The Latest: Wildlife refuges

The refuge system finally has a strategy for expansion.

  • Blue grosbeak.

    Dan Pancamo/CC Flickr

If national parks are the beloved eldest son of the public-lands family, national wildlife refuges are the classic middle child: overlooked, ignored, underfunded and understaffed (“An agency in need of refuge?HCN, 2/26/01). The 150-million-acre system has units focused on game animals, endangered species and migratory birds. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has lacked a formal policy regarding refuge acquisition and expansion, or conservation goals of future expansions. 

In mid-January, the agency released its new “strategic growth policy,” declaring that expansion should prioritize lands and waters to protect threatened and endangered species and migratory birds. Acquisition proposals must identify how refuges can contribute to landscape-scale conservation, with nearby landowners’ cooperation, and whether they can still thrive as the climate changes. “It’s a way for the Service to say, ‘Given our limited resources, how are we going to do this in the future?’ ” says Desiree Sorenson-Groves of the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

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