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Looking Back: the Friends Movement

To celebrate our 40th anniversary this year, we are publishing a “Looking Back” series of blogs. Each edition will feature a different person who was involved with the organization at different stages over our 40 year history. For our third edition, we are featuring previous board chair and member, Bob Fields. Click here to read the first edition with Ed Crozier, and the second edition with Jim Hubert.


Bob Fields first got involved with the Refuge Association when he became a member in the early 1990s due to his relationships with some of the founding members such as Forrest Carpenter. He later became a Regional Representative for The Northwest Region and went on to become a board member in 2000 and then served as President of the board in 2005.

Fields explained that when he first joined the organization, it was comprised of mostly retired refuge managers and employees. Because of this, and the work that the Refuge Association did, the organization was well known throughout the Refuge System.

Bob Fields at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge | Anne Truslow
Bob Fields at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge | Anne Truslow

Back then, Fields recalls, the Refuge Association was focused more on individual wildlife refuge issues going on in the field. For example, Fields spoke highly of the Refuge Association’s active role in guiding the direction of an annual funding agreement with tribes regarding management of the Bison Range.

Now, Fields says, the Refuge Association’s mission has expanded to a national scale. While the organization has broadened its reach, Fields said he believes it is more challenging to continue to be well known among Refuge employees in the field.

One of the Refuge Association’s biggest accomplishments, in Fields’ eyes, is the establishment of Friends groups and getting the Friends movement up and running.

Fields credits former Refuge Association President, Evan Hirsche, as well as  “founding mother of Friends” Molly Krival with the success of the Friends movement. Fields explained that Hirsche brought the Friends into focus and showed the Service how valuable they are.

Fields recalled that at first, Refuge employees were skeptical about Friends.

“There were a great deal of unknowns that needed to be worked out,” he said. The Refuge Association assisted in bridging that gap and showing the Service the incredible value that Friends groups have, and how much they benefit local wildlife refuges, their communities and the Service.

Fields also credits the Refuge Association with establishing the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE). CARE, today a coalition of 23 wildlife, sporting, conservation, and scientific organizations, was a “smart political move” that has been effective at raising funds for refuge operations and maintenance accounts.

As for the future, Fields says he hopes the Refuge Association will continue to raise the stature of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Permanent link to this article: http://refugeassociation.org/2015/05/looking-back-the-friends-movement/

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