Refuge Planning Overview

602 FW 1
602 FW 1, FWM 355, 6/21/2000
Originating Office
Division of Natural Resources and Conservation Planning



1.1 What is the purpose of this chapter?

1.2 What are the authorities for this chapter?

1.3 What is the scope of this chapter?

1.4 What terms do you need to know to understand this chapter?

1.5 What is the Service’s overall policy for refuge planning?


1.6 What are the goals of refuge planning?

1.7How does the Refuge System prepare for climate adaptation and resiliency in refuge planning?

1.8 How does the Refuge System coordinate with Tribes, Alaska Native Corporations, Alaska Native Organizations, and the Native Hawaiian Community during refuge planning? 

1.9 How does the Refuge System coordinate with the States and territories during refuge planning?

1.10 How does the Refuge System involve its partners and other stakeholders in planning? 

1.11  When does the Refuge System consider findings of appropriateness and compatibility determinations for proposed refuge uses during planning?


1.1 What is the purpose of this chapter? This chapter:

A. Establishes overall policy for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to implement National Wildlife Refuge System (Refuge System) planning (refuge planning) (see Exhibit 1 for a definition of “ national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

Learn more about national wildlife refuge
”), and 

B. Provides the authorities and definitions of terms for this and the other chapters in Part 602, Refuge Planning, which include: 

(1) Land Protection Planning (602 FW 2), 

(2) Comprehensive Conservation Planning (602 FW 3), 

(3) Step-down Planning (602 FW 4), 

(4) Strategic Growth Policy (602 FW 5), and 

(5) Habitat and Species Step-down Planning (602 FW 6). 

1.2 What are the authorities for this chapter? 

A. Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) of 1980, as amended (16 U.S.C. 3101-3233).

B. Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.).

C. Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Implementing Regulations (40 CFR 1500-1508); Department of the Interior NEPA Implementing Regulations (43 CFR 46.10-46.450).

D. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321-4347). 

E. National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, as amended by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (Administration Act, as amended) (16 U.S.C. 668dd-668ee).

F. Refuge Recreation Act of 1962 (16 U.S.C. 460k-460k-4). 

G. Wilderness Act of 1964 (16 U.S.C. 1131-1136).

H. Wild and Scenic Rivers Wild and Scenic Rivers
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 established the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, and authorizes Congress to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations. The act is notable for safeguarding the special character of these rivers, while also recognizing the potential for their appropriate use and development. The act encourages river management that crosses political boundaries and promotes public participation in developing goals for river protection.

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Act (16 U.S.C. 1271 et seq.).

I. Treaties between the United States and Indian Tribes (see Art. VI, Sec. 2, U.S. Constitution).

J. Additional laws we list in Table 1-1, Authorities for Real Property Acquisition, in 340 FW 1, Real Property Acquisition Authorities and Responsibilities. 

1.3 What is the scope of this chapter? This chapter applies to planning for land, water, or interests in land or water administered by the Service as part of the Refuge System, excluding Coordination Areas (see Exhibit 1 for a definition of “Coordination Area”). The term “land” includes both land and water, as defined in Exhibit 1. 

1.4 What terms do you need to know to understand this chapter? See Exhibit 1 for a glossary of terms. 

1.5 What is the Service’s overall policy for refuge planning? 

A. Refuge planning sets the broad vision for refuge management and determines the goals, objectives, strategies, and actions to ensure refuges are managed consistently with the refuges’ purposes; the Refuge System’s mission and goals; the Administration Act, as amended; ANILCA (for Alaska refuges); and all other applicable laws and regulations, including NEPA. (See Exhibit 1 for definitions of “goal,” “objective,” “strategy,” and “vision.”) 

B. Refuge planning enhances conservation benefits beyond the refuge boundaries by using landscape planning and design to inform refuge plans and management (see Exhibit 1 for a definition of “landscape planning and design”) and promotes connectivity across the landscape. 

C. Planning in the Refuge System is accomplished through the development of planning portfolios, which include a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP), and, in most cases a Land Protection Plan (LPP) and step-down plans (see Exhibit 1 for definitions of “planning portfolio,” “Comprehensive Conservation Plan,” “Land Protection Plan,” and “step-down plan”). This collection of planning documents guides decision making, satisfies law and policy, and provides transparency to the public and partners on management of the Refuge System. 


1.6 What are the goals of refuge planning? The goals of refuge planning are to:

A. Manage each refuge to fulfill the refuge’s specific purposes and the Refuge System’s mission and goals.

B. Ensure that fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats receive the highest priority when managing the Refuge System.

C. Identify each refuge’s role in the landscape and how specific refuge actions contribute to landscape scale goals and objectives identified by the Service or its partners, as appropriate (see Exhibit 1 for a definition of “landscape”). 

D. Ensure that refuge management maintains and, where appropriate, restores and enhances the Biological Integrity, Diversity, and Environmental Health (BIDEH) of the Refuge System.

E. Enhance habitat connectivity and support wildlife corridors by considering landscape planning and design. 

F. Ensure a collaborative and transparent refuge planning process with opportunities for participation by other Service programs, Federal and State agencies, Tribes, Alaska Native Corporations (ANC), Alaska Native Organizations (ANO), the Native Hawaiian Community, local agencies, territories, partners, and other stakeholders (see Exhibit 1 for definitions of “Tribes,” “Alaska Native Corporations,” “Alaska Native Organizations,” “Native Hawaiian Community,” and “stakeholder”). 

G. Integrate the best available science into refuge planning and management in accordance with 305 Department of the Interior Manual (DM) 3, Integrity of Scientific and Scholarly Activities; 212 FW 7, Scientific Integrity and Scholarly Conduct; 274 FW 1, Data Management; the Service’s information quality guidelines; and Indigenous Knowledge (IK).

H. Facilitate adaptive management in response to changing conditions and update refuge plans accordingly. 

I. Promote efficiency, effectiveness, continuity, and national consistency in refuge management.

J. Help ensure consistent Refuge System consideration of the six priority public uses (i.e., hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, and interpretation) established by the Administration Act, as amended, and ensure that these uses receive enhanced consideration over other public uses in the Refuge System. 

K. Collaborate in a positive way with partners and other stakeholders by considering community needs; using well-informed, purposeful, and measurable engagement methods; focusing on long-term commitments; and adopting equitable solutions that increase our collective conservation impacts on a landscape scale. 

L. Plan for the plausible future conditions of our refuges to ensure that the Refuge System is resilient and can adapt to large-scale ecological transformation caused by climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

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and other anthropogenic changes.

1.7 How does the Refuge System prepare for climate adaptation and resiliency in refuge planning? We will consider historical, current, and plausible future ecological conditions of our refuges based on climate change and other anthropogenic changes in determining desired future conditions, including determining whether to resist, accept, or direct large-scale ecological transformations in our planning goals, objectives, and strategies (see Exhibit 1 for definitions of “resist,” “accept,” and “direct”).

1.8 How does the Refuge System coordinate with Tribes, ANCs, ANOs, and the Native Hawaiian Community during refuge planning? 

A. The Service recognizes that Indigenous Peoples are spiritually, physically, culturally, and historically connected to the land, wildlife, and waters that we manage. Indigenous Peoples’ respect for and careful use of the ecosystem establishes them as stewards of their environment with unparalleled IK acquired over millennia (see Exhibit 1 for definitions of “Indigenous Peoples” and “Indigenous Knowledge”). Decisions related to the stewardship of Refuge System lands, waters, and wildlife should include consideration of safeguarding the treaty, religious, subsistence, and cultural interests of any affected Tribes, ANCs, ANOs, and the Native Hawaiian Community, and opportunities for co-stewardship of these resources and interests by these affected communities and sovereigns (see 502 DM 1 and Director’s Order 227). 

B. The Refuge System must collaborate and cooperate with affected Tribes, ANCs, ANOs, and the Native Hawaiian Community where Refuge System lands are located within or adjacent to Tribal lands or traditional territories, where Tribes have subsistence or other rights or interest in non-adjacent Refuge System lands or waters, or where requested by Tribes, ANCs, ANOs, or the Native Hawaiian Community to support shared interests in managing, conserving and preserving natural and cultural resources. Communication must begin at the earliest phases of planning and decision making to ensure they have opportunity to shape the direction of management of Refuges, including through collaborative and cooperative co-stewardship arrangements with these affected communities and sovereigns (see 502 DM 1, section 1.6 and Director’s Order 227, section 5b). 

C. Where feasible, IK related to Service priority habitats and priority species should help guide conservation planning and strategies.

D. Global-scale climate change is reshaping ecosystems and threatening the traditional way of life for many Indigenous Peoples. The Refuge System recognizes the impacts and commits to respectful and meaningful engagement to achieve beneficial and sustainable adaptation consistent with the Service’s Native American Policy (510 FW 1). 

E. The Service will fulfill its obligations under the National Historic Preservation Act, Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, Archaeological Resources Protection Act, and other cultural resource preservation objectives established by the Secretary's Standards for Historic Preservation and through the consultation process working with Tribal Historic Preservation Offices and performing consultations as mandated (see Exhibit 1 for a definition of “cultural resources”).

1.9 How does the Refuge System coordinate with the States and territories during refuge planning? The Refuge System recognizes that we have joint responsibilities for managing wildlife with the States and territories. In preparing each plan or plan revision, we coordinate with the appropriate State and territorial agencies in accordance with our policy on Coordination and Cooperative Work with State Fish and Wildlife Agencies (601 FW 7), and make it a priority to ensure that our conservation goals and strategies are providing the greatest conservation benefits possible across the landscape. 

1.10 How does the Refuge System involve its partners and other stakeholders in planning? 

A. Because our refuge management affects local communities and adjacent landowners, the Refuge System recognizes that our planning processes provide an important opportunity to be open and transparent with our partners and other stakeholders on the management direction of a refuge. We recognize that we have an obligation to coordinate with them and involve them in the planning processes. 

B. Engaging our partners and other stakeholders in our planning processes builds trust and collaboration in our conservation efforts. Therefore, before adopting a final plan or plan revision for any refuge, we will provide appropriate public notice and opportunity for public comment on the draft plan.

1.11 When does the Refuge System consider findings of appropriateness and compatibility determinations for proposed refuge uses during planning? 

A. Where a finding of appropriateness and compatibility determination are required, Refuge System staff must prepare such required documents concurrently with the planning process (see Exhibit 1 for definitions of “finding of appropriateness” and “compatibility determination”). 

B. See 603 FW 1 for more information on appropriateness requirements, procedures, exceptions, and limitations.

C. See 603 FW 2 for more information on compatibility determination requirements, procedures, exceptions, and limitations.

Attachments (Exhibits, Amendments, etc)