47 ELR 10042 ENVIRONMENTAL LAW REPORTER 1-2017
acres of grasslands, wetlands, scrub, longleaf pine savannas,
and catt le ranches that extend from the outskirts of met-
ropolitan Orlando, through the Kissimmee R iver Valley,
down to Lake Okeechobee.3
Recognizing the need for preserving these lands, the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in 2012 established
the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge,
which would protect 150,000 acres of habitat in central
Florida. rough the use of both fee simple acquisition to
create biological reser ves and conser vation easements that
would limit development on working lands, FWS aims to
“protect and restore one of the great grassland and savanna
landscapes of eastern North America,” which is “one of the
nation’s prime areas of biological diversity.”4
is Article explores how this landscape-level approach
to conservation may not only support the connected net-
work of conservation lands necessary for the long-term
viability of species such as Florida’s black bear, but a lso
help the National Wildlife Refuge System (Refuge System)
realize its conservation mission and restoration potential
under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement
Act. e Article begins with an overview of the Refuge Sys-
tem, including its origins, history, and legislative reform.
Part II examines the evolution of refuges’ conservation role
throughout the years, from a vision of them as “anchor
points” to one t hat acknowledges the need for landscape-
level approaches. Part III then proles t he Everglades
Headwaters National Wildlife Ref uge, a nd explains how
it serves as a long-awaited model for rea lizing the Refuge
System’s mission of administering a national network of
lands and waters for conservation and advancing ecologi-
cal restoration. Part IV identies some of the challenges
to successful implementation of this landscape-level initia-
tive, and ma kes a few recommendations for maximizing
conservation and restoration benets.
I. The National Wildlife Refuge System
e mission of the Refuge System “is to administer a
national network of lands and waters for conservation,
management, and where appropriate, restoration of the
sh, wildlife a nd plant resources and their habitats within
the United States for the benet of present and future gen-
erations of Americans.”5 e Refuge System is the only
federal land that is managed chiey for wildlife conserva-
tion.6 Today, it includes more than 560 national wildlife
3. U.S. F W S (FWS), E H
N W R, P P P, P 1
4 P G E S H C
I, P, O, I R, O, H
C, F 4 (2010).
4. Establishment of Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and
Conservation Area, 77 Fed. Reg. 2754-55 (Jan. 19, 2012).
6. M J. B M J. R, T E N
W L 283 (1997); R L. F, T N W
R: C C S T L 32
refuges spanning across 150 million acres.7 ese refuges
provide habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 spe-
cies of mammals, 250 species of reptiles and amphibians,
and more than 1,000 species of sh.8 Nearly 40 0 threat-
ened and endangered plants and animals occur on refuge
lands and millions of birds use refuges during their annual
migrations.9 e Refuge System receives more than 45 mil-
lion visitors each year. Each state has at least one refuge,10
and there is one within an hour’s drive of every major met-
ropolitan area in the country.11
e evolution of the Refuge System has not followed
a clear trajectory in the service of wild life protection.12
In part icular, the establish ment of individual refuges has
not alway s focused on achie ving a connected network of
conservation lands.13 e history of the Refuge System
has been marked by periods of great opportunit y, mana-
gerial str uggles, legi slative reform, and, most recent ly,
ambitious planning and polic y eorts ai med at land-
scape-level conservat ion.
A. Origins and Early Years
e history of t he Refuge System is complicated,14 but
its roots can be traced back to presidential procla mations
beginning in the 1860s.15 W hile the ea rliest eorts were
likely aimed at protecting the government’s revenue inter-
ests in such species as fur-bearing seals, the latter part of the
20th century witnessed dwindling wildlife populations,
leading hunting and scientic groups (including the Boone
and Crockett Club) to lobby the U.S. Congress to take
action.16 e rst national wildlife refuge was established
in 1903, when President eodore Roosevelt (a Boone and
Crockett Club member) took executive action to protect
plummeting wading bird populations on Florida’s east
coast from plume hunters who were supplying the fa sh-
ion and costume industry.17 Following successful eorts by
the American Ornithologists Union and (what is now) the
National Audubon Society to persuade Florida to pass a
7. FWS, ,
http://www.fws.gov/refuges/about/ (last visited Nov. 18, 2016) [hereinafter
A Hundred Years in the Making]; Press Release, FWS, Happy Birthday,
National Wildlife Refuge System! (Feb. 29, 2016), available at http://www.
8. A Hundred Years in the Making, supra note 7.
10. Press Release, supra note 7.
11. A Hundred Years in the Making, supra note 7.
12. Prof. Robert Fischman has aptly characterized the system’s growth as being
of “ts and starts.” F, supra note 6, at 32.
13. Robert L. Fischman,
, 26 S.
E. L.J. 77, 92 (2007); Jamison E. Colburn,
, 57 A. L. R. 417, 461-65 (2005).
14. E T. F D D. G, W L: A P 209
(2009). F, supra note 6 (providing a comprehensive
discussion of the history of the Refuge System).
15. FWS, , http://
www.fws.gov/refuges/history/over/over_hist-a_fs.html (last visited Nov. 18,
2016) [hereinafter ]; F, supra note 6, at
16. , supra note 15.
17. F, supra note 6, at 35.
Copyright © 2017 Environmental Law Institute®, Washington, DC. Reprinted with permission from ELR®, http://www.eli.org, 1-800-433-5120.