Maintaining the Biological Integrity, Diversity, and Environmental Health of the National Wildlife Refuge System
Posted: 30 Aug 2005
By 1984, selenium contamination from agricultural runoff had become so acute at Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge in California that waterfowl were dying, bird embryos were deformed, and aquatic species were disappearing. The incident raised questions about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS or Service) ability to address resource issue emanating from beyond refuge boundaries and whether the FWS had an affirmative duty to sustain wildlife on a national wildlife refuge. The landmark 1997 National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act clearly mandates affirmative stewardship responsibilities for the FWS, including a provision to maintain the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of the refuge system. While these terms are generally understood by the scientific and resource professional community, detailed prescriptions for management are less clear. I propose a simple framework that allows for integration with the existing refuge management planning process to address management issues that are clear (like the contamination at Kesterson) while establishing a longer-term research oriented approach to better understand and maintain the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of the refuge system.
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