Celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week in Your State October 12-18, 2009
Washington, DC –-(AmmoLand.com)-What’s the most natural place to marvel at autumn’s show? A National Wildlife Refuge is hard to beat — and you can see for yourself during National Wildlife Refuge Week, October 12-18, 2009.
Whether you prefer to admire the fall colors, thrill to a skyful of migratory birds, explore a mountain trail or learn about the cultural resources that are part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s conservation mission, you can find what you like at a National Wildlife Refuge.
National Wildlife Refuge Week celebrates the richness of the 550 units that make up America’s National Wildlife Refuge System. And it’s a great opportunity to find an outdoor family event near where you live.
“President Teddy Roosevelt established tiny Pelican Island in Florida in 1903 as the first National Wildlife Refuge. Roosevelt’s mission was clear: protect Pelican Island’s birds from poachers and plume hunters,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “And with that simple promise of wildlife protection, the National Wildlife Refuge System was born. It is my hope that citizens across the country will take advantage of this weeklong celebration to experience wildlife in their natural habitats and play a firsthand role in conservation by participating in special events and programs, or simply observing and enjoying the great outdoors at a local refuge.”
National Wildlife Refuges are dedicated to the conservation of fish and wildlife and their habitats. They also offer a wide range of wildlife-dependent recreation — from fishing, boating, hunting and hiking — to wildlife observation and photography, nature interpretation and environmental education. The Refuge System includes more than 2,500 miles of land and water trails. There is at least one National Wildlife Refuge in every state and one within an hour’s drive of most major cities.
“If we’re serious about wanting to save the environment and the many wild things dependent on wild places, we can’t afford to have children growing up disconnected from nature,” said Sam Hamilton, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Teaching children ways to enjoy the outdoors while respecting the chain of life that sustains the natural world is what National Wildlife Refuge Week is all about.”
This year, Refuge Week also focuses on the health of the world’s birds — especially those that depend on refuge lands and waters for nesting, foraging, wintering or as rest stops during their migrations. This past spring, a national report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners under the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative, credited conservation efforts over the past four decades with averting the extinctions of some previously threatened bird species, including the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon. However, the U.S. State of the Birds report noted major population drops for several other bird species, particularly those along the coasts and in the Hawaiian Islands. In the North, 38 percent of Arctic nesting birds are thought to be in decline. Threats to birds include climate change, loss of habitat and disease.
Meanwhile, the number of Americans enjoying birding as a hobby is on the rise. More than 40 million Americans feed wild birds at home or travel to see them, according to the Service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. Many of the refuges in the United States were officially established as bird sanctuaries. Following recommendations offered by a panel of government and private industry birding experts convened by the Service, refuges are seeking out new ways to encourage and support birding activities.
Some refuges are erecting bird feeding stations and posting bird sighting updates on boards outside their visitor centers. Some are loaning binoculars and birding guides to visitors as well as offering tips on certain species. Others are providing scopes at popular bird viewing areas. Some are even installing computer stations that visitors can use to confirm and map bird sightings (with the help of photos and bird calls) and share their finds with other users, wherever they’re located.
This long-distance aspect is being joined by amateur radio enthusiasts who are also supporting Refuge Week by operating special event stations on a number of refuges. They will be communicating with other stations operating from other refuges as well as stations across the United States promoting refuges. Amateur radio operators must obtain permission from the refuge manager to operate within the boundaries of a national wildlife refuge. Interested licensed operators can find a registration form and more information at: http://www.nwrweek-radio.info.
National Wildlife Refuge Week Highlights From the end of September through the month of October, many events are planned in celebration of National Wildlife Refuge Week. Here’s a sample:
National Bird Count – The Big Sit!
On Sunday, October 11, participate in the 15th annual Big Sit!, an international bird count. National Wildlife Refuges across the United States from Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge in Texas to Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in Indiana are hosting a Big Sit!
Participants sit in a designated circle counting all the bird species seen or heard for 24 hours. Observers can work in shifts; they are not required to stay in the circle for the entire day. Observers can leave and return to the circle as frequently as desired, but they must return to the exact same circle.
Only birds seen from the circle can be included in the Big Sit! count. Bird Watcher’s Digest will conduct the final tally of birds and identify prize winners in several categories. To register your circle and find out more information on the Big Sit! go to: http://www.birdwatchersdigest.com/site/funbirds/bigsit/bigsit.aspx.
- Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota Saturday, September 26, Fall Festival: Enjoy educational programs and family activities. Photo contest winners will be displayed. 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. For more information: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/tamarac or 218-847-2641.
- Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge Friday, October 2, Islands & Rivers of Life: A photo exhibit in Celebration of a Century of Conserving Alaska’s Wildlife & Wild Lands, 7:00 p.m., Wendy Williamson Auditorium, Anchorage. For more information: http://alaskamaritime.fws.gov or 907-226-4606.
- Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Washington Saturday, October 10 and Sunday, October 1, Birdfest and Bluegrass Festival: Enjoy owl walks, sandhill crane sunrise tours, kayak tours, plus indoor and outdoor music jamming sessions. For more information: http://www.fws.gov/ridgefieldrefuges/ridgefield or 360-887-3883.
- Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana Saturday, October 17, Annual Fall Celebration: Enjoy family activities and free fried fish dinners. For more information: http://www.fws.gov/northlouisiana/blackbayoulake or 318-387-1114.
- Southeast Louisiana Refuges, Lacombe Saturday, October 17, Annual Wild Things Festival: Attend a festival showcasing eight National Wildlife Refuges. The festival features speakers, live animals, wildlife crafts, live entertainment, gardens and grounds tours. Children’s highlights include the Youth Wildlife Art Show, orienteering, decoy painting and nature crafts. Wild Things also features canoe and pontoon boat tours of Bayou Lacombe. For more information: http://www.fws.gov/southeastlouisiana or contact Byron Fortier at 985-882-2025.
For more information on National Wildlife Refuge Week events: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/SpecialEvents/FWS_SpecialEvents_Search.cfm.
For more information on a specific refuge: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/refugeLocatorMaps/index.html.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.