Things to Consider Before Operating from a National Wildlife Refuge
- Your operation must be authorized by the refuge manager. Review the NWR Week-Amateur Radio rules.
- Safety is the most important consideration during your operation. You are responsible for safety so consider
your station location and how your equipment, antenna and cables should be arranged to ensure a safe operation.
Consult with refuge staff and follow their safety requirements. Please review the Disclaimer.
- Be a good steward of the refuge. This Amateur Radio activity embraces the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
mission. The goal is to combine communication skills with enjoyment of the outdoors to help others learn about
the National Wildlife Refuge System. Your presence in wildlife areas should be dignified, deferent and passive,
minimizing impact and leaving habitat unaltered. Only responsible, authorized access to refuges is encouraged.
- Ham operators may be required to locate their stations inside a visitors center or in less frequented areas
of a refuge. Outdoor stations may benefit from the use of a temporary shelter such as a tent or awning to provide
protection from the elements. Operaters desiring low visibility should plan a ham station that occupies a small
footprint. The wooden portable station-cabinet shown in the photo at right was modeled after a
Boy Scout kitchen box. Consult with refuge staff to determine station parameters.
- Respect wildlife and other visitors to the refuge. Scientists, researchers or photographers may be working
nearby. Use headphones or set speaker volume on low. Keep your voices low. Do not wear bright colored clothing.
Do not approach or attempt to feed wildlife.
- Potentially harmful wildlife (e.g. snakes, spiders, tics) and/or flora (e.g. poison ivy) may be in the vicinity
of your operating area or may move into the area (e.g. deer, elk, buffalo, snakes). You should be prepared to stop
operating and move away from your station if necessary. Consult with the refuge manager for appropriate safety
- Join forces with refuge staff to get the word out. If allowed by the refuge manager, operate at or near
the refuge visitor center, along auto-tour routes or hiking trails, or other location that allows visitor exposure.
However, your presence should not disturb quiet enjoyment of the refuge by other visitors.
- Use a checklist such as the example at right to ensure that all items you take into the refuge are removed when you leave (e.g.
transceivers, antennas, coax, refuse, etc.). If there is litter in the vicinity of your operation left by
others, please place it in a trash receptacle. Leave pets at home. Pets are not allowed in many national
- Publicize your operation through ARRL.org, QST, CQ, World Radio, QRZ.com, E-ham.net, and other ham radio
publications and web sites as a special event by July 30th. Example:
Oct 11, 1500-0000Z,
Tishomingo Natl Wildlife Refuge,
Oklahoma. KØT. National Wildlife Refuge Week.
17.140, 14.240, 14.073 (PSK31), 7.240 (+/-). QSL via
A-OK ARC, 1117 NW 24th St., Oklahoma City, OK
Submitting publicity information for your event in July usually ensures that it will appear in the October issue
of QST, CQ Magazine, Worldradio, etc.
- Reviewing past NWR Amateur Radio reports may provide ideas to help you organize your NWR
operation: NWR Week Library.
- Request an FCC special event 1x1 call sign if desired. Information about 1x1 call signs is available on
the ARRL 1x1 Call Sign web page, and you may request specific
1x1 call signs on-line. You must provide the dates of
operation. Requests typically take 2-3 days to process.
- When contacting other stations, describe the refuge and wildlife and share facts about the refuge. It helps
to make a list beforehand.
- Establish a simple web page for your operation that includes photos and information about the refuge and your
operating schedule and QSL requirements: SASE, green stamp, etc. Prior to your operation, submit your web
site URL to nwrweek-radio.info for placement on the activations list.
- Include a narrative about the refuge on your QSL card or in an insert to mail with your QSL cards.
- Suggested operating frequencies & modes: Work any band and mode(s), including SSB, CW, PSK31, RTTY, etc.
Simple (mobile, portable from a picnic table) or elaborate setups (operating shelter, pub info tent, etc.)
may be used, subject to the refuge manager's approval. Do not overlook using CW for this special event. CW contacts
may be conversational ragchews or brief exchanges such as "NA5U DE WØNWR BT
QTH DRIFTLESS AREA NATL WILDLIFE REFUGE IN IOWA BT UR 5NN ES
NAME GLENN BK."
- Competition for frequencies has been an issue during past NWR Week events (e.g. QSO parties). Be flexible:
Operate on weekdays if you can.
Use digital modes, e.g. PSK, RTTY.
Upper and lower band edge areas may be less congested during QSO parties. Embrace QSO party activity
and try to give participants the exchange they need, along with some information about the refuge and suggest
that they "Visit a wildlife refuge near you!"
- Enjoy the refuge and its wildlife. Take plenty of photos to include in a post-operation report
to the refuge manager. Be sure to submit your photos and report to:
- After your operation, send a letter to the refuge manager and staff thanking them for accommodating your operation.