About the National Wildlife Refuge Association

Protecting America’s Wildlife

The National Wildlife Refuge Association (the Refuge Association) works to protect America’s wildlife heritage by bringing a unique perspective and creative strategies to conservation. Refuge Association has created a powerful recipe for success by leveraging the world’s largest wildlife conservation program–the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 836-million acre National Wildlife Refuge System–and engaging other conservation nonprofits, private land owners and refuge Friends groups in safeguarding wildlife. By mobilizing citizens in support of conservation, generating support for wildlife conservation among decision makers, and creating mosaics of public and private protected lands, the Refuge Association is ensuring a future for wildlife across America.

Our Mission

To conserve America’s wildlife heritage for future generations through strategic programs that protect and enhance the National Wildlife Refuge System and the landscapes beyond its boundaries.

By combining policy, landscape-scale conservation efforts, grassroots development and public education, the Refuge Association works to strengthen the ecological integrity of our national wildlife refuges, maintaining the diversity of American wildlife and plants for the future.

Sunset at Kootenai NWR in Idaho | Stan Bousson

Our main objectives

  • Mobilize Citizens in Support of Wildlife Build a comprehensive grassroots network of refuge Friends groups throughout the country that will lend their hands and their voices to support refuges and wildlife conservation on the local, regional and national levels.
  • Give Wildlife a Voice Advocate for conservation by working with decision-makers to ensure the strength, integrity and vitality of the Refuge System, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other conservation programs.
  • Protect Wildlife Beyond Refuge Boundaries Engage government agencies, private landowners and conservation groups in efforts to safeguard vital refuge buffer zones and wildlife corridors, and prevent loss and degradation of habitat.

Engaging the public – Mobilizing citizens in support of wildlife

The Refuge Association mobilizes hundreds of volunteer refuge Friends groups and thousands of private citizens across the country to tackle the challenges facing our national wildlife refuges. Through training workshops, communications networks and partnerships, and advocacy, the Refuge Association generates support for refuges and vital wildlife habitats at the local and national levels. Our annual National Refuge Friends conferences and workshops have attracted nearly 4,000 people from all states.

The Refuge Association’s Friends Affiliate program has expanded to almost 200 groups that have aligned with the Refuge Association’s priorities and dedicated themselves to building a national infrastructure for addressing the most pressing Refuge System needs.

Friends of Alaska, Dalton Weed Pull
Friends of Alaska, Dalton Highway Weed Pull | Friends of Alaska Refuges

Conservation Advocacy – Giving Wildlife a Voice

We vigilantly watch for policies and legislation that undermine the integrity of the Refuge System, while advocating for efforts that advance refuges and wildlife conservation. Specifically, the Refuge Association addresses Refuge System funding, management and strategic growth, while also promoting other programs that help maximize the System’s conservation impact. We depend on our growing Action Team, comprising thousands of citizens who want to make a difference for wildlife and refuges, to carry our message quickly and effectively to policy-makers.

Friends at Capitol
Friends at Capitol | Evan Hirsche

Conservation Programs: Protecting Wildlife Beyond the Boundaries

Manatee, Crystal River NWR, Florida
NWRA protected vital manatee habitat at Three Sisters Springs in Florida. | Carol Grant

From manatees swimming in warm Florida waters to the pronghorn of the Great Basin, American wildlife is threatened by habitat loss and human encroachment near wildlife refuges. In response to the alarming loss of vital refuge buffer habitat, the Refuge Association launched the Beyond the Boundaries program in 2005 to expand support for conserving landscapes surrounding national wildlife refuges. We believe that conservation cannot be confined to lines on a map or a refuge “box.”

Through partnerships with government agencies, private landowners and conservation organizations, Beyond the Boundaries brings a compelling vision of landscape conservation together with the people and resources that can make it happen. Our strategic approach to landscape conservation seeks to safeguard open space, rural ways of life and a healthy environment while ensuring that our wildlife heritage is protected for generations.


Engaging the public

  • Trained nearly 4,000 refuge Friends volunteers from all 50 states in board development, volunteer recruitment, communications, advocacy and other disciplines since 2001.
  • Recognized the outstanding contributions of dozens of Refuge System employees, volunteers and Friends groups through an annual Refuge System awards program.
  • Created an annual Refuge System Photo Contest to help tell the Refuge System story through the outstanding imagery of thousands photographers from across the nation.

Conservation Advocacy

  • Chaired the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE), a consortium that has united 22 diverse conservation, sporting and scientific organizations and their combined 15 million members around the need for increased Refuge System funding.
  • Generated more than 30,000 communications from citizens to decision-makers on issues ranging from Refuge System funding to protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to supporting the creation of the new Everglades Headwaters Conservation Area.
  • Led more than 600 local refuge advocates to Congress in support of funding increases for the Refuge System.

Conservation Programs

  • Helped safeguard the 57-acre Three Sister Springs in Florida. This project conserves five important warm-water springs along Florida’s Gulf Coast, a habitat crucial to a population of more than 500 manatees during the winter months.
  • Developed the first-in-the-nation strategic habitat conservation plan for Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland.
  • Helped Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada acquire critical springs and wetlands to benefit Ash Meadows and Amargosa pupfish, two unique and endangered types of fish.

Read our annual report for more details:

2015 Annual Report

What can you do to help?

By making a contribution to the National Wildlife Refuge Association you’ll enable our team to continue to continue its work to protect and enhance landscapes and wildlife across the country, support and develop refuge Friends Groups, and advocate for the Refuge System with decision-makers. Please consider making a donation today.

You can also join our Action Team and get alerts about steps you can take on behalf of the Refuge System and the wildlife that depend on these havens for their survival. Through the Action Network you will be able to take immediate action on measures affecting our national wildlife refuges and associated conservation programs. Please join today and help us stand up for the refuges!

Support the Refuge Association through the Combined Federal Campaign. If your workplace participates in the Combined Federal Campaign, please remember the Refuge Association when the time comes to make your annual pledge!  Our CFC number is 10076.


Click here to view our FY13, Form 990

Permanent link to this article: http://refugeassociation.org/about/about-nwra/