The National Wildlife Refuge System offers great locations and opportunities for families to celebrate Earth Day. From watching wildlife to volunteering on teams doing anything from weed control to helping restore a native prairie, there are plenty of ways to catch the Earth Day spirit at a national wildlife refuge.    
“There’s no better way to connect with nature and celebrate the planet than spending the day at a national wildlife refuge,” said H. Dale Hall, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  “In its 105 years, the National Wildlife Refuge System has grown into the world’s most extensive network of lands managed for wildlife. The system is a shining example of what Earth Day is about: joining together with neighbors to protect the natural environment for our health and benefit, as well as for future generations.”
Here are a few featured refuges and their events for Earth Day  2008
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Smyrna, Delaware
 April 19, 2008

The Friends of Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge has sponsored an Earth Day cleanup for at least 15 years, removing old bottles and cans, fast food wrappers, plastic bags and other unsightly items from the along the roads leading up to the refuge. Refreshments will be served after the cleanup.
The 15,978-acre Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge protects one of the largest expanses of unbroken tidal marshes in the mid-Atlantic. It is known among birders as an international hotspot and has been recognized as one of America’s 100 Important Bird Areas by the American Bird Conservancy; 278 species of birds can be found on the refuge, 103 of which breed there. In addition, 34 species of mammals, including river otter, white-tailed deer, raccoon and red fox patrol the grounds.

Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge
Oceanville, NJ

Staff and volunteers at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge will be leading cleanup efforts around the refuge’s Wildlife Drive. An afternoon educational program will highlight how the refuge protects, conserves and enhances habitat for local fish and wildlife and help visitors explore how to help the environment in their own backyards.
Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge protects more than 46,000 acres of southern New Jersey coastal habitats and wetlands. Extending for 50 miles along the coast, it includes two of the remaining undeveloped barrier beaches in the state. Some 322 species of birds have been observed on the refuge.

Union Slough National Wildlife
Titonka, IA
 April 19, 2008
Union Slough National Wildlife will be hosting its 4th Annual Prairie Rescue Day on Earth Day. The event is an opportunity to help protect rare habitat by joining teams to remove the woody vegetation that is encroaching on the refuge’s remnant prairie. Volunteers will be treated to a meal courtesy of Friends of Union Slough. There will also be opportunities to observe migrating waterfowl and see early blooming prairie wildflowers.
Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1938 to provide a refuge and breeding ground for waterfowl and other migratory birds. The actual slough is all that remains of a pre-glacial riverbed, and its name is derived from the connection or “union” of two watersheds: the Blue Earth River of Minnesota and the East Fork of the Des Moines River. The 3,334-acre refuge is an island of tall grass prairie and wetland habitat surrounded by a sea of corn and soybean fields.

Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge
Nampa, ID
 April 19, 2008
“Litter’s not for critters” is the rallying cry for the annual Earth Day cleanup activities at Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Idaho. Teams of volunteers will be dispatched throughout the refuge to improve and maintain wildlife habitat by collecting trash and pulling noxious weeds.   
About the Refuge
Nestled in the rolling sagebrush hills of southwest Idaho, the watery oasis at Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge provides an important breeding area for birds and other wildlife. The refuge is a significant resting and wintering area for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway, including spectacular concentrations of mallards and Canada geese.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
Folkston, GA
 April 19, 2008
Earth Day on Florida’s Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge will begin with a litter pick up along the highway that runs adjacent to the refuge. That will be followed by educational programs featuring ways people can make a difference in their local communities, habitat needs of red cockaded woodpeckers and the important role wildfire plays in maintaining Okefenokee’s natural habitat. A bicycle tour of staffed exhibits is also planned.
The largest National Wildlife Refuge in the eastern United States, Okefnokee National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1936 to preserve the 438,000 acres of Okefenokee Swamp. The swamp remains one of the oldest and most well preserved freshwater areas in America, extending 38 miles north to south and 25 miles east to west. Okefenokee is a European rendition of Native American words meaning “land of the trembling earth,” a reference to the unstable peat deposits that mark the vast bog that makes up much of the landscape.

Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge
Liberty, TX
 April 19, 2008
Earth Day 2008 activities at Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Texas will include canoeing, kayaking and boating tours, bird and butterfly viewing, walking the levee trail, and dip netting and fishing lessons for kids.
The refuge totals 17,500 acres, protecting a slice of bottomland hardwood forest ecosystem along the Trinity River. The refuge, which is a remnant of what was once a much larger natural area, is a broad flat floodplain made up of numerous sloughs, oxbow lakes, artesian wells, and tributaries. Wildlife observation and photography opportunities abound at Trinity River. Annual counts have revealed more than 60 different species of butterflies and 275 bird species in the refuge.

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge
Tinicum, PA
April 12, 2008
The Earth Day cleanup at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is part of the annual Darby Creek Cleanup activities that have been going on for more than two decades. Co-sponsored by the Friends of John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, the Darby Creek Valley Association and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the event regularly attracts up to 200 volunteers who scour low water points along the refuge to gather trash and other debris that have accumulated with the tides over the year. The event’s advertisements promise “We supply the equipment and lunch. You supply the muscle and enthusiasm.” Lunch, in the form of a cookout at the refuge’s Cusano Environmental Education Center, is provided courtesy of the Friends of John Heinz.
John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge protects Pennsylvania’s largest remaining freshwater tidal marsh, providing habitat to more than 300 species of birds, 85 of which nest on the refuge. Located within a short drive of a large urban area (and about a mile from Philadelphia International Airport), the refuge and its Cusano Environmental Education Center serve as living, hands-on classrooms for thousands of inner-city students and their teachers.  
San Francisco National Wildlife Refuge Complex Environmental Education Center
San Jose, CA
The San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex’s Environmental Education Center in the San Jose area will have a number of Earth Day events.
The Slow the Flow Program is a well-established and popular environmental education opportunity for children in the south Bay Area. Activities and presentations will focus on the relationship between personal actions and their effects on the resources. The center staff expects to host a number of 5th graders to participate for Earth Day.
Also, the Wetland Round-Up Program is a popular, hands-on environmental education opportunity where students investigate butterflies at the San Francisco Bay Refuge Complex’s Environmental Education Center butterfly garden, taste pickleweed in the salt marsh and discover the wildlife that live in the slough water.
The Center is situated at the southern end of San Francisco Bay and is surrounded by uplands, salt marshes, salt ponds and freshwater tidal slough.  An open pavilion, trails and a boardwalk through the salt marsh habitat make it easy to see and explore natural wonders of the South Bay.
The San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex is a collection of seven National Wildlife Refuges: Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Ellicott Slough National Wildlife Refuge, Farallon National Wildlife Refuge, Marin Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge, and San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Together, this network of refuges is devoted to preserving migratory birds, endangered species and other wildlife.

About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

Source: FWS 

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".