Habitat Conservation

Protecting National Wildlife Refuges

America’s National Wildlife Refuge System is the world’s largest network of protected areas dedicated to wildlife conservation. For more than a century, the refuge system has been integral to bringing species such as the whooping crane back from the brink of extinction. Each year, tens of millions of people visit and enjoy national wildlife refuges in every U.S. state and territory, infusing nearly $1.74 billion into local economies and creating more than 32,500 U.S. jobs.

Major Threats

  • Climate Change: From melting polar ice to rising sea levels to the drying out of wetlands, climate change is one of the greatest threats facing national wildlife refuges and the wildlife that depend on them.
  • Insufficient Funding: The National Wildlife Refuge System faces a multibillion dollar backlog and continued funding shortfalls will force refuges to fall further behind in their mission to conserve America’s wildlife.
  • Oil Industry: Big Oil and their political benefactors continue to call for drilling on many refuges, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most pristine landscapes on the planet and the most important onshore denning habitat for America’s polar bears.

What Defenders Is Doing to Help Protect National Wildlife Refuges

For decades, Defenders of Wildlife has been a strong advocate for legislation and policies to protect this precious network of wild areas. For example, we pushed for the sweeping National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, which strengthened the management of refuges. We’ve also been actively involved in the development of a new vision for the refuge system that was released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in October 2011.

Defenders is an active member of the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE), which is working to help the refuge system fight its serious funding problem.

We also mobilize our own supporters to write or call their representatives and express their support for protecting the refuge system. For example, in 2011, more than 160,000 supporters sent messages to support protecting the Arctic Refuge’s coastal from oil and gas development.

Learn more about National Wildlife Refuges. >>

Learn more about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. >>

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Fact Sheet
Known as "prairie ghosts" because they are so elusive, the Sonoran pronghorn (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis) is the fastest land mammal in North America. Smaller and lighter in color than other pronghorn subspecies, it is uniquely adapted for survival in harsh arid conditions.
Where We Work
Defenders of Wildlife's Northwest office has a reputation for being creative in its approach to conserving biodiversity and habitat. Working with many partners, we develop new conservation tools and promote cooperation among diverse interests in both the Pacific Northwest and nationally.
Habitat Conservation
Defenders of Wildlife is working to protect and strengthen the National Wildlife Refuge System, the only system of federal lands in the United States dedicated to wildlife conservation.