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From one-ton bison to half-ounce warblers, the National Wildlife Refuge System contains a priceless gift – the heritage of a wild America that was, and is. The mission of the Refuge System is to manage a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitat.
The Refuge System maintains the biological integrity, diversity and environmental health of these natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans. Caring for fish, wildlife and plant populations and their habitat is the essence of the science of wildlife management as well as the newer disciplines of conservation biology and ecosystem management.
In addition to its premier task of conserving wildlife, the Refuge System also manages six wildlife-dependent recreational uses:
Nearly 40 million people visit national wildlife refuges each year. Their spending generates almost $1.7 billion in sales for regional economies. As this spending flowed through the economy, nearly 27,000 people were employed and $542.8 million in employment income was generated (see Banking on Nature 2007).
Visitors and local communities recognize refuges as national treasures: