5 Reasons to Celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week

by Jon D. B.

The second week of October is National Wildlife Refuge Week, and celebrating America’s conservation network is what being an Outsider is all about.

Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, October 10 – 16, 2021 highlights the incredible lands, waters, and everything in-between that conserves and protects the precious wildlife heritage of America.

From 5K Walk for the Wild events across the continent to local refuge celebrations, there’s plenty to get Outsiders engaged as a community. Each exemplifies our love of our wide open spaces, and few things are better for our health than being in the great outdoors. And that’s exactly where our list begins.

#1: Health and Happiness

(Photo Credit: Toomas Tartes / Unsplash)

As the USFWS points out: “We are hard-wired to crave contact with nature.” It’s in our blood; our very being.

There’s an ever-growing, immense body of research that shows how utilizing our national wildlife refuges and great outdoors improves our mental health, but also our physical well-being.

Whether you prefer hiking or family foraging, outdoor yoga or fly fishing, there’s no better reason to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week than getting outside.

“Just being out in nature helps a lot with mental health,” offers Juan Lopez, Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge researcher, for USFWS.

“For me, just to be out there, it’s just heaven,” adds biochemist Tim Keung, a participator of spring and summer outdoor yoga classes at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

#2: Recreation at it’s Finest

Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This one’s a no brainer for us Outsiders, but it will always be worth repeating.

America’s national wildlife refuges are some of the premiere outdoor recreation destinations on the planet. We’ve got it all: hunting and fishing, birding, hiking, paddling, and this wildlife tech’s favorites, wildlife viewing and nature photography.

“All these activities offer people a chance to unplug from the stresses of modern life and to also reconnect with their natural surroundings,” the USFWS details.

Truer words were never spoken. Find a refuge near you with the USFWS’s handy guide.

#3: Education is Paramount

(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Moreover, our U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides a host of educational resources. Specifically, the USFWS’s work with American teachers is helping educate our future leaders on the importance of wildlife conservation.

Through free-to-download resources like lesson plans, student activity guides and curricula that meet state and national standards, there’s plenty of ways to get students involved with National Wildlife Refuge Week.

#4: Wildfire Prevention

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times, Getty Images)

Our reality today sees wildfires raging at unprecedented rates. USFWS wildlife refuges help reduce risks from catastrophic wildfires tremendously. Refuge fire managers burn, cut and chemically treat overgrown brush, trees and logging debris that fuel wildfires every year. And the work is more important now than ever before.

“We also implement projects hand in hand with communities to protect them from wildfire,” cites Chris Wilcox, chief of the Refuge System Branch of Fire Management.

In addition, controlled burns greatly improve future wildlife habitat. They also reduce the cost of suppressing major wildfires.

#5: Wildlife Conservation, the Heart of National Wildlife Refuge Week

Yellowstone NP, Fountain Flats, Bison Cow With Calf. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

As important as each element of our wildlife refuges are – at the heart of it all is wildlife conservation.

USFWS’s core value for National Wildlife Refuge Week is, after all: “conserving America’s rich fish and wildlife heritage.”

Some of Earth’s most successful conservation stories take place right here in America. It’s hard to fathom now, but many of us Outsiders are old enough to remember a time when bald eagles, alligators, grizzly bears, and California condors were on the brink of total extinction. Less than five decades ago, each of these hallmark species was on their way out forever.

Thanks to the breadth of USFWS’s wildlife conservation work, however, they now thrive. A few core examples are:

To learn more about the wildlife conservation happening in your state, check out the USFWS’s handy map here. And as always, stick with your fellow Outsiders as we celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week this October.