Essay title: Wildlife Refuges
Are refuges in Trouble?
There are 542 refuges in the U.S. comprising 95 million acres of protected land. Individual refuges serve as a multitude of purposes, including protecting endangered plants and animals and their habitats, preserving wilderness areas, providing outdoor recreational and educational opportunities, and providing lands and waters for traditional uses such as hunting and fishing. One would think that from the overall ownership of land and wonderful activities that the refuges provide, animals that are threatened or endangered would be totally protected. However, it takes a lot more than one would think to keep these refuges up and running. The biggest problems that our government is facing are lack of funds and trained personnel. These two problems have led to a diverse number of complications among the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) and the Department of the Interior.
While money doesn’t make one happy, it does, however, make the world go round. Every branch in the government receives a certain portion of money, which supposedly is enough to adequately fund everything to keep the agency operating. The problem is that the overall budget that the NWRS receives is very small. This alone creates many problems within its already fragile system.
The government funding necessary to conduct research and management programs is inadequate for many species. This lack of funding often has life and death consequences on numerous species. However, public support for financing the protection of threatened and endangered species has increased over the last few decades. Much of the habitat restoration funding comes from non-profit organizations and non taxable groups. These individuals do a lot of fundraising and donating of all sorts to keep wildlife refuges going. The NWRS refers to these groups as “Refuge Friends” and they are held in high regard by many refuge employees (Wildlife Society, 2004).
The general public also helps out with many donations and other types of needed services. Much of the manual labor done on refuges can be attributed to contractors or volunteers. Since the NWRS cannot afford to hire new employees community volunteers are always a great help. Many volunteers will actually go to their local wildlife refuge and approach them with a plan of action that they devised themselves to benefit the refuge. These plans can be funded by the refuge and be given grants if backed by an organization.
Many refuges also have exotic animals and overpopulations of unwanted species. These exotic animals have been introduced and can be bad for the already established plants and animals. Many of these animals can be hunted in normal legal fashion, so a refuge may allow hunters to recreationally hunt and trap on their land. While the refuge protects much of their wildlife, sometimes there are unwanted or introduced animals that can destroy the natural habitat or out compete the threatened and endangered species. In the past five or six years about 40 refuges opened to migratory bird, upland game, and big game hunting for the first time, or have expanded hunting, all at an accelerating pace. This is very controversial as different groups that support the refuges, are now finding refuges to be a killing field instead of a haven. This new development can also detour new groups from becoming active in helping the refuges (Williams, ND)
The public can be a big decider in a refuge’s fate. Many refuges are supported and loved by their local communities, but some are actually catching flack for what they do. One of the biggest problems with a community and a refuge is the question of, what animals are to be protected. When it comes to the reintroduced wolves in Yellowstone National Park or the polar bears in the Artic refuge there is much debate. Many people find more problems with protecting the animals rather than killing them off. In fact, some wolves have been killed recently in the Artic refuge by sport hunters who use helicopters.
This brings us to who is qualified to actually being part of the NWRS? Applying for a government job in general has become increasingly harder due to a budget freeze on hiring new employees in many refuge areas. The existing employees have to work extra hard to keeping their jobs, for the little pay they receive. These complications have led to the founding of a group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This group invented a survey called the Peer survey (Final Policy, 1999).
The PEER survey asks questions to NWRS employees and management about what concerns them and what could change. Despite a two-thirds rise in federal funding for the Refuge System since 1997, more than nine in ten refuge managers say that funds “continue to decline in real terms.” This shows that the problem for funding has been ignored for far