National Wildlife Refuge - Special Management Areas

Special Management Areas

In addition to refuge status, the "special" status of lands within individual refuges may be recognized by additional designations, either legislatively or administratively. Special designation may also occur through the actions of other legitimate agencies or organizations. The influence that special designations may have on the management of refuge lands and waters may vary considerably.

There is a wide variety of special land designations that currently overlay national wildlife refuges that total 175 refuges. Authority for designation of some special management area types (e.g., Research Natural Areas) on refuges lies solely with the Service. For most special management area types, responsibility is held by or shared with others.

Among the other varied special management area types found on refuges are Cultural Resource Sites, Historic Sites, Research Natural Areas, Wilderness, Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Natural Landmarks and National Trails. Some overlay designations may place refuges within international networks of protected lands, such as Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserves and Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention).

Refuges may also be included within much larger special management areas designated by other agencies or organizations, such as Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserves, National Marine Sanctuaries, Estuarine Sanctuaries and Biosphere Reserves. Management policy and procedural guidance for Service special management areas is currently found in the Refuge Manual. Revised guidance is in preparation for incorporation into the new Service Manual. Special management area training for administrators and refuge managers currently includes multi-agency sponsored and university correspondence courses.

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