- Heavy use of outdoor recreation areas in the United States
since World War II is endangering their quality. Demand made by a
rapidly growing population with rising personal incomes and increasing
leisure time is expected to grow 50 percent nationally and 146 percent in Oregon by 1975. In Oregon, population, incomes, and amount
of leisure time per person are all increasing more rapidly than
nationally. A large influx of out-of-state visitors accelerates the
Eighty-five percent of outdoor recreation land in the United
States and 95 percent in Oregon is owned by the Federal government.
Recreation on Federal land is in general resource-based, that is, it
depends upon some natural feature. The role of the Federal government
is therefore pre-eminent in developing sites for resource-based recreation activities.
Of the agencies involved in meeting the Federal responsibility, the possible role of the Fish and Wildlife Service is least
known. Controlling approximately four percent of outdoor recreation
land, the 300 refuges had only 13 million of the more than 500 million
visitor-days to outdoor recreation areas in 1960. Recreation visits
to refuges are increasing rapidly but apparently the quality and
quantity of the remarkable wildlife resources of the National Wildlife
Refuge System is little understood.
As the mission of the Branch of Wildlife Refuges developed, its
role involves the provision of habitat for every species of native
wildlife somewhere in the System. The refuges are widely distributed
over the nation, with the great majority, particularly those for
migratory birds, concentrated in the four great flyways. The Service
plans ultimately to include within refuge boundaries some 7.5 million
acres of the 12 million acres of wetlands needed to maintain present
Recreation use compatible with wildlife management is permitted on the refuges but development of facilities has been slight.
Although express authorization was obtained in 1962 for such development, no funds have since been provided. The Accelerated Public Works
Program and the Job Corps Program both provide an avenue for development in some areas.
The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, located in southeastern
Oregon, is an excellent example of the recreation potential in the
Refuge System. One of the larger refuges, its duck and geese populations number over a million during spring and fall migration. Of
Oregon's 425 bird species, 226 have been observed on the Refuge; 141
of them are listed as easily seen during one or more seasons of the year. Deer, antelope, and beaver are also easily seen.
The Refuge lies in the basin of the two playas, Malheur and
Harney Lakes, and extends for forty miles through the marshes of the
Blitzen River toward Steens Mountain, an impressive fault block with
alpine vegetation. An excellent museum exhibits indigenous species,
photographs, nests, and food plants. A display pool provides an
opportunity to observe birds at close hand. Besides wildlife observation and photography, Refuge recreation uses include fishing, water
fowl hunting, and an exceptionally high quality annual all deer archery hunt. Camping and picnicking are commonly practiced in conjunction with other recreation activities.
Recreation use of the Refuge is limited by inadequate facilities. Campsites are minimally developed and Refuge roads are impassable in wet weather. Authorization for the establishment of a Job
Corps Camp on the Refuge in June of 1965 has been obtained and it is
expected that Corps projects will serve to alleviate the deficiencies.
Development of a significant recreation resource seems assured at a
time of growing need.