By Ronda Roaring

There are 539 refuges in the 94 million acres that comprise the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS). From the smallest—the half-mile Mille Lacs in Minnesota— to the largest terrestrial refuge—the 19.6 million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—each is a jewel in this country’s wildlife crown. The NWRS is the world’s largest network of public lands and water set aside specifically to protect wildlife. It provides home to such endangered species as the Key deer, the Karner blue butterfly, the red-cockaded woodpecker, the black-footed ferret, and the Arethusa orchid to name just a few. In addition, these refuges provide homes to thousands of other plants and animals who depend on these unique habitats for their survival.

Jake and April at a refuge protest by C.A.S.H. as part of NYSCA campaign

All of these refuges where established by Congress, many as “inviolate” sanctuaries. As with everything else Congress gets its grubby little hands on, the NWRS has been subject to a lot of influence peddling. Consequently, in the 1980s, refuges were required to be open to all “compatible uses.” Wildlife then had to “co-exist” with hunting, fishing, trapping, jet-skiing, cattle grazing, dune-buggy racing, oil drilling, and the activities of the U.S. military.

Finally, in the 1990s, the pro-wildlife Clinton supporters got together and enacted The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act which directed that “conservation” be the System’s primary purpose. This eliminated some of the detrimental activities but not all and especially not hunting, fishing, and trapping, which continue on many refuges.

The Improvement Act also required that refuges file a comprehensive conservation plan every 15 years. Because these plans are subject to public input, hunters, anglers, and trappers can put pressure on refuge managers to continue to permit these activities. In addition, the waterfowl hunting community has misled the public into thinking that they buy refuge land because they are required to buy a $15 duck stamp, the proceeds of which do go toward the acquisition of refuge land. What they don’t tell you is that, being sold at U.S. post offices, duck stamps can be purchased by anyone, and many people do buy and collect them, not just waterfowl hunters.

You are concerned about wildlife, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this. Here are some things you can do to help return refuges to their original purpose.

Write a letter to the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, telling him you are opposed to hunting, fishing, and trapping being allowed on refuges. Write to: Dr. Steve Williams, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1849 C St., NW, Washington, DC 20240. Send a copy of your letter to the managers of the refuges in your state. You can get this information at

Write to your representative and senators in Congress, telling them you are opposed to oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Make sure they are too. If they aren’t, organize a letter-writing campaign to put pressure on them to change their views.

Check with the manager of the refuge near you and see when the next 15-year plan is due. Tell the manager you want to receive a draft of the plan so you can make comments.

Ronda Roaring is Executive Director of the New York State Coalition for Animals, 571 South Danby Rd., Spencer, NY 14883, 607-589-4031,


Contact Us

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
P.O. Box 562
New Paltz, NY 12561