The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service invites America to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week (October 12-18, 2014) with a visit to a national wildlife refuge. While you are enjoying the fishing or hiking or just the tranquility, learn how wildlife refuges conserve your wildlife heritage and enrich your life.

National wildlife refuges help conserve wildlife, protect against erosion and flooding, and purify our air and water. They also support regional economies, teach children about nature, and offer protected places to be outdoors. Find a refuge near you:

“National wildlife refuges include some of America’s most treasured places, from the coastal islands of Maine to the deserts of the Southwest to Alaskan mountain ranges,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “National Wildlife Refuge Week is a perfect time to discover everything that refuges have to offer.”

“Americans cherish their natural heritage,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “Since President Theodore Roosevelt established the first national wildlife refuge on Pelican Island, Florida, in 1903, we’ve learned that this precious legacy can’t be taken for granted. I hope that citizens across the country will use this occasion to visit to a wildlife refuge, enjoy the festivities and learn more about conservation.”

U.S. Senator Chris Coons led a resolution to commemorate the week of October 12th as National Wildlife Refuge Week to raise awareness about the importance of the Refuge System to wildlife conservation and the recreational opportunities available in our wildlife refuges. Cosponsors of the resolution included: U.S. Senators Jeff Sessions (AL), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Mazie Hirono (HI), Mary Landrieu (LA), Edward Markey (MA), Benjamin Cardin (MD), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Susan Collins (ME), Carl Levin (MI), Tom Udall (NM), Jeff Merkley (OR), Ron Wyden (OR), Tim Kaine (VA), Mark Warner (VA), Maria Cantwell (WA) and Patty Murray (WA).

“Wildlife refuges bring people together from all walks of life for hunting, birding, fishing, and simply enjoying the great outdoors,” Senator Coons said. “Delaware is fortunate to have two wonderful refuges – Bombay Hook and Prime Hook – that attract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and help support our local economy. National Wildlife Refuge Week is a great opportunity to celebrate our nation’s extraordinary Refuge System and commit to preserving these resources for generations to come.”

Since 1995, refuges across the country have celebrated National Wildlife Refuge Week in early October with festivals, educational programs, guided tours and other events. Many state and local governments proclaim the week every year, and for the past four years Congress has officially recognized it.

Nationwide, refuges support more than 35,000 jobs and pump $2.4 billion into local communities, according to a Service report issued last year. More than 47 million people visited a refuge last year. “Nowhere else do I feel such a deep sense of connection with the land, the plants, and the wildlife,” offered one visitor.

The National Wildlife Refuge System, which turned 111 years old this year, is the nation’s premier habitat conservation network, encompassing more than 150 million acres in 562 refuges and 38 wetland management districts. Every state has at least one national wildlife refuge. There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major cities.

Refuges also offer world-class recreation, from fishing, hunting and wildlife observation along 2,500 miles of land and water trails to photography and environmental education.

National Wildlife Refuge Week Highlights

Check the special events calendar for Refuge Week events. Among events planned:

Friday, October 10:

Wild Weekend
In celebration of National Wildlife Refuge Week, Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, IL, will offer guided canoe tours to Eagle Pond and highlight ancient cypress trees and wetland wildlife. Reservations are required: 618-634-2231.

Saturday, October 11

The Marquette, IA, unit of Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge will host HawkWatch events. These include capturing and banding raptors and waterfowl, live raptor presentations and kids’ activities.

5K Run/Walk for Wildlife, Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, Mayville, WI
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Celebrate Refuge Week with a race on the refuge auto tour route. Register at 9 a.m. Event starts at 10 a.m. Pre-register at Family activities and Native Landscaping Day volunteer workday activities will follow the morning run/walk.

Log Cabin Day Festival, Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, IN
11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Enjoy a festival at Myers Cabin, sponsored by Muscatatuck Wildlife Society, featuring a free ham-and-bean dinner, old-time crafts, music, wildlife exhibits and children’s activities. From Sunday through the following Saturday, a normally “closed” area of the refuge will be open to walk-in visitors for bird viewing.

The Big Sit! Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, MO   
Sunrise to sunset, or any segment of time in between. Description is the same as for Sunday events that follow.

Sunday, October 12

The Big Sit!, Form a team or join an existing team to count and report bird species seen or heard from a 17-foot-diameter circle. Refuges participating include:

Saturday, October 18

Wildlife Festival, Patuxent Research Refuge, MD
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
National Wildlife Visitor Center. Free. Enjoy live animals, children’s crafts, tram tours, scientific demonstrations and behind-the-scenes research tours of the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center located on the refuge. See where endangered whooping cranes and sea ducks are raised and studied.

Bertrand Museum Collection Special Talks/Tours, DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, IA
11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Special museum events coincide with Refuge Week, Iowa Archeology Month and International Archaeology Day. The collection consists of artifacts from the 19th-century steamship Bertrand, which sank in the Missouri River en route to the silver mines of Montana. The day’s program is one of several planned to mark the 150th anniversary of the Bertrand sinking on April 1, 1865.

Saturday, October 25

River Paddle Ride, Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, MO
8 a.m. to noon
Enjoy a guided paddle ride down the Mingo River. Some canoes and kayaks will be available for use. Participants are also welcome to bring their own canoe or kayak. Pre-registration is required: 573-222-3589,

Ding Darling Days, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, FL
Sunday, October 19 – Saturday, October 25
A week-long celebration in honor of National Wildlife Refuge Week features live animals, tram tours, sea life cruises, kayak tours, nature talks and more.

Image courtesy Susan Georgette/USFWS

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