At the beginning of November, 16 organizations, including The Wildlife Society, signed a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands in support of H.R. 3979, the “Keep America’s Refuges Operational Act.” A hearing was held on November 15. The bill was introduced by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and had 12 bipartisan cosponsors in October and would reauthorize the National Wildlife System Volunteer, Community Partnership, and Education programs.
National Wildlife Refuges are located in every state and territory in the United States. More than 40 million people visit every year generating over $2.4 billion in revenue for local economies. This bill reauthorizes programs that are critical to the functioning of refuges. For example, in 2016, approximately 40,000 volunteers donated nearly 1.4 million hours for the maintenance and preservation of the refuges and the critical habitats contained within — this is nearly 20% of the Refuge workforce. Education programs offer a unique way for visitors to engage with the refuges. This bill and the programs it reauthorizes will mean that people will will continue to be able to visit wildlife refuges for hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, education, and interpretation.