Under President Obama’s leadership, the Refuge System has transitioned to the forefront of land and water conservation. In the past four years, the National Wildlife Refuge System has grown to include 560 refuges, in all states and territories. It is the world’s largest wildlife conservation program and serves as the biological anchor for America’s wildlife heritage. So, it is with great excitement that NWRA looks forward to working with President Obama and his Administration for another term. We also invite President Obama to experience the beauty of America’s National Wildlife Refuge System—an important economic and environmental driver—first hand.
The President has demonstrated a commitment to conservation through the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. American wild lands such as the Crown of the Continent, Dakota Grasslands, and Florida Everglades, have been protected as large landscape conservation projects with significant federal financial commitments for their critical habitat, essential ecosystem services and ability to keep working lands in farming and ranching families. The Administration has also recognized the importance of watersheds with the creation of National Blueways – of which we anticipate refuges will play an important role. The first designated National Blueway was a refuge – the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.
President Obama also added 10 new refuges in his first term. Many of these refuges and associated Conservation Areas, which have the potential to protect more than 1 million acres of vital wildlife habitat, have been forged through creative partnerships with sportsmen, conservation groups and private landowners. As a result, animals like the Florida panther and diminishing habitats like the prairie grasslands stand a fighting chance. In an effort to connect diverse urban communities to the natural world, several of these new refuges have been established proximate to cities like Albuquerque, NM.
While progress has been made for America’s wild places and wildlife, there is much work yet to be done. We still have a divided Congress but we hope they will be able to overcome their political gridlock. It is now more important than ever to draw on the diverse group of refuge advocates around the country. Here’s to the next four years of creative partnerships and conservation success!