Refuge System Short on Cash, Long on Red Tape


Mar 11, 2001
Reaction score
Refuge System Short on Cash, Long on Red Tape
From Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Many of the managers of the nation's 538 wildlifesanctuaries believe they are hamstrung by a system short on cash and
long on bureaucracy, a survey finds. The survey, released Tuesday by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said federal dollars for the national wildlife refuge system are not reaching the sites where they are most needed.

Managers also expressed frustration with off-site supervisors who inject politics into what should be local ecological decisions. The system is part of the Fish and Wildlife Service, a division of the Interior Department. Refuges are located in all 50 states and cover 93 million acres, making the system the third-largest land agency behind the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest

About 40 million Americans visit refuges each year to watch birds and other wildlife and to hunt, fish and hike.Despite an overhaul in the system and more funding since 1997, four out of five of the managers who responded said they believe money for local programs and staff is diverted to regional offices or to meet other needs.

 The Washington-based group of 10,000 state and federal environmental agency employees mailed the survey to all 380 refuge managers in May. They got reponses from 140.Of those who responded, more than 80% reported the funding picture has made it difficult to handle emergencies, a situation compounded by budget allocations that are as much as six months late."We found there was a great amount of frustration among managers," said Gene Hocutt of Aurora, N.Y., who tracks refuges for the public employees group after working 29 years as a refuge manager in six states.

Managers would like to see better communication "to engage in participatory management as opposed to top-down management," Hocutt said. Fish and Wildlife Service officials, however, said the system has made progress for several years thanks to interest among members of Congress and the conservation community.

Since passage of the 1997 National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, which gave increased funding and guidance to the Interior secretary for managing the refuges, the budget has risen steadily. Dan Ashe, the Fish and Wildlife Service official who oversees the refuge system, said the operations and maintenance budget for refuges has grown from $161 million in 1995 to more than $300 million this year. The firefighting budget has doubled in the last year to $60 million.

Top Bottom