WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Center for American Progress’ new Public Lands Project hosted its first event today, featuring Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar who spoke about the America’s Great Outdoors initiative and unveiled his new vision for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Secretary Salazar announced a draft vision plan to guide the growth and management of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
The vision document – “Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation” – was developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Wildlife Refuge Association and offers nearly 100 draft recommendations to protect and improve the world’s premier system of public lands and water set aside to conserve America’s fish, wildlife and plants for the continuing benefit of the American people.
The Conserving the Future process comes on the heels of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative to develop a conservation and outdoor recreation agenda for the 21st century. The process to develop a new vision for the Refuge System goes hand-in-hand with many of the priorities identified through the America’s Great Outdoors national dialogue, including greater access to recreation and connecting a new generation of conservationists to the outdoors.
“The National Wildlife Refuge System is one of the crown jewels of our conservation efforts and we must ensure that the System has the tools and vision to meet the challenges of tomorrow,” Salazar said. “I encourage all Americans to participate in the Conserving the Future process and to voice their bold ideas about the future priorities and management of our national wildlife refuges.”
There are 553 national wildlife refuges with at least one in every state and U.S. territory. Spanning more than 150 million acres of land and water, the Refuge System conserves wildlife habitat for hundreds of animal and plant species and includes more than 20 million acres of designated wilderness. The last time a vision statement was articulated for the System was 1999.
Some of the draft vision’s recommendations include:
- Engage youth in an array of work and volunteer programs;
- Review the Appropriate Use Policy, so a wider variety of nature-based experiences may be possible;
- Increase the number of minorities and people with disabilities who work for the Refuge System, within the next 10 years, in part by reaching high school and college youth from diverse communities and exposing them to Service conservation careers;
- Develop a five-year plan to “green” the Refuge System;
- Encourage a ‘Friends’ group for every staffed refuge; there are now about 230 Friends groups;
- Develop standards for credibility, efficiency and consistent application of science in planning and management;
- Work with state fish and wildlife agencies, to prepare a strategy to double youth participation in hunting and fishing by 2020, paying special attention to individuals of all ages with disabilities.