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Cooperative Alliance
for Refuge Enhancement

by CARE Staff

When CARE started in 1996, the refuge system operations and maintenance budget was $170 million; today it is nearly $434 million

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The Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) is a national coalition of 22 wildlife, sporting, conservation, and scientific organizations. Together, these organizations represent a national constituency numbering more than 14 million Americans. Working together, and with the support of more than 200 refuge Friends groups, CARE educates Congress, the Administration and the public about America's magnificent National Wildlife Refuge System. CARE also works closely with the Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus, a bipartisan group of 108 members of the U.S. House of Representatives from 34 states. Members of the Refuge Caucus recognize the intrinsic and economic importance of refuges and work together to secure strong investments to protect, conserve, and pass down these irreplaceable landscapes to future generations. America's National Wildlife Refuge System, comprising 150 million acres, requires a minimum of $900 million annually to operate adequately. The recent CARE report finds that there are several problems:

Refuges face a $3.3 billion backlog in deferred maintenance and operations funding. Washed-out trails, leaking roofs, closed roads, and broken equipment are just a few of the problems currently waiting to be addressed on refuges nationwide. Unless funding is secured to address the backlog, many refuge facilities could deteriorate beyond repair.

Crime is a big problem in the Refuge System, yet only 213 officers patrol its more than 150 million acres. A minimum of 209 additional officers are needed (at an additional annual cost of $31.4 million) to protect refuge visitors and respond to crimes that include drug production and dealing, wildlife poaching, illegal border activity, assaults, and a variety of natural resource violations.

The Refuge System is fighting a losing battle against invasive plants and animals. Approximately 2.5 million acres of refuge lands are overrun with non-native invasive plants, while more than 4,000 invasive animal populations ravage millions more acres. The Refuge System needs at least $25 million per year to treat just one-third of its infested plant acreage and begin low-level control of invasive animals. With the recent addition of more than 50 million acres of marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean, the Refuge System faces increased management, coordination, restoration, and law enforcement challenges. These increased responsibilities carry a price tag of between $18 and $35 million annually.

When CARE started in 1996, the refuge system operations and maintenance budget was $170 million; today it is nearly $434 million. This is a great accomplishment. Still, the operations and maintenance backlog remains daunting. (Today it is $3.5 billion.)

CARE regularly sends letters to Congress and submits written testimony to the Appropriations Committee, urging increased appropriations to address the Refuge System's needs and its backlog. Raising the profile of the Refuge System and getting more funding to address the Refuge System's needs are the main goals of CARE. You can help make that possible through the following 6 steps.

1. Visit your local refuges, and bring along family and friends. Whether you are engaged in fishing, wildlife-watching, wildlife photography, environmental education, etc, the refuges are the ideal places to be.

2. Connect with the Friends Group at the refuge of your choosing.

3. Get your organization to support the work of your local refuge. And find ways to connect the refuge to local community events (e.g., business, schools, etc.).

4. Write letters to your local paper concerning the daunting funding issues surrounding the Refuge System.

5. Send a letter about the federal funding of refuges to your Senators and Representative in Washington DC.

6. Send a letter to your Senators and Representative in Washington, DC about the importance of funding.

At the same time that the general operations and maintenance backlog for the Refuge System has reached $2.7 billion, transportation needs for the Refuge System grow. The Federal Highway Administration and the Department of the Interior inventory and condition assessment show a backlog of needs of $2.1 billion to address the transportation infrastructure of the Refuge System.

In the last half-dozen years, over $94 million worth of transportation improvements were made on Refuges. The improvements increased access for the local public and tourists, increasing recreational opportunities for anglers, bird-watchers, hunters, and many other people who enjoy wildlife. The funds used to pay for improvements to refuge roads and parking lots also help provide jobs to local contractors in the states where the improvements are being made. Unfortunately, the $17-20 million annually that the Refuge System currently receives for roads, bridges, and parking lots is insufficient.

Reprinted with permission from www.refugeassociation.org

For more information, please visit www.refugeassociation.org or call 202-292-3961.


Related Info:

Sustainable Community Development Through Travel
Saving Our Oceans
American Land Conservancy
Keeping Our State Parks Open
A Vision for 2012 and Beyond

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