PRESS RELEASE: 90,000 Acres of the Mississippi River Authorized for Wildlife Protection & Flood Control


Sierra Club, Missouri Chapter Logo


90,000 Acres of the Mississippi River Authorized
for Wildlife Protection & Flood Control

Date: November 13, 2023

Contact: Marisa Frazier,, 417-848-3494 

Environmentalists are celebrating the expansion of the Middle Mississippi National Wildlife National Refuge in Missouri and Illinois which will reduce catastrophic flooding, help area landowners, and protect habitats for native wildlife.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is now authorized to purchase up to 90,000 acres of historic floodplain from willing  private landowners.  Thanks to the USFWS and the many regional partners who helped make this possible.

The authorization is critically important because, according to the United States Geological Survey:

Missouri has lost as much as 4.2 million acres (87 percent) of its original wetlands. Most wetland loss has been due to agricultural conversions, urban development, and flood-control measures.

“Constricting the river over the course of hundreds of years has eliminated invaluable space for species habitat and flood control”

This expansion will provide for the restoration of large, connected areas of floodplain hardwood forest and side channel creation that will provide nature-based solutions to our changing climate . It will also provide important habitat for migratory birds and federally threatened and endangered species including Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, small whorled pogonia and running buffalo clover,  curtis pearlymussel, pallid sturgeon, 7 grotto sculpin, and least tern. The expansion will also provide land and river access for hunters, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. This expansion will benefit fish, wildlife, and their habitat while protecting the local community from catastrophic flooding.   

This new authority gives the agency greater ability to protect and restore wetlands and bottomland forests in this stretch of river that has relatively little public land compared to the upper Mississippi. Increasing access to public lands and waters is a central component of the 30x30 Campaign for Nature.  President Biden’s approach to conservation, including locally led and voluntary conservation and restoration efforts under President Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative

The refuge was designated as an Important Bird Area in 2008. “Many bird species are experiencing global decline, any additional assistance we can provide for resident or migrating birds is helpful” said Missouri Sierra Club Conservation Chair, Caroline Pufalt. 

“This is a huge victory for Missourians because it expands protected public lands. Adding 90,000 acres of wildlife refuge will increase Missouri’s contribution by 2.6% towards the Sierra Club’s goal of protecting 30% of our lands by 2030” said Marisa Frazier, Senior Field Organizer for Missouri Sierra Club. 

Missouri Sierra Club and its members advocated in support of the proposed expansion, and more than 1,000 Missouri residents have signed on in support of the 30x30 Campaign for Nature in Missouri. 

Background:  The Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge was established May 31, 2000. It currently consists of 6,215 acres. These lands provide access to the floodplain for native fish during high water and create a corridor of floodplain forest habitat for migratory birds and resident wildlife. 

Water levels may fluctuate greatly in this open river section of the Mississippi, as frequent flooding occurs on these lands. Connecting more land area directly with the river’s floodplain would be a great benefit for habitat quality and ecological functions,  as well as assisting in flood risk reduction.  Land available from willing sellers may be land which is “unproductive” farmland, marginal land not farmed, or frequently flooded land. All such acres can be put to a productive purpose through the wildlife refuge.  

The National Wildlife Refuge System is an unparalleled network of 568 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts across the country. More than 55 million Americans visit refuges every year. National wildlife refuges provide vital habitat for thousands of species and access to world-class recreation, from fishing, hunting and boating to nature watching, photography and environmental education.

Learn more about the finalized Middle Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge Land Protection Plan.

About the Sierra Club Missouri Chapter: The Missouri  Chapter of the Sierra Club is over 11,000 members strong. We are your friends and neighbors working to build healthy, livable communities, and to conserve and protect our climate and environment. The Missouri Chapter is part of the national Sierra Club, the nation's largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. For more information, visit