Spotlight: National Wildlife Refuge System Celebrates Birthday
See how national wildlife refuges are protecting your natural heritage
What You’ll Find
America's first national wildlife refuge. On March 14, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt created Florida’s Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, established to protect wild birds from market hunters. Today, the National Wildlife Refuge System is the nation’s premier wildlife conservation network, with more than 560 refuges. The Refuge System protects many hundreds of bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian and fish species on treasured landscapes ranging from Arizona desert to Arctic tundra, from Georgia swamp to Pacific atolls.
Refuges are closer than you think. Every state has at least one. There’s a refuge within an hour’s drive of most major cities. Find a refuge near you.
Make Sure You
Explore the variety of the Refuge System including Wilderness – undeveloped land offering solitude and opportunity for quiet recreation. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the landmark 1964 law that created the National Wilderness Preservation System, nearly 110 million acres managed by four federal agencies. Wilderness is found on 64 refuges – from Florida’s six-acre Pelican Island Wilderness to Alaska’s eight million-acre Arctic Wilderness.
Any day is a good day to visit a refuge. If you’re in the area, check out these special events on Saturday, March 15, in celebration of the birthday:
- Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge near Cambridge, Maryland, holds its annual Eagle Festival on birthday week. Admission is free. Enjoy live birds of prey demonstrations, Wildlife Drive tours and wildlife exhibits. Kids can try their hand at archery, build a bird box and take in a puppet show.
- Attend a free Birthday Bash festival at Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, Maryland. Enjoy wildlife tram tours, children’s crafts, live music and entertainment.
- Head out to the 21st annual Pelican Island Wildlife Festival in Sebastian, Florida, honoring Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Refuge System. Enjoy exhibits, live reptiles and birds of prey, kids’ activities and a nature photo display.
For more information on these and other refuge events, visit the Refuge System’s special events calendar.
Wildlife comes first. True to their name, wildlife refuges make wildlife the top priority. Refuges helped save our national symbol, the American bald eagle, from extinction, and continue to protect hundreds of other wildlife and the habitats that support them.
Join one of many innovative and engaging visitor programs across the country to discover how refuges conserve some of our nation’s most cherished natural treasures.