The National Wildlife Refuge System is the only system of federal lands in the U.S. dedicated primarily to conserving wildlife and their habitats. But what happens when Congress doesn’t give our refuges the funding they need? Defenders of Wildlife and 20 other organizations that make up the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) released a report this week that sheds light on that very question.
Restoring America’s Wildlife Refuges 2011: Assets for All Americans points to a long history of inadequate funding that has left the Refuge System struggling to fulfill its conservation mission. For example, in 2010, the Refuge System:
- had an average of only $3.36 to spend per acre to manage and protect more than 150 million acres of land and water.
- had to leave 87% of the 2.5 million acres overrun with invasive plants untreated.
- could only afford to employ 213 of the recommended 845 law enforcement officers needed to protect refuge resources and visitors.
- faced a more than $3.3 billion backlog of important operations and maintenance projects.
Though still far below what’s needed, small budget increases over the past few years have offered hope for our refuges. Unfortunately, some members of Congress want to turn back the clock on funding to 2008. That would mean cutting $69 million from the Refuge System’s already stretched budget, forcing habitat management projects to be scaled back further and critical staff positions to be eliminated. That’s why CARE is urging Congress to maintain a steady investment in the Refuge System and keep these special places on the right path to protect America’s wildlife.
Watch this video by Defenders’ Federal Lands Director Peter Nelson to find out how funding our refuges helps protect the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.