When President Theodore Roosevelt sought to protect tiny Pelican Island NWR in Florida, he evaluated the best options on the table and ultimately chose to use his executive authority to create the nation’s first national wildlife refuge in 1903. Since his precedent-setting public land conservation decision, fully 90% of all of the nation’s 556 refuges have been established administratively and by every president since.
In fact, the creation of refuges has been bipartisan with nearly the same number created by Republican and Democratic administrations, with the largest addition credited to President George W. Bush who in 2009 decreed a 50-million-acre addition to the System in the West Pacific, protecting some of the most pristine marine habitat in the System.
Yet, despite a 109 year history of creating new refuges through administrative action and with broad-based local community support, Representative John Fleming (R-LA) has introduced a misguided bill – H.R. 3009 – that would make it impossible for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to establish new refuges administratively and would instead require Congressional action. The bill may be voted on by the full House Resources Committee in September.
Should the bill be enacted into law, the ramifications would be enormous – the recently-established Everglades Headwaters NWR and Conservation Area would be nullified; hundreds of private landowners hoping to sell conservation easements would be put on indefinite hold pending refuge boundary expansions; and it will all but halt the strategic growth of the System – something Congress itself mandated in the 1997 Refuge Improvement Act.
To learn more about H.R. 3009 and its ramifications for the Refuge System, please visit: http://refugeassociation.org/action/