Each unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System is established to serve a statutory purpose that targets the conservation of native species dependent on its lands and waters. All activities on those acres are reviewed for compatibility with this statutory purpose.
Great Swamp NWR was established by an act of Congress on November 3, 1960 and formally dedicated in 1964, primarily under the authorities of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (16 USC 703-711) and the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 (USC 715- 715s, 45 Stat. 1222) as amended, for the following purpose: “…for use as an inviolate sanctuary, or for any other management purpose, for migratory birds.” Based upon land acquisition documents and authorities, additional refuge purposes were identified as follows: "...suitable for (1) incidental fish and wildlife-oriented recreational development, (2) the protection of natural resources, (3) the conservation of endangered species or threatened species ..." (16 U.S.C. 460k-1, Refuge Recreation Act); "... the conservation of the wetlands of the Nation in order to maintain the public benefits they provide and to help fulfill international obligations contained in various migratory bird treaties and conventions ..." (16 U.S.C. 3901(b), Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 1986); and to conserve (A) fish or wildlife which are listed as endangered species or threatened species .... or (B) plants ..." (16 U.S.C. 1534, Endangered Species Act of 1973). As stated in a letter, dated 1962, from FWS Director Daniel H. Janzen to U.S. Congressman, Peter H.B. Frelinghuysen, Jr. of the New Jersey Fifth Congressional District, which covered most of Morris County: “The major objective of this refuge, other than to provide protection and preservation of the migratory waterfowl resource, is to provide an outdoor laboratory which will permit the people of the heavily populated surrounding area to engage in the above pursuits” (USFWS 1987).