National Wildlife Refuge Association http://refugeassociation.org Home of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (Refuge Association) Tue, 31 May 2016 14:53:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Vieques Land Transfer Removed From Debt Deal http://refugeassociation.org/2016/05/vieques-land-transfer-removed-from-debt-deal/ http://refugeassociation.org/2016/05/vieques-land-transfer-removed-from-debt-deal/#respond Thu, 19 May 2016 21:29:10 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=13670

Continue reading »]]> A provision to allow the Secretary of the Interior to convey portions of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as part of a debt-relief package was stripped from the bill after local and national conservation and Hispanic groups sharply opposed the deal.

Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, Puerto Rico | USFWS
Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, Puerto Rico | USFWS

National Wildlife Refuge Friends organizations from across the U.S. joined local Puerto Rico conservation groups to urge Congress to reject the legislation, contained in the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act.

“Irreplaceable wildlife habitat would have been lost had this reckless provision been approved,” said David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “Vieques National Wildlife Refuge is an invaluable asset to Puerto Rico that provides excellent local eco-tourism employment opportunities while also providing priceless wildlife habitat for threatened and endangered sea turtles throughout the entire Puerto Rican archipelago.”

Groups expressed grave concern that not only could the bill allow outside developers to buy up public beachfront property and harm sensitive wildlife habitat, it could also open the door to other efforts to remove national wildlife refuges, parks or forest lands from the public estate.

“We want to thank House leaders for listening to the public and acting in the best interest of Puerto Rico and the nation,” Houghton said. “And we owe great thanks to leaders of TICATOVE, Inc., Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust and Caballos Bieke, Inc. for speaking out in support of Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. This change of events would not have happened without their swift action.”

Vieques National Wildlife Refuge contains more than 17,000 acres of rare habitat including the only subtropical moist forest in the entire Refuge System. Its beaches provide the most important nesting sites for leatherback, hawksbill and green sea turtles, and its 300,000 annual visitors pump money into the local economy as they enjoy snorkeling, fishing, swimming, hiking, and other outdoor recreation activities.

According to a recent report by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, Vieques is considered one of the ‘Wholly Irreplaceable Sites in the Caribbean Islands Hotspot’ and is considered extremely important for conservation efforts in the Archipelago of Puerto Rico.

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Conservation Groups Oppose Vieques Land Transfer in Debt Deal http://refugeassociation.org/2016/05/conservation-groups-oppose-vieques-land-transfer-in-debt-deal/ http://refugeassociation.org/2016/05/conservation-groups-oppose-vieques-land-transfer-in-debt-deal/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 17:58:41 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=13666

Continue reading »]]> As Congress debates the language of the Puerto Rico debt relief bill, the provision to convey thousands of acres of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge to the government of Puerto Rico – opening the door to potential development – remains one of the most contentious issues. This dangerous provision has mobilized Friends groups across the country and conservation organizations from the island of Vieques itself to send a flurry of letters to Congress opposing the transfer of the wildlife refuge.

The Vieques National Wildlife Refuge protects over 17,000 acres of rare habitat including the only subtropical moist forest in the entire Refuge System. Its beaches provide the most important nesting sites for threatened and endangered sea turtles throughout the entire Puerto Rican archipelago, including leatherback, hawksbill and green, and its 300,000 annual visitors pump money into the local economy as they enjoy snorkeling, fishing, swimming, hiking, and other outdoor recreation activities.

Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, PR | Jenni Conrad, Creative Commons License/Flickr
Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, PR | Jenni Conrad, Creative Commons License/Flickr

The provision in the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (H.R. 4900) directly violates the founding purpose of Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. Divesting the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge will set a dangerous precedent, and represents the first strike of many aimed at chipping away at the bedrock of all of America’s public lands.

National Wildlife Refuge Friends organizations, citizen organizations that support the purpose of National Wildlife Refuges, and others groups are urging Congress to reject any legislation that would allow the Secretary of the Interior to convey portions of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

“Our National Wildlife Refuge System is not for sale,” said National Wildlife Refuge Association president David Houghton in a letter signed by 122 Refuge Friends groups from across the nation. The letter adds to the growing list of groups opposed to the deal. In Puerto Rico, the Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust, TICATOVE (the local non-profit that supports and promotes the natural resources on the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge), and Caballos Bieke have all voiced their opposition to the Vieques provision to Congress.

“Your proposal to give away the western area of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge to the Government of Puerto will not be of any help to the financial crisis that our Commonwealth is currently experiencing. We think that is not a favorable option for the people of Vieques nor is it for our natural resources,” wrote Kimberly Rosas, President of Caballos Bieke, Inc. “Assisting our Commonwealth with our current financial crisis is very much appreciated, but there is no link between helping us out and giving away our protected lands. We are under no assumption that anyone other than the Department of the Interior will continue to find a balance between protecting our natural resources and assisting the community NGOs, small business and Municipal Government.”

You can take action today by urging your representative to remove the Vieques provision from the Puerto Rico debt relief bill!

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Tell the White House to Stop Plans to Give Away the Vieques NWR http://refugeassociation.org/2016/05/tell-the-white-house-to-stop-plans-to-give-away-the-vieques-nwr/ http://refugeassociation.org/2016/05/tell-the-white-house-to-stop-plans-to-give-away-the-vieques-nwr/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 19:34:50 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=13642

Continue reading »]]> The National Wildlife Refuge Association needs your help to join other conservationists across the country and call the White House TODAY to demand that President Obama reject a provision in the Puerto Rico debt relief bill (H.R. 4900) that would transfer 3,100 acres of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge to the government of Puerto Rico – potentially for development. 

Vieques National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is one of the most ecologically important places in the entire Caribbean – and it’s also one of the most beautiful. It protects over 17,000 acres of rare subtropical dry forest and mangrove habitat home to hundreds of migratory and resident bird species. Vieques beaches provide the most important nesting sites for endangered green sea turtles in the entire Puerto Rican archipelago. All this, and it’s a haven for tourists too with some of the most stunning natural beaches you could ever imagine. In fact, in 2015 USA Today rated it the 4th best wildlife refuge in the entire nation!  

Calling is easy: Simply dial 202-456-1111, and share your views with the operator who answers!

Need help with what to say? Use the script below as a guide!

Hello, my name is [name], and I’m from [city, state]. I’m calling today to urge President Obama to oppose the transfer of thousands of acres of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, a U.S. wildlife refuge, to Puerto Rico. This U.S. wildlife refuge giveaway would put hundreds of species at risk, including endangered turtles and whales. It would also establish a negative precedent and set the stage for congressional efforts to give away more National Wildlife Refuges and other public lands. I urge the President to keep our public lands in public hands and oppose this dangerous provision. 

If this public land grab succeeds, there will be no safeguards in place to restrict development of this irreplaceable landscape and a dangerous precedent will be set for America’s public lands. What will stop Congress from selling YOUR local refuge or national park next? 

If you have not done so already, you can still send a letter to your Representative urging them to remove the Vieques provision from the Puerto Rico debt relief bill.

Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, PR | Jenni Conrad, Creative Commons License/Flickr
Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, PR | Jenni Conrad, Creative Commons License/Flickr
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John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge Receives $1 Million to Bolster Education and Community Engagement http://refugeassociation.org/2016/03/john-heinz-national-wildlife-refuge-receives-1-million-to-bolster-education-and-community-engagement/ http://refugeassociation.org/2016/03/john-heinz-national-wildlife-refuge-receives-1-million-to-bolster-education-and-community-engagement/#respond Thu, 31 Mar 2016 21:08:43 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=13566

Continue reading »]]> Hot on the heels of a similar announcement made just nine days ago, today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced they will invest $1 million annually at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge to continue engaging urban communities and youth in outdoor recreation and conservation.

Established in 1972 in southwest Philadelphia, the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is situated in southwest Philadelphia and has the distinction of being America’s first urban refuge. John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge offers an opportunity for local communities to easily access and enjoy the outdoors while engaging youth to learn about their local environment.

Students from Pepper Middle School, Longstreth Elementary and Norwood Elementary in Philadelphia bird watch on Tinicum Marsh at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania.
Students from Pepper Middle School, Longstreth Elementary and Norwood Elementary in Philadelphia bird watch on Tinicum Marsh at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania. | USFWS

This new investment will provide environmental education to schools and communities, provide jobs, and support new partnerships with community leaders and the Philadelphia city government to address transportation and cultural barriers to the refuge.

“If we want to ensure that conservation is relevant to future generations, we have to put more energy into reaching people where they live, which is becoming more and more in urban centers,” said Service Director Dan Ashe in a ceremony at the refuge.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s urban wildlife conservation program, launched in 2013, provides new opportunities for residents of America’s cities to learn about and take part in wildlife habitat conservation.

“This federal investment is key to providing new experiences and an appreciation for young people about the natural wildlife and habitat in their own neighborhood,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. “The City is grateful for these resources that will support a holistic and well-rounded educational experience for youth.”

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Proposed Change to Duck Stamp Design Aims to Raise More Money for Conservation http://refugeassociation.org/2016/03/proposed-change-to-duck-stamp-design-aims-to-raise-more-money-for-conservation/ http://refugeassociation.org/2016/03/proposed-change-to-duck-stamp-design-aims-to-raise-more-money-for-conservation/#comments Fri, 25 Mar 2016 21:23:43 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=13553

Continue reading »]]> Each year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service holds a contest to determine a new design for the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, otherwise known as the Duck Stamp. Artists from across the country submit designs in hopes that their entry will appear on the millions of Duck Stamps sold that year. This year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed a change to the Duck Stamp regulations requiring the depiction of a secondary migratory bird species in the design. Earlier this week, the Refuge Association submitted comments in support of this change to appeal to a wider range of conservationists and generate more funds to conserve critical wetland and grassland habitat.

Joseph Hautman's wood duck design won the 2011 Federal Duck Stamp Contest | USFWS
Joseph Hautman’s wood duck design won the 2011 Federal Duck Stamp Contest | USFWS

An average of 1.7 million Duck Stamps are sold annually, and 98 cents of every Duck Stamp dollar goes directly into the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. The Duck Stamp has become one of the most successful conservation programs in the country, generating more than $950 million for the conservation of more than eight million acres of wetland and grassland habitat since its creation in 1934.

The land conserved with Duck Stamp dollars does not only benefit waterfowl, but also hundreds of other species that call national wildlife refuges home. In fact, 27 national wildlife refuges have been purchased entirely with Migratory Bird Conservation Fund dollars, and another 150 have had more than half their lands purchased with these funds.

Just as refuge lands benefit more than just ducks, many refuge visitors have more than ducks in mind when they visit their local refuges. Refuges established with Duck Stamp funds provide opportunities for a diverse array of recreational uses including hunting, fishing, photography, wildlife observation, environmental education and interpretation.

The Refuge Association strongly supports the addition of a secondary species in the artwork of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp with the goal of selling more stamps and securing more habitat for our shared wildlife heritage. This proposed changes could ultimately bring in more wildlife artists, waterfowl hunters, bird watchers and other Americans who buy the Stamp, support the Refuge System, and, most importantly, conserve the birds and other wildlife depending on us to secure wetland and grassland habitat for their survival.

 

The 2016 Federal Duck Stamp Contest will be held on September 9-10 at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, PA.

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Celebrating Success at the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area http://refugeassociation.org/2016/03/celebrating-success-at-the-everglades-headwaters-national-wildlife-refuge-and-conservation-area/ http://refugeassociation.org/2016/03/celebrating-success-at-the-everglades-headwaters-national-wildlife-refuge-and-conservation-area/#comments Thu, 24 Mar 2016 20:37:27 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=13548

Continue reading »]]> Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Patrick Murphy were among the Florida dignitaries on hand at the Adams Ranch in Fort Pierce today to celebrate the completion of the first set of conservation easements to be added to the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area.

When people hear the word “Everglades,” most conjure up a mental image of an endless vista of sawgrass stretching off to the horizon. Few think of cowboys or the pine flatwoods located just south of Orlando’s tourist-laden amusement parks, yet the ranchers and sportsmen who utilize Central Florida’s landscapes play a pivotal role in ensuring a healthy Everglades ecosystem.

Florida panther | USFWS
Florida panther | USFWS

The Everglades Headwaters Refuge and Conservation Area was envisioned to use a unique combination of conservation easements, which leave land in private ownership and on the tax rolls, and land acquisition from willing sellers.

More than 5,700 acres of critical ranch, farming, wildlife habitat, flood protection area and water storage lands have been added to the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area thanks to conservation partnerships formed by Florida ranchers, sportsmen, state and federal agencies and non-profits.

“Conserving land in the Everglades Headwaters is critical to our long-term efforts to restore the River of Grass,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL. “It allows us to hold more water North of Lake Okeechobee, which helps improve the quality of water flowing not only into the lake, but all the way down into Everglades National Park.”

Using $12.5 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has secured 4,214.99 acres in conservation easements and acquired 1,502.26 acres of land, including 400 acres of donated land. These latest acquisitions also leverage additional investments being made by the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the State of Florida.

Five properties were involved in the recent acquisitions: the Hatchineha Ranch owned by the Nature Conservancy, Adams Ranch, Camp Lonesome, Tiger Cattle Company and the Idols Aside property.

“It’s an honor for Adams Ranch to protect land as part of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge,” said Mike Adams, President of Adams Ranch, Inc.  “We take pride in our management of Florida’s natural resources as well as our cattle, and conservation easements will allow our succeeding generations to enjoy this heritage as well.”

The result is a landscape-scale conservation area from the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes to Avon Air Force Park that will protect habitat for more than 30 threatened and endangered species, conserve important wetlands, and help sustain Florida’s ranching economy. It is a win-win all around – for conservation and watershed protection, agriculture economy, hunting and fishing access, and military readiness.

Together, these conservation easements and fee acquisitions will protect habitat for iconic Florida wildlife such as the Florida panther, Florida black bear, gopher tortoise and the highly endangered Florida grasshopper sparrow.

 

Click here to read the full Press Release.

 

 

Private landowners, like this Florida rancher, are crucial partners for successful conservation efforts.
Private landowners, like this Florida rancher, are crucial partners for successful conservation efforts | Carlton Ward, Jr.
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Bob Ebeling, Refuge Association 2013 Volunteer of the Year, has Passed Away http://refugeassociation.org/2016/03/bob-ebeling-refuge-association-2013-volunteer-of-the-year-has-passed-away/ http://refugeassociation.org/2016/03/bob-ebeling-refuge-association-2013-volunteer-of-the-year-has-passed-away/#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2016 20:53:29 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=13542

Continue reading »]]> Bob Ebeling, the National Wildlife Refuge Association’s 2013 Volunteer of the Year, passed away on Monday at the age of 89. Ebeling was an undeniably passionate conservationist, but there is much more to his story.

Before dedicating nearly 25 years of his life to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah, Bob worked for NASA as a booster rocket engineer on the Challenger mission.

Bob Ebeling, the National Wildlife Refuge Association's 2013 Volunteer of the Year | USFWS
Bob Ebeling, the National Wildlife Refuge Association’s 2013 Volunteer of the Year | USFWS

According to news reports, after realizing the cold weather conditions the night before the launch would cause the O-ring seals on the rocket’s booster joints to fail, Ebeling notified his supervisors of the imminent danger to the mission. Despite presenting the hard data to his superiors and advocating for delaying the launch, his advice was rejected and the fateful launch was a go.

After the Challenger mission, Ebeling retired from NASA and moved back to his native Utah. He turned his engineering prowess from rockets to refuges, and led a team of volunteers in the restoration of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge after catastrophic floods broke through the Great Salt Lakes’ impoundments, virtually destroying the refuge in the 1980s.

“The refuge would not be what it is today without Bob’s tireless dedication to the ecological health and public perception of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge,” said Refuge Association President, David Houghton.

The more than 10,000 hours Ebeling spent at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge earned him the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Award from President George H.W. Bush in the 1990s.

Ebeling never stopped working at the refuge after leading that reconstruction team in the 80s. He could often be found in the refuge’s Education Center teaching visitors of all ages about the natural world and fascinating wildlife at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

We at the Refuge Association will sincerely miss Bob Ebeling, a wonderful conservationist and incredible man.

To read more about the life of Bob Ebeling, see the NPR story released on March 21, 2016.

 

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Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge Receives $1 Million in Additional Funding http://refugeassociation.org/2016/03/valle-de-oro-national-wildlife-refuge-receives-1-million-in-additional-funding/ http://refugeassociation.org/2016/03/valle-de-oro-national-wildlife-refuge-receives-1-million-in-additional-funding/#respond Tue, 22 Mar 2016 19:35:08 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=13537

Continue reading »]]> Today, Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, joined New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich in announcing that Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge will receive an additional $1 million in annual funding to engage urban communities and youth in conservation and outdoor recreation!

Sandhill cranes at Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, NM | USFWS
Sandhill cranes at Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, NM | USFWS

“Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge has the potential to become an essential ecological, educational, and recreational resource for families and kids in the Albuquerque area and across the region. Our goal is to accelerate this process by giving the refuge’s outstanding staff additional resources to build and strengthen relationships with community partners and residents,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “Funding will be used to expand opportunities for families and kids to connect with nature, creating memories for a lifetime and fostering an appreciation for the importance of this unique landscape to both people and wildlife.”

Located less than five miles from downtown Albuquerque, Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge is one of just over one hundred urban refuges across the country. An urban refuges is defined as being within 25 miles of 250,000 people or more, and with over 80% of the U.S. population living in urban areas these refuges play a critical role in connecting Americans to our country’s wild places.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service created the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program to help national wildlife refuges create partnerships and reach out to urban communities to provide new opportunities for them to learn about and take part in wildlife habitat conservation.

“There is so much opportunity at Valle de Oro to help New Mexico kids discover the incredible natural heritage of our state right in their backyard, while supporting vital river and habitat conservation,” said U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich. “I am proud to stand with the community in Albuquerque’s South Valley and secure resources to turn this 570-acre oasis into a place filled with educational and recreational opportunities.”

 

 

 

 

 

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We’re Hiring! Communications Specialist http://refugeassociation.org/2016/03/were-hiring-communications-specialist-2/ http://refugeassociation.org/2016/03/were-hiring-communications-specialist-2/#respond Thu, 17 Mar 2016 19:07:42 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=13530

Continue reading »]]> We’re Hiring!

Red-footed booby, Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge | USFWS
Red-footed booby, Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge | USFWS

Are you passionate about wildlife conservation? Do you have topnotch communications skills?

We’re a small but growing non-profit with a big mission – to protect and promote America’s national wildlife refuges, and we’re hiring a communications specialist to be based in our Washington, DC office.

The right candidate will be an expert writer and communicator with an entrepreneurial spirit and an ability to juggle lots of balls in the air.

You might be the right fit if you:

  • Love to write, and you are seriously great at it;
  • Are thrilled by the challenge of making federal conservation policy incredibly exciting to your readers;
  • Love to build a community of online supporters using the latest social media tools;
  • Know WordPress like the back of your hand, and have a knack for picking up other online platforms in no time;
  • Have an artistic flair for graphic design;
  • Relish the fast pace and sometimes long hours of a non-profit lifestyle;
  • Are insanely organized and love to take care of the details.

Did we mention that you are seriously great at writing? For the web or for a printed report, it doesn’t matter to you – you are on it.

You can read the full job description here, and if you meet the qualifications, send a cover letter, resume and a sample of your best online writing to Christine McGowan at cmcgowan@refugeassociation.org.

And it says right on the job description – no phone calls.

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Private Landowners Play a Critical Role in Successful Conservation Efforts http://refugeassociation.org/2016/03/private-landowners-play-a-critical-role-in-successful-conservation-efforts/ http://refugeassociation.org/2016/03/private-landowners-play-a-critical-role-in-successful-conservation-efforts/#respond Tue, 15 Mar 2016 21:20:59 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=13470

Continue reading »]]>

Monarch butterfly on purple loosetrife | Kevin Bourinot

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service relies on private landowners to successfully conserve and manage America’s landscapes. The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (Partners Program) is one of the Service’s most effective tools for building these partnerships across the country.

The program works one-on-one, on a voluntary basis, with private landowners to improve fish and wildlife habitat. Landowners agree to maintain improvement projects conducted on their lands for at least 10 years, but otherwise retain full control of their land. Partners may also include tribes, schools, conservation groups and local, state and federal agencies.

The Partners Program has led to the success of such iconic landscape conservation projects as the Blackfoot Challenge in Montana, the Flint Hills in Kansas, and has played a key role in conserving greater sage-grouse habitat in the West. Most recently, the Partners Program has contributed toward the conservation of the iconic monarch butterfly, whose population has plummeted over the past 20 years.

On-the-ground projects by the Partners Program create jobs and provide income to local communities. They leverage federal dollars to obtain non-federal funds from other partners for conservation projects. And, since many conservation projects require skilled local labor, small businesses often benefit, adding a boost to the local economy. As these businesses and their workers likewise spend money in the local economy, local tax revenues go up. The Partners Program generates nearly $16 in economic return for every $1 appropriated.

Successful conservation is a collaborative process and can only be achieved with the support and investment of local communities. These principles are the foundation of the Partner’s Program, which to date has partnered with more than 45,000 private landowners to implement nearly 29,000 restoration projects on federal lands across the country.

Help strengthen the Partners Program by asking your Senators and Representatives to support the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program. View our action alert here.

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