Byways 101

Part 1: Program Overview

USDI Fish And Wildlife Service – Refuge Roads Program

The Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuge System is one of America’s greatest conservation success stories. In its first 100 years, it helped save the American bald eagle from extinction, preserving a national symbol. It has also protected hundreds of other species, including fish, migratory birds and many plants and animals. Today, the National Wildlife Refuge System has grown to encompass 548 wildlife refuges and more than 36,000 fee and easement waterfowl production areas. Refuges are special places where the Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners restore, protect and manage habitat for wildlife. Every year, more than 40 million visitors come to refuges, wetlands, hatcheries and administrative areas managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Refuge Roads program was created under the 1998 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. This act and the subsequent passage of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFTEA-LU) authorizes maintenance and enhancement of Refuge Roads such as visitor contact stations, waysides, scenic overlooks, interpretive signage and other visitor facilities.

Visitors access refuges using a wide range of transportation systems. While most visitors travel by personal vehicles, many other use alternative transportation such as bus, watercraft, bicycle, foot and horseback. Some refuges in Alaska also permit access by float plane. Over 62 percent of the visitors to refuges drive the roads, auto tour routes and hike many of the refuge trails. With more than 4,900 miles of roads and over 2,500 miles of land and water trails, the refuges, waterfowl production areas and hatcheries provide a wide range of places for the public to learn about wildlife, fisheries and habitat management.

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