This morning, the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement released America’s National Wildlife Refuges: Good for Wildlife and for Business that highlights the “Big Six” wildlife dependent uses on wildlife refuges.
National wildlife refuges not only provide a haven for wildlife, they are also where millions of Americans go to enjoy outdoor recreation. This report shows that with more than 47 million visitors each year, the National Wildlife Refuge System also provides a boost to local economies providing a 388% return on investment: for every $1 appropriated, $4.87 is returned.
- Environmental Education;
- Wildlife Observation;
- Hunting; and
“America’s wildlife refuges are incredible resources for local communities, driving tourism and stimulating economic activity,” said David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, which leads the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE). “More than $2.4 billion is generated by the ‘Big Six’ recreational endeavors on wildlife refuges.”
The CARE coalition is comprised of 23 wildlife, sporting and conservation organizations that span the political spectrum, representing 16 million Americans who value outdoor recreation and wildlife conservation.
CARE estimates that the refuge system needs at least $900 million each year in operations and maintenance (O&M) funding to properly care for the 468 million acres of lands and waters it is responsible to manage. At its highest funding level in FY 2010, the system received little more than half the needed amount—$503 million.
The National Wildlife Refuge System has a total of 562 refuge units. Of those:
- 65% are open to hunting;
- 54% are open to fishing;
- All 38 wetland management districts are open to both hunting and fishing;
- 82% are open to photographers;
- 70% have environmental education programs for the public.
In a nutshell, these are places where Americans go to connect with the outdoors.
The refuge system is also critical for wildlife – in fact its primary mission is the conservation of the nation’s wildlife:
- 98% of all wildlife refuges are home to at least one threatened or endangered species;
- 59 wildlife refuges were established specifically to protect endangered species; and
- More than 200 wildlife refuges were created specifically for migratory birds.