The six most threatened National Wildlife Refuges in the United States are: Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), North Carolina; Horicon NWR, Wisconsin; Stone Lakes NWR, California; White River NWR, Arkansas; Alaska Maritime NWR, Alaska; and Desert NWR, Nevada.
The six sites were named for a variety of reasons, such as increasing human populations and planned development, but all face threats to their "buffer zones." Buffer zones, or the lands immediately surrounding a refuge, are critical to the protection of wildlife because they provide animals with additional resources needed for survival.
The State of the System report indicates that buffer zones actually have more agriculture, subdivision and other human activity than the national average. In other words, there is more development near these highly sensitive refuges than on less sensitive areas further away from them.
"Buffer zones are absolutely critical to the National Wildlife Refuge System," said Evan Hirsche, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, which issued the report. "Since many of the lands within buffer zones are privately held, we must work closely with private landowners to ensure the long-term protection of these national treasures."
The six refuges were named most threatened because:
The NWRA is urging Congress and the Administration to implement five solutions: strengthening incentives for private landowners to practice conservation; conserving more land through acquisition and easements; allocating more funds at the state level; conducting more research to determine priorities; and establishing preventative systems for shipping disasters near refuges.
The National Wildlife Refuge System contains 545 refuges and 3,000 waterfowl production areas located in all 50 states and several U.S. territories. The refuges help protect 700 bird species, 220 mammal species and 200 kinds of fish, among others.
The National Wildlife Refuge Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, nationwide membership organization, established in 1975. The NWRA's mission is to protect, enhance and expand the National Wildlife Refuge System, lands and waters set aside by the American people to protect our country's diverse wildlife heritage. Over the years we have worked to make the Refuge System stronger and better able to address the growing challenges of conserving wildlife in our country.
For more information about the NWRA, please visit www.refugenet.org.
The full report, including additional information about each refuge, is available to journalists. Interviews with Evan Hirsche, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and Photos are also available to journalists upon request.