About U.S. National Wildlife Refuges

setting the Hackmatack plank on Pelican Island Setting the plank for Hackmatack on Pelican Island in 2012 with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar

The National Wildlife Refuge System is a national network of public lands set aside specifically to protect wild animals and plants. Found in all 50 states and five U.S. territories. The Refuge System includes 568 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts covering 95 million acres of land. National Wildlife Refuges are special places with significant natural resources where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acquires land and/or conservation easements.

The National Wildlife Refuge System was created in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt with Florida’s 5.5 acre Pelican Island named the first refuge.


Wildlife Refuges in the United States are visited 34 million times a year, by birdwatchers, photographers, educators and researchers, hunters, fishers, and hikers. These visitors are an important source of revenue for the local economy. Refuges also enhance the quality of life for local residents, both preserving the region’s aesthetic beauty and affording numerous recreational and educational opportunities.

To learn about National Wildlife Refuges, their beautiful visitor centers, recreational activities, education programs and their community partnerships visit another “urban refuge’” – Minnesota Valley NWR.

For additional information visit US Fish & Wildlife Service – National Wildlife Refuge System

Search an interactive map to find refuges all over the United States: Use the link below, or click on the map.

US Fish & Wildlife Service Find A Refuge Interactive Map


US Dept of the Interior Logo on banner

The U.S. Department of the Interior protects and manages the Nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage; provides scientific and other information about those resources; and honors its trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and affiliated Island Communities.  There are 11 Bureaus within the Department of the Interior.

US Fish & Wildlife Service Logo on banner

The only agency in the federal government whose primary responsibility is the conservation and management of fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the American people. There are 13 Programs within the USFWS.

The National Wildlife Refuge System

The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation,
management and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United
States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge banner

In 2012, Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge was established as the 561st National Wildlife Refuge.

Friends of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge banner

The Friends of Hackmatack NWR is a volunteer group that began when a small group of locals decided to find out if they could gather enough interest to establish a National Wildlife Refuge in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. They accomplished this goal, and then incorporated as nonprofit in 2013.

Friends of Hackmatack NWR operates under the direction of a Refuge Manager. We are a non-profit organization that serves to conserve & enhance the natural and cultural resources, rural character and scenic beauty of the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge and to connect people to these resources.

Friends of Hackmatack NWR

P.O. Box 413
Richmond, IL 60071



Call 262-448-3558 to listen for the latest updates on upcoming activities. If you need to reach us, please leave a message and we will return your call.

Sign up for our amazing mailing list!

* indicates required

Skip to content