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Refuge System Celebrates 108 Years


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Wildlife Refuge System turns 108 years old on March 14, 2011, and many National Wildlife Refuges will help celebrate the noteworthy occasion.

The nation's premier system of public lands and waters set aside for the conservation of America's fish, wildlife and plants was established in 1903 when President Theodore Roosevelt officially designated Florida's Pelican Island as the nation's first bird reservation.

Today, the Refuge System's 553 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts support a diversity of wildlife including 700 species of birds, 200 mammals, 250 reptiles and amphibians, more than 1,000 species of fish and countless invertebrates and plants. Refuges help communities, too, by providing recreation, improving soil and water quality, reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires and boosting local economies. The Refuge System is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"Americans are privileged to have such an extensive system set aside for wildlife and their habitat," says Greg Siekaniec, Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System. "The Refuge System is both a national treasure and a reflection of the responsibility we share to protect habitat to meet the needs of wildlife for the continuing benefit of current and future generations."

Scores of national wildlife refuges around the country will hold open houses and other public events in honor of the birthday. To find a local event, use the "Find Your Refuge" feature on the Refuge System homepage.Or go to the Visitors tab on the yellow bar at the top of the page, and click on Special Events in the pull-down menu. Click on "Display All Events."  The following celebrations are just a few of the many listed there:

  • Attend the Refuge System Birthday Bash!
Saturday, March 12, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.-Patuxent Research Refuge, MD

See live animals close up and enjoy performances by Reptile World. Wildlife habitat tram tours and children's activities and crafts are offered. Learn more about Patuxent Refuge.

  • Open House in Honor of the Refuge System Birthday
Saturday, March 12, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.-William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge, OR

Take a free two-hour guided "behind the scenes" tour with the refuge manager at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m. Advance registration is required; call 541-757-7236. Take part in activities on prescribed fire, local wildlife and plants, law enforcement, wildlife photography and historic structures. Learn more about William L. Finley Refuge.

  • Attend a Family Event in Honor of the Refuge System Anniversary
Saturday, March 12, 1 to 4 p.m.-Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge, LA

An anniversary celebration, called "Walk Where the Wildlife Walks," emphasizes refuge trails. Take a guided trail walk, try mystery geocaching or test yourself with challenge trail activities. Canoe the refuge's expanded canoe loop trail. Learn more about Black Bayou Refuge.

  • Attend a Birthday Event
Saturday, March 12, 9 a.m. to noon-Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, NC

Enjoy a free tram tour and learn why it's important to preserve these and other public lands for generations to come. Learn more about Alligator River Refuge.

  • Attend the 19th Annual Pelican Island Wildlife Festival
Saturday, March 19, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.-Riverview Park, Sebastian, FL

Enjoy exhibits, wildlife shows, boat tours to Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, live music and kids' activities. Learn more about the festival. Learn more about Pelican Island Refuge.

  • Attend a Birthday Celebration
Saturday, March 26, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.-Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, UT

Celebrate "Sense of Wonder Day" with movies and lectures, crafts and activities and outdoor family fun in honor of the Refuge System's birthday and the work and life of Rachel Carson. Learn more about the events. Learn more about Bear River Refuge.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

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