Birthdays are supposed to be joyous times, but on this March 14, as the National Wildlife Refuge System turns 110 years old, the federal budget climate does not lend itself to a celebration.
In 2003, the System celebrated 100 years of conservation, yet looming over the success stories were two wars—Afghanistan and Iraq—resulting from the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington just two short years earlier. Ten years later, we are faced with sequestration, severe federal spending cuts that are cutting into the bone of Refuge programs such as fire, law enforcement and visitor services. Additionally, a looming fight over the final FY 13 budget deal to keep the government running through the end of September may end in staff furloughs and/or further reduced budgets. The FY14 process is already significantly delayed with little certainty for the future. So at 110, the National Wildlife Refuge System is caught up in a government that is dysfunctional at best, and a party hardly seems appropriate.
But, milestone birthdays also offer an opportunity for reflection and gratitude for how far we have come, and the men and women of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the myriad citizen supporters, Refuge Friends and partners have a history of rising to face challenging times.
In the ten years since the Refuge System’s 100th birthday more than 30 national wildlife refuges have been added to the System, including over 50 million acres of marine biodiversity in the Pacific Islands that also became the Refuge System’s only World Heritage Site; nearly 40 new Friends groups have emerged to support their local refuges; and federal appropriations for Refuge System operations and maintenance increased to an all time high in 2010. In 2011, the Refuge System charted a bold course forward with “Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation” – a wildlife manifesto that lays out a clear vision for 21st Century conservation. Collaborative landscape conservation initiatives from the Blackfoot Challenge in Montana to the Northern Everglades in Florida, a spotlight on urban refuges, and an invigorated focus on creative partnerships with private landowners and Friends are becoming the new paradigms of conservation in America.
I am continually impressed at how the National Wildlife Refuge System rebounds from seemingly overwhelming odds with fortitude and grace. We do not give up, instead we sharpen our focus and strengthen our resolve. So at 110, we will not celebrate with cake and balloons; instead we will gather the wisdom and perspective of our history to overcome the obstacles of our time and forge ahead with an aggressive vision for conservation in America. We will rejoice as an increasingly urban America becomes connected through our Urban Refuge Campaign; we will champion the new collaborative landscape conservation efforts in the Flint Hills of Kansas, the Cache and White Rivers of Arkansas and many more. And as Refuge System communities have done before us, we will celebrate the friendships we have with one another that are cemented in our shared belief that this earth should be enjoyed by future generations and that each day we get up and muster the courage to fight for what we believe in.
Happy 110th Birthday National Wildlife Refuge System! Pass the innovation with a helping of courage, and let’s skip the cake and balloons!
See you on a Refuge,
What Does Sequestration Mean for Our Refuges?
The Federal government has enacted severe budget cuts known as “Sequestration”. The whole idea of the sequester was that it would be so senseless that Congress and the Administration would find a way to reduce our deficits and cut spending in thoughtful ways that didn’t gut government programs that are doing wonderful things for the American people.
However, Congress and the Administration did not come to an agreement and thus across the board spending cuts are taking effect. The cuts are indiscriminate, so every budget line in the FWS is cut an equal amount – a little more than 5% must be cut from now until the end of September.
The FWS is currently determining exactly what will occur and we will share information as we receive it, but here’s what we do know. According to the Department of the Interior, Sequestration will force FWS to:
- Close or eliminate programs at 128 national wildlife refuges;
- Discontinue visitor programs at nearly all refuges;
- Reduce hours of operation for visitor centers, shorten seasons, and possibly close recreational areas when there is insufficient staff to ensure the protection of visitors, employees, and resources;
- Limit the Service’s ability to sustain a full complement of seasonal employees needed for firefighting, law enforcement, and visitor services at the time when they are preparing for the busy summer season.
These impacts will have serious impacts to our refuges nationwide. If a refuge depends on seasonal fire crews to reduce fuel loads or conduct seasonal burns, there is a good chance the controlled burns will not occur. Even if a refuge depends on seasonal workers, such as biotechs, maintenance crews or environmental education specialists for help during the summer, they will likely not be hired.
This – as bad as it seems – could be just the start.
While Congress has not passed final appropriations bills for the rest of FY2013, word on the Hill is that there will be a Continuing Resolution or “CR” funding the government for the rest of the year at the sequester levels. But if Congress enacts further budget cuts for FY2014, things will go from bad to worse.
The National Wildlife Refuge Association agrees that our federal deficits should be dealt with, but these indiscriminate across the board cuts unfairly hurt agencies like the FWS and its National Wildlife Refuge System. Refuges are economic engines in local communities returning $8 in economic activity for every $1 appropriated to run them. These cuts will cripple our communities at a time when we are just emerging from a severe recession.
NWRA and Friends of Alaska Refuges Hail FWS Decision to Kill a Road Proposal for the Izembek NWR
The National Wildlife Refuge Association and the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges hailed a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) decision to oppose a land transfer that would allow for construction of a 30-mile, $30-million gravel road through the heart of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). The decision comes 15 years after a similar rejection resulted in a $37.5-million taxpayer-funded payout to King Cove, a community of 800 that has nevertheless continued to support the road’s construction.
“This proposed road is a bad deal for wildlife and taxpayers,” said NWRA Vice-President of Government Affairs Desiree Sorenson-Groves. “Building and maintaining a road through this biologically sensitive area would have set a dangerous precedent for the other wild lands in National Wildlife Refuges, National Parks and National Forests designated to be part of America’s Wilderness Preservation System – the world’s highest level of conservation protection.”
In its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) examining the consequences of the land transfer and resulting road, the FWS selected a “no action” alternative. The decision followed a lengthy public process mandated by 2009 legislation directing the FWS to conduct a study on the land exchange and proposed road and thus provide the background the Secretary of the Interior would need to determine whether the road was in the public interest.
“Sound science wins the day, as it always should,” said Wendy Loya, President of the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges. “The final decision reconfirms our long-held position that the proposed road pretends to solve a problem already solved 15 years ago at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars.”
In 1998 Congress provided $37.5 million to King Cove (population 800), including funds used to purchase of a state-of-the-art hovercraft to connect their community to the village of Cold Bay (pop. 75) and address transportation and safety issues.
Izembek NWR is located on a remote and sparsely populated stretch of Alaska’s Aleutian Peninsula. Ninety-eight percent of the world’s Pacific black brant population depends on this one location as a critical stopover and nesting site. After gorging on the eelgrass beds of Izembek Lagoon, these medium-size geese fly non-stop between Izembek and their wintering grounds in Mexico. Road construction could jeopardize their feeding, their migration – and their survival. In addition, the road’s route would disrupt an important isthmus corridor and foraging area for caribou and Alaska brown bear.
NWRA and the Friends of Alaska Refuges have long fought to protect Izembek’s pristine wilderness and urged the FWS to use sound science as their guide and to adopt a “no action” alternative. However, now Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) has threatened a hold on Interior Secretary nominee, Sally Jewell, if the FWS decision is not overturned.
NWRA Applauds Nomination of Sally Jewell as Secretary of the Interior
The National Wildlife Refuge Association strongly supports President Obama’s nomination of Sally Jewell to become the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Jewell is currently the CEO of Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI) and has played an instrumental role promoting outdoor recreation with the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative. Her appreciation of nature and wild things as well as her knowledge of the economic benefits of our natural world will bring a unique perspective in the President’s cabinet.
“Outdoor recreation generates over $1 trillion for our nation’s economy and more than 8 million jobs,” said David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “Sally Jewell will undoubtedly be an excellent leader for the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative and will continue to bring attention to our nation’s outstanding public lands.”
Jewell has earned national recognition for her management skills at REI, a nearly $2 billion outdoor equipment company, and intimately understands the value of healthy ecosystems including the opportunities they provide for people to recreate and connect with the great outdoors.
“Sally Jewell has been a leader in the outdoor recreation industry using innovative strategies to protect and restore wildlife habitat throughout the Pacific Northwest and across the country; as Secretary of the Interior, she will have an opportunity to articulate and implement a larger conservation vision for the nation.” said Houghton. “We wish her a speedy confirmation and look forward to working with her to further the goals and mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Wildlife Refuge System.”
If confirmed by the Senate, Jewell will lead the Department of the Interior—the department responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land and natural resources. Additionally, the department is charged with the administration of programs relating to Native peoples.
Conservation Leaders Honored with 2013 Refuge System Awards
The National Wildlife Refuge Association and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation have announced the honorees for the prestigious annual National Wildlife Refuge System Awards. The awards honor the Refuge Manager, Refuge Employee, Refuge Volunteer and Friends Group of the Year.
“The Refuge System could not function, let alone be the bright star of conservation in the United States that it is, if it weren’t for dedicated individuals and groups like these,” said David Houghton, NWRA President.
Visit the NWRA Awards page at refugeassociation.org/people/awards/2013awards/
The 2013 Refuge System Award winners are:
Andrew C. French: The Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award
Mr. French has been selected as the recipient of the Paul Kroegel Award for Refuge Manager of the Year for his innovation, leadership, and critical involvement in the nomination and subsequent designation of the Connecticut River Watershed as the first National Blueway. As the Refuge Manager of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge and the Stewart B. McKinney and John Hay National Wildlife Refuges, French has demonstrated that these three refuges, which extend from the Canadian border to Long Island Sound, are assets in their local communities as well as within the Connecticut River Watershed. During his 33-year career with the Service, French has demonstrated exemplary success in fostering landscape level conservation, environmental education efforts, and recreation partnerships in action. Read Mr. French’s full press release here.
Jackie Jacobson: The Employee of the Year Award
Ms. Jacobson will receive the Employee of the Year Award for her outstanding work as the Visitor Center Manager at Audubon NWR in North Dakota. Jacobson’s influence does not end at her refuge; it extends well beyond as a result of the North Dakota Education Team, a statewide institution she established that has reached over 80,000 people through the development of numerous environmental education products. Through her passion for wildlife, dedication to conservation and excellent leadership, communication skills and efficient approach to projects, Jacobson has not only touched the lives of hundreds of young people but she has protected and conserved prairie and wetland habitats for future generations. Read Ms. Jacobson’s full press release here.
Bob Ebeling: The Volunteer of the Year Award
Mr. Ebeling will receive the Volunteer of the Year Award in recognition of the more than 10,000 volunteer-hours he has donated at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah, ranging from using his professional engineering skills to restore habitat and infrastructure on the refuge, to providing visitor services in the Education Center, and countless other invaluable efforts over the past 23 years. Most notably, Ebeling played a key role in the restoration of Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge after it was devastated by the flood of the Great Salt Lake in the mid 1980s. In just 6 months, Ebeling organized and led a group of 50 volunteers to complete the momentous task of restoring the impoundments while simultaneously repairing the 12-mile public auto tour route to allow the refuge to be opened to the public. The total cost of both projects was paid for in full by volunteer donations, including man-hours and financial support. Read Mr. Ebeling’s full press release here.
Friends of Maga Ta-Hophi Waterfowl Production Area: The Friends of the Year Award
The Friends of Maga Ta-Hophi Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) will receive the Friends of the Year Award for their outstanding efforts to increase the name recognition and local and regional support for the Huron Wetland Management District in South Dakota. By offering a diverse array of free outdoor activities and taking special consideration for the needs and interests of the community, the Friends, in just five short years, have developed a year round environmental education program, and contributed to everything from wildlife surveys, maintenance projects and citizen science efforts. Additionally, the Friends strive to connect their local achievements with national efforts by regularly attending classes at the National Conservation Training Center and advocating for the National Wildlife Refuge System in Washington, DC with their South Dakota delegation. Read the Friends of Maga Ta-Hophi’s full press release here.
For more information about the National Wildlife Refuge System awards please visit: refugeassociation.org/people/awards/2013awards/
For additional information about the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation please visit: nfwf.org
Friends Connect Update – Are you Connected Yet?!
Refuge Friends Connect is YOUR way to stay connected to everything going on in the Friends community! This is a membership site managed by the NWRA, with support from the FWS, to connect Friends and FWS staff who work with Friends from all over the nation. Talk to others to find out how they’re solving challenging issues that may be similar to yours – find out how other Friends groups are fundraising or increasing their membership or environmental education programs – all things Friends related!
Want to Join?
If you are a member of a Friends group or refuge staff working with Friends you are welcome to join. Go to RefugeFriendsConnect.org and click on Apply for Membership. You will receive a return message from NWRA Director of Grassroots Outreach, Joan Patterson, with a password so you can start using the site and get connected.
Pass it on!
Please let others know about RefugeFriendsConnect. By sharing our resources and knowledge we will strengthen the support Friends provide the National Wildlife Refuge System.
RFC Update: March 2013
The following updates have been posted to RefugeFriendsConnect (RFC). RFC is a website where you will find resources to enhance your organization, directory of Friends groups, discussion forums, calendar of events including grant opportunities, and news important to your organization.
WHAT’S CURRENTLY HAPPENING ON RefugeFriendsConnect.org
Friends of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge share with the Friends community their Financial Policies and Procedures, http://refugefriendsconnect.org/resource/financial-policies-and-procedures-manual
Tualatin River NWR aspires to be an iconic urban refuge and has its own bus stop, http://refugefriendsconnect.org/directory/friendsoftualatinrefuge/.
Recruiting new, active Friends’ members: http://refugefriendsconnect.org/forum/friends-general/recruiting-new-active-friends-members/#p105
Conservation Leaders Honored with 2013 Refuge System Awards – February 13th post
Friends of Edwin B. Forsythe NWR provide a Sandy update – February 13th post
Izembeck NWR – FWS does not support land exchange and road corridor – February 6th post
Friends of Kilauea, Hawaii Complete Landmark Lighthouse Renovation
Located at the northern most tip of Kauai, Hawaii is the Kilauea Lighthouse, a 100-year-old structure originally constructed to navigate ships on the Orient Run. It stands exposed on the beautiful bluffs of Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge giving visitors expansive views of Pacific avian and marine life below. Kilauea Point and the lighthouse are one of Kauai’s most visited sites, with more 500,000 visitors annually. The lighthouse is a symbol of the town of Kilauea and embodies the history of a nearby sugar plantation.
Over its 100-year lifespan, the lighthouse has taken severe beatings from the harsh marine environment. In 1976 the light was decommissioned and the windows were filled in with cement. Time has also taken its toll on the structure, but with the support of The Kilauea Point Natural History Association, the Friends group for the Kilauea Point NWR, the lighthouse has been renovated and is again open to the public.
The Kilauea Point Natural History Association is holding a five-day event from May 1st-5th to celebrate the newly renovated lighthouse in conjunction with its 100th birthday. Details of The Kilauea Lighthouse Centennial Celebration are as follows:
The Kilauea Lighthouse Centennial Celebration will begin on Wednesday, May 1st with an opening ceremony and Hawaiian dedication. From May 1 – 5, special exhibits will be displayed at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and daily, guided tours of the lighthouse will enable a close up view of the interior of the lighthouse and the 2nd order Fresnel lens. The highly anticipated relighting of the lighthouse will happen on Saturday May 4th at dusk. This will be the first time since 2010 that the recently restored Kilauea Lighthouse will shine again.
In addition to the events at the refuge, several events will be happening nearby. On Wednesday, May 1, an evening slide show presentation and talk about the unique 100-year history of the Kilauea Light Station and Lighthouse will be held at the Princeville Library. On Thursday, May 2, a special Kilauea Lighthouse Art Night at Kong Lung Center will provide an opportunity to meet and talk story with the talented artists. The art work will be displayed at businesses in the center from April 1 through May 5. The grand finale to the festivities will be on Sunday, May 5th with a Kilauea Community Parade and Celebration in the Kilauea Park. Funding for some of these events has been made possible by a grant from the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
The Kilauea Point Natural History Association, a nonprofit organization, has led the fundraising effort to restore the Kilauea Lighthouse with the help of community volunteers. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recently announced the completion of the restoration work which was made possible by generous contributions and aided by the late U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye securing a $1 million appropriation for restoration of the entire light station.
NWRA’s Board of Directors Welcomes New Members—Mike Mullins & Tom Goettel
The National Wildlife Refuge Association is pleased to welcome Michael Mullins of Captiva, Florida and Tom Goettel of South Thomaston, Maine to the NWRA Board of Directors.
Michael Mullins is a retired entrepreneur who founded and operated several commercial businesses including finance, vacation retail, property management, and others. The major business he founded was Comtex information Systems, Inc. (Comtex), a financially-oriented software company in 1976. Before founding Comtex, Mullins was VP with Chase Manhattan Bank from 1972 to 1976 and a computer services executive with Bankers Trust Co. from 1968 to 1971.
Currently Mr. Mullins serves as vice chairman of the Captiva Community Panel in Captiva, Florida. He remains active in a number of civic and philanthropic groups and is a life member of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCF), the Cape May Bird Observatory (CMBO) and has held a long standing board membership on the Eye Bank for Sight Restoration (EBSR) of New York Foundation in New York City from which he recently stepped down. He also serves on the board of the Ding Darling Wildlife Society.
Tom Goettel is a retired career U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee. While in college, he worked at Great Swamp NWR in New Jersey and Great Meadows NWR in Massachusetts, and was one of the first wildlife inspectors for the Fish and Wildlife Service, stationed at JFK airport. He opened up the first office of what is now the Maine Coastal Islands NWR in 1984, where he initiated many of the seabird management and habitat protection and management programs that form the core of the Refuge’s mission today.
In 1991, Mr. Goettel became the refuge manager at Eastern Neck NWR in Maryland, and transferred to the Northeast Regional Office in Hadley, MA two years later. He worked for the North American Waterfowl Management Plan for several years, and then became the first Regional Chief of the Office of Refuge Law Enforcement. He retired from that position in 2008 when his wife, Beth, became the refuge manager of the Maine Coastal Islands NWR. Goettel is now the Treasurer of the Friends of Maine’s Seabird Islands, and volunteers at the Refuge, Apprentice shop, and the Sail, Power, and Steam Museum in Rockland.
NWRA Mourns Founder and Advocate, Les Beaty
Les Beaty, a founding member of NWRA passed away in early January. Beaty was instrumental in the conceptualization and formation of the Refuge Association. As a refuge manager turned advocate, he undoubtedly left his mark on the National Wildlife Refuge System, and America’s landscapes will continue to benefit because of the accomplishments of his life’s work. We at NWRA are honored to have him as a founder and visionary leader. See his obituary below.
Leslie F. Beaty unexpectedly passed away January 6, 2013, after a brief illness. Born in Austwell, TX, on July 2, 1941 to Everett and Ann Beaty, he served as a manager with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in different areas of the country until settling in the Albuquerque area in 1982.
Les was a second-generation Refuge System employee. His father was the Refuge Manager at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas. Les’s entire Federal career was with the Fish and Wildlife Service. He served on national wildlife refuges in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri. He served in the Twin Cities, MN, Regional Office as Chief of Refuge Operations. Les also participated in the Department of the Interior’s Management Development Program. Later, he served a 5 ½ years in the Washington Office as Chief of the Branch of Resource Management, Division of Refuge Management. As Branch Chief, he served as the Service’s Liaison to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. In 1981, two Service employees died at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge during efforts to control a lightning fire. It was a particularly challenging time for the Service because the Service leadership was slow in implementing Congressional reforms of the fire management program. Finally, he served 8 ½ years in the Albuquerque Regional Office, the first 3+ years as Chief of Program Support and Staff Services, Wildlife Resources, and the remaining 5 ½ years as Deputy Assistant Regional Director for Wildlife Resources (which included Wildlife Refuges). Les completed his career in the Albuquerque Regional Office as Chief of Federal Aid (Deputy Assistant Regional Director for Federal Aid) for 4 ½ years. Les retired in 1994 with 33 years of Federal Service.
Did You Know?
Did you know that while President Theodore Roosevelt established the first National Wildlife Refuge, Pelican Island, on March 14, 1903, Congress wasn’t enthusiastic about funding its operation. Paul Kroegel, a local resident and protector of the birds on Pelican Island was commissioned to be Warden of the Island and paid a dollar a month by the federal government and $7 a month by the early Audubon societies to protect the birds. Roosevelt had set up the early refuges by executive order but this did not mean Congress had to appropriate any money to guard them. Learn more about Paul Kroegel and other Conservation Heroes at the National Conservation Training Center: http://training.fws.gov/History/ConservationHeroes/Kroegel.html
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!
Flyer Masthead Photo Credit: Kestrel, Wade Dowdy