Resources - National Wildlife Refuge System - Policies

Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act

This Act allows the federal land agencies to charge a fee for recreational use of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the National Park Service (NPS) and the Forest Service (USFS).

For more information click on “more”.

Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956

The Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 establishes a comprehensive national fish, shellfish, and wildlife resources policy with emphasis on the commercial fishing industry but also with a direction to administer the Act with regard to the inherent right of every citizen and resident to fish for pleasure, enjoyment, and betterment and to maintain and increase public opportunities for recreational use of fish and wildlife resources.

The 1998 amendments to the Act modified the powers of the Secretary of Interior in regard to volunteer service, community partnerships and education programs.

Friends Policy and Partnership Agreement


Background and Timeline:


April 4th, 2014 – U.S. FWS Director Dan Ashe, signed the Friends Policy to assist employees in achieving the Service mission more efficiently through partnerships with nonprofit Friends organizations. Details here.


January 21, 2014 – Acting Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, Cynthia Martinez, issued additional guidance regarding Service Volunteers and Friends Nature Stores to access this guidance click here.


2015: Service conducted webinars on the policy:

  • Region 1 and 8 webinar.
  • Region 2 webinar. Please note that on this webinar it is stated that if a refuge is 7-11 miles from a local grocery store, it might be appropriate for them to sell certain items (bottled water, snacks, etc.). That is not correct. We do not have a defined distance that deems it appropriate. Each refuge could be different — this is one of those questions where it is situational.
  • Region 5 webinar.


Spring 2014: The National Wildlife Refuge Association hires an independent law firm to review the Friends Partnership Agreement from a nonprofit’s perspective. View a side-by-side comparison of the Service’s template and the law firm’s suggested possible edits and comments.



March 15, 2016: After solicitor review of the recommendations presented by the law firm retained by the Refuge Association, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Steve Guertin, signs an amendment to the Partnership Agreement template regarding the anti-lobbying clause.

View the amendment here. 

FWS Donation Policy

The donation policy establishs procedures for reviewing and evaluating potential donors and donations. It lists delegations of authority for accepting donations and the roles and responsibilities of the Service’s Donations Senior Manager and employees authorized to accept donations. It provides guidance on soliciting donations, where appropriate, and provides general guidance on fundraising by non-Federal entities on the Service’s behalf. It also covers recognition of donors.

17-pages, PDF, 311 KB

National Fish Hatchery System Volunteer Act of 2006

An Act to enhance an existing volunteer program of USFWS and promote community partnerships for the benefit of national fish hatcheries and fisheries program offices.

5-pages, PDF, 37KB

National Wildlife Refuge Sysem Administration Act of 1966

The Act provides guidelines and directives for the administration and management of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

NWRS Volunteer and Community Partnership Act

This Act promotes volunteer programs and community partnerships for the benefit ot he national wildlife refuges, and for other purposes.

Refuge Recreation Act

The Recreation Act requires that any recreational use on areas of the National Wildlife Refuge System be “compatible” with the primary purpose(s) for which the area was acquired or established. This Act also requires that sufficient funding be available for the development, operation and maintenance of recreational uses that are not directly related to the area’s primary purpose(s).

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