An earlier Executive Order on recreational fisheries requires agencies to expand fishing opportunities on Federal lands. Including this year’s additions, 49 new fishing programs and 30 new hunting programs have been initiated during the Clinton Administration. In 1996, 77 million U.S. residents, or about 40 percent of the population 16 years old and older, participated in wildlife- associated recreation activities spending $101 billion.
Of this group, 35.2 million enjoyed a variety of fishing opportunities and 14 million hunted, while nearly 63 million enjoyed at least one type of wildlife-watching recreation activity including observing, feeding, or photographing fish and other wildlife. Recreational visits to national wildlife refuges generate substantial economic activity; in 1995, recreation-related spending generated more than $400 million in sales in regional economies.
As that spending flowed through the economy, it supported 10,000 jobs and provided nearly $170 million in payrolls. Since the first refuge was created by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, the National Wildlife Refuge System has grown to include 514 refuges and thousands of waterfowl production areas. At least one refuge is located in each of the 50 states and U.S. territories and insular areas. Some 30 million wildlife enthusiasts visit refuges each year, fishing and hunting, birdwatching, hiking and engaging in nature photography.
Hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren visit the refuges each year, studying nature, wildlife, and the environment. Hundreds of refuges are strategically located along major migratory bird flyways, and dozens were established to protect endangered and threatened species. National wildlife refuges teem with plants and animals of virtually every variety, from mallard to moose, walleye pike to whooping crane, cactus to caribou. At least one national wildlife refuge is located with an hour’s drive of almost every major city in the United States.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 ecological services field stations.
The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.