Here at the Refuge Association we are celebrating all things new—a new year, a new Congress, and a new outlook. Earlier this month, we joined Secretary Salazar in celebrating the establishment of 10 new units of the National Wildlife Refuge System– a manifestation of the Secretary’s vision for both large landscape conservation and new urban refuges. Later in the month we celebrated the designation of the second National Blueway, the White River Watershed of Arkansas and Missouri. The Blueway designation opens up new opportunities for public agencies and private partners to work together on ambitious new conservation, recreation and education programs throughout the watershed.
These were important milestones, but as we look ahead into this new year, there is much work still to be done for America’s wildlife. The Congressional outlook for conservation includes new players, many with exciting environmental records, but the severely divided political environment endures. Achieving new milestones for conservation in the days ahead will require persistent, relentless advocacy from community partners and refuge Friends.
To help build strength in the Friends community, NWRA has launched a new website specifically designed for Friends—RefugeFriendsConnect.org. Refuge Friends Connect is an online resource to help Friends share success stories with each other and work together to solve common challenges. This is a site for Friends and by Friends, and it is only as helpful as its members’ contributions, so please—sign up, join the conversation and see for yourself!
In these difficult fiscal times, we need to be prepared to raise our collective voice for conservation in the year ahead. Our work for wildlife is also integral to the health and well-being of American communities, the natural systems that sustain us all, and the traditions and economies of working landscapes from ranchlands to oyster beds. We look forward to working with you in this new year to keep reminding our public officials that conservation is not a partisan issue, it’s an American tradition!
See you on a Refuge,
NWRA-Led Efforts Result in the Designation of the Second National Blueway and Cache River National Wildlife Refuge Boundary Expansion
Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes announced on January 9th that the White River and its associated watershed in Arkansas and Missouri was selected as the nation’s second ‘National Blueway.’ This federal designation is a component of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative and recognizes important riverways and watersheds for their cultural, economic, ecological significance. The designation does not impose any new regulations; rather, it encourages collaboration among federal agencies along with state, local and nonprofit partners.
At a celebratory event held on January 9th in Little Rock, Arkansas, National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) President David Houghton spoke alongside Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), Congressman Tim Griffin (R-AR), Deputy Secretary Hayes, Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture Ann Mills, Principal Deputy Secretary of the Army Terrence “Rock” Salt and many others. “We know through experience that by aligning federal, state and local agencies along with nonprofit and private interests, we can together accomplish great things for the people and wildlife of Arkansas and Missouri,” said Houghton.
NWRA nominated the White River Watershed for designation as a National Blueway and played the coordinating role for 26 diverse stakeholder groups in the process. NWRA has been working for a number of years with the two major national wildlife refuges in the watershed—White River and Cache River NWRs—through our Beyond the Boundaries program. The White and the Cache are important tributaries to the Mississippi River and NWRA’s work includes efforts to help both refuges protect and restore bottomland hardwood forest, a habitat type that has declined by nearly 80 percent and is critically important to migratory neotropical songbirds, black bears, and game species. The wetlands and seasonally flooded areas of this region also provide significant winter habitat to migratory waterfowl.
In addition to the Blueway designation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the approval of a boundary expansion at Cache River NWR, making just over 287,000 acres along the Cache River and Bayou deView eligible for acquisition as part of the refuge. New refuge lands are acquired from willing sellers only, at fair market value. The expansion offers the opportunity for the refuge to conserve uplands as well as floodplain in order to provide a greater diversity of habitat, and to build connections between refuge lands, State Wildlife Management areas and other conserved lands. NWRA has been working closely with Central Arkansas Refuge Complex Project Leader Keith Weaver and his staff on the expansion process, as well as working with willing sellers who may be interested in eventual sales to the refuge. The first acquisition in the expansion area is expected to be completed later this winter.
Read the full Department of the Interior White River National Blueway designation press release here.
Recently Established Refuges Honored by Secretary Salazar with Commemorative Planks at Pelican Island NWR
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar placed seven new planks on January 11th at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, FL in commemoration of six new national wildlife refuge units established in 2012 and renaming a seventh in honor of the late U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director, Sam D. Hamilton. Commemorative boardwalk planks engraved with the names of each of the nation’s 561 national wildlife refuges, wildlife management areas and conservation areas are set in chronological order to form the Centennial Trail, beginning with Pelican Island NWR established in 1903 by Theodore Roosevelt.
National Wildlife Refuge Association President David Houghton joined Secretary Salazar, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe, and Pelican Island NWR Manager Charlie Pelizza to place the first new plank in celebration of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. The Secretary credited NWRA and the passionate Florida ranching and sporting community with making the new refuge and conservation area come to fruition.
The Secretary spoke eloquently about the importance of conserving American landscapes for both wildlife and the American public. The refuges honored also include two new urban refuges, Valle de Oro NWR in Albuquerque and Hackmatack NWR, between Chicago and Milwaukee, as well as large-landscapes that incorporate enduring partnerships with ranchers and farmers, such as Crown of the Continent in Montana and the Everglades Headwaters in Florida.
The six new refuge units honored were: Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque, NM; Rio Mora National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area near Mora, N.M., Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois; Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area in Colorado; Swan Valley Conservation Area in Montana; and Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area in Florida.
Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, located just south of Starkville, Mississippi, was renamed the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee Wildlife Refuge to memorialize the Service’s former director.
Read the Department of the Interior Media Advisory for this event here.
President Obama Authorizes Sandy Relief Funds, Including $68 million for FWS
President Obama signed a bill approving $50.5 billion in aid to areas affected by Superstorm Sandy. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will receive $68 million to repair damaged infrastructure such as roads and dikes on refuges and the Department of the Interior will receive approximately $360 million for resiliency efforts. This $360 million is extremely important and could help with things like restoring wetlands and dune systems that can serve as storm buffers in the future. Agencies like FWS, as well as states, will be able to apply for project funding and these funds represent a proactive way to prepare communities for future severe weather. This was the second Superstorm Sandy related emergency funding action taken by the 113th Congress. The first bill, which passed both chambers in early January, did not include funding for National Wildlife Refuges and many other programs. This second spending package, however, included an amendment by Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ) for additional funds and included aid to the FWS to assist refuges with ongoing clean up efforts and habitat restoration.
The Administration had requested $78 million to cover the total amount of damages to refuges as a result of Superstorm Sandy, but the bi-partisan passed House version ended with an allocation of roughly $68 million after another amendment was adopted on the House floor that stripped $9.8 million for the Stewart B. McKinney NWR in Connecticut. The final house bill also included a provision that prohibits any funds to be used on land acquisition. The Senate quickly approved the language with a 62-36 vote late Monday evening.
Without designated emergency funding, refuges damaged by Sandy would likely become part of the backlog of unmet FWS operations and maintenance needs, already totaling more than $3.3 billion. While the total cost of damages was no small amount, it could have been much worse had it not been for refuge wetlands and dunes that provided natural protection from the storm surge. We as a nation can use this information as we rebuild to make our coasts more resilient in the future – both for people and for wildlife.
NWRA Thanks Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for Outstanding Contributions to Wildlife and the American People
Responding to the announcement of his departure at the end of March, NWRA praised Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Ken Salazar, for his tremendous leadership and steadfast support in protecting America’s wildlife and natural resources. His implementation of expansive conservation programs that protect large landscapes and wildlife, keep working lands working, and engage diverse stakeholders has helped usher in a 21st century vision for conservation.
“Secretary Salazar is a true conservation hero with a 10-gallon hat legacy,” said David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “By working with landowners, sportsmen, Friends and partners in rural and urban communities, he has chartered a new path forward for American conservation.”
A hallmark of Secretary Salazar’s approach has been partnerships with states, localities and landowners to protect working landscapes, improve water quality and restore wetlands. These collaborative efforts have also spurred new wildlife corridors, refuges, andmonuments. Under Salazar’s leadership ,the Department of the Interior has expanded efforts with farmers, ranchers and community partners such as refuge Friends to protect critical landscapes as well as make historic investments in places like Montana and the Florida Everglades. And his work with states, industry, and conservation groups has forged a strong consensus around renewable energy on public lands that ensures we don’t have to choose between our natural heritage and a more sustainable future.
“Secretary Salazar understands more than any of us that we have a moral obligation to future generations to protect our nation’s diverse natural world,” said Houghton. “NWRA and our 200 Affiliate “Friends” organizations wish Secretary Salazar the best in his future endeavors and we look forward to visiting a Colorado national wildlife refuge with him in the near future.”
2013 Congressional Outlook for the National Wildlife Refuge System
While Congressional gridlock seems as prominent as ever, a new Congress and a second term for President Obama brings renewed hope for bi-partisan action. New members of Congress and the President’s cabinet usher in new blood and vigor, but trends in the divided political landscape will continue, creating wedges of philosophical differences between the House and Senate and Republicans and Democrats. Crippling budget cuts are on the horizon if both parties fail to compromise. There will likely be no programs immune to such cuts, but there will be winners and losers.
As advocates for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the world’s largest conservation agency, and the National Wildlife Refuge System, the world’s largest network of lands and waters devoted to wildlife conservation, our job is to ensure budgets are as healthy as possible. Because the FWS and its Refuge System are arguably among the most efficient government agencies, cuts to their budgets don’t trim fat, they slice into the bone of vital programs.
The normal appropriations calendar will not hold this year as Congress has many impending fiscal deadlines. Here is a short-term outlook for the expected appropriations timeline:
Early February: President Obama is expected to submit his fiscal year 2014 budget to Congress.
March 1: The Fiscal Cliff is enacted unless Congress again makes a deal to stop the across-the-board spending cuts. Should the Fiscal Cliff be enacted on March 1st, the federal government would have to find $85 billion in cuts for the remaining seven months of fiscal year 2013.
March 27: The Continuing Resolution or “CR”, which funds government programs at approximately last year’s levels, expires. Federal agencies will face a shut down should the CR not be extended or Congress not agree to final FY2013 bills.
April 15: Statutory deadline for Congress to complete its annual budget resolution for fiscal year 2014.
May 15: The House may consider fiscal 2014 appropriations bills even if a final budget resolution has not been adopted.
Early August: Debt Ceiling is reached. Congress has averted the possibility of defaulting until August after a deal was reached this week to temporarily suspend the legal limit of the $16.4 trillion national debt.
Congress will try to return to the normal order of the appropriations process for FY2014 and is expected to try to pass individual spending bills, including the appropriations bill for the Department of the Interior, prior to the start of the new fiscal year on October 1. A return to some earmarks such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a critical pot of money for the National Wildlife Refuge System, may also be possible. NWRA will be working with partners and Friends nationwide to ensure the Refuge System and FWS budgets are as robust as possible, but we will need the support from people who care about wildlife and wild places at every turn if we are to be successful!
NWRA Announces a New Website for Friends!
At RefugeFriendsConnect.org, you and your group will find inspiration, motivation, and tools to enhance your knowledge and skills as you strive to support wildlife conservation, your community, the local refuge, and the Refuge System. This is your website. Its framework is designed to make it easy for Friends to connect with each other, share experiences and knowledge, 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, and
- NEWS of what’s happening around the Refuge System-a place to do a bit of bragging.
What’s happening on RefugeFriendsConnect.org?
Calendar of Events: Check out what group is hosting a Groundhog Day Festival and a “Blooming”-N-“Blooming” event.
News: Have you seen the impressive website Beth Ann Alegret created for the Friends of the National Conservation Training Center? Go to RFC news for the story.
Forum Discussions: Betsy of Friends of Humboldt Bay NWR, CA and MaryBeth of Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands, WI have discovered some great Social Media resources. Another discussion group has been started to discuss the Service’s Service’s Draft Donation Policy. Have you read it?
Resources: Are you getting ready to file your 990? Check out the financial training modules created by the National Environmental Education Foundation and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
To become a member
Membership to RefugeFriendsConnect.org will be accessible to Friends, groups supporting refuges and refuge staff partnering with Friends. To join the site, go to RefugeFriendsConnect.org and click on Apply for Membership. While anyone in the Friends community is welcome to view the site and participate in online discussions, only certain designees from each registered Friends Group will be allowed to edit and change group specific information.
This site represents the ongoing commitment that the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) and the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) have to work together to ensure Friends have the resources to support refuges and engage their communities.
We hope that you and others will start contributing materials to RefugeFriendsConnect.org today! Your contributions will make this site more valuable for the entire Friends community and enhance every group’s ability to support the Refuge System.
Should you have any questions about the site or discover any problems contact Joan at 202.290.5594 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope you will explore RefugeFriendsConnect.org and we look forward to your feedback.
NWRA IS HIRING
NWRA seeks candidates for a new full-time staff position that is dedicated to furthering the growth, goals and objectives of Partners for Conservation, a group of private landowners and managers who have come together to build support for collaborative conservation efforts across the nation.
Title: Executive Director, Partners for Conservation
Purpose: The Executive Director, Partners for Conservation is a new full-time staff position with the National Wildlife Refuge Association that is dedicated to furthering the growth, goals and objectives of Partners for Conservation (PFC), a group of private landowners and managers who have come together to build support for collaborative conservation efforts across the nation.
The Executive Director will report to NWRA’s Vice President for Conservation Programs and will work in close consultation with the Partners for Conservation Board Chair. NWRA’s VP for Conservation Programs and the PFC Board will provide oversight of the position. NWRA and PFC will work with the Executive Director to develop and annual work plan. It is envisioned that over time Partners for Conservation will grow into a sustaining organization and the Executive Director will be an integral part of planning and implementing that organizational growth and evolution.
Major Areas of Responsibility
• Program Operations
• Communications – Internal and External
• Organizational Development
• Budget and Fundraising
• Advancing Collaborative Landscape Conservation Initiatives
Characteristics of a Successful Candidate
PFC and NWRA seek for this position a seasoned professional who understands landowner and stewardship issues, is familiar with public agencies, possesses good business sense, and is eager to help build an exciting new organization. The successful candidate must work well independently and be willing to take initiative, must be comfortable and effective when communicating with a variety of audiences, and must be collaborative in nature.
Applications will be accepted until February 15, 2013.
The application package should include a concise resume of experience with emphasis on demonstrating evidence that the candidate meets both the required qualifications and characteristics of a successful candidate listed in this position announcement. Please include three references familiar with the candidate’s professional accomplishments.
Please submit applications by email to Anne Truslow at email@example.com.
The National Wildlife Refuge Association is an equal opportunity employer.
Read full job description here.
Read more about Partners for Conservation here.
DID YOU KNOW?
This year our Valentine is Wisdom, the world’s oldest known wild bird. This Laysan Albatross has been nesting at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, HI within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument since 1956. Not only is Wisdom a conservation success story thanks to the National Wildlife Refuge System, but she is a symbol of hope and resilience for America’s wildlife!
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!