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Fish and Game Wardens

History

For centuries, wildlife has suffered because of the actions of human beings. Increasingly efficient weaponry—bows, rifles, shotguns—made it easier for people to kill game. ("Game" may be broadly defined as any fish, birds, or mammals that are hunted noncommercially for food, sport, or both.) Some species of animals have been hunted to extinction. Forests have been cleared, swamps drained, and rivers dammed to clear the way for agriculture and industry. These activities have harmed or destroyed large areas of plant and wildlife habitat.

Beginning in the late 19th century, growing concern for vanishing wildlife led to the initiation of comprehensive conservation actions. The governments of the United States and other nations have since passed protective laws and set aside national parks and other reserves for wildlife.

The principal agency assigned to the conservation and enhancement of animals and their habitats in this country is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. An agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior, it is responsible for the scientific development of commercial fisheries and the conservation of fish and wildlife. The service, which was created in 1856, manages the 150 million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System. This system includes more than 565 National Wildlife Refuges, thousands of smaller wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 70 National Fish Hatcheries, 65 fishery resource offices, nine fish health centers, seven fish technology centers, one National Historic fish hatchery, 86 ecological services field stations, five marine national monuments, and 38 wetland management districts.

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, "National Wildlife Refuges provide habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species, and more than 1,000 species of fish. More than 380 threatened or endangered plants and animals find sanctuary on wildlife refuges. Each year, millions of migrating birds use refuges as rest areas as they fly thousands of miles between their summer and winter homes."

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