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Snowzilla Can’t Stop the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Months of planning for the National Friends Training scheduled for this past weekend (Jan. 22-24) at the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) in Shepherdstown, West Virginia looked like it might all disappear in a whiteout.

NCTCSnow|RichardSkoglund
National Conservation and Training Center in the blizzard | Richard Skoglund

 

Winter Storm Jonas made a direct hit to the Mid-Atlantic region just as the training was beginning, bringing blizzard conditions to major cities from North Carolina to New York.

But the incredible staff at NCTC rallied together with other U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff to make sure the training went on as planned, despite a record 40.5 inches of snow that fell at the training center.

A record 40.5 inches of snow fell at NCTC during Winter Storm Jonas, burying cars and stranding Friends Training participants. Credit: Justin Woldt
A record 40.5 inches of snow fell at NCTC during Winter Storm Jonas, burying cars and stranding Friends Training participants. | Credit: Justin Woldt

“The NCTC staff was incredible,” said Desiree Sorenson-Groves, who lives in the Washington, D.C. area and attended Friday sessions before heading home ahead of the storm. “Service staff made sure to accommodate all the out-of-town attendees on site so they wouldn’t have to drive in the storm.” NCTC can accommodate more than 200 guests, with dorms, dining halls and classrooms spread out on a 533-acre campus.

A total of 22 NCTC staff hunkered down on cots in offices and storage closets to ensure the guests were well fed, walkways were shoveled and bathrooms were clean throughout the weekend.

NCTC serves as a library, depository and learning center for Service staff, partners and other conservation organizations and students. The Friends training attracted more than 200 volunteer Friends leaders and Service staff from around the nation who came together to learn best practices for operating their non-profit Friends groups.

National Wildlife Refuge Association President David Houghton gives the keynote address January 23 at NCTC. Credit Richard Skoglund
National Wildlife Refuge Association President David Houghton gives the keynote address January 23 at NCTC. | Credit Richard Skoglund

Along with Sorenson-Groves, Refuge Association staff David Houghton, Joan Patterson and Wieteke Holthuijzen participated in the training, as did Mark Musaus, a Refuge Association Regional Representative (Southeast) who is also a consultant to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Houghton gave the Saturday evening Keynote Address, offering our support for Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the Friends of Malheur, who are enduring a standoff at the refuge that is entering its fourth week.

Harv Schubothe, President of Shoreline Education for Awareness in Oregon, Refuge Association President David Houghton and Tim Blount, Executive Director of Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge take a break in the snow while at NCTC. Credit: Marguerite Hills
Harv Schubothe, President of Shoreline Education for Awareness in Oregon, Refuge Association President David Houghton and Tim Blount, Executive Director of Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge take a break in the snow while at NCTC. Credit: Marguerite Hills

“We support the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and the incredible natural and cultural resources of the Refuge” Houghton told the crowd, noting we will be calling on Congress to provide funding to address damages or restoration in the aftermath, as well as robust funding to support the Refuge System.

The weekend was a success despite the storm, with classes and events going on as scheduled thanks to the incredible staff at NCTC.

“The NCTC staff did a really great job,” Musaus said, noting that the storm stranded virtually all the participants at NCTC until Monday.

Hats off to all the NCTC staff – and other Service staff – who worked around the clock to make sure everyone attending had a wonderful, if snowy, experience!

If you are a member of a Refuge Friends Group and would like more information about how to connect with other Friends groups, visit Refuge Friends Connect.

Permanent link to this article: http://refugeassociation.org/2016/01/snowzilla-cant-stop-the-u-s-fish-and-wildlife-service/

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