Happy 115th Birthday To The National Wildlife Refuge System

Sullys Hill National Game Preserve near Devils Lake is just one of the properties in the National Wildlife Refuge System located within an easy drive of Grand Forks. (Brad Dokken photo)

Today marks the 115th birthday of the National Wildlife Refuge System. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, President Theodore Roosevelt established the first national wildlife refuge on Florida’s Pelican Island in an effort to protect wild birds from bounty hunters.

Several national wildlife refuges can be found within a couple hours’ drive of Grand Forks, including Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge northwest of Grand Forks, Lake Alice National Wildlife Refuge near Devils Lake, Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge northeast of Thief River Falls, Rydell National Wildlife Refuge near Erskine, Minn., and Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge in Polk County.

Sullys Hill National Game Preserve near Devils Lake also is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Glacial Ridge, established in 2004, is one of the newest national wildlife refuges in the country and was the 545th refuge to become part of the system, which includes more than 560 national wildlife refuges.

Regulations vary, but national wildlife refuges offer a variety of hunting and fishing opportunities in addition to hiking, birdwatching, wildlife watching and other interpretive offerings. Having visited the national wildlife refuges in the area, all of them offer great reasons for heading out of town for a road trip on a nice spring day.

‘Keep It Clean’ working

An item in the latest newsletter from the Roseau County Soil and Water Conservation District in northwest Minnesota highlights the success of “Keep It Clean,” a program to reduce the amount of trash left on the ice every winter on Lake of the Woods.

Simply put, it’s working.

According to the newsletter, “Keep It Clean,” launched before the winter of 2012-13, is having a real impact on reducing the amount of garbage left on the ice that eventually washes up on shorelines or sinks to the bottom of the lake.

As part of the program, project partners — including Lake of the Woods County, the Lake of the Woods and Roseau County soil and water conservation districts, the cities of Warroad and Baudette, Lake of the Woods Chamber of Commerce, Lake of the Woods Tourism Bureau and six resorts — conduct clean-up efforts on 15 miles of Lake of the Woods shoreline annually.

The clean-up results in nearly 1,000 pounds of trash removed annually from the 15 miles of shoreline. At the same time, more than 100 tons of trash — that’s not a misprint — is hauled every winter from county garbage receptacles set up at access points along the south shore of the lake as part of the program.

It’s unfortunate that a few anglers and others who use the lake don’t have the courtesy to pick up after themselves, but there’s no doubt the “Keep It Clean” program is making a big difference.

Well done!