A Wetland of International Importance (Marker 1)
Wetlands are one of the most important ecosystems on the planet. They improve our quality of life by providing us with clean water, food, flood control, and many forms of recreation. Wetlands also abound with wildlife. Numerous bird groups, including shorebirds, waterfowl, wading birds, and colonial nesting birds, depend on healthy wetlands for survival. Wetlands on Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge provide feeding and nesting habitat for thousands of migratory birds. The wetlands you see on Sand Lake are so important to wildlife that in 1998, the Refuge was designated a "Wetland of International Importance" by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
What is a "Wetland of International Importance?"
In 1971, an international treaty called the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands was signed in Ramsar, Iran. The treaty promotes the conservation of global wetlands and recognizes specific sites at "Wetlands of International Importance." Signed by over 137 countries, the treaty identifies sites all over the globe that contribute significantly to the conservation and protection of wetlands and their values. As of 2003, there were over 1,300 designated sites throughout the world, 19 of which are in the United States, including Sand Lake National Wildlife
Refuge. These designated sites, often referred to as a "Ramsar Site" for short, are some of the most important and unique wetlands in the world.
Wetlands and Colonial Nesting Birds (Marker 2)
Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge was designated a "Wetland of International Importance" because of its tremendous value to wildlife, especially colonial nesting birds. On Sand Lake Refuge, large colonies of gulls, terns, grebes, herons, egrets, and other birds nest in emergent vegetation over the water.
These wetlands once hosted the largest nesting colony of Franklin's gulls in the world, with over 150,000 nesting pairs. Although the number of nesting pairs fluctuates annually due to changes in water levels and vegetation structure, this wetland continues to provide critical bird nesting habitat.