America’s Ten Most Imperiled Wildlife Refuges
Climate Change and Coping with Climate Change Challenge Nature Sanctuaries
Washington, DC — National Wildlife Refuges are already feeling the effects of climate change as well as negative side-effects of attempts to counter that change from wind farms and other renewable energy sources, according to a report released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) profiling refuges across the country facing the most acute threats from human activities.
America’s National Wildlife Refuge System shelters countless migratory waterfowl, native mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Commissioned in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt’s designation of Florida’s Pelican Island as the first refuge, the system now includes more than 540 refuges in all 50 states.
The 2009 roster of imperiled refuges focuses on the effects of climate change and our response to it.
Rising sea levels, higher temperatures, drought and other effects of quickening climactic alterations are among the impacts Refuge Managers report to PEER. Attempts to mitigate climate change through pursuit of alternative energy sources are also affecting refuges. Wind farms near migratory paths of birds are threatening wildlife while transmission lines from remote solar plants are slicing up habitat.
Based upon interviews with refuge staff, PEER identified the Ten Most Imperiled Refuges in the U.S. These threatened refuges stretch from the coast of the Bering Sea to the shores of the Chesapeake Bay:
- Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge (AK) – sea level rise and accelerated coastal erosion;
- Hawaii Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex (HI) – sea level rise and mosquito penetration from temperature rise leading to loss of endangered bird species;
- Horicon National Wildlife Refuge (WI) – wind farms and declining water quality and quantity;
- Chesapeake Marshlands Complex (MD) – erosion, nutrient build-up and sprawl;
- National Elk Refuge (WY) – Brucellosis and threat of Chronic Wasting Disease;
- Kofa National Wildlife Refuge (AZ) – power transmission corridors and game conflicts;
- Sheldon-Hart Refuge Complex (OR/NV) – mining and over-grazing by feral horses and burros;
- Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge (MN) – development and deteriorating water quality;
- San Luis National Wildlife Refuge (CA) – drought and irrigation effects; and
- Prairie Potholes Region – Small Wetlands Acquisition Program – significant loss of wetlands due to perverse federal incentives.
“Each of these threatened refuges has a different story, but they all share the peril of altered natural conditions from non-natural sources,” stated Grady Hocutt, a former long-time refuge manager who directs the PEER refuge program. “We hope that by drawing attention to the plight of these wildlife sanctuaries, they stand a better chance of meeting the threats they face.”