EO 12996
Effective Date: March 25, 1996

Responsible Office: Office of Management Systems


By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution
and the laws of the United States of America, and in furtherance
of the purposes of the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 (16 U.S.C.
742a), the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (16 U.S.C. 661),
the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act (16 U.S.C.
668dd), the Refuge Recreation Act (16 U.S.C. 460k), the
Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531), the Emergency
Wetlands Resources Act (16 U.S.C. 3901), the North American
Wetlands Conservation Act (16 U.S.C. 4401), the National
Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321), and other pertinent
statutes, and in order to conserve fish and wildlife and their
habitat, it is ordered as follows:

Section 1. The Mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System. 
The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System ("Refuge
System") is to preserve a national network of lands and waters
for the conservation and management of fish, wildlife, and plant
resources of the United States for the benefit of present and
future generations.

Sec. 2. Guiding Principles.  To help ensure a bright future for
its treasured national heritage, I hereby affirm the following
four guiding principles for the management and general public use
of the Refuge System:
     (a) Public Use.  The Refuge System provides important
opportunities for compatible wildlife-dependent recreational
activities involving hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and
photography, and environmental education and interpretation.

     (b) Habitat.  Fish and wildlife will not prosper without
high-quality habitat, and without fish and wildlife, traditional
uses of refuges cannot be sustained.  The Refuge System will
continued to conserve and enhance the quality and diversity of
fish and wildlife habitat within refuges.

     (c) Partnerships.  America's sportsmen and women were the
first partners who insisted on protecting valuable wildlife
habitat within wildlife refuges.  Conservation partnerships with
other Federal agencies, State agencies, Tribes, organizations, 

industry, and the general public can make significant
contributions to the growth and management of the Refuge System.

     (d) Public Involvement.  The public should be given a full
and open opportunity to participate in decisions regarding
acquisition and management of our National Wildlife Refuges.

Sec. 3. Directives to the Secretary of the Interior.  To the
extent consistent with existing laws and interagency agreements,
the Secretary of the Interior, in carrying out his trustee and
stewardship responsibilities for the Refuge System, is directed

     (a) recognize compatible wildlife-dependent recreational
activities involving hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and
photography, and environmental education and interpretation as
priority general public uses of the Refuge System through which
the American public can develop an appreciation for fish and

     (b) provide expanded opportunities for these priority public
uses within the Refuge System when they are compatible and
consistent with sound principles of fish and wildlife management,
and are otherwise in the public interest;

     (c) ensure that such priority public uses receive enhanced
attention to planning and management within the Refuge System;

     (d) provide increased opportunities for families to
experience wildlife-dependent recreation, particularly
opportunities for parents and their children to safely engage in
traditional outdoor activities such as fishing and hunting;

     (e) ensure that the biological integrity and environmental
health of the Refuge System is maintained for the benefit of
present and future generations of Americas;

     (f) continue, consistent with existing laws and interagency
agreements, authorized or permitted uses of units of the Refuge
System by other Federal agencies, including those necessary to
facilitate military preparedness;

     (g) plan and direct the continued growth of the Refuge
System in a manner that is best designed to accomplish the
mission of the Refuge System, to contribute to the conservation
of the ecosystems of the United States, and to increase support
for the Refuge System and participation from conservation
partners and the public;

     (h) ensure timely and effective cooperation and
collaboration with Federal agencies and State fish and wildlife
agencies during the course of acquiring and managing National
Wildlife Refuges;

     (i) ensure appropriate public involvement opportunities will
be provided in conjunction with refuge planning and management
activities; and

     (j) identify, prior to acquisition, existing compatible
wildlife-dependent uses of new refuge lands that shall be
permitted to continue on an interim basis pending completion of
comprehensive planning.

Sec. 4. Judicial Review.  This order does not create any right or
benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or equity
by a party against the United States, its agencies, its officers,
or any person.

                         /s/William J. Clinton

March 25, 1996.


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