WASHINGTON, D.C. – May 22, 2017 – Today, the bipartisan Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill entitled "Get to Know Refuges." This briefing covered the important role refuges play in conservation and recreation in the United States. Representatives from Ducks Unlimited, the National Wildlife Refuge Association and the Friends of Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge spoke at the event. The Refuge Caucus is chaired by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA-05), Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA-01), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ-02) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI-03).
"The National Wildlife Refuge system is critical for the conservation and restoration of our nation's migratory birds and other wildlife species who depend on wetlands for survival," said Rep. Rob Wittman. "Preserving wetlands and their inhabitants provides opportunities for hunting, fishing, birdwatching and hiking. Wetlands conservation through the National Refuge System ensures a healthy environment for present and future generations."
"Refuges offer much needed protections to a number of waterfowl species. These are vital habitats that we have to preserve if we want our kids and grandkids to be able to enjoy the great outdoors the way we have. I'm proud to lead the Congressional Refuge Caucus and I want to thank Ducks Unlimited for participating in today's briefing," said Rep. Mike Thompson.
"Some of the greatest conservation successes we have in this country are on public lands through the National Wildlife Refuge System," said Ed Penny, director of public policy for DU's Southern Region. "National wildlife refuges provide waterfowl habitat across all of our country's most critical flyways. Refuges are an important part of this country's conservation legacy and we appreciate being a part of this congressional briefing."
Waterfowl hunters have played an integral role in the refuge system because to hunt waterfowl, it's required to purchase a Federal Duck Stamp. Ninety-eight cents of every dollar spent on the stamps is directed to on-the-ground conservation projects on public and private lands, including refuges.
Refuges also benefit from one of Ducks Unlimited's largest policy priorities, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA). Since 1989, NAWCA has impacted the conservation of wetland habitats and their wildlife in all 50 states, conserving more than 33.4 million acres. NAWCA grants support wetland conservation on private and public lands across the country, including the refuge system.
"The National Wildlife Refuge System is the world's largest system of lands and waters for wildlife conservation, where hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, and interpretation are priority public uses," said Desiree Sorenson-Groves, vice president of government affairs for the National Wildlife Refuge Association. "From bison, bears, bald eagles, and bats to whales, wolves, weasels and walruses, the Refuge System's 850 million acres of lands and waters provides a home for wildlife and a place for Americans to recreate."
The National Wildlife Refuge System is made up of more than 96 million acres of public land in the United States. Refuges aid in habitat restoration and protection, help to control flood and erosion while providing economic benefits to countless communities. In fact, refuges support a $2.4 billion recreation industry. With more than 47 million visitors a year, refuges provide a unique opportunity to see these landscapes while supporting local economies.
Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 14 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org.