Photo: David Hinkel/Flickr
A herd of endangered West Indian manatees swim in the clear waters of the Crystal River Wildlife Refuge. Established in 1983 with the mission of protecting manatees and their habitats, Crystal River is just one of hundreds of national wildlife refuges across the country.
America's first ever wildlife refuge — Florida's Pelican Island — was established on March 14, 1903, by then-President Teddy Roosevelt. Today, 562 refuges and 38 wetland management areas constitute the country's 96-million-acre refuge system.
These protected areas provide vital habitats for thousands of plants and animals, including 280 threatened or endangered species like the manatees above.
Photo: Michael (a.k.a. moik)/Flickr
Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex
Photo: Rebecca Wynn/USFWS/Flickr
Photo: Don McCullough/Flickr
Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Flocks of American avocets and marbled godwits settle along the surface of wetlands as the sun sets on the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge near Fremont, Calif.
Established in 1974, this 30,000-acre wetland was the first urban wildlife refuge in the country, and today it is one of six wildlife refuges in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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