The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is a federal agency within the United States Department of the Interior and is trusted to manage the nation’s fish and wildlife resources. The mission of the Service is to “work with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.”
The National Wildlife Refuge System
From one-ton bison to half-ounce warblers, the National Wildlife Refuge System contains a priceless gift – the heritage of a wild America that was, and is. The mission of the Refuge System is to manage a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitat.
The Refuge System maintains the biological integrity, diversity and environmental health of these natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.
Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge
The Stewart B. McKinney NWR is comprised of ten different units stretched across the Connecticut shoreline. The headquarters islocated approximately 45 minutes south of Hartford and 30 minutes east of New Haven at historic Salt Meadow in Westbrook, CT.
The Salt Meadow NWR was established in 1972 and re-designated by Congress as the Connecticut Coastal National Wildlife Refuge in 1984. The refuge was renamed again in 1987 to honor the late U.S. Congressman Stewart B. McKinney, who was instrumental in its establishment. The ten units of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge span more than 70 miles of Connecticut coastline.
Located in the Atlantic Flyway, the refuge provides important resting, feeding, and nesting habitat for many species of wading birds, shorebirds, songbirds and terns, including the endangered roseate tern. Adjacent waters serve as wintering habitat for brant, scoters, American black duck and other waterfowl. Overall, the refuge encompasses over 800 acres of barrier beach, tidal wetland and fragile island habitats.
The Salt Meadow Unit, in Westbrook, CT, and the Falkner Island Unit, three miles off the coast of Guilford, CT, have both been designation as an “Important Bird Area” by the National Audubon Society.
Many of the refuge’s units are open to the public and they offer opportunities in wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, natural and cultural resources interpretation and other public uses.
Falkner Island Unit
Rocky shores, shrub lands, and grasses cover this five area island, located three miles off the coast of Guilford. From early May through early August, Falkner Island is home to more than 95 percent of the nesting common terns (over 2500 pairs) in Connecticut. The island is also the site of the only roseate tern (a Federally endangered species) colony in Connecticut. Due to these distinctions, Falkner Island was designated an Important Bird Area by Audubon Connecticut in 2001.