Refuge System Rebranding Effort


USFWS Dual Logos

Refuge System Rebranding Effort

Refuge System Rebranding Effort

A person wearing a blue goose costume is pointing at the Fish and Wildlife Service emblem on the side of a building. The emblem is a shield with a fish jumping out of water and a goose flying overhead with a yellow and golden sun and sky in the background.
Photo of Puddles the Blue Goose pointing to the US FWS Shield. Curtesy of Kootenai NWR

By Janelle Wicks/ Photos by USFWS

Are you familiar with Puddles, the Blue Goose? Do you know the flying goose and jumping fish shield? What is the first thing that comes to mind when you see someone in a brown uniform? More likely than not your answers to the first to are, ‘Meh…’ and that last one… UPS?

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is grappling with an image or publicity problem. It seems that the arrowhead emblem of the National Park Service and the traditional green Forest Service uniforms are more ubiquitous in our collective cultural consciousness. Why is it less common for young children to think, ‘I want to be a Ranger for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and work on a National Wildlife Refuge’ than it is for that child to fantasize about being a National Park Ranger. It’s actually quite curious when you think about it. There are 424 National Park units in the United States while there are 567 National Wildlife Refuges with an additional 38 Wetland Management Units and 8 Marine National Monuments managed by the Fish & Wildlife Service. Presented with this information, one might think these separate Agencies, both administered by the Department of the Interior would be equally present in our minds when we think about our public lands. 

One distinction is quite clear and intentional. The agencies’ missions are different with one being focused on conserving habitat for wildlife (Refuges) and the other having a legacy of preserving cultural heritage (Parks) for public access and appreciation. Also, the work ‘park’ just implies something accessible while ‘refuge’ feels more reserved. 

The conundrum now is, how do we garner more public engagement with and support for National Wildlife Refuges? Friends Groups like ours are a good start. We can send out newsletters like this one. We can host events. We can hold fundraisers. We can manage education and outreach programs, coordinate volunteers, and advocate or lobby for our Refuge. But is that enough? Will Rumpl or Hydroflask or REI ever release Limited Edition Refuge gear that will have proceeds benefiting individual Refuges or the larger System that is experiencing year after year of belt tightening and the loss of staffing by attrition? 

The Refuge System and partners are working together to begin addressing the original question which may offer answers to the rest. In recent years some very talented Service personnel have been working on a rebranding effort to make the Refuge System and individual stations more recognizable. The ultimate goal, as outlined in a recent publication from Cynthia Martinez, Refuge System Chief, is that any changes “ensure that we remain authentic to our core values, while changing to ensure we are positively perceived and welcoming to the public.” To that end, a large-scale survey of staff and the public was completed, and the following objectives to strengthen brand recognition were identified: 

  • Using blue as the primary color to represent the National Wildlife Refuge System, beginning with new entrance and welcome sign designs. 

  • Using animal ambassadors to brand individual sites, specifically the adoption of a consistently styled version that will be featured on new entrance signs.

  • Using a new, combined FWS Shield/NWRS wordmark online, in publications and as email signatures to emphasize the name of the Refuge System and its relationship to the USFWS. 

  • Continuing to use the Blue Goose logo on boundary signs, bike racks, weathervanes and as our mascot.

Martinez goes on to say that “In addition to modernizing our visual identity many other branding activities will be occurring in the coming year. These include development of signature programs and events like Walk for the Wild, that facilitate Friends and field stations participating in national efforts, and a public awareness campaign that introduces the National Wildlife Refuge System to new audiences and invites support from existing ones.”

An example of this effort in action will be the eventual replacement of all Refuge entrance signs. New signage will look like this one at Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge in Eagle Lake, Texas. 

I, for one, am enthusiastic about this effort and the intended outcomes. Not just because I am passionate about Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but because I believe in the Refuge System and want others to be equally as aware of and inspired by their local Refuge! It wouldn’t hurt to see a national gear brand release a Refuge System Igloo cooler or Malheur NWR inspired camp blanket. 


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