Wildlife Refuges: Changes in Funding, Staffing, and Other Factors Create Concerns about Future Sustainability
The National Wildlife Refuge System, which is administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service in the Department of the Interior, comprises 585 refuges on more than 96 million acres of land and water that preserve habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds, threatened and endangered species, and other wildlife. Refuges also provide wildlife-related activities such as hunting and fishing to nearly 40 million visitors every year. GAO was asked to (1) describe changing factors that the refuge system experienced from fiscal years 2002 through 2007, including funding and staffing changes, and (2) examine how habitat management and visitor services changed during this period. We surveyed all refuges; visited 19 refuges in 4 regions; and interviewed refuge, regional, and national officials. In commenting on a draft of this report, the Department of the Interior made technical comments that we have incorporated as appropriate. GAO is not making recommendations in this report.