A Beginner’s Guide to the National Wildlife Refuge System

The National Wildlife Refuge System is the largest and most diverse network of lands and waters dedicated to ensuring the long-term future of America’s rich fish and wildlife heritage. Think abundant wildlife, clean water, clean air and world-class recreation.

Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the lands and waters of the National Wildlife Refuge System fall mostly along the nation’s rivers, coasts and wetlands and across its heartland. But they also extend into deserts, forests, mountains, oceans and the Arctic. From the Caribbean to the Pacific and Maine to Alaska, there are 566 national wildlife refuges.

President Theodore Roosevelt established the Refuge System in 1903 at what is now Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. The refuge includes the island and more than 5,400 acres of protected waters and lands in and near Indian River Lagoon on the Atlantic coast.

The Blue Goose, originated by the late cartoonist J.N. “Ding” Darling, is the symbol of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Rachel Carson, author of “Silent Spring” and former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, said: “Wherever you meet this sign, respect it. It means that the land behind the sign has been dedicated by the American people to preserving, for themselves and their children, as much of our native wildlife as can be retained along with our modern civilization.”

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