About NWRA and Refuge Friends Groups

Did you know that volunteers and refuge “Friends” do approximately 20 percent of all work on national wildlife refuges – the equivalent of 648 full time employees? NWRA’s Friends program provides these extraordinary groups with the tools, training and resources to make an even greater difference for refuges and wildlife conservation. Our program also provides invaluable networking opportunities, allowing Friends to connect across the country and share advice and information.

Friends volunteering at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
Friends volunteering at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge | US Fish and Wildlife Service

Stewards of America’s Wild Lands and Wildlife

The concept of public stewardship of our nation’s wildlife and habitat has its roots in President Theodore Roosevelt’s foresight in setting aside large areas of the public domain for wildlife and public enjoyment. In 1903, he established Pelican Island in Florida as the first national wildlife refuge. But lacking federal funds for staff, the first refuge warden started as a volunteer, laying the foundation for citizen commitment to our national wildlife refuges.

Today there are 230 Friends organizations working in support of refuges across the nation, with 40,000 volunteers contributing 1.3 million hours a year to the Refuge System. With serious federal budget cuts on the horizon, the need to recruit and train additional volunteers is more pressing than ever!

NWRA and Friends

Young volunteer with baby loggerhead turtle in Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina
Young volunteer with baby loggerhead turtle in Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina | US Fish and Wildlife Service

NWRA 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, NWRA generates support for refuges and vital wildlife habitats at the local and national levels. National refuge Friends conferences and workshops have attracted nearly 4,000 people from across the country.

NWRA’s Friends Affiliate program is a network of almost 200 Friends groups aligned around the concept that just as refuges are linked ecologically, they are linked by mission and purpose. These groups recognize that it’s crucial to speak with a unified voice about the needs of our refuges and related conservation programs. The purpose of the Affiliate program is to inform and mobilize support for local and national refuge issues, build the capacity of Friends to be effective advocates, and strengthen NWRA’s capacity to advocate for Friends, refuges and the Refuge System.

“The NWRA and its affiliated Friends groups are indispensable to alerting Congress to the needs of our national wildlife refuges. ”
~ Congressman Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Former Chairman of the House Interior Appropriations Committee

Refuge Friends Connect

Friends groups are part of a large network, and now have a way to connect and learn from each other. Refuge Friends Connect is an added resource provided to all of our participating Friends groups. The Refuge Friends Connect website is a place for Friends to:

  • Connect with each other,
  • Share their experiences, and
  • Learn from each other by providing support and encouragement.

The website helps Friend groups find inspiration, motivate others, and have the knowledge and skills to meet the challenges they face as they support wildlife conservation, their community, the local refuge, and the Refuge System.

On the site, Friends groups will find a directory of all Friends groups, forums to pose questions and get advice, a calendar to share what you’re planning and see what others are doing, and news of what’s happening around the Refuge System — a place to do a bit of bragging.

This site represents the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) and the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) ongoing commitment to work together to ensure Friends have the tools and knowledge to support refuge and engage their communities.

Visit Refuge Friends Connect

Grant Opportunities for Friends

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, along with its partners are requesting proposals for projects that assist refuge Friends organizations to be effective co-stewards of our Nation’s important natural resources within the National Wildlife Refuge System. This program provides competitive seed grants ($1,500 – $5,000) to creative and innovative proposals that seek to increase the number and effectiveness of organizations interested in assisting the Refuge System nationwide and their work and projects to support the System. Next deadline for proposals is April 14, 2014. For additional information go to http://www.nfwf.org/refugefriends/Pages/home.aspx

NEEF, with generous support from Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc., seeks to strengthen these organizations and unleash their potential to serve their public lands. Our Every Day Grants will strengthen the stewardship of public lands by strengthening public land groups through funding for organizational capacity building and for events to engage their local communities on the lands for education, recreation or volunteering. Next deadline for proposals is April 30, 2014. For additional information go to http://publiclandseveryday.org/grants/capacity-building-grants

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