Refuge receives international recognition - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Refuge receives international recognition


CENTERVILLE, Wisconsin (WXOW) -- The Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Refuge receives international recognition for being an ecological treasure.

Organizations that serve the river celebrated the refuge's designation as an international wetland of importance due to it's economic, social and ecological value.

"There's a lot of people in our country that may never get to experience the Mississippi River," refuge manager Kevin Foerster says.

The Mississippi River, described as a treasure by some, supports many types of ecosystems, including our own.

"It's 31 states and two Canadian provinces. That's the watershed of the Mississippi River. That's why it matters to our country. It's in the heartland. It is the lifeline of America, the Mississippi River," Foerster says.

The wildlife and fish refuge now receives international recognition for its importance. A group called the Ramsar Convention designated the refuge as a wetland of international importance.

Ramsar is an international group that encourages wetland conservation and wise use of that land.

"They may not get to come down and float on a boat or fish or go hunting or just enjoy the wildlife. A lot of those folks want to know that it's here," Foerster says.

"The value for protecting these areas is not only for today, the present, but really for our future generations," says Tom Melius, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional director.

The refuge is one of only 30 designations in the U.S..

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hopes the designation brings more than economic benefits like tourism, fishing or recreation, but also a heightened awareness of the importance of wetlands.

"Imagine living around the Mississippi River if it were just a narrow channel. I don't think anybody wants that. Everybody wants a river that is vibrant for our economy," Foerster says.

Those working to protect the river and wetlands say there is value in seeing a vibrant river and watching the public enjoy it.

The designation covers more than 300,000 acres of wetland refuge along the Mississippi River. That covers parts of Minnesota and down through Iowa and Illinois.

Globally, more than 1,800 conservation sites have been designated, covering around 445 million acres of land.

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