The National Wildlife Refuge System is asking for YOUR best ideas for improving the Refuge System.
So if you’re a bird or wildlife lover, you’ll want to jump on the chance to weigh in on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s initiative to gather the public’s thoughts on how they manage refuges in the future.
The USFWS has set up a special Web site at americaswildlife.org called Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation, where you can read and vote on others’ ideas, post your photos from wildlife refuge, and encourage others to participate in the discussion.
Comments gathered there will help inform the Refuge System’s vision for the future of wildlife havens.
Sound familiar? The effort is strikingly similar to the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, where President Obama asked for people’s best ideas about conservation. The first phase ended with a report that was informed by hundreds-of-thousands of Americans’ ideas, and it looks like US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is using the same inclusivity.
What to say? We have a few ideas:
• Ask the USFWS to make the conservation of existing designated wilderness areas within its refuges a top priority. Ask them to identify and protect additional places with wilderness character. This will help ensure activities like oil drilling don’t occur in the wildest and most sensitive areas of wildlife refuges.
• Tell the Fish and Wildlife Service that their vision should incorporate and highlight wilderness throughout as an essential element of the Refuge System and should educate visitors and managers about the role and importance of wilderness in the refuge system.
• Let them know that designated wilderness areas will play a vital role in the conservation of species threatened by a changing climate, and climate science must be at the core of USFWS’ resource management strategies, ensuring our wildlands have the best possible chance at staying resilient in a warming world. Initiatives like the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives are imperative to the information gathering and sharing critical to addressing climate impacts on our Refuges.
• Urge them to do a thorough wilderness review as a part of the Comprehensive Conservation Plan for each Refuge. The completion of a Wilderness Review Handbook should also be a priority of the USFWS, as it will provide an objective guide for refuge managers during the review process.
• Tell the USFWS to utilize an integrated agency process and merit-based project criteria to acquire critical lands using the Land and Water Conservation Fund that will promote healthy, intact landscapes to maximize the opportunity for future wilderness designations.
Want to know more? Check out Bill Meadows, the president of The Wilderness Society talking about some of our recommendations.
The National Wildlife Refuge System is hoping that people’s contributions will help shape the Refuge System’s future. The system is comprised of 553 national wildlife refuges in every U.S. state, and it protects more than 150 million acres of biologically diverse habitat that includes wetlands, forests, prairies and seashores. There are about 20 million acres of designated Wilderness in the Refuge System, and we all need to work together to protect them!
Photo: DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, Iowa. Photo By Dave Menke, USFWS.