With the Holiday Season in full swing, we are reminded over and over of the amazing support we receive from wildlife refuge friends, supporters and advocates. NWRA has been able to count on you for support on Capitol Hill, at local refuges, online through Facebook and Twitter, and through the actions you take to support refuges nationwide.
Throughout the past year we have mobilized friends and partners to travel to Washington, D.C. to speak up in support of a larger federal investment refuges. We also aided in the creation of a 920,000-acre Conservation Area in the Bear River Watershed. And we forged a new alliance with a national network of ranchers and farmers known as Partners for Conservation. NWRA did not let funding issues, fiscal cliffs, or the government shutdown get in the way of our conservation goals.
2013 has been a productive and successful year for all of us at NWRA, and we are looking forward to building on that momentum in 2014.
We could not achieve these successes without the support of NWRA members and donors. In this season of giving, I hope you will remember NWRA and please consider making a generous donation. Like the Refuge System itself, NWRA delivers an exponential return for every dollar invested, but we need your support to make it all happen.
From all of us at NWRA, we hope you have a wonderful Holiday Season and don’t forget to go out and visit your local refuge!
Top 12 Developments Affecting the Refuge System in 2013
Click HERE for a year in review. Find a list of the top 12 events that occurred in 2013 that had impacts on the Refuge System, and NWRA! Including the shutdown, Banking on Nature, and additions to conservation areas it was a busy year!
A Party With a Purpose
NWRA Board member, Rebecca Rubin, the President and CEO of Marstel-Day, hosted “A Party with a Purpose” on, December 11, at the Old Silk Mill in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Party with a Purpose certainly had a purpose – promoting conservation and sustainability. The event, also known as the 2013 Marstel-Day Green Gala, highlighted the value of conservation and showcased how individuals, non-profits and businesses are working to be as sustainable as possible in their work.
This year, NWRA was lucky enough to be honored as one of two organizations highlighted. Tree Fredericksburg, a local non-profit that plants trees all over the city, was highlighted as well.
More than 250 people were in attendance including members of the City of Fredericksburg Department of Economic Development & Tourism, representatives from the Rappahannock River Valley NWR and Rappahannock Wildlife Refuge Friends, sustainable building and printing companies and local banks who strive to support these sustainable practices. Keeping in line with the sustainable theme, all food served was from Foode, a local caterer, who works with local suppliers and growers to reduce the carbon footprint.
Overall, the event raised about $22,000 for the two organizations. NWRA thanks the generous donors, Marstel-Day advisory council and its employees, particularly Rebecca Rubin!
WILDLIFE REFUGE NEWS
Snowy Owls on the Move!
Many lucky birders across the northern part of the U.S. have been reporting larger-than-normal numbers of snowy owls in the last several days.
For those who may not already know, these birds typically stay very close to the Arctic Circle even in the winter. They typically live in the upper latitudes of Canada, Siberia, and Russia.
In 2011, Snowy Owls descended en masse into the United States, mainly in the Pacific Northwest and Great Plains. But this year, they’ve been spotted in Syracuse, N.Y., Hampton Bays region on Long Island, the Sandy Hook peninsula in Monmouth County, and even Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina. And the reports keep coming in.
Birders all over the country have been reporting their sightings on ebird.com and we encourage you do the same if you are one of the lucky ones who spots one of these beautiful birds. Or if you are interested to see where the Snowy Owls are camping out, ebird has a map that tracks all of the sightings.
Unfortunately, these owls are causing some problems with aircraft safety. They are appearing in much higher numbers than usual at airports, and are known to get caught in the plane engines causing flight delays. At JFK, their solution was to shoot the birds. Conservationists and the American Birding Association were far less than pleased with this solution. Thankfully, they are now implementing a program at the airport to trap and relocate the birds to ensure safety for the birds and the planes.
National Wildlife Refuges are some of the best places to catch a glimpse of these birds. Edward B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Galloway, New Jersey is one of the lucky refuges to have a Snowy Owl population on its grounds. At least 20 individuals have been reported!
Don Freiday, Forsythe NWR’s visitor services manager and park ranger believes the owls are here as a result of a food shortage or a population explosion. He said that either way, “this is the most that has ever been in New Jersey in my lifetime.”
Others are still unclear and think there may be something wrong in their Arctic habitat. In an article by LiveScience Contributor Wynne Parry, Norman Smith, explains that the owls appear to be in good condition indicating it is not a problem with a food shortage. Smith, who catches and relocates Snowy Owls also says that transmitters attached to them reveal that they are capable of returning to the Arctic.
Could this year’s event be a result of climate change? As our climate continues to change- getting colder in some areas, and warmer in others- species are shifting their ranges all over. The Snowy Owl could be one of those species.
Catch a Glimpse of Our National Bird- The Bald Eagle!
Klamath Basin (located in California and Oregon), has one of the highest concentrations of wintering Bald Eagles in North America. There are usually about 500 eagles, but the populations can reach up to about 1,000! From the months of November to March, visitors are almost guaranteed a sighting of this national symbol. It wasn’t always this way, as the Bald Eagle was listed as endangered back in the late 1970s. The successful recovery of this majestic bird is due in part to the cooperation of three refuges- Bear Valley NWR, Lower Klamath NWR, and Tule Lake NWR; all of which came together to protect this majestic bird.
Bear Valley is 4,200 acres of old growth forest high above the Klamath Basin. This refuge was established in 1978 for the purpose of protecting vital night roosting sites for the wintering eagles. It is currently closed to the public in deference to the eagles and adjacent private landowners. This refuge is ideal for roosting eagles at night because the large coniferous trees protect them from the cold winter winds.
Lower Klamath and Tule Lake are about 90,000 acres in size combined, in the basin below. The eagles often spend a lot of daytime hours in the winter here for perching and feeding. These refuges are where the eagles can be seen by visitors on auto tours in the winter.
The eagles are so popular in fact that there is an entire festival surrounding their arrival. The 35th Winter Wings Festival will be occurring February 13-16, 2014 in Klammath Falls, Oregon. This event put on by the Klamath Basin Audubon Society(KBAS), offers a huge assortment of birding and nature related activities for the entire family and for all skill levels. The Klamath Basin is a winter home to not only eagles, but also other raptors and thousands of ducks, geese, and swans.
The event is full of events from field trips, photography sessions, information sessions, receptions, and much more!
To find out more information about the event, visit their website here: http://winterwingsfest.org/. For more information about Bald Eagles and how the refuges work together, see the article in this month’s Refuge Update.
Happy Birthday to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Just in time for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s 53rd birthday, which we celebrated on December 6, legislation was introduced to designate the Arctic Coastal Plain as Wilderness.
On November 13, 2013, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced legislation (S. 1695) to permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) by designating its coastal plain as Wilderness. Designating an area as Wilderness is something that only Congress can do. Wilderness designation is the highest level of protection to land or water in the United States – and indeed, the world. If this legislation and its companion in the House were to pass and become law, the coastal plain of the Arctic NWR would be permanently protected, and drilling for oil and gas – an ongoing debate for over three decades – would be off the table for good.
Background on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge:
Established as the Arctic National Wildlife Range on December 6, 1960 by President Eisenhower, it remains the only refuge established to “protect wilderness values”. Eisenhower’s designation included 8.9 million acres but was expanded to its current 19.6 million acres by Congress and President Carter in 1980 under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). Under ANILCA the Range was renamed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and much of the refuge was designated as Wilderness. ANILCA also prohibited oil and gas development on the coastal plain in the northeast corner of the refuge along the Beaufort Sea, but allowed the opportunity for a future act of Congress to allow it.
The Arctic NWR’s coastal plain encompasses approximately 1.2 million acres and was never designated as Wilderness as part of ANILCA. Nevertheless, this area is the biological hot spot of the entire refuge and the center of heated debate over oil and gas drilling for more than 30 years. Polar and grizzly bears, wolves, and muskox are just a few of the more than 250 animal species that depend on the coastal plain. Millions of birds, representing some 125 species, migrate to the Coastal Plain to nest, rear their young, molt, and feed. The coastal plain is not only one of the most significant on-shore polar bear denning habitats in the U.S. but also the most important habitat for the Porcupine caribou herd, named for the Porcupine River.
Oil and Gas
The coastal plain has long been the contentious issue surrounding the Arctic NWR – the line in the sand with supporters of expanding our domestic oil production at virtually any cost on one side and those who seek to protect the Arctic NWR forever as a large-scale ecosystem on the other.
With the Gulf Coast disaster in 2010 and the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, we are familiar with the kinds of damage that can occur with oil spills in water. Drilling in the Arctic NWR would be on land and similar to the type of operations at the nearby Prudhoe Bay oil fields. Since 1978, there have been three major spills at Prudhoe Bay totaling more than 17,000 barrels. We know that there is no totally safe way to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic NWR, no way to guarantee wildlife will not be harmed by resource extraction in the refuge, and no way to guarantee the Arctic NWR will be protected for future generations were Congress to allow oil and gas exploration in the refuge.
The only way to guarantee the protection of the Arctic NWR is to permanently protect it with Wilderness designation and we applaud the FWS for including a thorough Wilderness review in the Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) process. The final CCP is expected to be released sometime in 2014.
WHAT’S AT STAKE IF THERE IS DRILLING IN THE ARCTIC?
The Arctic NWR, among the best-known refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System, is home to muskox, polar bears, wolves, shorebirds and many other diverse species of wildlife. The 100-mile coastal plain of the refuge plays a critical role as the calving grounds for 129,000 caribou that make up the Porcupine herd.
Arctic NWR also provides vital nesting habitat for millions of migratory birds representing 135 species from all over the United States and other countries – there’s a good chance, no matter where you live in the U.S., that you’ve seen birds that spend time in this pristine Wilderness.
The Arctic Refuge coastal plain represents the last 5% of Alaska’s north coast that remains legally closed to oil and gas exploration and development. The other 95% of Alaska’s coastal plain is already open to potential oil and gas development. Interestingly enough, this same 5% is also considered the biological heart of the refuge. Drilling in the Arctic Refuge would introduce roads and pipelines spider-webbing across hundreds of thousands of acres on the coastal plain.
We applaud Senators Cantwell and Kirk for their leadership in introducing legislation to permanently protect the Arctic NWR and we will work to ensure its passage.
To learn more about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, click HERE
Want to help protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? Consider a Donation to NWRA!
Three Facts You Need to Know About National Wildlife Refuge Volunteers
Volunteers play an enormous role in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Without them, the System would simply not be what it is today. More than 38,000 individuals volunteer their time to the Refuge System. They contribute more than 1.4 million hours – essentially boosting the System’s workforce by over 20%.
Volunteers add 20 percent to Refuge System workforce: Today, the Refuge System employs about 3,400 people. The volunteer workforce is equal to about 702 full time staff equivalents (FTEs). Meaning, the hours put in by volunteers is the equivalent to about 702 staff members work load – all done for free. This 20% increase in workforce is vital to the Refuge System. Without this donation, the System would be in dire straits – unfortunately, budget cuts are putting this critical contribution at risk.
Volunteer numbers are in decline for the first time in six years: Over the past six years, Refuge System volunteers have steadily increased – despite severe budget cuts in the last three years. However, last year (FY13) volunteer numbers declined significantly – (10% decline in just one year), signaling that continued budget cuts are taking a toll just when the Refuge System needs the help the most.
Budget cuts impact volunteers directly: You might be wondering how budget cuts affects volunteers since they work is a donation. Federal employees – refuge staff – must provide oversight to ensure the safety of volunteers and to make sure the right work gets done to help the habitat. With a smaller budget, fewer people are available for this task and therefore refuges have a much smaller capacity for a volunteer force.
What happens now? The final appropriations bills for FY14 – including funding for the Refuge System – are expected in mid January. The Refuge System desperately needs a funding increase to make up for three years of cuts; otherwise, volunteer programs will continue to be on the chopping block.
What Can You Do?
Contact your U.S. Representatives and Senators and urge them to fund the Refuge System at $499 million for FY14 – this is the best chance to keep volunteer programs up and running.
Volunteers are a huge asset to the Refuge System, but without an adequate budget, all of these generous people find themselves without a place to provide their services. The volunteers lose out, and so does the refuge and surrounding community.To learn more about how you can volunteer at a National Wildlife Refuge, visit http://www.fws.gov/volunteers/volOpps.html. To stay up to date on what is going on with volunteers and the refuge system, make sure to sign up for our flyer!
If you would like a high resolution version of the infographic, please email Emily Paciolla at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Association- Speaking Up for One is Speaking Up for All
During spring migration, the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Ohio may host up to 38 species of warblers. The refuge and surrounding communities may host up to 70,000 visitors who flock to the shore of Lake Erie to witness the wonders of spring migration. Obviously, wildlife and the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge are good for the local economy.
Cathy Allen from the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Association came to Washington, DC the week of November 13 to deliver that message to members of the Ohio delegation. The National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Coalition invited Cathy to come to the Capitol to garner support for LWCF and refuge system funding.
Cathy eloquently shared with lawmakers the wonders of her refuge, the value of the National Wildlife Refuge System, and the needs of the Refuge System including dedicated LWCF funds to conserve lands and improve outdoor recreation opportunities. The meetings were an opportunity to develop and enhance friendships with lawmakers, increase their awareness of the refuge, and what they can do to help.
And the discussion of what they can do to help encompassed to the entire Refuge System because those 38 species of warblers will migrate and their needs are dependent upon the National Wildlife Refuge System.
To see local news coverage of Cathy’s visit go to Cathy goes to Washington.
This report summarizes our accomplishments through our Beyond the Boundaries program, which focuses on landscape-based conservation efforts, outlines our successes in building our network for friends and supporters, and highlights the importance of our increased involvement with private landowners through a new strategic alliance with Partners for Conservation. Click HERE to read about how NWRA is supporting America’s wildlife and wild places throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System.
DID YOU KNOW?
The National Elk Refuge offer sleigh rides every winter! What a great way to celebrate this Holiday Season.
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