuges, restricting public access

Budget cuts are not the way forward

Federal budget cuts don’t have to gut America’s conservation heritage. Conservation makes up just a fraction of one percent of the federal budget.

The entire budget can’t be balanced by making cuts to refuges, parks and other wild lands.

It is critical to protect America’s National Wildlife Refuges. Birds, fish and wildlife depend on them for places to live. Children depend on them for hands-on learning that they can’t get in a classroom. You can enjoy them this week, during National Wildlife Refuge Week, and every week. And it takes all of us to continue to protect them for generations to come.