Refuge system receives House support for volunteer engagement

By Madison Chudzik

Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia provides unique boating and fishing opportunities across its 113,000 acres of land. Credit: Rebbeca Wynn/USFWS

On September 19, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation supporting the National Wildlife Refuge System’s volunteer and community engagement programs.

The Keep America’s Refuges Operation Act of 2022 (H.R. 6734), introduced by Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Rob Wittman (R-VA), reauthorizes funding for the system’s volunteer services, community partnerships, and refuge educational programs through 2027.

With units in all 50 states and five U.S. territories, the National Wildlife Refuge system is the only federal public lands entity with a primary focus on the conservation of wildlife and habitat, playing a key role in protecting the nation’s biodiversity. The diverse habitats the refuges encompass are within an hour’s drive of almost every major city, providing ample recreational opportunities like angling, hunting and birding to both urban and rural communities.

The reauthorization will bolster the educational and volunteer programs across the refuge system that help connect more than 65 million annual visitors to these lands and waters. In 2021, more than 11,000 people volunteered enough time at National Wildlife Refuges to equal that of 318 full-time staff. Without the contribution of volunteers’ time, vital trail maintenance and habitat restoration, as well as education outreach opportunities such as the Junior Duck Stamp Conservation and Design Program, Indigenous Connections, and virtual educational programs would not be possible.

The Wildlife Society supports the Keep America’s Refuges Operation Act and continues to advocate for the National Wildlife Refuge System as a member of the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement. The CARE coalition is comprised of 23 wildlife, sporting, conservation and scientific organizations that work to educate the federal government and public about the financial needs of the nation’s National Wildlife Refuges.

You can learn more about the Refuge System during National Wildlife Refuge System Week, Oct. 9-15.

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