Groups Call for Robust Funding for the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System

Angling and hunting organizations urge Congress for increased appropriations to help manage conservation goals and recreation on U.S. National Wildlife Refuges.

Grace Olscamp, National Campaign Director, Trout Unlimited,, 458-666-5944 

Washington, D.C. – Today, twenty-eight angling, hunting, and scientific organizations submitted a letter to Congress to increase appropriations to the National Wildlife Refuge System (the System). As Members begin developing the FY 2023 budget, anglers and hunters hope to see continued, robust growth in funding for the System.

The country’s National Wildlife Refuges, which are present in every single state, provide unparalleled access for anglers and hunters to enjoy some of the most pristine waters and lands in the country. Since the System’s inception in 1903, it has been a leading example of how to balance conservation and recreation. It is this legacy that the undersigned organizations hope to uphold today and into the future. 

“Anglers and hunters have always been conservationists, working together to protect the habitat and species we love,” said Grace Olscamp, National Campaign Director for Trout Unlimited. “The Wildlife Refuge System is a mirror of that relationship, with its primary mission being conservation of these vital places while encouraging recreation and access for all.”

“Among all of our public lands, national wildlife refuges play a critical role in providing access to the outdoors for all Americans, and the system safeguards outstanding fish and wildlife habitat throughout the country,” said Joel Webster, Vice President of Western Conservation for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Hunters and anglers have a profound appreciation for the sporting opportunities found across the Refuge System and hope to see it strengthened through robust funding in Fiscal Year 2023.”

It’s because of this important role that the System plays for angling and hunting communities and continued, healthy access to these sports that Congress must continue to appropriate the funds necessary to properly manage and enhance the System. Anglers and hunters cheered both the increased appropriation for FY 2022 ($519 million, the highest in over a decade) and the President’s FY 2023 request ($597 million) but hope the growth doesn’t end there.

“With recreational fishing participation at a record high, our nation’s public lands are more important than ever before in providing quality fishing opportunities,” said Mike Leonard, the American Sportfishing Association’s Vice President of Government Affairs. “We are calling on Congress to increase funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System, so that necessary conservation and management activities at these special places can support the public’s continued use and enjoyment of them.”

“For too long, our Wildlife Refuges have had to operate on a shoestring budget even though they are the stewards of some of the most important fish and wildlife habitat in the nation” said Whitney Tilt from the AFFTA Fisheries Fund. “We need to adequately fund the System and we thank Congress and the President for their recent increases and urge the steady continuation of growing the System’s pivotal budget.”

Since 2010, visitation to the System has increased 36 percent, now hosting over 61 million annual visitors. At the same time, the System’s budget has generally declined. This has led to staffing shortages, including for law enforcement officers, out-of-date resource management planning, a backlog of maintenance needs, and an inability to keep up with visitor service and community needs. With ongoing improved funding, the System can fill necessary vacancies while improving habitat, fish, and wildlife management and ensuring visitors can recreate safely and responsibly.

“With more than 2.5 million hunting visits and over 8 million fishing visits annually, the National Wildlife Refuge System provides critical access opportunities for America’s sportsmen and women,” said Taylor Schmitz, Assistant Director, Federal Relations for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF). “As such, CSF is proud to advocate with our partners for robust funding for the System to ensure that access for hunters and anglers is maintained and ultimately enhanced.”

“By uplifting the Wildlife Refuge System with a steadily growing budget to match its needs, we can ensure that future generations can fish and hunt on these same lands,” said Kevin Timm of Seek Outside. “We look forward to working with legislators and local communities to enhance the Wildlife Refuge System.”

“Investments in these public lands and waters will ensure that important fish and wildlife habitat remains healthy, sustains a unique diversity of species, and promotes equitable access for all Americans to enjoy our natural resources,” said John Gale, Policy and Government Relations Director for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “Whether you’re visiting one of the many urban wildlife refuges or exploring the vastness of large western refuges, there are incredible opportunities for anyone interested in hunting, fishing, or viewing wildlife.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service actively manages refuges to benefit fish and wildlife, while providing for high quality opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts,” said Gordon R. Batcheller, President of The Wildlife Society. “To ensure conservation and recreation opportunities such as hunting, fishing, and wildlife observation can continue unhampered by deferred maintenance and understaffing, we stand with our partners in supporting robust Refuge System funding in Fiscal Year 2023.”

“Ensuring healthy woods and waters on our National Wildlife Refuge System is so important,” Ben Jones, President & CEO of Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society, said. “It’s our turn, as conservationists, to protect these places for wildlife and future generations to enjoy.” 

“With the largest expansion of outdoor recreation opportunities on the National Wildlife Refuge System in recent history, it is even more critical for increased funding to provide services for our outdoor recreationists, whether it be hunters, anglers, trappers or wildlife viewers,” said Tony Wasley, Director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife and President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “The Refuge System is essential to maintain quality fish and wildlife habitat and in supporting state efforts to conserve species of greatest conservation need.”

The letter of support for increased appropriations was signed by American Fly Fishing Trade Association Fisheries Fund, American Sportfishing Association, Archery Trade Association, Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Boone & Crockett Club, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, The Conservation Fund, Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited, Far Bank, Izaak Walton League of America, National Deer Association, National Wildlife Federation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society, Safari Club International, Seek Outside, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Trout Unlimited, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, Wild Sheep Foundation, Wildlife Forever, Wildlife Management Institute, Wildlife Mississippi, and The Wildlife Society.

Click here to read a copy of the full letter.