WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, and Tom Carper (D-Del.), EPW Committee Chairman, introduced legislation to support our National Wildlife Refuge System. The Keep America’s Refuges Operational Act will reauthorize appropriations for the National Wildlife Refuge System volunteer, educational, and community partnership program, an initiative that helps ensure public access to national refuges for exploring, hunting, fishing, and studying wildlife.

“The Keep America’s Refuges Operational Act of 2022 reauthorizes volunteer, community, and educational programs that will support America’s wildlife refuges. Some of our greatest assets are our lands and waters, and this legislation ensures that citizens can continue to volunteer and play a role in the National Wildlife Refuge System and preserve it for future generations,” Senator Capito said. 

“National Wildlife Refuges are natural treasures for all Americans to enjoy. We especially saw the importance of our national public lands, including refuges, during the pandemic, when these critical wildlife habitats also served the public as safe outdoor spaces for recreation—thanks, in large part, to the hard work of dedicated volunteers. I’m delighted to introduce the Keep America’s Refuges Operational Act to support these volunteers and our refuges, and just in time to mark World Migratory Bird Day this Saturday. People come from around the world to see migratory birds at Delaware’s two national wildlife refuges, and volunteers are critical in helping these visitors have the experience of a lifetime,” Senator Carper said.

America’s 568 National Wildlife Refuges are located in all 50 states and the five territories. They make up 850 million acres of pristine public lands and waters dedicated to the conservation of fish and wildlife. West Virginia is home to two wildlife refuge areas: The Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge in Pleasants County, W.Va. and the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Tucker County, W.Va.

Wildlife refuge volunteers are individuals who want to give back to their communities, parents who want to be good stewards of the land and set examples for their children, retired people willing to share their wealth of knowledge, concerned citizens of all ages who want to learn more about conservation, and passionate people who enjoy the outdoors and want to spread the word about America's greatest natural treasures. Their contribution is significant: in Fiscal Year 2021, more than 11,000 volunteers donated 68,879 hours of their time to benefit the National Wildlife Refuge System. The value of their time contribution is equal to $18.5 million and equivalent to 318 full-time refuge staff.

The bill is supported by: The American Bird Conservancy; American Fisheries Society; American Hiking Society; American Sportfishing Association; U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates; Defenders of Wildlife; Ducks Unlimited; Izaak Walton League of America; National Audubon Society; National Wildlife Federation; National Wildlife Refuge Association; The Nature Conservancy; The Wilderness Society; Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership; and Trout Unlimited.

Full text of the bill can be found here. 

# # #