December 2018

What part of "refuge" do you not understand? I hear that question frequently. As our Refuge's new Visitor Services Plan nears completion, some have expressed alarm that it allows for some new, albeit limited opportunities for hunting on the Refuge. But hunting on refuges is not new. Since the 1934 passage of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act (Duck Stamp Act), hunters have been a major source of funding for National Wildlife Refuges through the purchase of duck stamps. Hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and environmental education and interpretation were designated by Congress as priority uses of the National Wildlife Refuge System in the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997.

The public meetings on the proposed new Visitor Services Plan were attended by a number of hunters, many of whom had stories to tell from when they were little. They remember their fathers bringing them into the Refuge interior on family hunting trips, in the years before most hunting and access to the interior were prohibited. Now they have children of their own, but it’s an experience and a way of life they can't share with them. They were hopeful that that could change with the new plan, and very grateful in feeling that their voices had been heard.

Refuges are not just for wildlife; they're for people, too, people of all shapes and sizes and interests. Without people who care enough to protect them, there would be no refuges. Ours almost became the first refuge in the country to lose its designation as a National Wildlife Refuge. Other refuges around the country are also under threat, in one way or another. We need all the advocates we can get. We don't have to agree on every issue. Our strength lies in the issue where we all do agree, that the preservation of some of our nation's most important wildlife habitat and of our National Wildlife Refuge System is key to the survival of our native wildlife.

For the latest updates on the new Visitor Services Plan, visit:
www.fws.gov/refuge/ARM_Loxahatchee/about/Visitor_Services_Planning.html