WASHINGTON, D.C. – Feb. 13, 2018 – Today, the bipartisan Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill entitled "Wildlife Refuges 101." This briefing covered the important role refuges play in conservation and recreation in the United States, issues facing the Wildlife Refuge system, funding for the refuges and the role Congress plays in supporting the refuge system. Representatives from Ducks Unlimited, the National Wildlife Refuge Association and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service served as briefing panelists.
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).
"As founder and co-chair of the Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus, I’ve seen firsthand how refuges bring together an extraordinarily diverse group of people, from hunters and anglers, to endangered species activists, to public lands advocates," said Rep. Thompson. "By offering insight from a broad range of expert panelists, this Wildlife Refuge 101 briefing will help members of Congress and their staff as we continue working to protect and enjoy our shared natural heritage."
"When it comes to ducks and duck hunters, our nation’s system of National Wildlife Refuge lands is the most important," said Dan Wrinn national director of government affairs for Ducks Unlimited. "But they are so much more than that. Hunting, fishing, birding and exploring wild places go on every day at our nation’s refuges. This system of lands is the envy of the world and needs support from Congress to continue this legacy."
Refuges also benefit from one of Ducks Unlimited’s top 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.
"Our national wildlife refuges offer spectacular natural beauty and critical habitat for wildlife," said Rep. Kind. "But they are also economic engines that create jobs in local communities. We need to continue protecting and investing in our refuges and in public lands in Wisconsin and across the U.S., to keep local economies strong and to ensure our open spaces can be enjoyed by future generations."
"National Wildlife Refuges host nearly 50 million visitors each year and make up 850 million acres of pristine public lands dedicated to the conservation of fish and wildlife," said Rep. Wittman. "My state of Virginia has 14 of those refuges where people of all ages can visit, explore, fish, hunt and study wildlife. Growing up and even as an adult, visiting the Rappahannock River Wildlife Refuge in my district taught me the value of nature and wildlife in our society and the importance of environmental stewardship."
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. Refuges support a $2.4 billion recreation industry. With more than 48 million visitors a year, refuges provide a unique opportunity to see these landscapes while supporting local economies.
"South Jersey is home to three national wildlife refuges that offer visitors a wide array of habitats to explore and myriad animal and plant species to learn about. They play a vital role in sustaining fragile ecosystems and their environmental and economic importance in my district is immeasurable," said Rep. LoBiondo. "It is important to continue a dialogue with our colleagues to educate them on critical issues facing our wildlife refuges. Forums like Wildlife Refuge 101 ensure Congress is hearing from the appropriate experts and enthusiasts of these environmental treasures."
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.