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The Flyer E-newsletter: June

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

Today’s Best Return on Investment in Wildlife Conservation!

Evan HirscheAre you getting the most bang for your charitable buck when it comes to supporting wildlife conservation? If you’re like most people, the central reward of making a donation comes from knowing that your gift is going to make a difference for wildlife or habitat. But you may be surprised by how far your generosity really goes when you make that donation to the NWRA.

Consider that NWRA has played a central role in:

  • Increasing Refuge System funding by nearly $130 million – or 34% – between fiscal years 2005 and 2010;
  • Securing $290 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus package;
  • Since 2005, ensuring $257 million in emergency funding for the Refuge System in response to natural disasters.

Let’s be clear – the National Wildlife Refuge System simply can’t fulfill its wildlife conservation mission without adequate funding for staffing, habitat restoration and public outreach. With this nearly half a billion dollars in extra funding over the past 6 years, the future of the Florida panther is brighter than ever thanks to the creation of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, grizzly bears have a better shot at survival in the lower 48 thanks to the creation of the Rocky Mountain Front NWR in Montana, and endemic Hawaiian birds like the I’iwi are better protected thanks to reforestation and invasive species removal at Hakalau Forest NWR.

Operatinos and maintenace budget of the Refuge System
NWRA’s leadership with the CARE group and refuge Friends groups has led to enormous Refuge System funding gains since 1996.

For more than 30 years the NWRA has been committed to protecting the Refuge System and its abundance of wildlife. Our efforts have paid off — the Refuge System is as financially strong as it’s ever been. By leveraging the resources of other national conservation and sporting groups, and the voices of thousands of private citizens and the more than 230 refuge Friends groups across the country, we have brought the Refuge System, woefully underfunded even a decade ago, back from the brink by helping to secure major annual funding increases. 

The creation of the Rocky Mountain Front Conservation area will help grizzly bear habitat in the lower forty-eight. | FWS

Our leadership and advocacy on Capitol Hill and with the Administration, and our efforts as Chair of the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement, a coalition of national conservation and recreation groups, have played an essential part in seeing these dramatic gains for the Refuge System.

Just think, with an annual budget of just $2 million a year, we’ve managed to leverage an average of $100 million a year for the National Wildlife Refuge System!  This wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of our members and supporters.

No other national organization is as successful and singly focused on furthering the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System as we are.  Together we have made great strides to protect American wildlife, but to keep the momentum going we need your continued support. That’s why I’m asking you to make a generous donation today to the NWRA, before our fiscal year ends on June 30.

You – our members and supporters – have driven our success, and you will make it possible to achieve even great conservation strides in the year ahead.

Please donate generously today!

Sincerely,

Evan Hirsche signature

 

 

 

NWRA NEWS

NWRA’s Board of Directors welcomes new board members; elects new Chair

Stuart Watson, Chair of NWRA’s Board of Directors

The National Wildlife Refuge Association is pleased to welcome Janice Mondavi of St. Helena, California, Rebecca Rubin of Fredericksburg, Virginia, James F. McClelland III of Washington, District of Columbia, and Kathy Woodward of Chatham, New Jersey to the NWRA Board of Directors, and to announce the election of Stuart Watson as the new Chair.

“I’m proud to be elected Chair of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and look forward to working with our talented staff and board to make an even greater difference for our National Wildlife Refuge System and the wildlife it protects,” said NWRA Chair Stuart Watson.

At a June meeting held in Castine, Maine, the board elected officers for the coming fiscal year in addition to the Chair position, including Kathy Woodward as the Vice-Chair, William Buchanan as the Treasurer and John Cornely as the Secretary.

“NWRA is fortunate to have such a diverse and committed group of individuals serving on the Board of Directors,” said NWRA President Evan Hirsche. “Combined with Stuart’s leadership, the organization is entering an exciting new era.”

Read our press release for our new board member bios.

Update your address book, NWRA has moved!

The National Wildlife Refuge Association has moved to a new address. Please note our change of address and mail any correspondence to:

National Wildlife Refuge Association

5335 Wisconsin Ave NW, Suite 521

Washington, DC 20015

And if you haven’t already, please update your records with recently changed phone number: 202-417-3803. Click here for the list of staff extension numbers.

NWRA Attends Everglades Event with Vice President Biden and Senator Bill Nelson

NWRA President Evan Hirsche attended an event in Florida this April, where Vice President Joe Biden spoke about the Obama administration’s recent accomplishments conserving the Everglades. Florida Senator Bill Nelson, and Congressman Alcee Hastings joined Mr. Biden at the event.

Vice President Joe Biden speaks to an audience in Florida about conservation achievements in the Everglades. Pictured with Senator Bill Nelson (seated left) and Representative Alcee Hastings. | Evan Hirsche

The Vice President spoke passionately about the 18,000 square-mile Everglades ecosystem, which he described as a “national treasure” encompassing an area much larger than the protected Everglades National Park.  Biden emphasized the economic importance of the “River of Grass” as a tourist destination, and noted that over $1.5 million has been invested in protecting the Everglades since President Obama took office.  He estimates that these restoration efforts will generate $46.5 billion in net revenues over the long haul.

Vice President Biden also discussed the recent creation of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, which has been an NWRA priority for several years.  He commended Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the ranchers in central Florida for working together to further the shared goal of protecting the northern reaches of the Everglades watershed.

In January, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe, and Senator Bill Nelson announced the establishment of America’s 556th national wildlife refuge, the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area.  The creation of the Headwaters Refuge marked an exciting milestone not just for the Refuge System and the State of Florida, but also for NWRA. Learn more about how NWRA helped create the newest national wildlife refuge.

Mr. Biden’s visit to the Everglades put much-needed spotlight on protecting the Everglades in its entirety.  This is important not only to protect a unique and fragile ecosystem for wildlife, but also to insure that clean water needed by millions of people in South Florida continues to flow through the Everglades.

INSIDE WASHINGTON

Huge opportunities for conservation in the Federal Transportation Bill

The Transportation Bill currently being negotiated by leaders in the House and Senate holds great potential for the National Wildlife Refuge System, especially if key provisions in the Senate version of the legislation concerning Gulf Coast restoration and funding for land acquisition programs stay in the final bill. Hill insiders report that the bill could be finalized at any time.

Proposed laws in the current Transportation Bill will greatly help gulf coast restoration and boost national wildlife refuge land acquisition around the country. | David Moynahan

The Senate’s version of the sweeping Transportation Bill (S. 1813) includes provisions from the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourism Opportunities and Revived Economy of the Gulf Coast Act of 2011, or “RESTORE Act,” legislation originally drafted to restore ecosystems after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. If passed, this law would stipulate that 80% of the fines related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster and collected from companies like BP would stay in states located in the Gulf Coast region.

The RESTORE Act also includes important funding to support purchasing land for wildlife refuges and other public lands around the country by appropriating $700 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for each of the next two fiscal years (FY 2013 and FY 2014). It would also permanently commit 1.5% of LWCF to “making public lands public” projects that provide public access for hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreation. And finally, the Senate version reauthorizes LWCF through 2022.

$700 million for LWCF for the next two fiscal years would result in real conservation gains in the Refuge System and other public lands. To put it in perspective, if LWCF receives $700 million, refuges could receive substantially more funding for land acquisition than almost ever before -– truly moving the needle on conservation.

In addition to the RESTORE Act, the Transportation bill includes important funding for the Refuge System and would help fund roads and trams, or alternative modes of transportation on wildlife refuges.

With a deadline of June 30th approaching, members of a House and Senate Conference Committee are hammering out a final Transportation Bill that both chambers hope can pass. Please send your U.S. Representative and Senators a message urging them to retain the Senate provisions for LWCF and the RESTORE Act in the final Transportation Bill.

Final Refuge System Appropriations Will Wait Until Lame Duck

Young birdwatchers at a wildlife refuge. Budget cuts threaten to limit or end many visitor services and educational programs at national wildlife refuges. | FWS

Even though the clock is ticking for Congress to draft legislation to fund the government for the next fiscal year, it is unlikely that there will be a final bill outlining appropriations for the National Wildlife Refuge System, or any agency in the Department of the Interior, by the time the fiscal year ends on September 30th.

In a surprisingly predictable fashion, Congressional gridlock will likely prevent appropriations bills from being passed before the new fiscal year starts for the government on October 1, 2012. With little incentive for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground, and with elections occurring in November, a final appropriations bill for the Interior Department is likely to be voted on in a Lame Duck session of Congress this November or December.

House Interior Appropriations Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID) has proposed a spending bill for next year that will go to the full Appropriations Committee next week. At that point we will know how the Refuge System fares under the proposed spending bill.  So far, the numbers proposed in the Subcommittee include a 21% cut to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which, if passed on to the Refuge System, the FWS would be forced to:

  • Close, or eliminate major programs at, 256 national wildlife refuges.
  • Eliminate approximately 400 wildlife management jobs, resulting in severe cutbacks of critical habitat management work such as invasive species control.
  • Eliminate all Visitor Services jobs, all but ending public access and recreation opportunities, and halting the force of 42,000 volunteers that currently performs about 20% of the work done on refuges.
  • Eliminate 80 law enforcement officers, leaving a force of only 164 people to carry out the work of what the International Association of Chiefs of Police recommends should be done by 845 officers.

Stay tuned next week as we learn more about the House proposal. Rest assured, NWRA will be looking for refuge supporters like you to weigh in and oppose the drastic cuts anticipated.

NWRA Members and Supporters Voice their Support for Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

In May, over 350 members of our Refuge Action Network joined NWRA in voicing support for Izembek NWR by submitting comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service against the proposed “Road to Nowhere” through the refuge. The Service finished collecting comments on the proposal May 18th as they moved one step closer in finalizing their recommendation on whether or not the creation of a road through the pristine Alaskan wildlife refuge should be allowed to move forward.

Izembek lagoon | USFWS
Izembek lagoon | USFWS

In 2009 Congress passed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-11), and authorized the construction of a multi-million dollar road through the ecological heart of Izembek National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Alaska, with a stipulation that the Secretary of the Department of Interior must decide that the project is in the “public interest.” The proposed road would bisect the federally designated wilderness in the heart of the refuge, destroying this fragile ecosystem. Under the law, lands would be offered in exchange for the corridor on which the road would be built; however, these lands are of significantly lesser conservation value.

Proponents argue it is needed to transport people in emergencies across a bay – from King Cove (pop 800) to Cold Bay (pop 80). However, Congress already solved this problem in 1998, with a $37.5 million appropriation to King Cove used to purchase a state-of-the-art hovercraft for regular ferry and emergency medical service; upgrade King Cove’s medical facilities; construct new marine terminals; and build an unpaved road between the town of King Cove and the connecting marine terminal.

For this environmentally devastating and costly road to be constructed, Secretary Salazar must first find the road to be in the public interest through an environmental review of the project, called an Environmental Impact Statement or (EIS). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a Draft EIS and NWRA and the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges provided comments in March.

Now that the public comment period has closed for the Draft EIS, the next step will be for the FWS to release a final EIS that will be used by the Secretary of the Interior as a recommendation to either allow or block the creation of the road.

Constructing the proposed road would disrupt nesting wildlife and fragment the wildlife refuge. Additionally, it would set a dangerous legal precedent that could threaten millions of acres of land that is designated “wilderness” by the United States.  Read more about Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and the controversial “Road to Nowhere”.

Refuge supporters help stop a bill that threatened to disarm wildlife officers

The FOCUS Act was stopped in its tracks thanks to wildlife refuge supporters like you. | USFWS

Thanks to Refuge supporters and Friends, NWRA was able to help stop a proposed bill that would have stripped Federal wildlife officers from their authority to carry firearms.  Lawmakers had proposed a bill that threatened to disarm wildlife refuge law enforcement officers, threatening both their safety and the safety of refuge visitors.  If enacted, the Freedom from Over-Criminalization and Unjust Seizures Act of 2012 (FOCUS Act) would have taken away the authority of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers to be able to carry guns.

The purpose of the FOCUS Act is to decriminalize wildlife related crimes enforced under the Lacey Act. For more than a century the Lacey Act has prevented poaching wildlife, importing illegal plants and wildlife, and the spread of invasive species. The FOCUS Act seeks to decriminalize the law that prevents wildlife from being traded illegally in the United States and helps stop the illegal importation of invasive species like the Burmese python.

The Lacey Act is a statute that gives the Fish and Wildlife Service (as well as NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) the authority to carry a firearm. By decriminalizing this law, it would prohibit the law enforcement officers that patrol our national wildlife refuges from carrying a gun.

The unintended consequences of decriminalizing the Lacey Act are sweeping and put Refuge Law Enforcement officers and the general public in great danger. Many Refuge System law enforcement officers come in contact with people carrying firearms on a daily basis. While the vast majority of these people are law-abiding citizens, not all have the best intentions. A Refuge Law Enforcement officer could be putting themselves and others at great risk when confronting an armed individual in violation of Refuge rules and regulations.

NWRA is able to act on issues like the FOCUS Act because of support from our members – but without financial support we simply cannot follow these issues and let you know about them.

Please consider a contribution  – whatever you can afford – because it is what allows us the ability to respond to critical issues such as this.

While we have won the battle today, there is still a chance the measure will come up again – please help us with a contribution today and help us help the Refuge System!

CONSERVATION PROGRAMS

NWRA helps protect important wildlife corridor used by Florida panthers

Florida panther | FWS
NWRA helped protect a key parcel of land along a Florida panther migration route. | FWS

The National Wildlife Refuge Association was instrumental in protecting habitat for the Florida panther by facilitating a diverse public and private partnership of organizations that collaborated to secure an important wildlife corridor called Panther Crossing near Kissimmee, Florida.

“Seldom can a single accomplishment have such a profound conservation impact,” said David Houghton, NWRA’s Senior Vice-President for Conservation. “It took years of persistence by a broad spectrum of agencies, organizations and individuals to bring us to this conservation victory that will leave a lasting conservation legacy.”

NWRA helped by working with landowners, government agencies and the Nature Conservancy (TNC) to devise and carry through a conservation strategy for the Panther Crossing property. Together, these groups worked to secure funding needed to purchase conservation easements on the 1,278-acre property.  The protected areas will be managed by TNC and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and will be vital for the survival of Florida panthers.

“This is a great example of working beyond refuge boundaries to secure habitat for threatened species,” said NWRA Landscape Conservation Programs Project Manager Badge Blackett. “It’s a true partnership between private landowners and public agencies.”

Florida panthers require large tracts of land to roam. Roads and other development cut off the pathways that panthers use to travel, and have inhibited their natural recovery and expansion north of the Caloosahatchee River. By tracking panthers using special collars, scientists determined that the Panther Crossing property is a key link in a migration route that takes the animals across the Caloosahatchie River.

The protection and restoration of the Panther Crossing property is viewed as an important step in establishing two independent populations of the Florida panther. Conservationists hope this will lead to a recovery where the species can eventually be considered to be delisted from their current endangered status. Learn more about NWRA’s work to protect endangered Florida panthers.

FRIENDS

Friends Focus: St. Marks Refuge Association

With amazing wildlife and a picturesque lighthouse, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is a fantastic destination for photographers and wildlife enthusiasts alike. You could even go as far as to describe the refuge and surrounding landscape as “award winning.” In fact, an image of a green tree frog taken on the refuge captured the first place prize of the National Wildlife Refuge Association’s 2010 Refuge Photo Contest.

The Friends of St. Marks have been busy trying to save the historic lighthouse situated on the refuge. | Myrna Erler-Bradshaw

Located on the Apalachee Bay about an hour south of Tallahassee, the 68,000-acre St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is one of the oldest national wildlife refuges in the country. Established in 1931 to protect wintering habitat for waterfowl, visitors today come to see an abundance of wildlife, from monarch butterflies to migratory birds and alligators. Following the tragic BP Oil Spill, a photograph of St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge was chosen as an emblematic image showcasing Florida’s fragile wetlands on a commemorative Duck Stamp “cachet” or envelope that was used to raise money for habitat restoration.

The St. Marks Refuge Association, the non-profit booster or “Friends” organization, supporting the refuge promotes nature photography and organizes the St. Marks Refuge Photo Club. The club is open to anyone interested in nature photography on the refuge and it organizes field trips, holds meetings where photographers come to discuss all aspects of nature photography with beginning and experienced photographers, and organizes an annual Photo Contest.

Promoting nature photography is far from the only thing that occupies the St. Marks Refuge Association.  Formed in 1987, the group operates the refuge nature shop – proceeds go towards refuge education, biological and improvement projects.  The Association has been involved in the pending transfer of the historic St. Marks Lighthouse from U.S. Coast Guard Ownership to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The association is leading efforts to raise donations to restore the lighthouse, which was originally built in 1832 and is still in use today.

Recently, The Association was awarded an Every Day grant from the National Environmental Education Foundation to help build the organization’s capacity by providing funding to buy a new computer, printer, donor/fundraising software, and board training.  By taking advantage of opportunities like this, the Association is working to expand their capability to further their mission, and the conservation mission of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

A Friends Group like No Other

Question:

When is a Refuge Friends Group not directly associated with any particular refuge?

Answer:

When it’s the new Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp.

Like the many other independent refuge Friends Groups, this organization of Friends promotes public appreciation of the Refuge System, including how appropriate wildlife-dependent recreation can be conducted on refuge lands. Unlike those many other Friends Groups, the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp is not connected to any one refuge, or one complex, or even connected to refuges in any one state. This Friends group actually advocates the growth of Refuges through the sales and promotion of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp, funding that has to date impacted 249 refuges in the Refuge System.

The new Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp are a unique Refuge Friends organization.

Sales of the Stamp are a major driver for quality refuge land acquisition ­- fee title and easements. As such, the Friends will promote the work of the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF) and the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission (MBCC). This Friends group will also work to maintain relations with three distinct arms of the Service:  the Federal Duck Stamp Office, the Division of Realty, and Refuge Visitor Services.

The “Duck Stamp” is probably the best investment in refuge-and-bird conservation that you can make today.  And, by buying and displaying a Stamp, refuge supporters can show that they appreciate wetland and grassland habitat protection for all birds and other wildlife, and that they care!

The new Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp has just gone live with a website. You can find out more about the group and join: www.Friendsofthestamp.org

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DID YOU KNOW?

Free of rats, Rat Island now has a new name

Alaska’s “Rat Island” has been renamed Hawadax to celebrate being officially free of rats since 2010.  Part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Complex, the small island was overrun by rats until the Fish and Wildlife Service started a program to eradicate the invasive species from the island in 2008.  The new name comes from the traditional Aleut name for the 6,600-acre island.

Hawadax Island, formerly known as “Rat Island.” | FWS

Permanent link to this article: http://refugeassociation.org/2012/06/the-flyer-e-newsletter-june/