Celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week in Your State October 12-18, 2008

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Celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week in Your State October 12-18, 2008 Whether it’s taking a walk among the fall colors, spotting a rare bird species, or learning about the cultural resources that are part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s conservation mission, National Wildlife Refuge Week, October 12-18, 2008, celebrates the diversity and resources of America’s 548 national wildlife refuges.  And it’s a great opportunity to find a family event in your community. 

National wildlife refuges are dedicated to the conservation of fish and wildlife and their habitats. They also offer a wide range of wildlife-dependent recreation–from hunting and fishing to wildlife observation, wildlife photography, nature interpretation and environmental education.  The Refuge System includes 2,500 miles of land and water trails, and there is at least one national wildlife refuge in every state and one within an hour’s drive of most major cities.

“America’s wildlife refuges offer great places to teach our children the importance of making a lifelong commitment to our nation?s natural resources,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall.  “Exploring the outdoors and learning how all living things are connected to one another is what National Wildlife Refuge Week is all about.”

This year, the annual Refuge Week celebration also highlights the 75th anniversary of the Federal Duck Stamp and the 50th anniversary of the Small Wetlands Program.  These two programs have helped the Refuge System expand to its current size of 97 million acres.

Ninety-eight cents of every dollar generated by the sale of Federal Duck Stamps goes toward the purchase or lease of wetland habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System.  To date, Duck Stamp sales have helped purchase or protect more than 5.2 million acres of wildlife habitat.  For more information about Duck Stamps, go to http://www.fws.gov/duckstamps/.

The Small Wetlands Program was created in 1958 to allow proceeds from the sale of Duck Stamps to also be used to acquire waterfowl production areas (WPAs).  These WPAs provide habitat for migratory birds, protect native plants, help filter groundwater, control flooding and capture carbon from the atmosphere.   Close to one million acres of land acquired through the Small Wetlands Program is open to hunting, wildlife watching and photography and other outdoor recreation.

National Wildlife Refuge Week events:
Many special events are planned for National Wildlife Refuge Week. Here’s a sample:

The Big Sit!
Celebrate the birds on a national wildlife refuge on October 12 by participating in The Big Sit!  National wildlife refuges from Wheeler, Alabama, and Pelican Island, Florida, to DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri Valley, Iowa, and Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge in Salem, Oregon, are hosting this annual international birding event. 

Families and individuals find a great spot for bird watching and sit in a circle, counting all the bird species they see or hear. Not everyone needs to stay in the circle for the whole day.    Many people come and go, but only birds seen from the circle can be included in the Big Sit count. Bird Watcher’s Digest tallies the totals and identifies prize winners in several categories.

For a list of The Big Sit! sites, including many not on national wildlife refuges, go to: http://www.birdwatchersdigest.com/site/funbirds/bigsit/results08/circles_registered.php.

October 3
Visitors to Lake Ilo National Wildlife Refuge (North Dakota) will be building bluebird nest boxes. http://www.fws.gov/lakeilo/

October 4
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (Maryland) celebrates its 13th Refuge Open House with eagle prowls, live animal programs, a puppet show about invasive species and live animal exhibits. http://www.fws.gov/blackwater/

October 10
Patuxent Research Refuge (Maryland) joins with Smithsonian Resident Associates to offer a behind-the-scenes tour of captive breeding programs for whooping cranes and conservation-related research on kestrels and diving ducks. http://www.fws.gov/northeast/patuxent/

October 11
Horicon National Wildlife Refuge (Wisconsin) is planning a 5K run/walk along its auto tour route. Three hiking trails are located here, along with a floating boardwalk and bicycling and hiking access to the Wild Goose State Trail. http://www.fws.gov/midwest/horicon/

October 11  
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
(Georgia) celebrates the cultural resources of the National Wildlife Refuge System with an open house at the Chesser Island Homestead, where visitors can discover how people lived in Southeast Georgia at the time the refuge was established in 1933.  http://www.fws.gov/okefenokee  

October 18
Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge (Illinois)
Located near the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, the refuge gives visitors a chance to see the huge concentrations of waterfowl that arrive each October.  The refuge’s riverbanks are also great places to see muskrat, beaver, turtles and frogs. http://www.fws.gov/midwest/tworivers/

October 21-22
J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge (Florida) celebrates Ding Darling Days with free excursions to the protected Bunche Beach Preserve, a stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail, which teems with shorebirds, wading birds, ospreys, bald eagles and other feathered friends. Join local bird experts for a tram excursion to this natural beach habitat at low tide.

Calendar of National Wildlife Refuge Week Events
For a more comprehensive list of National Wildlife Refuge Week events, go to http://www.fws.gov/refuges/SpecialEvents/FWS_SpecialEvents_Search.cfm

To find a refuge in your community, go to http://www.fws.gov/refuges/refugeLocatorMaps/index.html.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.