Close to 1 billion acres of protected lands and waters are part of the National Wildlife Refuge System in the U.S., all providing habitat for thousands of species and unrivaled outdoor recreational access for millions of Americans. As we celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week highlighting this incredible system of protected habitats, here are some fun facts to keep in mind or to have at the ready for your weekly trivia contest! 

  1. The National Wildlife Refuge System includes more than 95 million acres of land and 850 million marine acres. There is a refuge in all states and five U.S. territories. 

    2016.10.29 - Beaver in Water - Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge - Wisconsin - Larry Palmer - USFWS
    Larry Palmer/USFWS
  2. The nation’s first national wildlife refuge was established by President Theodore Roosevelt on March 14, 1903, for the protection of the last remaining nesting habitat for Brown Pelicans and increased habitat for other wildlife.  Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is on Florida’s Atlantic Coast.  

  3. Nearly 68 million people visit national wildlife refuges each year and the system includes more than 2,100 miles of public walking trails and boardwalks.  

  4. The largest refuge is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is roughly the size of South Carolina. It is home to all three North American bears—polar bears, brown bears and black bears. There are no roads, established trails, or facilities of any type within the refuge's 19 million acres. 

    2015.10.03 - Polar Bear Mother With Cub - Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - Alaska - Debbie Tubridy
    Debbie Tubridy/2015 TNWA Photography
  5. A refuge can be made by an act of Congress or by presidential executive action – every president since Theodore Roosevelt has established at least one national wildlife refuge during his tenure. President Franklin Roosevelt holds the record for establishing the most refuges by executive order at a whopping 140.  

BONUS FACT: Just this week, the Department of the Interior announced two new refuges to the National Wildlife Refuge System, established through executive action by President Biden. The first refuge is the Wyoming Toad Conservation Area in Wyoming. The second is the Paint Rock River National Wildlife Refuge in Tennessee, bringing the total number of national wildlife refuges to 570.  


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