National Wildlife Refuge Week commemorates nation's refuges
This week marked National Wildlife Refuge Week, an annual commemoration to raise awareness and celebrate America’s refuge system. Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Wildlife Refuge system protects over 95 million acres of land and water habitats. The majority of these protected lands are in Alaska.
There are nearly 600 national wildlife refuges in all 50 states. One of them is the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses nearly two million acres of mountains, wetlands and forests across the peninsula.
The refuge is home to an array of wildlife, including moose, bears, wolves, eagles, birds, and salmon. Part of the Kenai River watershed, the refuge protects thousands of miles of anadromous waters. It is also a great place for outdoor recreation, making it one of the most visited refuges in the United States.
“One of the realities of the Kenai is for both Alaskans and for visitors to our state is one of the places that people come to is the Kenai Peninsula to enjoy everything that’s here, including the refuge,” said Andy Loranger, Refuge Manager at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. “Alaskans really treasure and are passionate about their outdoor pursuits, and we have just a spectacular place to enjoy the outdoors right here in our backyard.”
Opened in 1941, visitors of the refuge can enjoy fishing, hunting, camping, wildlife viewing and more. Staff regularly host events for the public, including guided hikes and educational programs.
Loranger says that nothing quite compares to the national wildlife refuge system globally. The unique network of land and water focuses on the protection of habitats and the wildlife that depend on them.
“National wildlife refuges are probably not as well known as, for instance, the National Park System in the U.S., but certainly they play a key role in ensuring our wonderful wildlife heritage is maintained now and for future generations,” Loranger said.
The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Soldotna is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. You can learn more about the refuge there or on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.