The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 includes the nation's broadest statutory commitment to ecosystem protection: to “ensure that the biological integrity, diversity, and environmental health of the system are maintained.” The act also directs the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to expand the scope of conservation monitoring, assessment, and management beyond refuge boundaries to encompass surrounding landscapes. The act thus gives the FWS a leadership role in developing research and management partnerships with other agencies, organizations, and neighboring landowners. Increasing research capacity and scientific expertise, and strengthening institutional resolve to limit activities that impede the attainment of this directive, are challenges for the FWS. Success requires reexamination of existing priorities, refocused training, the acquisition of new funding and technical expertise, and creative application of those new skills to meet the law's broad mandate.
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Vol. 56 • No. 2