On January 11, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported that Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar visited the Centennial Trail Boardwalk at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida — America’s first national wildlife refuge — to add new planks to the boardwalk, which features a plank for every refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today celebrated the establishment of six new national wildlife refuge units during the past year and the renaming of a seventh in honor of a late Fish and Wildlife Service director by laying commemorative planks on a walkway at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s first refuge.
“Each time we establish a new national wildlife refuge, we set aside a treasured landscape, conserving our priceless fish and wildlife and their habitat not only for this generation but for future generations,” said Salazar. “We also provide a place for people to connect with nature through fishing, hunting, hiking and other outdoor recreation. This not only restores the spirit and refreshes the mind but also supports economic growth and jobs in local communities.”
Last year, more than 47 million people visited the nation’s 561 national wildlife refuges, Salazar noted. These visits generated over $2.6 billion in economic activity and supported more than 36,000 jobs.
The new planks include:
Valle del Oro National Wildlife Refuge
This urban refuge in Albuquerque, N.M. was established through the acquisition of 390 acres of Valley Gold Farms, a former dairy and hay farm. It is within a 30-minute drive of half of New Mexico’s population, providing ample outdoor recreation and education opportunities. With its outstanding birding and outdoor recreational opportunities, Valle del Oro will also be an economic engine for local communities.
Rio Mora National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area
This refuge near Mora, N.M., will ultimately protect and manage up to 300,000 acres of one of the most significant grassland landscapes of North America. The refuge is possible because of a generous donation by the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust of 4,200 acres. The Thaw’s donation of the ranch and their support for ongoing environmental education, research, and habitat management in north central New Mexico will provide endless opportunities for the local community to connect or reconnect with the great outdoors.
Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge
This refuge, located in southeastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois, will restore wetlands, prairie and oak savanna as well as provide new and expanded recreational opportunities for environmental education, interpretation and other wildlife-dependent recreation for the estimated 3.5 million people within 30 miles of the project area.
Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area
This refuge, made possible by the donation of easements by Louis Bacon on his Blanca and Trinchera ranches, will conserve a wildlife corridor in the Southern Rockies that spans some 170,000 acres. When completed, the two easements will represent the largest donation ever to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Swan Valley Conservation Area
The Montana refuge helps connect the Canadian Rockies with the central Rockies of Idaho and Wyoming. The Fish and Wildlife Service established the refuge in partnership with landowners who voluntarily entered their lands into easements. It will protect one of the last low-elevation, coniferous forest ecosystems in western Montana that remains undeveloped and provide habitat for species such as grizzly bears, gray wolves, wolverines, and Canada lynx.
Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge
The Fish and Wildlife Service worked in voluntary partnership with ranchers and other stakeholders to create this refuge that combines traditional public land acquisition strategies with conservation strategies for private working lands. The refuge and conservation area ultimately will include a 50,000- acre publicly owned national wildlife refuge and 100,000 acres of land that will remain in private ownership under conservation easements. It will connect existing conservation lands; create wildlife corridors; enhance water quality, quantity and storage; protect rare species; and provide opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation.
Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge
In February 2012, Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, located just south of Starkville, Mississippi, was renamed the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee Wildlife Refuge to memorialize one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s greatest leaders. The late Sam Hamilton was the Service’s 15th Director from September 2009 to February 2010. Under his leadership, vision, and guidance, both as Director and the Southeast Regional Director for 12 years, the service began moving away from opportunistic conservation in favor of landscape-level conservation to protect entire ecosystems.