National Wildlife Refuge Association http://refugeassociation.org Home of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) Tue, 30 Sep 2014 20:34:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 New Visitor Center Construction Underway for Kenai National Wildlife Refuge http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/new-visitor-center-construction-underway-for-kenai-national-wildlife-refuge/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/new-visitor-center-construction-underway-for-kenai-national-wildlife-refuge/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:20:18 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10407

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A small opening will happen this fall, and grand opening will likely occur in early spring. | Mike Boylan
A small opening will happen this fall, and grand opening will likely occur in early spring. | Mike Boylan

Construction continues as Kenai National Wildlife Refuge‘s new visitor center prepares to greet residents and tourists who annually visit Alaska’s most popular refuge. The 6,500 sq. ft. facility will replace a small visitor contact area within refuge headquarters.

The visitor center will feature an 1,800-sq. ft. exhibit hall, Alaska Geographic bookstore, and 100-person multi-purpose room. When the new center opens, the old visitor area in the headquarters will be converted to office space. The refuge is excited about this welcomed improvement.

The new facility is built to LEED (Leadership in Environmental Energy and Design) certified Silver standards with solar panels, a sod roof for added insulation and skylights and windows for optimal daylight.

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Double Dose of Fun This Weekend on Refuges http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/double-dose-of-fun-this-weekend-on-refuges/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/double-dose-of-fun-this-weekend-on-refuges/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 13:45:58 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10395

Continue reading »]]> Saturday, September 23 is not only National Public Lands Day, but it is also National Hunting and Fishing Day. Refuges across the country have much to celebrate!

National Public Lands Day

A group of voluntary Girl Scouts visited Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge to reforest on National Public Lands Day in 2012. They planted 100 trees! | USFWS
A group of voluntary Girl Scouts visited Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge to reforest on National Public Lands Day in 2012. They planted 100 trees! | USFWS

National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is the largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands in the entire nation and it’s happening this Saturday, September 27.

This widespread event started in 1994 with just three sites and around 700 volunteers. It has grown immensely since then. Last year, over 170,000 volunteers and visitors celebrated NPLD all across the country at over 2,237 public land sites, including national wildlife refuges. Volunteers at these events:

  • collected around 23,000 pounds of invasive plants
  • built and maintained an estimated 1,500 miles of trails
  • planted about 100,000 trees, shrubs, and other native plants
  • removed almost 500 tons of trash
  • contributed an estimated $18 million through volunteer services to improve public lands across America.

The National Wildlife Refuge System is the largest network of public lands in the United States with at least one refuge in each state. It’s incredibly important to protect these lands and keep them in pristine condition. Click here to find an event near you! Also, check out this list on Buzzfeed for some interesting facts about refuges in the northeast.

 

National Hunting and Fishing Day

A visiting fisherman stands with his catch. Steve Davis, fish biologist for USFWS, holds the bulky trout. He coordinates fishing programs at the Tech Center's outreach pond with various organizations from communities near the Center | USFWS
A visiting fisherman stands with his catch. Steve Davis, fish biologist for USFWS, holds the bulky trout. He coordinates fishing programs at the Tech Center’s outreach pond with various organizations from communities near the Center | USFWS

This Saturday, September 27 is also National Hunting and Fishing Day. In support of the conservation efforts of hunters and anglers, National Hunting and Fishing Day was first proposed on the floor of the U.S. Senate in 1971. Former Sen. Thomas McIntyre, D-NH introduced Joint Resolution 117 in June of 1971 authorizing National Hunting and Fishing Day on the fourth Saturday of every September. Former Rep. Bob Sikes, D-Fla. introduced an identical measure in the House. Congress unanimously passed both bills in early 1972.

The first year it occurred, national, regional, state and local organizations hosted over 3,000 hunting and fishing related events. These events provided an estimated four million Americans with a chance to experience, understand, and appreciate hunting and fishing.

Many refuges across the country offer hunting and fishing in appropriate seasons, partly as a source of recreation, but also as an effective conservation tool. Without hunting, species such as deer and certain species of fish and birds would have population explosions which could result in a collapse of the ecosystem. Hunting keeps populations in check so that other species have a chance to survive. Hunting and fishing are also solutions to invasive species such as the Asian carp. Click here to find events near you!

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Refuge Association Praises Expansion of Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/refuge-association-praises-expansion-of-remote-pacific-islands-marine-national-monument/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/refuge-association-praises-expansion-of-remote-pacific-islands-marine-national-monument/#comments Thu, 25 Sep 2014 16:35:52 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10377

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Black Tipped Reef Shark, one of the species protected by the monument expansion | Laura Taylor
Black Tipped Reef Shark, one of the species protected by the monument expansion | Laura Taylor

In a huge victory for conservation, the Obama administration announced this morning the expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument now covers approximately 490,000 square miles in the south-central Pacific Ocean and is home to some of the most pristine and biodiverse waters in the world. Three national wildlife refuges are included in this expansion, they are: Wake Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, Johnston Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, and Jarvis Island National Wildlife Refuge. The expanded National Monument protects the waters surrounding the refuges 200 nautical miles from land of these three refuges.

Coral reefs and the many species that inhabit them are a vital resource that is now protected with the expansion of this monument | USFWS
Coral reefs and the many species that inhabit them are a vital resource that is now protected with the expansion of this monument | USFWS

The proclamation bans commercial fishing and other resource extraction activities, such as deep-sea mining. Sustainable recreational and traditional fishing will still be allowed.

The expanded Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument is of global and regional ecological importance for large predatory fish, seabirds, marine mammals, and sea turtles. An estimated 14 million seabirds representing 19 species use these areas as feeding and breeding grounds. Five species of protected sea turtles, including the critically endangered leatherback, and 22 species of protected marine mammals use these waters as migratory routes and feeding grounds. Also, remarkably rich coral ecosystems would be protected.

A young Hawaiin Monk Seal and a Green Sea Turtle are both species that will be protected because of the expanded monument | Mark Sullivan
A young Hawaiin Monk Seal and a Green Sea Turtle are both species that will be protected because of the expanded monument | Mark Sullivan

We strongly support the President in his decision to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, and make conservation the primary purpose of the monument. While we are overjoyed that the monument has been expanded, we must not forget that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will need additional resources to manage this increase of jurisdiction. Other Pacific monuments created by the Bush Administration in 2006 and 2009 came with no additional resources for management.  And on top of the added management responsibilities, the Refuge System has been rewarded with a nearly 20% cut in funding since FY 2010. We hope that the President will request additional resources for the Refuge System in his FY 2016 budget request that acknowledges this area’s great importance – not just to Americans but to the world.

We must do our part to protect the ocean. The Obama Administration’s announcement to expand protection of U.S. waters in the Pacific Ocean is a major step in the right direction. Also, a large thank you to everyone who signed our letter through the Action Network in support of this expansion.

Click here to read our press release.

Click here for the press release from the Department of the Interior.

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Partnerships in the Refuge System: Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge and Neighboring Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/partnerships-in-the-refuge-system-sherburne-national-wildlife-refuge-and-neighboring-nature-explore-outdoor-classroom/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/partnerships-in-the-refuge-system-sherburne-national-wildlife-refuge-and-neighboring-nature-explore-outdoor-classroom/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 15:17:58 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10368

Continue reading »]]> Sue Hix is the President of Friends of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge and also a refuge volunteer.


Planting the Seed

It all started more than four years ago. The details are lost in the mists of time, but I do remember that another Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge volunteer/Friends of Sherburne member and I were invited to a “nature classroom” meeting at a school in nearby Elk River, MN. The Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom Demonstration Site was just a year old and the result of a grant from the Dimensions Educational Research Foundation/Arbor Day Foundation awarded to the Early Childhood Program. [Note: There is also a certified Nature Explore Classroom at the National Conservation Training Center.]

Ribbon Cutting for the eagle nest | Friends of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge
Ribbon Cutting for the eagle nest | Friends of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge

The budding program was looking for people to help—whether planning and maintaining garden and activity areas or contributing plants, landscaping materials, equipment, ideas, and just plain elbow grease. I soon learned that the early childhood and preschool teachers would also welcome the kind of resources that the refuge and Friends of Sherburne could provide—for example, teacher workshops about using the outdoors as a classroom and visits by volunteers to introduce the young students to nature and wildlife topics. The site, adjacent to a school building, in a neighborhood only two blocks from the center of downtown, and only one block from a major highway, held much promise. I took the plunge.

I started cautiously, donating plants and using my Master Gardener background to help renovate flower beds and plan new ones. Pretty soon I found myself attending regular committee meetings and visiting summer classes in the Nature Explore Center to talk to preschoolers about turtles, raccoons, plants, and other cool things. My volunteer hours there were adding up, and I learned I could “trade” them for free ads for refuge events in the Elk River Community Education catalogs, a deal worth hundreds of dollars a year. Not bad!

One thing led to another. I got to know one of the other Nature Explore Center (NEC) volunteers and was impressed by all she knew and her ability to convey it. I suggested she might enjoy becoming a refuge volunteer. Not only did she and her husband become refuge volunteers, they also became Friends members.

Meanwhile, I was also getting more involved as features were added to the NEC and the school district applied for and received a grant for a public art project featuring five life-sized deer sculptures and an entryway arch topped with a heron nest and herons, all in metal. By then a couple of the teaching staff members had also become Friends members and refuge fans, and the NEC could be classified as a destination as well as an outdoor learning site.

A Partnership Blossomed

The plot thickened as management at the refuge, the school, and the Friends decided it might be worth applying for one of the initial Urban Wildlife Initiative grants. Admittedly this was a long shot since the estimated population of the school district was less than 60,000. Though the refuge didn’t receive that grant, everyone loved the project—to build an “eagle nest” deck with interpretive signage and bring NEC students to the refuge. So the Friends applied to a local foundation, which funded the project. The school district contributed both funds and materials, the refuge contributed expertise, and many volunteers—including school staff, Friends, and community members—contributed hours to line the nest with sticks to make it ready for preschool “eagles.”

Children enjoy the wingspan display at the Ribbon Cutting of the eagle nest | Friends of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge
Children enjoy the wingspan display at the Ribbon Cutting of the eagle nest | Friends of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge

This partnership has evolved slowly over time, and solid relationships and trust have developed along with it. As a result, more people know about and have visited the refuge. Our Friends group has new, active members. Other volunteers and I have new friends/Friends, including two very special kindergarten naturalists and their families. In short, it has been a winning proposition for all involved.

Here are some of the things we’ve been able to do together:

  • Host the preschool staff for an “outdoor classroom” teacher workshop, including time exploring at the refuge for teachers and their children and grandchildren.
  • Bring the refuge’s “mystery box,” fur pelts, an owl station, and refuge brochures to a Not-So-Scary Halloween event attended by more than 75 young children and their families.
  • Build the “eagle nest” (modeled after a similar nest at the refuge), provide interpretive signage, develop a refuge information sign, and create a weather-proof children’s book, mounted at kid height next to the nest, and telling the story of The Bald Eagle’s Home.
  • Plan and host a ribbon-cutting for the eagle nest, held in conjunction with Elk River Family Fun Night. Refuge volunteers acted as interpreters at the nest and helped students add nest sticks. Indoors, Friends volunteers provided information about the refuge, the Friends, and upcoming events.
  • Host groups of young Elk River students on visits to the refuge. The Friends were able to cover transportation cost for one of the groups.
  • Assist one of the preschool teachers as she presented a Nature Explore Center orientation for staff and suggested new ways they could use the outdoors as a classroom. The refuge provided posters for classrooms, and the Friends donated some magnifying “bug boxes” to encourage teachers to get their students outside on a regular basis.
  • Invite the NEC to have a booth at the refuge’s annual Wildlife Festival on October 4. Teachers will help young visitors create their own nature journals while parents learn about the NEC and programs there.

The story continues, but this chapter ends on a particularly happy note. The Nature Explore Center at Elk River’s Handke Family Center just received certification and a plaque, making it the 229th certified Nature Explore Classroom in the United States!

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Senate Resolution Commemorating National Wildlife Refuge Week http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/senate-resolution-commemorating-national-wildlife-refuge-week/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/senate-resolution-commemorating-national-wildlife-refuge-week/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 19:17:03 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10355

Continue reading »]]> Our hard work has paid off! And when we say “our” that includes Friends from around the country. Just last week, the Senate passed a resolution declaring October 12-18 National Wildlife Refuge Week. This wouldn’t have happened without the help of our trusted Friends who visited the Capitol last week.

Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) led a bipartisan group of co-sponsors including Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Many lawmakers signed onto the resolution after their meetings with Friends.

National Wildlife Refuge Week is one of the biggest celebrations throughout the Refuge System and we’re pleased the United States Senate recognizes its significance, and the importance of refuges across the country.


Click here to read the full resolution.

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Delmarva Fox Squirrel Officially Recovered http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/delmarva-fox-squirrel-officially-recovered/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/delmarva-fox-squirrel-officially-recovered/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 16:38:25 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10337

Continue reading »]]> Great news! This morning, Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell and Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe announced at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to delist the Delmarva Fox Squirrel. This is the 52nd species to be delisted from the Endangered Species Act. The species was listed in 1967 due to habitat loss from development and timber harvesting in their native range.

Delmarva Fox Squirrel | Kathy Abend
Delmarva Fox Squirrel | Kathy Abend

“It takes a real village to protect a squirrel,” said Jewell at the announcement, noting the many partners who banded together to help with recovery efforts. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD, and Gov. Martin O’Malley also attended, thanking the community members and private landowners who worked together to protect wildlife and the local forest economy.

These cute fluffy critters were once found throughout the Delmarva Peninsula. Unfortunately, at the time of listing, their range had been reduced to 10% of its original size and only occurred in three counties and a small island in one other county. This was due in large part to habitat loss from development and timber harvesting. The squirrels need mature trees for den sites as well as for a food source: mature trees provide more acorns.

Recovery efforts for this wonderful little creature began in 1945 when the Maryland Department of Natural Resources bought LeCompte Wildlife Management Area in Dorchester County. In 1971, legal hunting of the squirrel was banned. And then after the listing of the species, the Delmarva Peninsula Fox Squirrel Recovery Team began to work with the State on conservation efforts including reintroduction of the species into counties where it was originally found.

Over 10 years later, 11 out of the 16 reintroduced populations are succeeding. The Delmarva Fox Squirrel is primarily found on privately owned land and can thrive in a landscape that is managed for farming and sustainable timber harvest. Uncut corn or soybeans along hedgerows can be left for the squirrel’s winter food provided by the farmers. Developers and timber harvesters also help the squirrel by leaving woodlot trees that produce nuts, seeds, and berries and also provide corridors from one woodlot to another.

Thanks to the wonderful efforts of these private landowners, the state of Maryland, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the population of this squirrel is finally high enough to be taken off the endangered species list since it has been fully recovered.

For more information see these resources:

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Federal Duck Stamp Contest is This Weekend http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/federal-duck-stamp-contest-is-this-weekend/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/federal-duck-stamp-contest-is-this-weekend/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 14:38:57 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10333

Continue reading »]]> This upcoming weekend, September 19 & 20 is the judging of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV. This event is free and open to the public, so everyone has a chance to see the amazing artwork that has been submitted. The Federal Duck Stamp Contest is the oldest and most prestigious wildlife art competition in the United States.  If you are not able to attend, you can watch the judging online or see the artwork in this flickr gallery.

The very first Duck Stamp was designed by J.N. “Ding” Darling in 1934, although the contest did not begin until 1949. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sponsored stamp-design contest featuring wildlife artists from across the country is the only juried art competition sponsored by the federal government. The winning art is then used on the following year’s stamp.

The winning artwork for the 2014 contest.
The winning artwork for the 2014 contest.

The 2014-2015 winning art was done by Adam Grimm, of Burbank, South Dakota. His oil painting of a pair of Canvasbacks was judged as the best of 201 entries. Each year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chooses five species for artists to choose from that may be painted. The species in 2013 were: blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, and Canvasback. The 2014 species are: Brant, Canada Goose, Northern Shoveler, Red-breasted Merganser, and Ruddy Duck.

The Federal Duck Stamp is one of the most important and most efficient tools for wildlife conservation. Since it’s introduction in 1934, Duck Stamp sales have generated more than $800 million which has been used to purchase or lease over 6 million acres of wetland habitat in the United States.

Waterfowl receive enormous benefits from the stamp, but they are not alone. Countless other bird, mammal, fish, reptile, and amphibian species that rely on wetlands have also prospered due to the acreage obtained. In addition, an estimated one third of the nation’s endangered and threatened species find food or shelter in refuges established using Federal Duck Stamp dollars.

To purchase a Duck Stamp, simply visit your local post office, or purchase one online. They can also be purchased at many national wildlife refuges, sporting goods stores, and outdoors stores.

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Urban Wildlife Refuge Program Highlighted on Capitol Hill http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/urban-wildlife-refuge-program-highlighted-on-capitol-hill/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/urban-wildlife-refuge-program-highlighted-on-capitol-hill/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 22:14:55 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10310

Continue reading »]]> This morning, congressional staffers with partners and supporters of the National Wildlife Refuge System joined the Chief of the Refuge System Jim Kurth and Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe for a congressional briefing on the Urban Wildlife Refuge Program. The event highlighted the Service’s program that is aimed at increasing a diverse and engaged conservation constituency.

Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, led the discussion and called the urban program “a new direction for the Fish and Wildlife Service, a bold direction.”

It is estimated that more than 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in urban areas. Unfortunately, many urbanites have never heard of a National Wildlife Refuge, let alone visited one. The Urban Wildlife Refuge Program is working to change this by nurturing new supporters who care about conservation and the beautiful wildlife and land around them.

Senator Cardin | Emily Paciolla
Senator Cardin | Emily Paciolla

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD, spoke at the event, noting his support for the Urban Program because it opens up the world of wildlife and habitat conservation to so many more Americans who are losing their connection to nature. “It starts in our urban centers,” Cardin said. “If the habitat is healthy for wildlife, it’s healthy for us.”

Rep. John Sarbanes, D-MD, also spoke noting a local urban partnership at Masonville Cove outside Baltimore that he said is a model for urban wildlife programs everywhere. By helping the local community reclaim what had turned into an industrial waste site into a wildlife refuge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners have galvanized the community and offered a legacy for the city. “(The urban wildlife program) is going to be a great chapter in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s history,” Sarbanes said.

Wendi Weber, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional director for the Northeast, and Genevieve LaRouche, field director for the Service’s Chesapeake Bay Field Office, spoke about how strong, local relationships between federal, state and local partners in Baltimore led to the Masonville Cove urban partnership; and Chad Brown, CEO of the upscale fly fishing brand Soul River, shared examples of how his company has partnered with the Service in Portland, Ore. and others to connect inner-city youth and veterans with the outdoors. Brown, a veteran who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after serving in the military, said his discovery of fly fishing helped him overcome PTSD and ultimately led him to form the Soul River brand and give something back to the community.

Chief of Refuges, Jim Kurth | Christine McGowan
Chief of Refuges, Jim Kurth | Christine McGowan

Unlike other refuge programs, the Urban Wildlife Refuge Program meets people where they are, in the cities and suburbs, and helps make connections between their interests and the nearby landscapes the Refuge System protects. The heart of the program is to engage urban neighbors to foster a sense of stewardship and appreciation for conservation.

“We have to make conservation relevant to a changing America,” said Jim Kurth, Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The program kicked off last month when Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex was the first recipient of $1 million in new urban program funding. The SoCal Urban Wildlife Refuge Project incorporates outdoor learning, service and stewardship of natural habitats, and conservation-based projects for youth and young adults from diverse communities. It encompasses activities not only at the San Diego NWR Complex but also to the north at Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, a new Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership called Condor Kids, and in Los Angeles under the auspices of the L.A. River Rover Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership. Ten exceptional programs have been incorporated into the SoCal Project that will complement and expand current outreach and education programs on the refuges.

The Urban Wildlife Refuge Program also includes new Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships. These partnerships are long-term, place-based partnerships that enable the Service to reach beyond refuge boundaries and engage urban communities in conservation on lands owned or managed by local non-profits, municipalities, or community groups, within easy access for residents.

To learn more about these incredible partnerships, click here, and watch a video about them here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TNGLskLEpM&feature=youtu.be

Highlighted at the event, the Urban Wildlife Refuge Program will indeed breed a new generation of conservation enthusiasts and Refuge System supporters.

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Bob and Sharon Waldrop Receive Refuge Volunteers of the Year Award http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/bob-and-sharon-waldrop-receive-refuge-volunteers-of-the-year-award/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/bob-and-sharon-waldrop-receive-refuge-volunteers-of-the-year-award/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 19:25:33 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10256

Continue reading »]]> Bob and Sharon Waldrop spent years volunteering for Southeast Louisiana refuges. In fact, between them they have contributed more than 32,693 volunteer hours and counting to the National Wildlife Refuge System. If you do the math that is 16 years of 40 hour workweeks!

David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, presenting the Waldrops with their Refuge Volunteers of the Year Award | Pon Dixson
David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, presenting the excited Waldrops with their Refuge Volunteers of the Year Award | Pon Dixson

Today, the Waldrops were honored at a lunch at the Southeast Louisiana Refuge Complex Headquarters, where they received their 2014 Refuge Volunteers of the Year Award from the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

About 60 people attended the lunch in their honor, including friends from around Louisiana, and family from Wisconsin. The Waldrops recently bought a house and moved permanently to Wisconsin.

“It means a lot for us to be able to give you this award for all you’ve done for the Refuge System,” said David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. The Waldrops have volunteered in Louisiana and at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in Carbondale, Ill.

Ken Litzenberger, who was their volunteer supervisor for many years, spoke fondly about the Waldrops.

“They are like family,” said Litzenberger, who was their supervisor. He recently retired from the Service.

Jim Kurth, Chief of the Refuge System, said the nomination of Bob and Sharon, filled with photos and details of their years of service, was a “remarkable tribute” to the couple.

And Shaun Sanchez, Deputy Chief for the Southeast Region, said they represent the kind of men and women who become family to Refuge System staff who transfer in and out of local refuges.

“We are family,” said Bob Waldrop after receiving the award. “We’d do it all again.”

Bob and Sharon began volunteering for the Refuge System in 2003 at Crab Orchard. In 2005, they began volunteering at the Southeast Louisiana Refuges Complex. As RV volunteers (seasonal volunteers that typically stay on the refuge in their RVs), they spent their summers up North and their winters in the Southeast Region.

Left to right: Shaun Sanchez, Deputy Refuge Chief for the Southeast; Jim Kurth, Chief of the Refuge System; David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, Sharon Waldrop, Bob Waldrop, Ken Litzenberger, former project leader; David Stoughton, supervisory park ranger. | Pon Dixson
Left to right: Shaun Sanchez, Deputy Refuge Chief for the Southeast; Jim Kurth, Chief of the Refuge System; David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, Sharon Waldrop, Bob Waldrop, Ken Litzenberger, former project leader; David Stoughton, supervisory park ranger. | Pon Dixson

To describe these two RV volunteers as “hands-on” is a big understatement.

After Hurricane Katrina, they spent eight months helping get the Louisiana refuges back up and running, clearing trees from roads, running new water and electric lines that had been damaged, hard-wiring the generator so that the refuge staff and others could operate with power, and ensuring the volunteer campground was up and functioning.

In 2010, when the BP oil spill struck, they again traveled down to the refuge complex, offering to help with any tasks that needed doing so the staff could focus on the unfolding disaster.

Among other volunteer activities they used their electrical and carpentry skills to help convert an aged and vacant chapel into a thriving new visitor center. They re-wired the 7,400 square-foot building, removed and replaced old flooring, repaired a movie theater and other electronic displays – and the list goes on!

The time and money that the Waldrops have saved the Refuge System with their volunteerism is truly priceless, but their efforts go beyond their own handy-work. They’ve mentored and trained 160+ interns along the way.

Bob and Sharon have demonstrated such commitment and dedication to the refuges where they’ve worked, and became an inspiration to everyone with whom they worked.

The Waldrops truly went above and beyond, and the Refuge Association is honored to give them this prestigious award.

 

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Do’s and Don’ts for Friends During Election Season http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/dos-and-donts-for-friends-during-election-season/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/09/dos-and-donts-for-friends-during-election-season/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 14:43:06 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10247

Continue reading »]]> Fall is a very exciting time for refuges. With festivals, Refuge Week celebrations, and so much more, it is a great time to ask your elected officials to visit. Friends CAN and SHOULD invite elected officials to these events – it’s a wonderful way for them to show their support for their local refuge! However, with it being an election year, Friends need to be careful to make sure they are following all the rules.  Below you will find the Do’s and Don’ts for inviting elected officials to your refuge during an election season. We are using U.S. Representatives and Senators as examples, but if you live in a state where state and local elections are also occurring, the same rules will apply.

DO:

  • Inform your sitting elected official that you are a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization: In the invitation, be sure to specify that your 501(c)(3) status prohibits your organization from endorsing or supporting any political candidate or party and as such, you would appreciate that they speak as your elected official and refrain from mentioning the election or their candidacy.
  • Provide a short disclaimer at your event: If your elected officials attend your event and speak, give a short disclaimer when you introduce them such as, “We are the Friends of Blue Goose National Wildlife Refuge. As a nonprofit organization that works to promote and protect Blue Goose, we cannot and do not endorse or support any political candidate or party.  We welcome Senator XXX to our refuge and our community as our elected official.”  or some variation of that… This should be said before each speaker who is an elected official. For instance, you may have a U.S. Senator, a U.S. Representative AND a state Senator.  They can also be running for re-election but in this case, they are attending your event in an official capacity, not as a candidate.
  • Provide equality (speaking time, audience, day, etc.) if you invite candidates who are not currently serving as elected officials: In some cases, you may be asked by a candidate for office if they can speak at your event or you may wish to invite candidates running for office to attend and speak at your event.  This is legal and appropriate if you follow a simple rule.  If you invite ONE candidate, ALL viable candidates must be invited and if they accept, they must be given equality: equal time to speak, the same crowd on the same day, etc. As with an elected official, use a short disclaimer when you introduce each candidate. (a candidate may also be a sitting elected official)

DON’T:

  • Don’t forget to invite all “viable” candidates: If your Friends group decides to invite a candidate running for office then you need to invite all other “viable” candidates. The term “viable” can be tricky; for instance, it doesn’t have to be everyone running for a seat, but a candidate needs to have a certain level of viability.  For instance, it could be a certain amount of money raised, or a certain amount of signatures garnered to get them on the ballot. If you have questions concerning which candidates are “viable” feel free to contact Desiree Sorenson-Groves at dgroves@refugeassociation.org or Joan Patterson at jpatterson@refugeassociation.org.
  • On the other hand.. If you do invite a current Congressman or Senator, you do not need to invite all other viable candidates because you are inviting them to your event for them to essentially do their job.

 

It is vitally important to get elected officials out to refuges to understand the wonderful work going on and how refuge Friends volunteers and Service volunteers are contributing valuable time and expertise that amplify federal taxpayer dollars.  And, importantly, these are your rights as non-profit, 501c3 organizations under the IRS tax code! The only thing you can’t do per the Service’s new Friends Policy is lobby your elected officials on Service property – but that doesn’t mean you can’t educate and inform them about issues when they are on the refuge – you just can’t ask them to take action.  And you can certainly lobby them when you are off refuge.
If you have further questions, please email Desiree Sorenson-Groves at dgroves@refugeassociation.org or Joan Patterson at jpatterson@refugeassociation.org.

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