National Wildlife Refuges, now managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service under the Department of Interior, were once waterfowl factories paid for by funds from waterfowl stamps. Now biodiversity and habitat preservation seem to be an important goal of the National Wildlife Refuges, implemented for waterfowl conservation in 1909.
To give you an example the wildlife refuge called Loxahatchee is a favored area for nature lore for nearby Boca Raton, Coral Springs, Delray Beach and Boyton Beach servicing over 2 million nearby residents in South Florida. Birdwatching and bassfishing are the primary uses after local nature lore. Waterfowl hunting is now a secondary use of the refuge. I saw this dynamic almost everyday as I fervently scoured the refuge for birds of all species for a period of 4 years.
Funding should come directly to the US Fish and Wildlife Service from user groups who regularly use the refuge. I was one of those users and I paid for a pass to regularly use the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge or I volunteered my time to help other birdwatchers, bird watch. I did this for up to 4 weeks at a time. If you believe in sustaining our countries biological diversity and habitat preservation then you can fund these conservation necessities by helping fund biodiversity at National Wildlife Refuges by purchasing a pass or volunteering your service.
I saw persons who saw it as a badge of honor to not pay the US Fish and Wildlife Service for a pass or at least volunteer expertise. I just shook my head, not wanting to get involved in another person’s indiscretions.
This seems to be the case on refuges in the US and I have been to a lot of refuges in the US.
The first refuge I went to was Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the eastern shore of Maryland. I went as a teen in the 1960’s. I went in the early winter. Our primary target to see was the Brown-headed Nuthatch. I came away seeing the nuthatch, a Golden Eagle and a Rough-legged Hawk. For a youngster it was quite a day of birding. I was immediately a huge fan of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Now global warming is changing much of the wetlands of Blackwater into large lakes.
I do remember Mason Neck in Northern Virginia. It was a place near our Nation’s Capitol where you went to see our Nation’s Symbol, the Bald Eagle. Talk about a great idea. There are now three National Wildlife Refuges outside of the confines of Washington D.C. serving over 3 million users that feature the Bald Eagle. Now after maneuvering the traffic in Northern Virginia you can still see eagles near Washington D.C. by visiting these refuges.
I have seen Laguna Atiscosa National Wildlife Refuge in South Texas. I remember the highlight there was the spotting of the reintroduced Alpomado Falcon.
I was at Santa Anna National Wildlife Refuge and the highlight was a few rare birds and ocelots and jaguirundi (I saw a bobcat their and a jaguirundi). In Alaska, at the Yukon-Kuskokwim, it is a waterfowl nesting factory and a place where you see few other human beings and a lot of mosquitoes.
Now the National Wildlife Refuges are seas of biodiversity, at least when you are outside of Alaska’s refuges. Many refuges now are surrounded by seas of humanity.
Some of the refuges are threatened, like Blackwater, from the throws of dramatic climate change.
Wildlife Refuges got their start as waterfowl hunting factories and now are sources of biodiversity and habitat preservation. I believe their funding (certain National Wildlife Refuges) should reflect this shift in mission by implementing modest user passes. (I am not opposed to waterfowl hunting at all)
In some refuges, like Santa Anna the number of hunters has decreased, on wildlife refuges. Groups, like birders, have increased their use, changing the mission of wildlife refuges to emphasize biodiversity and habitat preservation. Now biodiversity and habitat preservation are becoming the primary goals of certain National Wildlife Refuges, which I see as a good thing.
As the refuges become incubators for biodiversity, places like Northern Virginia become the new epicenters for conservation. Opportunities are abundant here for all groups who see habitat preservation and biodiversity as good.