National Wildlife Refuge Week

Hearing wolves howl, tagging monarch butterflies, snapping pictures of soaring eagles, or just walking in the woods, thousands of Americans will be making a special connection with nature during National Wildlife Refuge Week, Oct. 7-13, 2007.

The National Wildlife Refuge System, with 547 national wildlife refuges nationwide, protects approximately 97 million acres of fish and wildlife habitat. Scores of national wildlife refuges are offering special programs to help celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week across the country.

The week highlights the six wildlife-dependent recreation uses offered on national wildlife refuges: hunting, fishing, wildlife photography, wildlife observation, and environmental education and interpretation. The week-long celebration is also part of a year-long commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of pioneering conservationist and writer Rachel Carson.

“Sixty years ago, Rachel Carson wrote that wildlife refuges provide a `release from the tensions of modern life,’” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall. “They do that, and more. National wildlife refuges also promise outdoor adventure to children growing up in a digital age, whose idea of nature might be watching animals on television. Refuges offer the real thing.”

Last year, more than 39 million people visited America’s national wildlife refuges. There is at least one national wildlife refuge in every state, and residents of most metropolitan areas can find a national wildlife refuge less than an hour’s drive from their front doors.

The National Wildlife Refuge System’s more than 2,500 miles of land and water trails appeal to visitors who come to bird watch, fish, hunt, photograph nature, hike, or just to be outdoors.

“Once people know about the great things we do, they flock to national wildlife refuges, whether as visitors or volunteers,” says National Wildlife Refuge System Chief Geoffrey L. Haskett. “We welcome them during National Wildlife Refuge Week and throughout the year.”

This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, which provides guidance to the Secretary of the Interior for the overall management of the Refuge System. The Act includes a “strong and singular” wildlife conservation mission for the Refuge System and recognizes that six wildlife-dependent recreational uses, when determined to be compatible, are legitimate and appropriate public uses of the nation’s wildlife refuges.

To find a national wildlife refuge near you, go to refuges.fws.gov or call 1-800-344-WILD (9453).

Among events planned across the country for National Wildlife Refuge Week are:

MARYLAND, October 6: Visitors can take eagle tours at the 12th Annual Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Open House, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. On the Eastern Shore, the refuge also offers bird walks, demonstrations, wildlife and refuge management programs, wildlife exhibits, live animal exhibits, tours, Junior Refuge Manager Program, puppet show and many children's programs. Call 410-228-2677 or visit http://www.fws.gov/blackwater .

MINNESOTA, October 6: At Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, 50 miles northeast of Minneapolis, the annual Wildlife Festival begins with a sunrise crane watch and ends with a simple bonfire. In between, there are horse drawn hayrides, a scavenger hunt, hands-on archery and air-rifle workshops, nature crafts, and exhibits on wildflower seeds, birdhouses, furs and binoculars. The festival is held at the Old School House on County Road 9. For more information: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/sherburne/FESTIVAL.HTM .

ARIZONA October 6: White River National Wildlife Refuge’s annual wildlife festival begins at 9 a.m. Children's activities include birdhouse building, bird feeder making, T-shirt printing, button making and temporary tattoos. Free boat tours are offered on the hour until 1 p.m. Wildlife programs and guided walks are scheduled throughout the day. Call 870-282-8200 or visit http://www.fws.gov/whiteriver .

LOUISIANA, October 13: Children can travel through the “Bear Maze”, following the seasons in the life of a Louisiana black bear at the 11th annual Wild Things celebration at Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in Lacombe. The event also features a children’s art show, live animals, demonstrations such as pirogue building and wildlife crafts, continuous live entertainment, gardens and grounds tours, and canoe and pontoon boat tours among the cypresses and Spanish moss on Bayou Lacombe. For more information: 985-882-2025.

TEXAS, October 13: The Ninth Annual Trinity River Butterfly Count will be held at Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Texas. Butterfly counters will meet at 8 a.m. at the Exxon Gas station located on Hwy 105, two miles east of Hwy 321 (or one mile west of FM 2518). For more information: 936-336-9786.

GEORGIA October 13: At the Chesser Island Homestead at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, visitors can see how people lived in Southeast Georgia in the early 1900’s. Learn how settlers made soap, brooms, butter, quilts, baskets and other everyday items. Examine how settlers washed clothes, smoked meat, made pickets, and survived in and around the swamp. Sample boiled peanuts, soup, biscuits and other items cooked on a wood-burning stove. Listen to bluegrass music, stories and four-note singing. Enjoy horses, mules and other livestock. Join in the games your grandparents played—musical chairs, wheelbarrow races and more. Call 912-496-3331 or visit http://www.fws.gov/okefenokee/.

FLORIDA October 27: St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is all butterflies in the fall. Its daylong butterfly festival offers demonstrations of butterfly tagging, a tent filled with live butterflies, guided butterfly walks, talks, butterfly crafts for children and van tours to places where butterflies are feeding. In 2006, volunteers tagged 2,000 monarch butterflies at St. Marks. For more information: 850-925-6121.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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