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One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, “What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?” —Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring

Conserve the Future Let Wisdom Guide the Way

National Wildlife Refuge Association’s

Recommendations for the 45th President of the United States

November 2016

Wisdom incubating egg, Midway Atoll NWR | Daniel Clark, USFWS


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The Story of Wisdom Wisdom, the oldest known banded bird in the wild, is a female Laysan albatross that nests within the world’s largest albatross colony on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. She was first banded in 1956 and is at least 65 years old. Her story is incredible. Bird biologist Chandler Robbins first banded Wisdom on Midway in 1956. He returned to the island in 2002 and was able to spot the band number on a bird flying overhead. It turned out to be the very same Wisdom incubating egg, Midway Atoll NWR | J Klavitter, USFWS bird he had banded 46 years previously. Wisdom was re-banded in 2006 with a red band, so she would be easier to spot. And Chandler Robbins? He’s now 98, and working as an emeritus researcher at Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland. We know all this information about Wisdom, but what don’t we know? Prior to the discovery of Wisdom’s age, researchers believed albatross lived to approximately age 40. Albatross live on the ground and forage for food on the surface of the water. How long could they live, and how robust would their populations be if non-native land predators like cats and pigs were eliminated and trash was removed from the ocean? Wisdom is on the cover of our report because our limited knowledge about her in particular and albatross in general is emblematic of the financial woes suffered by the Refuge System: science programs (through the FWS’s Inventory and Monitoring program) are underfunded, habitat maintenance and restoration is routinely put off until another day, and invasive species are unchecked.

Chandler Robbins | USGS

The National Wildlife Refuge System is the model for the rest of the world when it comes to protected lands. And this is while the System is chronically underfunded and understaffed. What could it be if these programs were adequately funded and we invested the resources the System needs?

Wisdom survives despite the challenges of existing alongside man. Imagine how she and her descents would thrive if we could help more.


Conserve the Future

About the

National Wildlife Refuge Association

Since 1975, the National Wildlife Refuge Association has occupied a special niche as the only non-profit organization focused exclusively on promoting the world’s largest wildlife conservation network, the National Wildlife Refuge System.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS Rebecca Rubin, Chair, Fredericksburg, VA

This incredible network of lands and waters supports over 8,000 wildlife species, hosts nearly 50 million visitors each year, generates $4.2 billion of economic activity and over $33 billion in ecosystem services for America.

James McClelland, Treasurer, Washington, DC

The Refuge Association engages thousands of supporters as diverse as the System itself — members of Refuge Friends groups, ranchers, hunters and anglers, educators and students, and wildlife enthusiasts, hailing from all walks of life: urban, rural, suburban, and international. In addition, the Refuge Association leads a coalition of 23 diverse organizations called the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE). Our combined 16 million members urge the U.S. Congress to provide robust annual funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System. The National Wildlife Refuge Association is committed to the goals, objectives, and strategies articulated by “Conserving the Future,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s vision for the future of the National Wildlife Refuge System and the title of this report reflects that commitment.

Donal O’Brien, Vice Chair, New Canaan, CT Robert M. Morgan, Secretary, Lewes, DE Chad Brown, Portland, OR Bill Buchanan, New Canaan, CT Dragana Connaughton, Palm Beach, FL Tom Goettel, South Thomaston, ME Cheryl Hart, Portland, OR Tony Judge, South Hadley Falls, MA Maya Kepner, Sacramento, CA Marge Kolar, Davis, CA Janice Mondavi, St. Helena, CA Michael Mullins, Captiva, FL Mamie Parker, Dulles, VA David Preschlack, Bristol, CT Lynn Scarlett, Arlington, VA Kathy Woodward, Chatham, NJ Andy Woolford, Norwalk, CT EXECUTIVE STAFF David Houghton President Anne Truslow Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Desiree Sorenson-Groves Vice President of Government Affairs Leanne Cardwell Vice President of Development and Communications

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Executive Summary The next President of the United States has the opportunity to chart a renewed course for wildlife conservation for the greatest nation the world has ever known and to leave a legacy that will create a connected conservation constituency for the 21st Century. The National Wildlife Refuge Association urges the next President to use the National Wildlife Refuge System to reconnect Americans to nature, aid in the adaptation to climate change, and embrace the Refuge System for what it is—the largest wildlife conservation system of lands and waters on Earth.

If the Refuge System were a country, it would be the seventh largest. Many Presidents “discover” the Refuge System at the end of their administration. But what could be achieved for global conservation efforts if the next President were to embrace the powers and authority of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its National Wildlife Refuge System at the beginning of an administration? The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has the authority to work with private landowners, local, state and tribal governments, other federal agencies, and other nations to protect habitat with the cooperation and coordination of the American people and internationally. Programs like the Partners for Fish and Wildlife, Urban Refuge, and International Affairs meet people where they are—on their private lands, in their communities, and across the globe. Since its creation by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, the National Wildlife Refuge System has protected lands for wildlife and recreational use. With our increased awareness of issues such as climate change, fragmented ecosystems, and declining

Ash Meadows NWR, NV | Cyndi Souza, USFWS

access for Americans to wild places, the Refuge System has an opportunity to introduce new audiences to nature, protect critical habitat, and provide healthy lands for all creatures. The future of the Refuge System is unlimited, and we encourage your Administration to assign additional resources to these unparalleled and unique lands. Americans have become fractured over political divides and distracted by technology. The next President can bring us back to the core of who we are as a people and unite us to reach achievements we can only attain together while simultaneously make us healthier and more resilient to life’s stressors. In this report, we outline specific actions the next President can take to solidify America’s global leadership in conservation. We look forward to working with Administration to make this a reality. For questions or more information, please contact Desiree Sorenson-Groves, Vice President of Government Affairs at the National Wildlife Refuge Association: 202-290-5593 or dgroves@refugeassociation.org.


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The Future of

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The Refuge System The largest system of protected public lands on the planet—a model for the rest of the world A place where wildlife can thrive and all Americans can unite in a shared wild heritage A vast source of economic activity, where outdoor recreationists today generate $650 billion a year in economic activity A model of partnerships between public land managers and private landowners E xpanded access for youth, sportsmen, urbanites, and outdoor recreationists who long for a connection to the great outdoors A standard of strengthened national security, combatting illegal wildlife trafficking, and helping protect the last great wild places and wildlife around the world by sharing our conservation successes and failures

Moose at Kenai NWR, AK | Ryan Haggerty, USFWS


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Recommendations

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR, FL | Ian Shive


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of

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Wisdom

Wisdom on Midway Atoll NWR | Daniel Clark, USFWS

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Secure $825 Million Annually for the Refuge ­System: Give wildlife professionals the resources they need to succeed by securing $825 million for the annual Operations and Maintenance budgets of the National Wildlife Refuge System by 2021. Page 9 Lead the World in Ocean Conservation: Create new marine national monuments and marine national wildlife refuges, and recognize the leadership of the National Wildlife Refuge System in managing these marine resources by providing $55 million annually within the Refuge System’s budget. Secure $30 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coastal Program to help make coastal communities resilient to rising sea levels and stronger storms. Page 16

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Build Ecosystem Resiliency to Climate Change: Secure the nation’s remaining unprotected ecological hotspots and corridors through the permanent reauthorization and doubling of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Page 18

Amplify and Grow the Stewardship of Private Landowners and Communities: Increase collaborative stewardship with ranchers and private landowners by doubling the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program to $150 million annually and increase collaboration with communities by providing necessary funding through Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT). Page 26 Grow the User Experience at National Wildlife ­Refuges: Americans hunger for outdoor experiences but need trails, handicapped accessible facilities, restrooms, Visitor Centers and signs. Secure $100 million annually for the Refuge System’s Construction account to welcome and orient visitors. Page 28

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Secure Water Quantity and Quality for National Wildlife Refuges: Catalogue the existing rights and needs of refuges nationwide and look for ways to secure and document water usage for the future and foster collaboration with users upstream and downstream from national wildlife refuges. Page 31

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Keep Public Lands Public: The administration should launch a coordinated public outreach campaign with all federal land agencies to promote the importance of public lands. The Refuge System in particular has seen an unprecedented attack on their management and federal ownership, at times putting visitors and staff at risk. Page 22 Grow the National Wildlife Refuge System’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program: Create a connected conservation constituency by increasing participation of urban youth in conservation, stewardship and curriculum through the National Wildlife Refuge System’s Urban Refuge Program and Urban Refuge Partnership Program. Page 24

Stop Illegal Wildlife Trafficking and Secure $30 million Annually for the Multinational Species Conservation Fund: Bring to bear the resources of the United States through the State Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to save species on the brink of extinction such as tigers, elephants, and rhinos while sharing expertise from the Refuge System’s land managers with those of other nations. Page 34 Expand Wilderness designations in the National Wildlife Refuge System: Wilderness connects us to our frontier spirit as the last example of places untouched by man. As our population increases, more and more Americans hunger for more truly wild areas to recreate, teach their children, and understand their role in the fabric of the planet. National wildlife refuges are in local communities and provide this need. The next administration should work with Congress to designate more wilderness areas. Page 37


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Secure $825 million annually for the Refuge System by FY 2021

Scientists estimate that the world population of wildlife (mammals, amphibians, fish and reptiles) has fallen by over 50% in the past 45 years. During that same time, funding for conservation declined dramatically. In the late 1970s, federal funding for conservation, recreation and preservation (also known as Function 300) was roughly 2% of the federal budget; today, it’s 1.26% at $39 billion. Yet conservation spending provides a return of $689 billion in total consumer spending. Put more starkly, between 1980 and 2009, overall federal spending rose 109%, yet spending on conservation only rose 2.15%. Alarmingly, what goes to the National Wildlife Refuge System is just one percent of the overall spending on Function 300 programs. And because the Refuge System is the ONLY system of public lands in the United States dedicated to managing and preserving wildlife, this funding level is woefully inadequate. The Refuge System’s annual budget is one one-hundredth of one percent (0.012%) of the overall federal budget—decimal dust.

ASK

The next President should secure $825 million by FY 2021 for the Refuge System’s Operations and Maintenance budgets to cover two funding needs: estore the System at the level it was in FY 1 R2010, adjusted for inflation ($629 million) uild out priority core programs that are 2 Bcurrently underfunded or were not in existence in FY 2010 ($196 million)

Black skimmers at Prime Hook NWR, DE | April Allyson Abel, USFWS


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FY15 Discretionary Spending: $1.11 Trillion

FY15 Energy and Environment Discretionary Spending: $39.14 Billion

Energy and Environment Programs 3%

National Wildlife Refuge System 1%

National Wildlife Refuge System

0.04% Discretionary Programs

96%

FY 2010 funding levels were particularly important because at that level of funding, the Refuge System was finally able to devote resources to critical projects: paying down the backlog, restoring critical habitat neglected for years, welcoming visitors to refuges in larger numbers than ever before, and maintaining infrastructure. As funding levels have decreased since FY 2010, these projects have been sidelined as a luxury. Refuge lands belong to all Americans, and we don’t believe that refuge managers should be forced to shelve projects that provide a safe place for visitors to experience healthy, thriving refuge lands simply because of a lack of funding. The Administration and Congress have an obligation to adequately fund these lands, and $825 million is the minimum required for that task.

Other Energy and Environment Programs

99%

In fact, at a time when wildlife is struggling to adapt to changing climates, human encroachment, and man made disasters like the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the budget of the National Wildlife Refuge System has been reduced by over 20% in just the past six years when factoring in management capability needs (FY10-FY16).

How do we secure adequate funding? 1. R  estore the System’s budget to the level it was in FY 2010, adjusted for inflation ($629 million) 2. B  uild out priority core programs that are currently underfunded or not in existence in FY 2010 ($196 million)

The Refuge System protects over 8,000 species over 13 time zones but, at $481 million, has a budget less than our nation’s military bands. $825 million is a reasonable and justified amount to manage the world’s largest system of wildlife conservation lands and waters. The National Wildlife Refuge System’s annual budget is $481.4 million (FY16)—yet it now manages lands and waters larger than the nation of India. The Refuge System now manages 850 million acres and if was a country, it would be the 7th largest on Earth in area. In comparison, the National Park Service is a fraction of that at 84 million acres, yet has a budget of $2.6 billion (FY15). Even with a strapped budget, the Refuge System is the gold standard for wildlife conservation and it’s time that the System is funded on par with the National Park Service. Unfortunately, the Refuge System’s enormous management responsibilities are not commensurate with its budget. With 566 units in every state and territory, spanning 13 time zones, the System is so vast the sun literally never sets on the Refuge System.

Kodiak brown bear at Kodiak NWR, AK | Lisa Hupp, USFWS


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FUNDING (IN MILLIONS)

$700

Refuge System Budget Trends Funding to Maintain FY10 Capabilities

$619

President’s Budget Request Actual Appropriation

$538

This graph takes into account the $10-15 million yearly

$456

increases for management capability needs such as rising salaries and benefits, and rising costs of fuel, steel,

$373

water, and other fixed costs.

2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 2020

FISCAL YEAR

Zone Officer Butler teaching Cub Scouts how to fish at summer camp in Brunswick, GA | USFWS


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Kodiak NWR, AK | Steve Hillebrand, USFWS

By the end of the new Administration’s First Term (FY2021), we ask for the following funding increases:

PART 1

Return the Refuge System to FY10 Capabilities—$629 million The yearly cuts to Refuge System annual funding ($503 million in FY10 down to $481 million in FY16) and the failure to include increased appropriations for management capabilities has spelled dramatic cuts to Refuge System funding. These overall cuts have led to loss of staff, loss of volunteers and a loss of the ability of the System to meet core functions. Yet visitation to

national wildlife refuges continues to grow—30% in the past decade. With flat budgets since FY10, and added management capability needs, the Refuge System should currently be funded at $558 million, an increase of $77 million over the current budget. That number will rise to $629 million by the end of the first term of this new Administration (FY21).

The FY15 Refuge Annual Performance Plan (RAPP) reports revealed falling performance rates in several important System categories—as a direct result of funding shortfalls since FY10:

Wetland acres restored (70%) Acres of non-native, invasive plants controlled (58%) Acres treated for non-native, invasive plants (34%) Number of volunteers (14%)


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FUNDING AND GOALS FOR PRIORITIES PROGRAM

CURRENT FUNDING

FUNDING GOAL FOR PROGRAM

Law Enforcement

$38 m

$80 m

Marine National Monuments

$2.6 m

$55 m

Inventory & Monitoring

$24 m

$80 m

Urban

$4.5 m

$50 m

TOTAL

$69.1 m

$265 m

Funding gap: $196 million FY16 Refuge System Operations & Maintenance

$481 m

Additional Funding needed to return to FY 2010 level

$148 m

Funding needed to close gap in priority programs listed above

$196 m

Total Goal for Refuge System

$825 m

PART 2

Fully fund the Refuge System’s Top 4 priorities, an additional $196 million The Refuge System’s Top 4 priorities—Law Enforcement, Marine National Monuments, Inventory and Monitoring, and Urban— are dramatically underfunded in the current budget. (1) Federal Wildlife Officers: currently funded for 234 fulltime officers, the $80 million goal will allow the Refuge System to start bringing staff levels towards the goal of 1,149 ull-time officers. (2) Marine National Monuments: with responsibility for over 750 million acres of water across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, current funding of $2.6 million is woefully inadequate. $55 million is the minimum needed to begin research projects, restoration work, and management.

(3) Inventory and Monitoring: This program makes up the core science capacity of the Refuge System. The Refuge System is a vast array of lands stretching across many diverse ecosystems, and cannot be protected and managed appropriately without good science. (4) Urban: Increased funding from $4.5 million to $50 million would allow the Refuge System to grow the number of priority urban refuges that have received base funding increases from 4 to 14, while funding quality visitor experiences and environmental education for children in urban centers. The numbers in the chart above show the current funding and goals for each of the four priorities.

However, many measures of public use increased for the Refuge System over this same time frame, despite budget shortfalls:

Number of visitors (9%) Hunting visits (+2%)/Waterfowl hunt visits (7%) Photography participants (52%) Wildlife observation visits (12%) Number of auto tour visits (14%) / Number of boat trail visits (18%)


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Infographic #2


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Lead the World in Ocean and Coastal Conservation

Marine Protected Areas

With the expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in August 2016, the United States, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, leads the world in setting aside marine protected areas. This expansion is a historic achievement, yet more must be done. Now is the time for the United States to create more marine national monuments, marine sanctuaries, and marine national wildlife refuges along our coastlines and oceans. One way to create marine refuges would be to work with states to extend coastal wildlife refuges into the ocean off their shores, thus protecting vital estuaries. Our coastline runs 95,471 miles, the vast majority of it unprotected. Many scientists believe that to conserve our marine resources and their benefits to humanity, at least 30% of the world’s oceans should be in protected status where commercial fishing, mining and other exploitative actions should be prohibited. And while nations such as the United States, Australia, and Gabon have made great strides, still only 3% of the world’s oceans are protected. Some argue that marine protected areas harm fishing industries but the opposite is true. Studies have shown that when effectively managed, protected marine areas result in increased size, density, and biomass in all marine species that are present there. The diversity of organisms is about double in reserves relative to unprotected areas; the biomass of organisms is nearly triple. And fishermen noticing this trend have benefited from the “spillover effect” as species move away from the protected area into waters open for fishing. Currently, 13% of U.S. marine waters are in such protected, “no-take” areas. The next President has the responsibility to build upon the steps taken by Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama in protecting large areas of our oceans as marine national monuments and marine sanctuaries. But setting aside areas is not enough; resources to manage these areas must also be requested to Congress in annual budgets. Since 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System has increased its management responsibly by

750%, from 100 million acres to 850 million acres. Yet there has been no increase in funding to accommodate such an enormous responsibility. The marine resources alone are approximately 750 million acres. This means the Refuge System is operating on a budget of just 58 cents per acre with only 234 full-time law enforcement officers. The President must also recognize the leadership of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in managing these marine resources by providing at least $55 million annually within the Refuge System’s budget. The United States must build on these protections and continue to lead the world in ocean conservation by creating more marine national monuments, new marine national wildlife refuges and marine wilderness. Over the last 100 years the U.S. has protected over 189,000 square miles of marine and coastal environments within 180 national wildlife refuges, but only a few of these marine areas include congressionally-designated wilderness areas. Existing designated wilderness areas in coastal waters, and new designations offer the opportunity to monitor changes due to climate change, pollution and overfishing which in turn can help define how to manage with a light hand and develop a model for protecting wildness in the marine environment, and compare the U.S. model to existing and emerging approaches.

ASK

The Refuge Association recommends that the next President work with coastal communities and marine constituencies to create new Marine National Monuments or marine national wildlife refuges in the following biological hotspots: California Seamounts • Coastal California Gulf of Mexico • Mid Atlantic • North Pacific Ocean We further request that the next President fund the Refuge System Marine National Monument Program at $55 million annually.


Conserve the Future

Since 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System has increased its management responsibly by 750%, from 100 million acres to 850 million acres. Yet there has been no increase in funding to accommodate such an enormous responsibility. The Refuge System needs at least $55 million annually to manage its marine national monuments—some 750 million acres of lands and water.

White tern at Midway Atoll NWR | Kris Krug, Creative Commons License

Building Coastal Resiliency Over half of Americans live in coastal areas making them vulnerable for sea level rise and impacts from strong storms such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. What we have learned from these disasters is that natural buffers such as coastal marshlands can, at times, significantly reduce a storm’s impact on a local community. Coastal wetlands and estuaries are also nurseries for birds, fish and other wildlife. Without healthy coastal areas, our communities, economies and fisheries suffer. Our nation’s coastal communities are major economic drivers, supporting 51 million jobs. In fact, if U.S. coastal communities combined their economies and were ranked as a single nation, they would rank #3 in Global Gross Domestic Product behind the entire U.S. and China. Protecting people and wildlife from damaging impacts of climate change by strengthening and growing coastal and riparian national wildlife refuges and building partnerships with local people and governments makes good economic sense as well as conservation sense. Coastal areas in the U.S. comprise less than 10 percent of our

overall land, but support a much higher percentage of our threatened and endangered species habitats. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coastal Program is one of the most effective resources for restoring and protecting fish and wildlife habitat on public and privately owned land ensuring these habitats are protected while allowing coastal communities to prosper. The program provides technical and financial assistance for voluntary efforts to protect and restore high priority coastal habitats for wildlife. With sea level rise, and an increase of natural disasters, the Coastal Program is becoming even more essential to implementing resiliency and adaptation strategies. The Coastal Program also makes good economic sense, returning nearly $13 in economic return for every $1 in program funds.

ASK

We urge the next President to work with Congress to increase the Coastal Program funding to $30 million by FY 2021.

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Build Ecosystem Resiliency to Climate Change — Secure Ecological and Biological Hotspots and Wildlife Corridors

The Refuge System is the only land agency that has a primary mission to protect biodiversity. Congress was clear in 1997 when they passed the Refuge System Improvement Act—the System should be strategically grown to important ecological lands and waters and to protect biodiversity. In administering the System, the Secretary shall—

“…ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of the System are maintained for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.” “…plan and direct the continued growth of the System in a manner that is best designed to accomplish the mission of the System, to contribute to the conservation of the ecosystems of the United States, to complement efforts of States and other Federal agencies to conserve fish and wildlife and their habitats, and to increase support for the System and participation from conservation partners and the public.”

Since the passage of the Refuge System Improvement Act, 57 refuges have been added to the System with an outpouring of support from local communities. However, vital habitats all over our nation, many held by private landowners who would like to sell to the Refuge System, have been lost to developers and other buyers before FWS has been able to acquire the land. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its National Wildlife Refuge System have the authorities and knowledge to work with states, tribes, private landowners and local communities to create wildlife corridors in the face of climate change and protect biodiversity when hundreds of species will face extinction in the next century. They are the Conservation Agency for the 21st Century. The Refuge System has the ability to help combat climate change through this system of protected lands. Connectivity

and corridors are critical to the movement of wildlife species, and the acquisition of lands, either through fee title, leases with the states, or easements with private landowners, will do more to assist wildlife species than almost anything else.

ASK

To achieve this goal, the Refuge Association recommends the next President reauthorize and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $1.8 billion and focus on the following eight biological hotspots:

1. Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge & Conservation Area (Florida) — $10 million annually for a combination of conservation easements and fee title acquisition. Located between Orlando and Lake Okeechobee, the ranchlands of the Northern Everglades comprise some of the nation’s largest calf-cow ranch operations, many of which have been in ranch families for four and five generations. These lands are a mosaic of dry and wet prairie and wetlands that hold and filter water in the headwaters of America’s iconic River of Grass, and play an important role in storing water and recharging aquifers for 8 million South Floridians. Conservation easement acquisitions will ensure that large ownerships stay intact and undeveloped, forming a north-south corridor that provides habitat for more than 30 threatened and endangered plants and animals including the Florida grasshopper sparrow, gopher tortoise, and Florida panther. These lands simultaneously buffer the strategically important Avon Park Air Force Range, a key training ground for American fighter pilots. Fee acquisitions to the refuge will provide public access, including hunting and fishing opportunities managed in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 2. Cache River National Wildlife Refuge (Arkansas)—$5 mil-


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Green jay at Laguna Atascosa NWR, TX | Mike Carlo, USFWS

lion annually to purchase lands from willing sellers. The Cache River basin is an important tributary in the Mississippi River system and provides wintering habitat to hundreds of thousands of migratory waterfowl. The Cache River National Wildlife Refuge was expanded in 2013 with community support and willing sellers are ready to move forward with sales of priority lands that would connect current refuge holdings, build links with other conserved lands, and offer opportunities to restore bottomland hardwood forest. This habitat has declined by 80% in recent decades and is essential for neotropical migratory songbirds. The project also increases public access for world-class waterfowl hunting and is supported by local communities. 3. Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge (New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut)—$6.5 million annually to acquire land and conservation easements in focus areas of the Connecticut River watershed, including a multi-phased effort to acquire conservation easements on more than 13,000 acres in the Vermont and New Hampshire Upper Valley Region that is considered the highest conservation priority by state wildlife action plans. The Mascoma River Headwaters/Bear Hill property provides habitat for black bear, is important to wood duck, black duck and woodcock, and has some of the highest densities of Canada warblers in North America. The mosaic of habitats, riparian corridors, and grasslands make this a conservation priority for the Northeast and is supported by the adjacent communities. 4. Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge (Hawaii)—$10 million annually to acquire habitat for endemic species that exist here and nowhere else on earth. The Friends of Halakau Forest NWR have created an endowment to aid the Service in its acquisition and management needs but cannot do it without help from Congress and the Administration. 5. Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge (Texas) —$2 million annually to acquire key habitat for eighteen federally-listed threatened and endangered species including the ocelot

and jaguarundi as well as 400 bird species, 300 butterflies and over 1,100 plant species. This refuge is one of the most important stops for migratory birds traveling between North and South America. 6. Bear River Watershed Conservation Area (Utah, Wyoming and Idaho)—$2 million annually to purchase conservation easements to protect water quality, water quantity and wildlife habitat on ranchlands in the largest freshwater drainage into the Great Salt Lake. This region is at the heart of two major migratory bird flyways, the Pacific and the Central, and provides habitat for some of the largest breeding populations of cinnamon teal, white faced ibis, and hundreds of thousands of other migratory waterfowl, wading birds and shorebirds. Sagebrush steppe uplands support greater sage-grouse, mule deer, elk and pronghorn, while the Upper Bear River is an important cold water fishery for Bonneville cutthroat trout. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with state and federal agriculture programs, partner agencies, private and nongovernment groups to achieve a matrix of conservation land. 7. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (Maryland)— $1 million annually to conserve critical marshlands of the Chesapeake Bay that provide important habitat for a diverse range of waterfowl and declining migratory birds. These marshlands and associated uplands are also critical for de-listing the Delmarva fox squirrel. This priority acquisition, in partnership with the Friends of Blackwater, leverages the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument and has wide community support. 8. John H. Chafee National Wildlife Refuge (Rhode Island)—$1 million annually to conserve and restore highly productive coastal salt marsh habitat that is important to waterfowl and shorebirds and acts as a critical nursery for important commercial fish. It helps protect man-made structures from storm surge and increased coastal flooding due to climate change, and conserves this wild gem from the area’s rapid development. This Refuge, named after one of the Senate’s great conservationists, has broad community support.


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The National Wildlife Refuge System


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Keep Public Lands Public

Since the founding of our nation, we have embraced public lands as a cornerstone American value. One should be able to hunt, fish and commune with nature without the threat of the king’s men whisking you away because you trespassed on lands not yours. Wild lands earned its place in the American consciousness as the source of our national identity and the guarantor of our prosperity. Nature has long been portrayed as the source of the animating spirit of the American character, fostering independence, ingenuity, resourcefulness, pragmatism, and above all equality and freedom. Our public lands are the focus

of how Americans will reconnect with one another and must be protected above all. Alongside the support of public land throughout our history, there have always been some who have tried to use public lands for their own endeavors, and the fight to sell public lands is archived in everything from Congressional debates to Presidential campaigns. Yet the American people have always spoken loud and clear about their support for our nation’s public lands. Currently, much of the rhetoric about the transfer of public lands is originating in the western parts of the U.S. where federal ownership of land is over 50%. But according to a January 2016 poll from the Colorado College State of the Rockies Project, the majority of citizens in western states agreed with those in the rest of the country by strong opposition to giving state government control over national public lands. Unfortunately, vocal minorities have strong allies in Congress and some anti-federal government groups have taken their beliefs to a new level—one going so far as to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon for over 40 days in early 2016. And many who study these anti-government groups warn that others are waiting for their chance. With the acquittal of the Malheur occupiers, it is possible that similar occupations and incidents will occur again.

ASK

The administration should launch a coordinated public outreach campaign with all federal land agencies, outdoor industry and non-profit organizations to promote the importance of public lands. Americans must know that they can connect with nature in a safe environment.

Chukar at Malheur NWR | Barbara Wheeler, USFWS


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SUPPORT FOR TRANSFER OF PUBLIC LANDS 65%

58%

33%

Overall

59%

63%

59%

52% 41%

39% 29%

Arizona

31%

Colorado

31%

Montana

■ TOTAL SUPPORT

54%

47% 37%

28%

Nevada

New Mexico

Utah

Wyoming

■ TOTAL OPPOSE Colorado College State of the Rockies Report

Mule deer at Malheur NWR, OR | Barbara Wheeler, USFWS


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Grow the National Wildlife Refuge System’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program

The need for Americans to connect with nature is evidenced in our nation’s growing nature deficit disorder. In 2005 author Richard Louv, discussed this in his groundbreaking book, Last Child in the Woods. Louv made the case that humans, especially children, were spending less and less time outside resulting in a range of behavioral disorders and unhealthy habits. The book spurred a debate among educators, parents, health professionals, government and industry—what can we do collectively to re-engage our children in the natural world? We believe that the National Wildlife Refuge System is the answer to nature deficit disorder. In our modern and highly developed culture, nearly all Americans are estranged from the nature around us. We have been broken off from the nature of our world, from the nature of one another and from our own true nature. The Refuge System offers wild places close to communities to connect people with the outdoors and places to learn lessons from wild creatures. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program is a vital part of how America can reconnect to its wild roots. In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a vision for its National Wildlife Refuge System for the next 20 years, Conserving the Future. Here they acknowledged the need to create a connected conservation constituency by increasing participation of urban youth in conservation, stewardship and curriculum through the National Wildlife Refuge System’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program. With eight out of ten Americans residing in urban areas, it is vital to provide opportunities for urban dwellers to get outside, engage in the natural world, learn about natural systems, and have experiences that foster an ethic of stewardship for future generations. To garner broad support for conservation, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service must provide a reason, and opportunities, for

urban residents to find, appreciate, and care for nature in their cities and beyond. Therefore, engaging urban communities and fostering a sense of stewardship reflects the heart of the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program. The Refuge System is fortunate to have numerous refuges within 25 miles of urban populations. These assets have not yet been fully realized—but that is quickly changing through the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program. An underlying need for the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program is a better understanding of the factors that facilitate or inhibit connecting urban audiences with wildlife and nature. To address this need, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service led a collaborative research effort to understand urban audiences, identify barriers to engagement in wildlife-dependent recreation, and identify strategies to overcome these barriers. What they found is that they must meet people where they are—in their communities. This requires dedicated and consistent outreach unique to individual geographical regions and communities. And that sort of outreach requires innovative people who have the resources available to meet their charge. Over the past three years (FY14-FY16), the Refuge System has awarded $1 million increases to the base budgets of four national wildlife refuges: San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex (San Diego to Los Angeles); Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (Portland); Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge (Albuquerque); and John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge (Philadelphia).

ASK

Secure this base funding for all urban national wildlife refuges by FY 2021, a total of $50 million annually.


Conserve the Future

Birdwatching at Minnesota Valley NWR, MN | Joanna Gilkeson, USFWS

Bison at Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, CO | Ian Shive

Garter snakes at John Heinz NWR at Tinicum, PA | Frank Miles, USFWS

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Amplify and Grow the Stewardship of Private Landowners and Communities

Double the budget for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Conservation Program to $150 million and move the Refuge Revenue Sharing Program into PILT to increase collaborative stewardship. With more than 73 percent of all land in the U.S. in private ownership—and more than 75 percent of fish and wildlife species dependent on private lands for their survival—it's clear that private lands play a critical role in protecting wild places. The federal government must find successful ways to collaborate with private landowners and better understand the challenges local governments face when the land base of their county is largely federal and not subject to real estate tax, the source of funding most local governments use to provide schools and emergency assistance. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is a vital tool to increase collaborative stewardship and the Payment in Lieu of Taxes Program (PILT) is the central way local communities receive revenue from federal lands instead of real estate taxes.

Partners Program The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is one of the Service’s most effective tools for building partnerships between public agencies and ranchers and private landowners to conserve America’s expansive working landscapes. Through the program, the Service provides technical and financial support to private landowners to conserve and restore habitat for fish and wildlife. The program consistently leverages federal dollars for conservation, generating nearly $16 in economic return for every $1 appropriated for programs. The Partners Program provides a bridge between private and public conservation efforts that has been instrumental in the success of large landscape partnerships from

Montana to Florida, and is playing a key role in conserving greater sage-grouse habitat in the intermountain west. The mission of the Partners Program is to “efficiently achieve voluntary habitat restoration on private lands, through financial and technical assistance, for the benefit of Federal Trust Species.” Since the program began nearly Oregon Rancher Tom Sharp discusses the importance of the Harney County CCAA to protect greater sage-grouse habitat | USFWS 30 years ago, more than 45,000 landowners and 3,000 organizations have completed 29,000 restoration projects resulting in the voluntary restoration of 3,176,000 upland acres, 939,000 wetland acres, and 8,712 riparian miles. The program is also an economic driver annually returning $15.70 for every $1 invested and creating 3,500 jobs nationwide, resulting in a total economic stimulus of $292 million. The success of the Partners Program even led to the creation of Partners for Conservation, a nonprofit organization comprised of farmers and ranchers nationwide working with the Service to conserve private land for wildlife.

ASK

The next President should work with Congress to double the authorization, and fully fund the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program at $150 million annually, resulting in an estimated $800 million in conservation output.


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Monarch butterfly at Rydell NWR, MN | John Sikkila

Moving Refuge Revenue Sharing Into the Payment in Lieu of Taxes Program (PILT) A flourishing Refuge System is built upon trust and being a good neighbor and partner in local communities. A key part of that partnership involves recognizing that federal land is exempt from real estate taxes. These taxes are a major revenue source for most local governments across the country, funding services like schools, parks, libraries, streets, sewers, law enforcement, and fire protection. Fortunately, in 1935, Congress acknowledged that relationship and enabled wildlife refuges to “give back� to their local communities. The Refuge Revenue Sharing Program offsets lost local tax revenue by providing payments to local governments from net income derived from permits and wildlife refuge activities. Funds come from the sale of products like timber; privileges like grazing permits; and leases for facilities not in conflict with refuge purposes and are deposited in the National Wildlife Refuge Fund. The Service pays localities using a formula created by Congress. At times, the Service pays localities more than they would have collected from taxes if the land were privately owned. However, declining revenues and appropriations shortfalls have resulted in the Service only able to pay less than 50 percent of its tax-offset obligations since 2001. Headwaters Economics, an independent, nonpartisan research organization, recently laid out the economic and political reasons to move Refuge Revenue Sharing into PILT. We agree with their recommendations and believe that a reliable PILT program could help build trust in rural communities and push back against anti-federal lands movements as was played out at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January 2016 when armed militants took over the refuge.

Twelve spotted skimmer at Minnesota Valley NWR, MN | Mara Koenig, USFWS

ASK

Move the Refuge Revenue Sharing Program into the Payment in Lieu of Taxes Program (PILT) and until that time, request $50 million for the Refuge Fund in annual appropriations bill to make up for shortfalls.


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7

Grow the User Experience at National Wildlife Refuges

The National Wildlife Refuge System is the premier place to view and experience wildlife. From the millions of snow geese and sandhill cranes at the Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico, to brown bears at Kodiak and Becharof NWRs in Alaska, to Hawaiian monk seals and sea turtles at the James Campbell NWR in Hawaii, to swimming with manatees at the Crystal River NWR in Florida, to elk browsing in the winter at the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming, Americans can experience wildlife up close and personal in ways not done on other public lands. Americans hunger for experiences such as these to connect with wildlife and nature, but most need roads, trails, handicapped accessible facilities, restrooms, Visitor Centers, observation blinds and interpretive signs to create a meaningful user experience while not harming wildlife.

ASK

To adequately meet the growing demand of the nearly 50 million annual visitors to the Refuge System, the next President should secure $100 million annually for the Refuge System’s Construction account to welcome and orient visitors and highlight the “Crown Jewels” of the System. As our nation’s population increases, so too does the desire for more places to recreate, to find solace in nature, and to connect children with the outdoors. That too increases the need for facilities that welcome and orient our diverse citizens. In the past 10 years, visitation to the Refuge System has grown by 30% but the construction budget has declined dramatically. Exacerbating the problem is that the Refuge System as a whole has seen a 20% decline in overall funding in the past six years. When faced with restricted budgets, the first thing to go is visitor’s services—including overseeing volunteers, environmental education, interpretation, and outreach programs and

events—generally anything that reaches out to the public and helps create meaningful visits for users. Visitor Centers are one of the most effective ways to welcome and orient the public to a national wildlife refuge. They give information on the landscape, what you may see, how to react, what trails to use and how the refuge fits into the larger ecosystem of the area. But Visitor Centers not only welcome the visitor and ready them to experience the wonders of nature, as they are built, they provide economic stimulus to local economies in the form of a wide variety of jobs across the construction industry. The FWS can immediately initiate large-scale and high-priority construction projects including Visitor Centers, education and equipment storage facilities and office space. Each facility would incorporate standard designs that utilize green technology and energy-efficient features and can be built to LEED standards. It is important to note that facilities such as Visitor Centers need not be focused on one public land agency, in fact, where more than one agency has lands in a geographical area, we strongly encourage collaboration through Interagency Visitor Centers. Collaborations between agencies can benefit everyone—explaining the different uses and purposes of each public land while fostering a greater appreciation for all public lands by the visitor. We urge the next President to build or re-build Visitor Centers in Jackson, Wyoming; Anchorage, Alaska; and Tok, Alaska. Other examples exist nationwide, but we feel these three should be given priority because of the unique and amazing wildlife spectacles available for public.

Examples of Interagency Visitor Centers: • Replacement of Interagency Visitor Center in Jackson, Wyoming to service the National Elk Refuge, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. This aging facility was built in 1974 long before it was known as a international tourist destination and has outgrown its ability to meet the growing need of the public.


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Port Louisa Headquarters and Visitor Center, IA | USFWS

• Relocate the Alaska Public Lands Information Center in Anchorage. The Center is currently in the same building which houses the Federal Courthouse where visitors must go through a full airport-like security screening. Although the Center has approximately 80,000 annual visitors, that is likely a fraction of what could be served or what will be needed in the future as more and more Americans visit the state. • Build an Alaska Public Lands Information Center in Tok along the Alaska Highway near the Tetlin NWR. There currently exists a small contact station serving as a center in the Department of Motor Vehicles building. The Center should be moved to be on the Alaska Highway to serve the thousands of people traveling its length. The Refuge System also has needs to construct Visitor Centers in several locations. New Visitor Center construction was essentially halted in the past few years due to budget constraints. We recommend the next President replace or build new Visitor Centers in the following locations: • James Campbell NWR on the north shore of Oahu in Hawaii. This refuge established in 1976 offers one of the best places to see endangered monk seals and sea turtles frolicking in the waves and resting on the beach. Less than an hour’s drive from

downtown Honolulu, the refuge has the potential to reach millions of visitors each year, many of whom drive to the north shore to see surfing competitions at the nearby Turtle Bay resort. • Valle de Oro NWR in the city limits of Albuquerque, New Mexico. This refuge has the possibility to reach hundreds of thousands of residents of the city, and hundreds of thousands of visitors—particularly those who travel to New Mexico each fall to view the sandhill cranes at the Bosque del Apache NWR in the south-central portion of the state. • Potomac River Refuges Complex in Woodbridge, Virginia. Three refuges in Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. have the potential to serve over 1 million people. Currently there is no Visitor Center and virtually no trails, signs or other amenities to greet the public.

ASK

The next President should secure $100 million annually for the Refuge System Construction Account for enhanced visitor services facilities.


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All Public Lands Have Infrastructure Needs Proposals to establish an “American Parks Trust Fund” are very welcome, but we urge the next President to change the name to “America’s Parks & Public Lands Trust Fund” to clarify that the fund is meant for other lands such as the National Wildlife Refuge System. The National Park Service needs increases in their construction account but it must not come at the expense of other land management agencies. In FY 2016, the NPS construction account was approximately $190 million—the Refuge System’s construction account was $6 million. The next President must make the Refuge System Construction Account a priority.

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Environmental education at William L. Finley NWR, OR | George Gentry, USFWS


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Conserve the Future

Secure Water Quantity and Quality for National Wildlife Refuges

Water is the lifeblood of our national wildlife refuges and the challenge to ensure sufficient quantities of good quality water are available for fish, wildlife, and plants is unending. Rapid population growth coupled with climate change is stressing our water resources like never before.

Current Status

Eight years ago when the outgoing administration was making its transition, the Refuge System had barely begun to monitor water quality and quantity. Having inconsistently conducted only around 150 refuge assessments and with no centralized database or methodology to easily store, organize, and access this information, identifying water quality and quantity issues was a major challenge. The Refuge System has taken a significant step forward by creating the Water Resources Inventory and Assessment (WRIA) database. The WRIA database is a centralized system that allows the FWS to input, access, and analyze water data to identify the status of their water resources, understand their water rights,

and identify threats to water quality and quantity. WRIAs have standardized the water quality and quantity assessment process for each refuge, and to date assessments have been completed fully or in part at 348 national wildlife refuges. Despite this progress, there is still much work to be done before assessments have been completed on all 566 national wildlife refuges. Of the 348 refuges completed, 52 percent had at least one water resource threat ranked as high severity. A threat is considered high severity when it prevents the fulfillment of a refuge’s purpose or the Refuge System mission, threatens public safety, threatens at-risk species, threatens adverse legal consequences, or threatens infrastructure. Analysis of the available data has revealed ten major water resource threats to the National Wildlife Refuge System: • Nutrient Pollution • Altered Flow Regimes • Other Contaminants/ Altered Water Chemistry • Insufficient Surface Water • Compromised Water Management Capability • Sedimentation • Insufficient Groundwater • Pesticides • Loss/Alteration of Wetland Habitat • Loss/Alteration of Floodplain Habitat Now that there are standardized methods for collecting and analyzing water resource data, application of this data to guide wildlife management hinges on two key factors: capacity and expertise.

Capacity Needs Current capacity at the Air and Water Resources branch of the Refuge System is severely lacking. One staff member and one Branch Chief, who also oversees air resource activities, make up Gadwall at Arapaho NWR, CO | Tom Koerner, USFWS

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Great blue heron at Ridgefield NWR, WA | Rick Browne

the entire water resources staff at the Natural Resource Program Center headquarters in Fort Collins, Colorado. Increasing capacity is essential to utilize the WRIA database at its full potential by completing water resource assessments for all 566 national wildlife refuges to determine water resource status, identify critical water resource threats, and ascertain solutions to these threats. An increase in capacity will allow the Refuge System to leverage existing monitoring networks from key partners, such as the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, by integrating their vast data resources into the WRIA database. Moreover, water quality and quantity should become a priority across all U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service departments. More streamlined data sharing and collection methods will benefit all stakeholders who utilize the same water resources within the same watersheds, including private landowners and the Refuge System. Yet gathering the data is only part of the solution. Once the status of water quality and quantity is determined for refuges and

threats are identified, expertise in many fields will be required, including hydrology, biology, data management, Geographical Information Systems, and law to apply this information to wildlife managers so that conservation goals can be met. It will also be essential to build upon existing collaborations and establish new public-private partnerships among stakeholders with shared water resources. As our nation’s population increases, more private landowners, industries, and other stakeholders will be competing for access to the same water resources. The Refuge System does not currently have the capacity to undertake future legal challenges that will continue to arise as increased water demands, exacerbated by the effects of climate change on water quality and quantity, challenge the Refuge System’s water rights. Because wildlife refuges are often just small areas within a larger watershed, the quality and quantity of water they receive depends on land management practices upstream from a refuge. Coordinating with local stakeholders to implement improved


Conserve the Future

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Blue winged teal at Rydell NWR, MN | Juancarlos Giese

Bog turtle at Mountain Bogs NWR, NC | Gary Peeples, USFWS

land and water management practices is critical to ensure longterm water resource success. The Refuge System needs experts that not only understand water resource issues on refuges, but also how the individual refuges are connected to their greater watershed. The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is one of the Service’s most effective tools for building partnerships between public agencies and private landowners to conserve America’s expansive working landscapes. Through the program, the FWS provides technical and financial support to private landowners to conserve and restore habitat for fish and wildlife. The Partners Program provides a bridge between private and public conservation efforts that has been instrumental in the success of landscape-scale water conservation projects. To make true progress on water quality and quantity issues

facing the National Wildlife Refuge System, the next Administration must recognize that water is essential to restoring species, populations, habitats, and ecosystems.

ASK

Prioritize Refuge System water quality and quantity so that the Air and Water Resources branch of the National Wildlife Refuge System has the capacity to continue to collect and analyze data, leverage the resources of partners like the USGS and Partners for Fish and Wildlife, and apply the information to better inform management practices that will protect our wildlife for current and future generations.


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9

Stop Illegal Wildlife Trafficking and Secure $30 Million Annually for the Multinational Species Conservation Funds

In the past decade, wildlife trafficking has escalated into an international crisis. Wildlife trafficking is both a critical conservation concern and a threat to global security with significant effects on the national interests of the United States and the interests of our partners around the world. With international crime syndicates involved and helping fund terrorist groups, the crisis is not only about the possible extinction of species, but the reality of protecting Americans and our allies from terrorism. The time has come to bring to bear the full resources of the United States through the State Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to save species on the brink of extinction and to

help stop the spread of terrorism. The National Wildlife Refuge System was founded in 1903 due to the senseless slaughter of birds in Florida and numerous national wildlife refuges were created across the country to save specific species from near extinction such as the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming and National Bison Range in Montana. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a long history of working to stop poaching and educate people about the need to maintain healthy populations of wildlife. Many international wildlife agencies look to the National Wildlife Refuge System as the world leader in wildlife and fish conservation. The Service’s Wildlife Without Borders Program and Multinational Species Conservation Funds together support global partnerships to protect marine turtles, tigers and rhinos, great apes and elephants and other iconic species while sharing expertise from the Refuge System’s land managers with those of other nations. Administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Multinational Species Conservation Funds (MSCF) save some of the world’s fastest disappearing and most treasured animals in their natural habitats. These funds provide direct support in the form of technical Mountain gorilla | Richard Ruggiero, USFWS


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African elephant in Tanzania | Michelle Gadd, USFWS

and cost-sharing grant assistance to range countries for onthe-ground protection and conservation of African and Asian elephants, rhinoceroses, tigers, chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, gibbons, orangutans and marine turtles — a total of 30 charismatic and globally-important species. The funds strengthen law enforcement activities, build support for conservation among people living in the vicinity of the species’ habitats, and provide vital infrastructure and field equipment needed to conserve habitats.

ASK

Currently funded at $11 million (FY16) the true need is much greater. We request that the next President work with Congress to secure $30 million by FY 2021 for the Multinational Species Conservation Fund matched with resources from the State Department to end wildlife trafficking and help stop the spread of terrorism.

Black Rhino in Tanzania | Richard Ruggiero, USFWS


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Refuge System

Designated

Wilderness

1 Arctic NWR, AK | Steve Hillebrand, USFWS


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Expand Wilderness designations in the National Wildlife Refuge System

Wilderness is the last vestige of the American frontier spirit and represents the most pure and elemental way for Americans to connect with nature. Wilderness is not for everyone; some need more creature comforts and access to visitor facilities. But as Americans reconnect with nature, they will hunger for wilderness areas and they will need them to be accessible to their community. Nearly 110 million acres, or roughly 5% of the United States, is protected as designated wilderness and of that, over half is in Alaska. That means the rest of America’s wilderness areas are about the size of Minnesota with the largest areas in the west located in California, Arizona, Nevada, Alaska and Oregon. Some states have no designated wilderness at all: Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Rhode Island. The National Wildlife Refuge System has 20 million acres of designated wilderness on 63 refuges in 26 states. About 90 percent of the Refuge System’s wilderness is in Alaska. Some refuge wilderness areas—such as Great Swamp in New Jersey, 26 miles from Manhattan’s Times Square—are surprisingly near urban centers. Most of the National Wildlife Refuge System’s 565 units are local, are proximate to communities and offer some of the best opportunities for new wilderness areas. To facilitate the next President transmitting appropriate wilderness recommendations to Congress, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should do the following: • Update Wilderness Regulations; • Complete a Wilderness Review Handbook; • Conduct Wilderness review training for Service employees working on Comprehensive Conservation Plans and other management plans. President Obama transmitted a historic recommendation to Congress on April 3, 2015, asking Congress to designate 12.28 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and its biologically sensitive coastal plain as wilderness. This marked the first

Flowering cactus at Desert NWR, NV | Jose Witt

time since 1974 that a President had sent a refuge wilderness recommendation to Congress.

ASK

We urge the next President to follow in President Obama’s footsteps and transmit many more wilderness recommendations to Congress including: · · · · · ·

Baca NWR, CO Sevilleta NWR, NM Wichita Mountains NWR, OK Charles M. Russell NWR, MT Great Swamp NWR, NJ Areas within the Papahānaumokuākea, Pacific Remote Islands, and Rose Atoll Marine National Monuments Howland, Baker Island, Jarvis Island, Rose Atoll, Palmyra Atoll, Kingman Reef

As Americans discover the natural world, they will hunger for more designated wilderness areas to recreate, teach their children, and understand their role in the fabric of the planet. National wildlife refuges can meet this need for their local communities.


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Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, UT | Ian Shive


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Conclusion The 45th President of the United States must have the wisdom to chart a renewed course for wildlife conservation and leave a legacy that will create a connected conservation constituency for the 21st Century. The results of this connected conservation constituency include a citizenry that is renewed, invigorated, resilient and creative. We will always have enormous challenges but ensuring Americans have access to natural areas will help us meet these challenges with resolve and commitment—to our nation and to one another. As Americans reconnect to nature, we will inevitably spread our contagious enthusiasm to other peoples across the globe. We must promote the goal of reconnecting human beings to our planet and saving it not only for ourselves, but for our feathered, finned, and furbearing friends. The National Wildlife Refuge Association looks forward to working with the next President of the United States to connect Americans to the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Wisdom and chick on Midway Atoll NWR | Kiah Walker, USFWS


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Laysan albatross on Midway Atoll NWR | Brenda Zaun, USFWS

National Wildlife Refuge Association 1001 Connecticut Ave. N.W. Suite 905 Washington, D.C. 20036 www.refugeassociation.org

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