Happy Birthday, Refuges!

The National Wildlife Refuge System celebrated its 115th birthday this week. Established on March 14, 1903 by President Teddy Roosevelt, the first wildlife refuge was created to protect some oddly charming species of birds, mostly egrets and brown pelicans, from market hunters. Today’s refuge system, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, supports countless species of animals and birds, and includes 566 wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts that protect about 150 million acres of habitat.

Wildlife refuges provide educational and recreational opportunities like festivals, open houses, special wildlife-themed exhibits and presentations, fishing, hunting, birding and nature photography. These wildlife-based activities infuse billions of dollars into the national economy and support many rural communities of the West. 

Each spring, visitors flock (pardon the pun) to national wildlife refuges throughout the Intermountain West to view impressive congregations of iconic migratory birds like sandhill cranes, white-faced ibis, Wilson’s phalarope, cinnamon teal, American wigeon and northern pintails. With the height of the spring migration upon us, now is the time to dust off your binoculars, visit one of these wildlife hotspots, and celebrate the rich diversity of wildlife supported by our National Wildlife Refuge System. (Singing “Happy Birthday” is optional.) To find a national wildlife refuge or special event, visit their website: https://www.fws.gov/refuges/.