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The refuge’s mission is to preserve and manage an undeveloped expanse of floodplain forest, marshes, rivers, and associated habitat within an agricultural and urban landscape through habitat management, encouraging public stewardship, educational programs, and private land activities .
Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1953 and contains approx. 10,000 acres of marsh, bottomland hardwood forest, and grasslands. It was authorized by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission under the Migratory Bird Conservation Act "...for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds." Additional purposes designated under the Refuge Recreation Act are "...incidental fish and wildlife-oriented recreational development, the protection of natural resources, and the conservation of endangered and threatened species."