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The Flyer E-newsletter: December

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

Help Us Conserve America’s Wildlife Legacy

Evan HirscheLegacy is a powerful concept – indicating a heritage of such great significance and value that it must be maintained undiminished throughout the generations.

Our nation is fortunate to be home to a spectacular array of wildlife and habitat. We at the National Wildlife Refuge Association believe passionately that the magnificent legacy of  America’s unique natural treasures must be passed along to our children in its full glory and that our national wildlife refuges are central to securing this commitment.

National wildlife refuges are stunning places – wilderness icons like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, waterfowl meccas like Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in New York State, popular wildlife-viewing destinations like Cape May and Forsythe in New Jersey or “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Florida’s Sanibel Island, crucial habitat for endangered species like desert tortoise in the Mojave Desert and Florida panther in the Northern Everglades; the list goes on and on — each and every wildlife refuge meets a vital need.

The NWRA is a small organization that accomplishes big results through leverage and partnerships.  We do this by pursuing three strategies: advocacy for refuge and conservation funding and policy in Washington DC; training and mobilizing a grassroots force of Refuge Friends organizations; and facilitating landscape-scale conservation initiatives that bring together a broad array of public agencies, nonprofit groups, corporate partners, landowners and land managers to protect critical habitats around refuges.  We are experts in bringing diverse groups together around common conservation goals.

Our recently-released FY11 annual report provides many examples of NWRA’s accomplishments over the past year and demonstrates that the NWRA delivers unmatched bang for the environmental buck, both in terms of conservation results and dollars leveraged.

Please consider making a generous donation to NWRA before the end of the year and help us ensure that America’s remarkable wildlife legacy is conserved for generations to come!

Snowy owl, Forsythe NWR | Steve Greer
Every day is special on a national wildlife refuge, like catching a glimpse of a snowy owl hunting at Forsythe NWR in New Jersey | Steve Greer

New NWRA Website Means Timely Updates and Greater Functionality

We are excited to announce the launch of our newly updated website, rebuilt from the ground up with you, our supporters and Friends, in mind. Refugeassociation.org still showcases beautiful wildlife and landscape photography from our Refuge System photo contest, and now it is easier to use and navigate, with more ways for you to get involved. We hope you like it! Feel free to send any comments to: pwoolford@refugeassociation.org.

Onward and upward!

Evan Hirsche signature

NWRA NEWS

NWRA’s Annual Report Highlights 2011 Achievements

NWRA’s newly released annual report is hot off the presses! The report highlights the organization’s successes for the past fiscal year, from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011.

A few standout achievements of the past year are:

Annual Report Cover
Read NWRA’s 2011 Annual Report!
  • Advancing a new vision for the Refuge System: NWRA was the lead partner for public engagement in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s year-long effort to craft a blueprint for the NWRS for the next decade and beyond.
  • Helping the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of the BP Oil Spill: NWRA sprang into action, launching the Gulf Oil Spill Relief Fund for local Friends restoration efforts; created a film about the FWS Gulf response; and worked with the agency to identify top Gulf restoration projects that could be funded by BP damages dollars and fines.
  • Protecting Water, Wildlife and Way of Life in the Northern Everglades: NWRA worked intensively with partners to develop the Everglades Headwaters Conservation Partnership, a collaborative effort to protect a network of wetlands, cattle ranches and habitat for more than 30 threatened and endangered species—including the Florida panther.
  • Connecting Citizens with Congress: NWRA generated more than 3,000 messages to Congress from private citizens (you!) about important issues from protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from drilling to protecting Refuge System funding and everything in between.
  • Supporting Refuge Friends Groups: NWRA provided training and capacity building for Refuge Friends groups throughout the country, and organized dozens of Refuge Friends visits with decision-makers both in Washington and in their states and districts.

From the front cover featuring an elegant painted bunting photographed by Mack Barham at Black Bayou Lake NWR in Louisiana to the back cover image of Wood Duck drakes captured by Craig Strand at Ridgefield NWR in Washington, the report showcases wildlife and the people dedicated to its protection.

Learn more about what makes NWRA one of the most effective wildlife conservation organizations in America! Read our annual report here.

INSIDE WASHINGTON

Congress Cuts Refuge System Budget for FY12

Sustained budget cuts for the Refuge System could close popular wildlife refuges to the public.

Nearly a quarter of the way through the fiscal year, Congress at last passed a spending bill for the Department of the Interior. The final bill, a compromise between the House and the Senate, included a $6 million cut to the Refuge System’s budget over last year. Surprisingly, the resulting figure was higher than either the House or Senate had previously recommended – an extremely rare occurrence in Washington.

Capitol Hill insiders tell NWRA that Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representative Mike Simpson (R-ID), the two chairman of the appropriations subcommittees, wanted to help the Refuge System retain its management capability as much as possible without forcing lay-offs. The number they agreed upon for the Operations and Maintenance accounts of the Refuge System for Fiscal Year 2012 is $486 million.

Although this is below previous funding levels, this $486 million mark is still $3 million higher than the Senate’s proposal and a full $31 million more than was recommended in the House. NWRA thanks Chairmen Reed and Simpson for working to protect Refuge System funding as much as possible in a particularly challenging budget climate.

Even with this silver lining, the newly passed budget will have a negative impact on wildlife refuges. The Refuge System operates on a shoestring budget, and no program or department within the Refuge System is equipped with enough of a financial cushion to fully absorb the cuts. While this might not result in immediate lay-offs, an early analysis shows that the FWS is unlikely to fill vacant spots when staff retire or move on to other positions.

The situation looks even worse approaching negotiations for the Fiscal Year 2013 budget.  Because the House and Senate “Super Committee” failed to reach an agreement on how to trim $1.2 trillion from our nation’s spending, an automatic 9% cut across all programs could go into effect for FY 13.

This would have dire consequences for the Refuge System and would:

  • Close or partially close up to 55 visitor centers
  • Close or eliminate major programs at over 130 national wildlife refuges
  • Eliminate over 200 wildlife management jobs, resulting in severe cutbacks of critical habitat management work
  • Eliminate over 35 visitor services jobs – positions needed to mobilize the 40,000 volunteers that help the Refuge System welcome the public and administer recreational programs
  • Eliminate over 40 law enforcement officers, leaving a force of only about 170 people to carry out the work that the International Association of Chiefs of Police recommends should be done by 845 officers.

NWRA will be working hard in the coming year to ensure the Refuge System stays as strong as possible – stay tuned in early 2012 for how you can help!

Future Postage Stamp could help NWRS Wildlife Conservation Efforts

The proposed NWRS stamp would be similar in concept to the recently released “Save Vanishing Species Stamp”

A bill recently introduced in the House would create a Wildlife Refuge Conservation stamp to be sold by the U.S. Postal Service that would support wildlife conservation through additional funding for National Wildlife Refuge System. Both NWRA and the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) support the proposal for this new “semipostal” stamp.

The new stamp would cost slightly more than a regular postage stamp, 55 cents – 11 cents more than an individual First Class mail stamp –  and the additional funds would go to funding the Refuge System’s important conservation mission.  This is similar in concept to the recently created “Save Vanishing Species Semipostal Stamp” released by the U.S. Postal Service in September.  Adorned by an archetypical illustration of an Amur tiger cub, this stamp allows customers to donate to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Multinational Species Conservation Fund to protect elephants, great apes, rhinoceros, tigers, and other charismatic species found around the world.  You can buy the “Save Vanishing Species” stamp here.

The bill, H.R. 2236, was introduced by Representative Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, of the Northern Marianas Islands, and has 46 bi-partisan co-sponsors, including John Flemming, Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs. Look for an alert from NWRA in early 2012 urging Congress to pass this important bill!

BEYOND THE BOUNDARIES

NWRA Receives Award at Marshall Foundation’s “River of Grass” Gala

NWRA President Evan Hirsche receives the Marshall Foundation's Champion of the Everglades Award | Corby Kaye
NWRA President Evan Hirsche receives the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation’s Champion of the Everglades Award. Pictured left to right: Co-chair of the River of Grass Gala Harvey Oyer, NWRA President Evan Hirsche, Arthur R. Marshall Foundation President Nancy Marshall, and Arthur R. Marshall Foundation Chairman John Marshall.  | Corby Kaye

The National Wildlife Refuge Association was presented the “Champion of the Everglades” award at the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation’s annual “River of Grass” Gala last week at the Kravis Center for Performing Arts in West Palm Beach. Created in 2008, the award is presented to those who have made a significant contribution to protecting and restoring the Everglades. The Foundation also honored Palm Beach County Commissioner Karen Marcus and Charlie Pelizza of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“The National Wildlife Refuge Association is an organization that truly is deserving of the Champion of the Everglades Award,” said Nancy Marshall, president of the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation. “The staff has worked closely with the Department of Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ranchers, sportsmen, and numerous other organizations to help create [the proposed] Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. This proposed refuge is needed not only for protection of wildlife, wildlife corridors, and economic opportunities, but for the future of Florida.  [NWRA] helped organize town hall meetings, met with stake-holders, and, will continue working with Floridians to secure the funding that will be needed to bring the Everglades Headwaters project to fruition over the next several years.”

NWRA’s “Beyond the Boundaries” Team, led by David Houghton, senior vice-president for conservation programs, has worked tirelessly with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners in the Greater Everglades Partnership Initiative to reach the shared goals of protecting crucial wildlife habitat, ensuring clean water supplies for more than 6 million people, sustaining Florida’s ranching economy, safeguarding America’s military readiness and increasing recreational opportunities.

“We’re honored to be recognized for our work to conserve one of America’s most iconic landscapes,” said Evan Hirsche, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “But it’s the inspired commitment and engagement of state and federal agencies, private landowners and NGOs that will ultimately carry the day.”

Act Now!  Until December 31, 2011, the Orvis Company will match dollar-for-dollar your contribution to support NWRA’s work in the Everglades Headwaters.

FRIENDS CONNECTION

Friends Focus: Friends of Great Swamp

In Morris County, New Jersey, just 26 miles west of New York City’s concrete jungle, is the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, a nearly 7,800-acre refuge that includes more than 3,600 acres of designated wilderness. The story of the refuge and its Friends group is a story of dedication to conserving wild land in one of the most urban states in the East.

“It amazes people to come to the refuge and realize there’s this kind of place in this densely populated state,” says Laura Nally, president of the Friends of Great Swamp NWR. The Friends group, established in 1999, boasts more than 400 members; its more than 150 active volunteers exceeded 15,000 volunteer hours to the refuge last year. “We’re very blessed to have so many people involved,” Nally says.

If not for citizen involvement, the land set aside in 1960 as Great Swamp NWR could have become a jetport instead. The New York’s Port Authority wanted to take the land by eminent domain, but “citizens were outraged and stopped the plan,” says Nally. “It’s the only time the Port Authority has ever been defeated.”

These days, environmental education is a major focus of the Friends of Great Swamp. Volunteers lead hikes, birdwatching walks, and educational tours for area schoolchildren. The group’s “Swamp in a Box” educational kits help teachers bring the refuge’s resources to their classrooms through videos, worksheets, and posters.

“One of the things that makes us special is that we have a very active education group to help kids get excited about the outdoors,” says Nally. The Friends’ newest project is a Detective Trail for preschool to second-grade kids designed “to use their senses to learn about nature and perk up their interest. This is a younger age group than we’ve targeted previously,” Nally notes. The Trail, created with help from local high school students, features footprints of different wildlife species along with 11 bright, colorful signs at different stations along the trail to encourage hikers to feel, smell, touch, and listen to nature. The trail debuted at the Friends’ annual Fall Festival in September.

The Friends of Great Swamp raises more than $20,000 a year for refuge programs through its Nature Shop in the refuge’s visitor center. Friends group volunteers staff the visitor center four days a week, help maintain and repair the boardwalk trails, monitor bluebird and wood duck boxes, pick up trash, remove invasive species, and greet visitors at the boardwalk area of the Wildlife Observation Center during spring and fall bird migrations. “The refuge just doesn’t have enough staff to do all these things,” says Nally. Luckily for the refuge, it has its Friends.

Learn more about the Friends of Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

Friends of Great Swamp
A Nature Detective Trail for Pre-K through second graders is the latest project of the Friends of Great Swamp. It encourages very young children to engage with nature by listening, looking, tasting, smelling, and touching. Local high school students helped build the trail. | Laurel Gould

SUPPORT THE NWRA

Want to give a gift this holiday that means something? Give the gift of wildlife refuges!

Give the gift of wildlife refuges this holiday season!

You can support NWRA’s mission to conserve America’s wildlife heritage for future generations with a donation.

In recognition of your contribution, you may select a ‘Honk if you like Refuges!’ or ‘Protect the Arctic’ decal — or choose a plush polar bear with your donation of $50 or more. With your help, we will work to protect refuges and the wildlife that depend on them around the country.

Our annual report shows what a great year 2011 was for NWRA and our refuges. 2012 can be even better but we need your help to extend our reach and increase our impact. Our supporters are our greatest strength — without you, we couldn’t do what we do! And with your generosity, we’ll be able to do even more.

 

$50 Donation or more: $25 Donation or more: $25 Donation or more:
Polar bear plush toy “Honk if you’re a Friend of Refuges decal” Protect the Arctic” decal

UPCOMING EVENTS

January 13, 2012

DID YOU KNOW

Crested caracara
Three crested caracaras | Jim Burns

Florida’s crested caracaras are a remnant of the last ice age

Oak savannah habitat disappeared throughout large areas of the Gulf Coast at the end of the last ice age, separating Florida’s caracaras from those in southern Texas. Crested caracaras are listed as threatened in Florida, and these falcon-like birds and their habitat will be protected by the proposed Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge.

Our CFC # is 10076!

Permanent link to this article: http://refugeassociation.org/2011/12/december-flyer/