Dear Refuge Association Supporters,
This is my first Flyer as NWRA President and I’d like to take the opportunity to introduce myself. I came to know the National Wildlife Refuge Association in 1987 when I was working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a biological technician at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It was during this time as a Service employee that I came to understand the global significance of our National Wildlife Refuge System – the world’s greatest system of lands and waters dedicated to wildlife – and the vital work of the National Wildlife Refuge Association to protect and enhance it.
One beautiful summer day I gave Ginger Merchant, then President of the Refuge Association, a tour of Monomoy NWR. It quickly became apparent how important an advocate like the Refuge Association is to the Service’s ability to fulfill its mission. Since that fateful day in 1987 I knew the Refuge Association would always be a part of me. First I served as the Refuge Association’s Northeast Regional Representative , from there I became a Board member, then a Landscape Conservation consultant, following to the Program Manager for Beyond the Boundaries and until recently, Vice President. As I take on this challenging new role as President, I will draw on my experiences as both a Service employee and wildlife advocate to best serve the Refuge Association as we move forward with our vision for the future.
This is a new and exciting time for both the National Wildlife Refuge Association and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. With Dan Ashe as the Director of the Service and many new Regional Directors and Regional Refuge Chiefs, there is a multitude of emerging opportunities in and around the Service. Although we are entering a time of fiscal austerity, the Service has emerged from these times stronger because of dedicated employees and passionate supporters such as members of the Refuge Association. The Refuge Association stands ready as the Service’s “go to” partner from working with Friends, sportsmen, and landowners, to coalitions of conservation organizations supporting the Refuge System, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and other conservation programs. NWRA can, and will, make successful conservation happen on the ground through our Beyond the Boundaries Program and partnership with the Service.
NWRA is the only conservation organization whose sole mission is to support the goals and objectives of the Fish and Wildlife Service. To fully meet this momentous task we must grow larger and stronger – and we will.
We at the Refuge Association will be successful because our mission has never been more important and our supporters, like you, power us to do great things for wildlife and the American people!
See you on a Refuge,
New Gulf Restoration Projects Seek Public Comment
The Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees have released a near-term restoration plan focusing on nesting habitat for birds and sea turtles along the Gulf Coast. The $9 million dollar effort includes two proposed projects to mitigate damages incurred by these sensitive habitats. The avian beach-nesting project will protect nesting habitat affected by oil spill response activities. Similarly, the sea turtle project will work to reduce artificial light pollution in loggerhead nesting habitat brought on by oil spill response operations.
“We are pleased to be able to move forward with these important projects that restore key nesting and wintering habitats for Florida’s coastal wildlife, and we will continue to work with our fellow Trustees to address the full injury the Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting oil spill created,” said Nick Wiley, Florida’s Co-Trustee with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “Restoring these damages to the Gulf Coast is vital to the families and businesses that depend on healthy and diverse fish and wildlife resources, and we look forward to working closely with our coastal communities as these projects take shape.”
A Changing Climate Thrashes Coastal Refuges
As Hurricane Sandy barreled through the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions this October many coastal Refuges were severely hit. In addition to infrastructure damage,
which included visitor centers, office buildings, equipment, and operational facilities, irreversible environmental damage has occurred. Heavy rain and winds caused massive flooding and erosion for coastal and river Refuges from North Carolina to Maine. Fragile habitats have been disturbed and America’s wildlife will pay.
In light of ever shrinking budgets, many Refuges will face costly damage with limited funds for repairs. As the only dedicated nonprofit organization advocating solely for the National Wildlife Refuge System budget, NWRA has created a special fund to assist Refuges that have been disproportionally affected by Hurricane Sandy. Funds raised from this campaign will go toward compiling a report to the Administration and Congress on costs and the need for Refuge repair- without this Refuges and wildlife may be overlooked as funds flow to other agencies charged with hurricane response.
Make a donation today to ensure a fully funded recovery for America’s wild places and wildlife.
The Wild Side of Thanksgiving, A Conservation Success Story
Everyone at the Thanksgiving table has a family member that just couldn’t make it to this year’s festivities, including the turkey. Farm raised turkeys, the piece de resistance of the great American harvest tradition, are descendents of the wild turkey—a true Native American. Historical accounts from early European settlers suggest that wild turkeys existed in what would now be considered 39 continental states. Wild turkeys thrived in forested habitat across the eastern United States and were closely tied to Native American culture as a game bird.
During the 17th century, early American settlers took advantage of thriving wild turkey populations as a staple food source for those in the new world. The subsequent 200 years were no different, with deforestation from intensive land use practices and unsustainable hunting leading to the demise of wild turkey populations. By the mid 1800s, the frontier had expanded west and the wild turkey range was cut in half. The once ubiquitous game bird was nearly extirpated.
Like all good holiday stories, however, the wild turkey has a happy ending. In 1937 Congress came together with hunting and wildlife groups to pass the Pittman-Robertson Act—an 11% excise fee on sporting arms and ammunition that is entrusted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for state initiated wildlife restoration projects. Pittman-Robertson dollars matched with state hunting license fees provided the fiscal vehicle for necessary research and the subsequent reintroduction of the wild turkey.
Today, there are over 7 million wild turkeys roaming North America and every state except Alaska sustains a wild turkey hunting program. So this year, let’s give thanks to the sportsmen and women who helped ensure we have turkeys in our woods and wildlife refuges!
NWRA Looks Forward to Working with President Obama for Another Term
Under President Obama’s leadership, the Refuge System has transitioned to the forefront of land and water conservation. In the past four years, the National Wildlife Refuge System has grown to include 560 refuges, in all states and territories. It is the world’s largest wildlife conservation program and serves as the biological anchor for America’s wildlife heritage. So, it is with great excitement that NWRA looks forward to working with President Obama and his Administration for another term. We also invite President Obama to experience the beauty of America’s National Wildlife Refuge System—an important economic and environmental driver—first hand.
The President has demonstrated a commitment to conservation through the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. American wild lands such as the Crown of the Continent, Dakota Grasslands, and Florida Everglades, have been protected as large landscape conservation projects with significant federal financial commitments for their critical habitat, essential ecosystem services and ability to keep working lands in farming and ranching families. The Administration has also recognized the importance of watersheds with the creation of National Blueways – of which we anticipate refuges will play an important role. The first designated National Blueway was a refuge – the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.
President Obama also added 10 new refuges in his first term. Many of these refuges and associated Conservation Areas, which have the potential to protect more than 1 million acres of vital wildlife habitat, have been forged through creative partnerships with sportsmen, conservation groups and private landowners. As a result, animals like the Florida panther and diminishing habitats like the prairie grasslands stand a fighting chance. In an effort to connect diverse urban communities to the natural world, several of these new refuges have been established proximate to cities like Albuquerque, NM.
While progress has been made for America’s wild places and wildlife, there is much work yet to be done. We still have a divided Congress but we hope they will be able to overcome their political gridlock. It is now more important than ever to draw on the diverse group of refuge advocates around the country. Here’s to the next four years of creative partnerships and conservation success!
Coalition Voices Concern About Sending Wildlife Refuges off the Fiscal Cliff
Hanging over the celebrations of Thanksgiving this year is the threat of severe funding cuts from the fast approaching Fiscal Cliff. The National Wildlife Refuge System – the largest system of lands and waters protected for wildlife – faces a 10-20% cut to current funding. Such a cut would total approximately $50 – $100 million, but the overall economic impact would be much more. A report released by the NWRA-Chaired,Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE), a diverse coalition of sporting, conservation and scientific organizations representing 15 million Americans, warns that unless Congress abandons the automatic Sequestration cuts scheduled to occur in January, the Refuge System could be forced to close refuges and eliminate popular recreational opportunities which many communities depend upon as economic drivers.
The report, Fiscal Cliff Dwellers: America’s Wildlife Refuges on the Edge, highlights the top 10 impacts to the National Wildlife Refuge System should funding cuts of this magnitude be implemented.
1. Closed refuges and vistor centers
2. Loss of hunting and fishing opportunities
3. Volunteers turned away
4. Lost revenue to local economies
5. Increased poaching, vandalism and drug smuggling
6. Lost opportunities for birding and wildlife watching
7. Spread of invasive species
8. Halted habitat restoration and fire management
9. Delayed response to natural disaster devastation
10. Terminating a newly initiated inventory and monitoring program.
“The 560 national wildlife refuges that make up the 150-million-acre Refuge System generate more than $4.2 billion annually for local economies and create nearly 35,000 U.S. jobs annually.” says David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and Chair of the CARE coalition. “Refuges are critical to the health of human communities and to the vitality of local economies, and this is no time to cripple a critical federal program that provides such an impressive return on investment.”
National wildlife refuges attract nearly 45 million visitors each year and can be found in every U.S. state and territory, and are within an hour’s drive of every metropolitan city in the nation. Activities including wildlife-watching, hunting, fishing, photography, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and environmental education programs may be curtailed if America’s refuges go over the Fiscal Cliff.
Adventures of a Vagabond Volunteer
Marilyn Kircus is using her retirement for the betterment of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Here are ruminations from her last two years on the road.
Where else can you wake to the sounds of owl calls, the morning coyote chorus, and hear thousands of ducks and geese returning after a night out grazing in the surrounding rice fields? Watch a red sunrise silhouetted with hundreds of ducks and geese? See roseate spoonbills and egrets nest and raise their babies? Have people return for more of your birding tours? Have a harrier fly directly at you while working on your computer, and then fly up and over your house? Help put radio tags in carp? Listen to sandhill cranes from your bed? Or visit a hot spring with fellow volunteers and interns?
I’m a retired school teacher who loves to travel, take pictures, garden, camp, and paddle. I also love to help take care of our wonderful natural world and help other people become passionate about wild places and wildlife. I regularly volunteer at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, so it was only natural that I decided my richest life as a retired woman would be a traveling and volunteering one. In November, 2010, I started working as a live-in volunteer for national wildlife refuges with provided housing. I chose to travel down this path because I can’t afford an RV and continue to do all my hobbies, see a variety of landscapes, and make new friends all while working at national wildlife refuges.
While volunteering for approximately 3,500 hours at three refuges, Anahuac NWR (TX), where I logged 1000 hours of work before retiring, Sacramento NWR complex (CA), and currently, Malheur NWR (OR), my duties have included:
- Working as a traveling docent, where I meet people, share views of wildlife through a scope, and answer questions about the refuge and animals.
- Gardening including invasive removal, starting trees and shrubs from cuttings, planting and watering trees, and planting and maintaining butterfly gardens.
- Surveying birds and bees and entering data for refuge biologists.
- Writing articles and producing Power Point presentations.
- Leading bird watching tours.
- Working in visitor centers, answering questions, and selling merchandise.
- Preparing and sharing educational programs with children on and off the refuges.
This life is never boring as I change locations frequently and usually have several different jobs during each stay. I have lots of time to poke into the far reaches of each refuge and hike, camp and canoe in the surrounding areas. I never stop learning through the exploration of the culture, habitats, and wildlife, and recreational opportunities of each of my host refuges. My hope is to continue traveling to new refuges and revisiting my favorite places until I’m no longer physically able to do the work. For the day to day details of my life read my blog–Adventures of a Vagabond Volunteer.
Friends, The Website You Designed Is Here!
Go to RefugeFriendsConnect.org to find inspiration, motivation, and tools to enhance your Friends Group as you strive to support wildlife conservation, your community, the local refuge, and the Refuge System. It’s like attending a Friends conference every day without the jet lag!
This is your website and you will determine the content. Its framework is designed to make it easy for Friends to connect, share experiences and learn. At RefugeFriendsConnect.org you’ll find:
- RESOURCES to expand your knowledge
- DIRECTORY of all Friends Groups
- FORUMS to pose questions and get or give advice
- CALENDAR to share what you’re planning and see what others are doing
- NEWS of what’s happening around the Refuge System-a place for you to do a bit of bragging.
This site represents the ongoing commitment to Friends between the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) and the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS). Together, the NWRA and the NWRS will ensure Friends have the resources to effectively support refuges and engage their communities.
To Become A Member: visit to RefugeFriendsConnect.org and click on ‘Apply for Membership’.
DID YOU KNOW?
Caribou, better known during this time of year as reindeer, are the chief source of food, clothing, tools and ornaments for the indigenous Gwich’in people. Many Gwich’in live on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge where more than 40,000 caribou calves are born each summer. Gwich’in people have been vocal in speaking out against drilling in ANWR because much of the drilling would occur in the exact location as the caribou birthing event, threatening the Gwich’in’s main source of sustenance and cultural way of life.
SUPPORT THE NWRA!
The National Wildlife Refuge Association is on the cutting edge of wildlife habitat conservation and citizen engagement in the United States. But we need your help to advance our work protecting large landscapes, educating decision-makers in Washington, and mobilizing refuge Friends in support of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Please make a generous donation today!