Happy 121st Birthday to the National Wildlife Refuge System, and Welcome Everglades to Gulf Conservation Area! — The National Wildlife Refuge Association


📷 Black-capped Vireo | Kenny Seals/ USFWS

This March 14th, we celebrate a momentous occasion: the 121st birthday of the National Wildlife Refuge System! For over a century, this incredible network of lands and waters has served as a beacon of conservation, protecting a staggering array of wildlife and providing cherished outdoor experiences for millions.

Here at the National Wildlife Refuge Association, we’re particularly thrilled this year because it coincides with the establishment of the 571st refuge – the Everglades to Gulf Conservation Area! This sprawling 4-million-acre sanctuary in southwest Florida represents a major victory for conservation efforts and will be crucial for the continued well-being of the region’s unique species, including the iconic Florida panther.

We want to acknowledge the tireless efforts of our former colleague, Julie Morris, who played a pivotal role in the conservation planning and advocacy for the creation of the Everglades to Gulf Conservation Area. Her dedication and passion were instrumental in bringing this vision to life. We would like to express our gratitude to all our supporters who raised their voices in favor of the establishment of a new refuge for wildlife. This refuge is critical for the survival of various rare and endemic species, including the Florida Panther, Everglade snail kite, sand skink, and over 100 threatened or endangered species. Your public comments have played a crucial role in making this happen, and we appreciate your efforts.

The Everglades to Gulf Conservation Area serves as a testament to the power of collective action and critical conservation planning and ensures a brighter future for the wildlife dependent on the ecosystems it protects.

The Refuge System has a rich history dating back to 1903 with the establishment of Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. Since then, the Refuge System has grown to encompass a staggering over 850 million land and water acres across all 50 states and U.S. territories. It provides vital habitat for countless species of wildlife, from migratory birds and threatened species to fish and unique plant life.

But the Refuge System is more than just a haven for wildlife. It offers incredible recreational opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. Millions visit national wildlife refuges every year to hike, fish, hunt, birdwatch, and simply connect with nature.

The addition of the Everglades to Gulf Conservation Area marks a significant step forward for conservation. However, the fight to protect our natural world is far from over. Here at the National Wildlife Refuge Association, we remain committed to working alongside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other dedicated partners to ensure a thriving future for the Refuge System and the amazing species it protects.

There are many ways you can join us in celebrating the National Wildlife Refuge System and supporting the Everglades to Gulf Conservation Area:

  • Visit a National Wildlife Refuge: Get out and explore the beauty of these incredible places! Find a refuge near you by visiting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.

  • Volunteer your time: Many national wildlife refuges rely on volunteers to help with a variety of tasks. Lend a helping hand and make a difference!

  • Become A Refuge Friend: National wildlife refuges across the country are supported by independent organizations dedicated to protecting their local refuge. Find out more about Refuge Friends.

  • Donate: Your generous contribution to the National Wildlife Refuge Association can make a real difference in protecting wildlife and their habitats in the Refuge System.

  • Spread the word: Share your love for the Refuge System with friends and family. Talk to your elected officials about the importance of conservation.

Happy Birthday, National Wildlife Refuge System! And a warm welcome to the Everglades to Gulf Conservation Area!


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