Washington, DC - Today, the Senate unanimously passed H.R. 4973, the National Wildlife Refuge Volunteer Improvement Act of 2010, which would reauthorize the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) volunteer programs and require the development of a strategy to better engage volunteers in the work of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee said: "As the Chair of the Environment Committee, I am pleased that the Senate was able to pass this legislation today to help ensure our nation's treasured wildlife refuges have the support they need from volunteers and organizations across the country. There are dozens of wildlife refuges in California alone. This is a step in the right direction for preserving some of California's - and the nation's - most pristine lands for future generations."

This legislation would reauthorize the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) National Wildlife Refuge volunteer and partnership programs from 2011-2014. Under those programs, the USFWS coordinates the activities of volunteers, nonprofit organizations, state or local agencies, and other entities that support wildlife refuges. It also requires the Secretary of the Interior to submit a report to Congress that evaluates the accomplishments of the volunteer program, the community partnerships program, and the refuge education programs authorized under the Act, and make recommendations for improving the effectiveness of such programs.

The bill, which was introduced by Congressman Frank Kratovil (D-MD), passed the House by voice vote on July 13, 2010 and was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on November 30, 2010. H.R. 4973 will now go to the President for his signature.