For Immediate Release
Jeff Ruch (202) 265-7337
America's Ten Most Imperiled Wildlife Refuges
Climate Change and Coping with Climate Change Challenge Nature Sanctuaries
WASHINGTON - 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;
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.”
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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.