Coalition applauds Senate’s recognition of National Wildlife Refuges

Posted Oct. 10, 2011, at 9:28 a.m.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Senate has passed a resolution designating the week of Oct. 9-15 as National Wildlife Refuge Week.

National Wildlife Refuge Week is celebrated every year on the second full week of October and was commemorated by the Senate for the first time in a historic resolution last year. First initiated under President Bill Clinton, Refuge Week is a celebration of our national wildlife refuges and America’s majestic wildlife heritage.

The resolution (S.R. 288) passed last night by unanimous consent and recognizes the importance of America’s 553 National Wildlife Refuges and 38 Wetland Management Districts to wildlife and habitat conservation, recreation, and the economy, and affirms the Senate’s intent to manage refuges and the wildlife they protect for future generations. The Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE), a coalition of conservation, sporting and scientific organizations that advocates for the National Wildlife Refuge System, praised the Senate action and the bill’s sponsors.

“At a time when the Refuge System faces serious funding and staffing shortfalls, we’re grateful to Senators Coons, Sessions and Cardin for leading a bipartisan group of colleagues to call attention to the importance of America’s National Wildlife Refuges,” said Evan Hirsche, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and Chair of the CARE coalition. “America’s refuges are the world’s premier system of lands and waters protected to conserve wildlife and habitat, but they are also a sound taxpayer investment, returning an average of four dollars to local economies for every dollar spent in economic activity.”

Refuges also provide vital “ecosystem services” to local economies, helping clean our air and waters, providing game for food and serving as important buffers from storms. Studies estimate that refuges return over $875 for every $1 appropriated. In addition, our Refuge System provides incomparable recreation opportunities for millions of visitors each year, including more than 2.5 million hunters, 7 million anglers, and 28 million wildlife watchers as well as students and photographers.

The bill’s cosponsors are a bipartisan group. They include the original sponsors: Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), and Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.)—and 11 cosponsors: Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I)., Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.R).

The Senate resolution highlights:

•The broad scope of the 150-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which includes 553 refuges and 38 wetland management districts, found in every state and territory of the U.S.;

•The economic contributions of refuges, whose 45 million annual visitors contribute nearly $1.7 billion to local economies and support tens of thousands of local jobs;

•The ecological and wildlife diversity found in the Refuge System, which protects temperate, tropical, and boreal forests, wetlands, deserts, grasslands, arctic tundras, and remote islands, and provide habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 species of reptiles and amphibians, and more than 1,000 species of fish;

•The importance of refuge volunteers and more than 220 refuge Friends groups, who contribute 1.4 million volunteer hours the equivalent of 665 full-time employees—to the Refuge System each year.

Read the full resolution here: http://bit.ly/nFnFeI

The Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) is a diverse coalition of 22 conservation, recreation, sporting, and scientific organizations that represent more than 15 million members and supporters across the United States. CARE has been working since 1995 to help the National Wildlife Refuge System fight a serious funding crisis.

The groups are: American Birding Association, American Fisheries Society, American Sportfishing Association, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited, Izaak Walton League of America, Marine Conservation Institute, National Audubon Society, National Rifle Association of America, National Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Refuge Association, Safari Club International, The Corps Network, The Nature Conservancy,The Wilderness Society,The Wildlife Society, Trout Unlimited, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, Wildlife Forever and Wildlife Management Institute

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