The Strategic Growth team, as part of the Conserving the Future implementation, has worked on recommendations to sharpen the Refuge System’s focus so lands are added effectively and strategically. After a public review process in coming months, the team’s recommendations are expected to become Refuge System policy.
The team is outlining the Refuge System’s most important conservation objectives, ensuring that lands and waters are acquired to help achieve priority objectives, such as recovering threatened or endangered species, implementing the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, or conserving migratory birds with declining populations.
The need to identify priorities has never been clearer. The Refuge System’s recently completed “rapid assessment” of land protection projects showed that more than five million acres could still be purchased within the acquisition boundaries of existing wildlife refuges. “That would take 100 years to complete at current funding levels,” says Eric Alvarez, chief of the Refuge System Division of Realty.
Refuge Friends groups often play a significant role in helping refuges expand their boundaries. In some cases, community organizations that subsequently became Friends groups were instrumental in establishing new refuges.
“We need Friends talking in their communities about the importance of land to protect wildlife and meet the mission of the Refuge System,” says Alvarez.
All land acquisition proposals must identify priority conservation objectives and the surrogate species that represent them. The recently establishment Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area in Florida, for example, provides habitat for both endangered species and migratory birds.
Planning for Refuge System growth will be enhanced by the scientific capacity of the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs). The Service will look to its partners to work within the LCC framework to help it identify new lands for the Refuge System.
Additional information about the work of the Conserving the Future implementation teams can be found at http://americaswildlife.org/.
Photo: Strategic Growth
Friends of Hackmatack was essential to the establishment of Hackmatack Refuge (WI/IL) the nation’s 561st national wildlife refuge.
Credit: Tina Shaw
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