The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a simple mission: To work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. This is manifested in the incredible National Wildlife Refuge System. Those of us who are lucky enough to live in (or have easy access to) the United States have an abundance of avian photography access close to home thanks to this system.
Some of the best bird/wildlife photography on the planet happens at these refuges. My speciality is bird photography and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, J. N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, and Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge are all favorites for bird photographers. These are just but a few of the well-known refuges. There are many other lesser-known, but equally fruitful wildlife refuges spread throughout all 50 states.
You can find out where the closest refuge is, what sorts of wildlife inhabit that refuge, when it is accessible and at what cost by visiting the U.S. Fish & Wildlife service’s refuge web site at http://www.fws.gov/refuges/.
Unlike some federal lands, the refuge system encourages photography. Fish & Game even has a web page devoted to it. (http://www.fws.gov/refuges/photography/) The following quote is from the first paragraph of that page.
“Nature photography gives us the chance to be still, be silent, be patient and ultimately to become engrossed in the challenge of capturing rare glimpses of nature’s mysteries. Through our lenses, we see the natural world much differently. We are keenly aware of light and its magical reflections. The full spectrum of color suddenly appears more vibrant. We become conscious of shapes and angles as we carefully construct our compositions, taking nothing for granted. We are humbled by the wariness of our subjects, gaining a renewed reverence for the instincts that ensure their survival.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
An investment in a year-long pass to the refuge system gets you access to more than 2000 locations managed by five Federal agencies, with up to 100% of the proceeds being used to improve and enhance visitor recreation services. Prices are $80 a year for the standard pass. If you have turned 62, you can get a $10 lifetime pass and anyone under 16 gets in free.