This week, on Wednesday, November 15th, 2023, the halls of the Rayburn Office Building on Capitol Hill echoed with the enthusiastic celebration of wildlife conservation at the National Wildlife Refuge Expo. Back from a few years’ hiatus during and following COVID, from 10 am to 2 pm, attendees had the opportunity to engage in a variety of activities, from a captivating live raptor display to adult coloring sessions, all while learning about the vital work happening within the Refuge System. The event also featured insightful speeches from leaders in Refuge System conservation, distinguished members of Congress, and representatives from various member organizations of the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE).

CARE was honored to host notable Congress members, including Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA), Representative Gabe Vasquez (D-TX), and Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA), who passionately addressed the importance of conserving our natural heritage through the National Wildlife Refuge System during the Refuge Expo. Their commitment to conservation and advocacy for Refuge System funding is invaluable to the ongoing success of these protected lands.

Integral to the success of the National Wildlife Refuge Expo 2023 was the participation of the Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus, a bipartisan group of lawmakers dedicated to advancing the conservation mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System. This caucus, comprised of members from both sides of the aisle, plays a crucial role in promoting legislation and securing funding to ensure the long-term health and vitality of our nation’s wildlife refuges. Their commitment to safeguarding these critical habitats and fostering an understanding of their importance is invaluable. The Refuge Expo provided a platform for caucus members to share their insights and perspectives, emphasizing the significance of collaborative efforts between Congress and conservation organizations to achieve lasting success in national wildlife refuge conservation. We extend our sincere appreciation to the Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus for their ongoing dedication to the protection of our natural heritage.

The National Wildlife Refuge Expo 2023 featured distinguished speakers who brought a wealth of knowledge and passion to Capitol Hill. Martha Williams, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), provided insights into the agency’s vision and commitment to the National Wildlife Refuge System’s conservation goals. Cynthia Martinez, Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System at USFWS, shared her expertise on the integral role of refuges in protecting biodiversity and fostering resilient ecosystems. Geoffrey L. Haskett, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, highlighted the critical importance of collaboration between governmental agencies, conservation organizations, and lawmakers to ensure the success and sustainability of the refuge system. Their speeches underscored the shared dedication to safeguarding these vital landscapes and the diverse wildlife that depends on them. The Expo served as a platform for these leaders to articulate the significance of continued support for refuge conservation and advocacy efforts.

The Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) played a pivotal role in organizing this event. CARE, a coalition of 24 organizations spanning the political spectrum, has been a stalwart advocate for adequate funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System since 1995. The alliance focuses on collaboration, bringing together organizations with diverse interests in the Refuge System, from science and recreation to conservation. Their joint efforts aim to ensure the Refuge System’s continued success in protecting our nation’s wildlife and natural habitats.

The event was a celebration and an opportunity to express gratitude to all CARE member organizations, congressional members, and attendees who contributed to its success. The National Wildlife Refuge Association extends our thanks to everyone who participated, making the National Wildlife Refuge Expo 2023 a vibrant testament to the collective dedication to wildlife conservation.

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