National Wildlife Refuge System celebrates 11th birthday this year
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — National Parks may get most the glory, but the country’s vast National Wildlife Refuge system has also earned a special place in the hearts of anyone who cherishes the thought of giving native animals a place to roam.
This month, the NWR system is marking its 110th birthday, and despite impending budget cuts resulting from the budget sequester, several sites will be holding special events to celebrate.
It’s not surprising that the first formal wildlife refuge was set aside by President Theodore Roosevelt, who created the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, along Florida’s central Atlantic coast, with an executive order in March 1903.
But the idea of preserving native species predates that event by about 50 years, according to a NWR system website that outlines the history of wildlife conservation. As early as the 1850s, explorers, scientists and journalists warned that the unrestricted slaughter of wildlife for food, fashion and commerce was systematically destroying an irreplaceable national heritage.
Today’s threats are different, ranging from urban development and agriculture to climate change, but the idea of setting aside protected areas has as much relevance as ever.
This summer, include a visit to a national wildlife refuge in your plans. Thrill to a hidden world of natural wonders while your kids learn the joy of healthy outdoor activity. Take pride in America’s Great Outdoors and your natural heritage.
Consider a stop at refuge during a spring or summer road trip. Often, a short detour from an interstate can lead to federally protected wildlife havens and relieve jangled nerves.
For example, if you’re heading south to Florida on I-95 In South Carolina, take exit 102 to Santee National Wildlife Refuge. The Santee Refuge is a magnet for hawks, eagles, wading birds and songbirds. It’s the historic stomping grounds of Revolutionary War hero Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion. And it’s an anthropological wonder — the site of 1,000-year-old National Register-listed ceremonial Santee Indian mounds.
In the Salt Lake City area, you can enjoy phenomenal early summer bird watching at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge by taking exit 363 off I-15 on the northeast arm of Utah’s Great Salt Lake. A 12-mile auto tour route provides close-up views of American avocets, black-necked stilts, white-faced ibis and other species. Sample the half-mile paved, accessible nature walk. Fish for walleye, largemouth bass and black bullheads from an accessible pier at the start of the tour route. (Don’t forget your state fishing license.)
Other refuges located near interstate highways include Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge off I-10 in Texas, Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge off I-75 in Michigan, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge off I-70 in Colorado, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge off I-5 in California, and Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge off I-78 in New Jersey.
National wildlife refuges offer a slew of special events for visitors during the summer. Events such as bird festivals, bike tours, fishing rodeos and wolf-howl tours combine fun and learning.Many refuges will host youth fishing derbies and learn-to-fish programs in June to mark National Fishing and Boating Week. For other listings, see the latest refuge events calendar or a comprehensive special events listing.
To find a refuge near you or near a chosen driving route, use the “Find Your Refuge” feature on the Refuge System homepage.
Some special events in March:
Saturday, March 9, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, MD
Enjoy free live raptor programs, kids’ activities, a photography workshop, a guided bird walk, exhibits and the popular eagle prowls.
Snowshoes and Snowy Owls
Saturday, March 9, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Sullys Hill National Game Preserve, ND
Join a guided snowshoe hike or explore trails on your own. Warm up inside with a nature movie: The Magic of Snowy Owls. Make a snowy owl craft.
Whooping Crane Tour
Sunday, March 10, 2 to 3:30 p.m. − Patuxent Research Refuge, MD
Take a behind-the-scenes tour of Patuxent Wildlife Research Center to see the graceful endangered whooping cranes. Register: 301-497-5763. Ages 14+
Bird Identification Tour with Joel Citron
Sunday, March 10, 9:30 a.m. to noon − Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, DE
Walk a trail looking for songbirds, identifying wading birds and ducks in the impoundments, watching for eagles and looking for shorebirds. Meet at the visitor center. All levels of experience welcome.
Scenic Refuge Tour
Sunday, March 10, 1 to 4 p.m. — Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, VA
Join staff for a scenic ride through the refuge and False Cape State Park while observing winter waterfowl and other native wildlife. Tours include a one mile, round-trip hike to the Wash Woods cemetery. Don’t forget your binoculars. Reservations: 757-301-7329 ext. 152.
Happy Birthday, National Wildlife Refuge System!
Thursday, March 14 — Many locations
Many national wildlife refuges will host special events in honor of the Refuge System’s 110th birthday. More info here.
Salt Pond Nature Tours
Saturday March 16, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. — San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Tour the refuge with the San Diego Audubon Society. Learn to identify migratory birds stopping over on the refuge along their Pacific Flyway migration path.
Saturday, March 16, 6:45 to 8:15 p.m.− Patuxent Research Refuge, MD
Discover the nighttime world of the refuge as you look and listen for nocturnal animals
on this guided walk. Ages 10+. North Tract. Register: 301-497-5887
Medicinal and Edible Plants of the Mojave Desert
Saturday, March 16, 9 to 11 a.m. − Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, NV
Could you survive if you were lost in the desert? Lean to identify wild plants with nutritional and medicinal value. NOTE: The same program will be offered Saturday, March 23, from 9 to 11 a.m. at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and Saturday, April 6, from 9 to 11 a.m. at Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Going Green – South Bay Salt Pond Restoration
Saturday, March 16, 10 to 11 a.m. – Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Join an interpretive walk to photograph the wildlife and wetlands in the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project. Learn about the wetlands habitat and restoration.
Saturday, March 16, 9 to 11 a.m. – Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, CO
Tour the refuge lakes with a birding naturalist. Learn some helpful hints to spot and identify your favorite ducks and geese.
Garden Keepers – The Layered Garden
Wednesday, March 20, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. − Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, DE
Choose the right plants for your garden by understanding how they grow and change throughout the seasons. Learn how to design a layered garden, and how to maintain it. Help prune the area around the visitor center. Meet in the visitor center auditorium. Register: 302-653-6449.
2013 Liberty Jubilee
Saturday, March 23, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Liberty, TX
Visit the booth of Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge at this street festival. The booth will have information about the refuge, education material for kids and live animal displays.
Wildlife Art Show
Saturday, March 23 and Sunday, March 24 – Patuxent Research Refuge, MD
See photography, sculpture and painting by nationally recognized artists who specialize in portraying wildlife and the natural world. Free. More information here.
Coyote Creek Lagoon
Saturday, March 30, 9 a.m. – Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Join a four-mile walk with the Refuge Rambler Club. The trail is a compacted gravel levee that is flat and level. The walk is self-paced and you may turn back at any time. You do not need to be a Refuge Rambler to take part.
Oxbow Winter Nature Photo Contest
March 30 — Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge, MA
Enter your photos taken at the refuge this winter in the refuge’s photo contest. See contest rules at Friends of the Oxbow. E-mail your entries by March 30 to firstname.lastname@example.org.