About the Refuge

The Connecticut River in the fall - Lamar Gore/USFWS.

The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge was established in 1997 to conserve, protect and enhance the abundance and diversity of native plant, fish and wildlife species and the ecosystems on which they depend throughout the 7.2 million acre Connecticut River watershed. Currently, the refuge is comprised of nearly 40,000 acres within parts of the four watershed states of New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.


The refuge includes ten divisions and twelve units that represent a wide variety of unique habitats such as: northern forest valuable as nesting habitat for migrant thrushes, warblers and other birds; rivers and streams used by shad, salmon, herring and other migratory fishes; and an internationally significant complex of high-quality tidal fresh, brackish and salt marshes. Many opportunities exist for visitors to explore the diverse landscapes of the Connecticut River watershed.

The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge

Located within parts of four New England states: New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge is the only refuge of its kind to encompass an entire watershed. This unique refuge design was proposed by Congressman Silvio O. Conte who had "...a dream that included a Connecticut River, cleaned, fishable, swimmable, and with salmon restored to abundant numbers.” He also dreamed that someday his children and grandchildren would continue to enjoy the outdoors as he had, and not “be saddled with a planet polluted beyond repair.” In 1991, he asked Congress to establish a National Wildlife Refuge to protect the watershed of the river and its wildlife resources. In 1997 the refuge named in his honor was established to fulfill that dream. The refuge was designed to include the entire Connecticut River watershed because legislators realized that, in order to protect migratory fish and other aquatic species, there was a need to protect the whole river system and its watershed; the health of any aquatic ecosystem is linked to the health of the whole watershed upstream. It is one of only three refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System that has Fish in its title.

The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge works in partnership with a wide variety of individuals and organizations to provide environmental education, to encourage and support appropriate habitat conservation and management on public and private lands, and to protect habitat. Land acquisition activities have resulted in the protection of key habitats for neotropical migratory birds, waterfowl, and threatened and endangered species. Through partnerships, the Service has reached across the watershed to support and encourage conservation and environmental education efforts by others. Additionally, the refuge has conducted conservation, education, and interpretation activities since the refuge was established, including the establishment of one partnership-based visitor center, a visitor contact station, and a variety of visitor contact points.

Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Brochure (pdf)

Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Rack Card