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National Wildlife Refuge Week

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. KAUFMAN. Mr. President, I rise to speak on a resolution I submitted today with Senators CRAPO and CARDIN to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week and honor the extraordinary National Wildlife Refuge System. I am pleased that so many of my colleagues have joined me to cosponsor this resolution.

President Theodore Roosevelt established the first national wildlife refuge on Florida's Pelican Island in 1903. He was a renowned naturalist, an avid hunter, and is considered to be one of the greatest conservation leaders in American history.

Roosevelt was spurred to action after witnessing a dramatic decline in bird and animal populations across the country due to unregulated and unsustainable hunting. A sportsman himself, Roosevelt saw a great need to conserve our nation's natural resources not only for the benefit of his generation but for future generations as well.

President Roosevelt set out this basic principle when he said:

I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land. But I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.

He was a man of action. Over the course of Presidency, Roosevelt would establish more than 50 Federal bird reserves which would become the foundation of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Today, the Refuge System has grown to more than 150 million acres, 552 national wildlife refuges, and 38 wetland management districts. These lands are truly American treasures and important parts of our natural heritage.

The Refuge System is a magnificent network of lands and waters dedicated to wildlife conservation. It is exceptionally diverse, encompassing every kind of ecosystem in the United States, including forests, wetlands, deserts, grasslands, tundras, and remote islands.

National wildlife refuges are critical to the broad goals of wildlife conservation to both keep common species common and to protect and restore imperiled species. Refuges do this well. They are home to an incredible amount of biodiversity, including over 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species, and more than 1,000 species of fish. Furthermore, of the more than 1,200 federally listed threatened and endangered species in the United States, 280 are found on national wildlife refuges.

The incredible resources available through the National Wildlife Refuge System offer a variety of recreational opportunities including hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, photography, hiking, boating, environmental education, and so much more. In fact, hunting and fishing is permitted on hundreds of refuges, providing opportunities for over 2.5 million hunters and more than 7 million anglers.

National wildlife refuges also provide children and families a unique opportunity to explore and learn about wildlife and the outdoors. A third of U.S. children and teens are overweight or close to it. Playing outside and engaging with the natural world can get our children active, and studies show that it can also reduce stress, improve attention and cooperation, and open children's imagination and creativity.

Refuges also afford service opportunities for local residents. Every year 39,000 volunteers and over 220 refuge ``Friends'' organizations contribute nearly 1.4 million hours of their time to lead educational programs, guide tours, restore habitat, maintain trails, and offer their time and energy in other important ways. Their efforts are worth the equivalent of 665 full-time employees.

National wildlife refuges are important to local businesses and gateway communities. Each year, refuges draw 41 million visitors, generating nearly $1.7 billion and 27,000 jobs for local economies. Refuges are also a good investment for the American people. For every $1 appropriated, refuges generate $4 in economic activity.

Since 1995 refuges across the country have held festivals, educational programs, guided tours, and other events to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week during the second week of October. This year Refuge Week will take place from October 10 to 17.

There is much to celebrate. For over a century, the National Wildlife Refuge System has served to conserve our wildlife heritage, provide recreational opportunities for our communities, and support for local economies. With at least one refuge located in every State and within an hour's drive of every metropolitan area across the Nation, we can all take part in National Wildlife Refuge Week.

In my home State of Delaware, we are fortunate to have two national wildlife refuges: Bombay Hook and Prime Hook. The tens of thousands of acres of freshwater wetlands and tidal salt marshes these refuges protect are considered some of the best on the Atlantic coast and provide critical habitat for waterfowl migrating between Canada and Mexico. In fact, the American Bird Conservancy has recognized Bombay Hook as one of America's 100 important Bird Areas.

Bombay Hook and Prime Hook are also incredible places to visit and enjoy. Bombay Hook host over 100,000 visitors a year, and the Great Outdoor Recreation Pages, GORP magazine recently rated the refuge as one of the top Ten most scenic drives in the United States. Furthermore, studies show that visitors of Prime Hook generate over $1.21 million and nearly 20 jobs a year in the local Sussex County economy.

I am proud to join my colleagues in sponsoring this resolution to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week and honor the National Wildlife Refuge System.

As President Roosevelt once said:

It is not what we have that will make us a great Nation. It is the way in which we use it.

We must continue the legacy of President Roosevelt and work to conserve our wildlife heritage for current and future generations.

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