National Geographic : 1996 Oct
Aconfederacy of wildlife Theodore Roosevelt might well grin to see the brood of federal ref uges hatched since he set aside Florida's Pelican Island in 1903. Early growth concentrated on waterfowl flyways and nesting grounds, then went on to span the nation and protect other wildlife. Now serious challenges face the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, stewards of 92.3 million acres- more than that under the National Park Service. With slim budgets, managers struggle to oversee more than 500 refuges while reconciling conflicts arising from secondary uses from hiking and hunting to logging, mining, and military needs. Recent proposals in Congress have sought to undermine the primacy of wildlife preservation by placing other uses on a legal par. '- vy ,-^f e(I Manan -delphia - eague Island t S at. Seashore O hincoteague Wallops Island C(hesapeake MANAGING BIODIVERSITY MANAGING BIODIVERSITY * Wildlife refuge Wetland Scale varies in this perspective. NGSCARTOGRAPHIC DIVISION Freshwater lagoons, beaches, and islets are parts of refuges Desecheo in the Caribbean. Sea turtles Culebra and seabirds visit Culebra. g Two endemic lizard species live gin on tiny Desecheo. (r ihbean a I Islands Birds and big game were first systematically pro tected by Theodore Roosevelt, who created more than 50 refuges. Duck stamps sold to hunters after 1934 paid for refuges where Dust Bowl drought devastated waterfowl and habitat. Biodiversity is the goal for managers who care for more than 700 species of birds, 220 of mammals, 250 of reptiles and amphibians, 200 of fish, and innumerable species of plants. Critical species and habitat can be sustained only by managing on an ecosystem-wide basis. Natu ral areas must be linked by corridors, or they become biological islands. Threatened and endangered species-a fifth of all U.S. plants and animals so listed-are sup ported on 55 refuges created for that purpose. Urban refuges offer breathing space for animals and humans on the doorsteps of San Francisco, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C .