A federal push is underway this week to encourage people to visit national wildlife refuges during National Wildlife Refuge Week. From Oct. 14 - 20, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants citizens to celebrate America’s wildlife heritage, and see what wildlife refuges are doing to conserve it.
“National wildlife refuges play a crucial role in conserving America’s wildlife legacy,” says U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe in a news release. “Refuges also play important roles in human communities.
By providing healthy habitats for wildlife, refuges improve the air we breathe and the water we drink, improve soil quality and give protection against flooding in flood-prone areas. Jobs and businesses in local communities rely on refuges – and the visitors they attract. Refuges offer glorious and protected places to hunt, fish, hike and share the outdoors with a new generation.”
While the National Fish Hatchery is technically not considered a national wildlife refuge, the wetland management district is headquartered at the hatchery. Fish Hatchery Director Kurt Eversman said he has been working to encourage more people to come to the hatchery.
“With regards to folks coming out to celebrate refuges, that’s great. As far as I’m concerned I don’t care what it’s called or what it’s officially titled, just as long as I get folks to come out and visit.”
Eversman said he wants people to feel welcome at the hatchery and feels some of the signs that have been posted there might deter visitors. He said he’s worked at five fish hatcheries and had never seen one with so many restrictive signs until he came to North Dakota and plans to remove them.
“”No vehicle entry,’ ‘official vehicle only,’ ‘private area,’ I’d never seen so many signs. If I was somebody who wanted to come out here and enjoy this National Fish Hatchery, where would I go and feel comfortable with coming out and not having someone chase me around with a gun and a badge citing me for violations? So I had fun taking the one sign out, and I’ll take the other signs out, too.”
Eversman said the property belongs to the taxpayers and taxpayers are welcome to use it. Recently the fish hatchery has hosted groups from the boy and girl scouts, Junior Naturalists Club and Valley City State University. On Saturday, “Secrets of the Sheyenne” will be held for students in grades four through six and their parents will be held at the hatchery, where students will learn about the wildlife, fishing, bug collecting, erosion and floods.
“I’ve said this from day one: ‘This isn’t my property, I’m the caretaker of the property. It’s yours; it’s the taxpayers. You should be able to enjoy the resource,’” Eversman said.