(Above) Senator Coons joins National Wildlife Refuge System Chief Jim Kurth at a Congressional briefing on the findings of a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study.
Every year, millions of bird watchers, hikers, hunters, fishermen, and outdoor enthusiasts visit the National Wildlife Refuge System, our nation’s extensive network of preserved lands and waters dedicated to conserving wildlife. President Theodore Roosevelt created the first wildlife refuge in Florida in 1903 and since then, the system has grown to a network of over 560 refuges encompassing more than 150 million acres. In Delaware alone, every year more than 200,000 people visit Prime Hook and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuges, which represent some of the best examples of pristine tidal saltmarsh and wetlands on the East Coast.
This week, Senator Coons joined National Wildlife Refuge System Chief Jim Kurth at a Congressional briefing to share the findings of a new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study of the economic benefits of the refuge system. The report entitled, “Banking on Nature” quantifies the revenue generated for local and regional economies by refuges across the country, including Delaware’s very own Bombay Hotoutsok and Prime Hook. From 2006-2011, over 46 million people visited the National Wildlife Refuge System generating a total of $2.4 billion in economic output. Considering that every $1 of investment in the refuge system yields around $5 for the economy, national wildlife refuges are among our most productive national investments.
Wildlife refuges fuel the economic growth of surrounding communities by attracting visitors that support local economies when they pay for travel arrangements and buy food, supplies, accommodations, and other products and services. Refuges also give visitors and nearby residents access to the sights of waterfowl migration and gorgeous views of the landscape, which are free for all to enjoy. Additional ecosystem services provided by our coastal refuges include water filtration, flood mitigation, and healthy fish populations, solidifying their place as valuable natural assets.
In October, Chris led a resolution with Senators Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) recognizing the importance of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The bi-partisan resolution, S. Res. 296, to designate the week of October 13th, 2013 as National Wildlife Refuge Week was adopted November 14 by unanimous consent. Chris led similar resolutions designating National Wildlife Refuge Week in 2011 and 2012.