Dear friends and supporters,
2016 presented many challenges to the National Wildlife Refuge System, yet despite these challenges terrific victories arose, galvanizing Refuge System supporters like you and the conservation community at-large like never before.
The Refuge System and public lands community demonstrated immense courage and resiliency during the armed militant occupation at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge last January.
Then in the spring, over 120 Friends Groups, in addition to faith-based organizations, Hispanic organizations, conservation organizations, and community leaders, came together to stop the removal of 3000 acres from Vieques National Wildlife Refuge in Puerto Rico.
In 2016, the National Wildlife Refuge System became the largest protected area system on the planet with the expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Pacific. If the National Wildlife Refuge System were a country, it would overtake India as the 7th largest country in the world.
We advocated for nearly a billion dollars worth of conservation funding for the Refuge System and associated programs in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service including Refuge System operations & maintenance, wetlands conservation and restoration, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund such as migratory bird habitat in the Dakotas, acquisitions in the Connecticut River watershed in New England; Everglades conservation; endangered honeycreeper forest acquisition on the island of Hawaii; protection of sea turtles; and prevention of wildlife trafficking of tigers, rhinos, and elephants.
The Refuge System and the Refuge Association continue to grow and thrive thanks to your support. From all of us at the Refuge Association, we wish you a very special new year. We can’t wait to work with all of you in 2017.
National Wildlife Refuge Association
THE REFUGE ASSOCIATION IN ACTION:
The Refuge Association had a record revenue year of nearly $3.3 million in operations and helped turn that into nearly $1 billion in public finance for fish and wildlife conservation. We’ve worked on local, regional, and global scales in partnership with the FWS, national and local conservation organizations, and always with a “big tent” approach where sportsmen, ranchers, students, birdwatchers, hikers, and nature-lovers can work together to support important conservation programs. With a lean staff that focuses on bringing maximum resources to achieve strategic conservation and policy milestones, we accomplished the following:
- Led efforts to approve the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan, which resulted in the President’s creation of a 12,400,000-acre wilderness study area.
- Helped expand the 373,000,000 acre Papahānaumokuākea National Marine Monument and added it to the National Wildlife Refuge System, which is now the largest protected area network on planet Earth.
- Conserved over 5,300 acres of land in central Florida as part of Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge.
- With an authorization area of 920,000 acres across three states, Bear River Migratory Bird Conservation Area became the 565th unit of the Refuge System.
- We jumpstarted our Urban Wildlife Refuge Program around the nation to elevate the importance of wildlife refuges in urban areas.
- We trained refuge Friends organizations nationwide in fundraising, advocacy and board development and brought many to Capitol Hill to advocate for the Refuge System.
- We established a program in the Caribbean to conduct community outreach and public engagement activities throughout Puerto Rico, working closely with the Puerto Rican Parrot Interagency Working Group, the Caribbean Landscape Conservation Cooperative, and the FWS to build and enhance a connected conservation constituency.
URBAN PROGRAM 2016 RECAP:
It was an exciting year for the Refuge Association’s Urban Wildlife Refuge Program!
Joy Blackwood joined our team as the Urban Wildlife Refuge Program Manager and initiated a blog series to bring more awareness to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s national Urban Wildlife Conservation Program and the Five-Star Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships highlighting the 14 designated regional priority urban wildlife refuges. Our partners at Tandem Stills + Motion produced short films showcasing seven of the 14 regional priority urban refuges – Patuxent Research Refuge, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR, Minnesota Valley NWR, Don Edwards San Francisco Bay NWR, Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge and South Texas NWRC.
We worked with Friends, our board members, and other conservationists to initiate our urban refuge program to address the systemic challenges of diversifying the conservation community and connecting the American people to the natural world. We closed out the year with many Refuge Week celebrations like Minnesota Valley NWR’s 40th Anniversary, Southern Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex’s 19th Annual Wild Things, Rio Reforestation’s 25th Anniversary at South Texas NWRC and more.
Thank you for your continued support of our efforts to increase the opportunities for urban and suburban Americans to connect with wildlife and habitats in their own communities. We will continue to expand our work in 2017 to connect people and nature together in a thoughtful, holistic and healthy way while inspiring the next generation of conservationists to cherish and protect the National Wildlife Refuge System.
While the above achievements are just a sample of what was accomplished in 2016, we expect 2017 to offer up its fair share of Refuge System challenges. Some of these issues will carry over from 2016, others will be new, and of course no year would be complete without a few surprises. We at the Refuge Association will continue to work tirelessly along with refuge Friends and our conservation partners to protect the integrity of the Refuge System for the benefit of all Americans and for future generations.
In what never fails to be an annual affair, the Refuge Association will be working hard to ensure adequate funding for the Refuge System. With only an hour to spare before causing a shutdown, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution on December 9th that will fund the government at FY16 levels through April 28, 2017. Although funding levels are fixed through the end of April, Congress must still appropriate funds for the second half of FY17, in addition to passing appropriations bills for FY18. The Refuge Association will work closely with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to ensure the Refuge System receives the necessary funding to successfully carry out its conservation mission.
2017 Legislative Priority Goals:
2017 will not be a year spent just playing defense. There are several opportunities to move forward on critical programs that will bolster the effectiveness of the Refuge System in conserving our nation’s wildlife, including:
- Passing the Resource Protection Act to give the FWS the authority to seek and retain compensation directly from those who damage Refuge System resources.
- Leveraging the 30th anniversary of Partners for Fish and Wildlife program to reauthorize and increase funding for the FWS’s most effective tool for building partnerships with private landowners to achieve landscape-scale conservation.
WE NEED YOUR HELP!
And also just like 2016, the Refuge System needs dedicated conservationists like you to stand up, speak out, and support America’s threatened wildlife and habitats. We at the Refuge Association will be calling on Friends, birdwatchers, hunters, anglers, ranchers and everyone who enjoys national wildlife refuges and our public lands to join us in protecting and enhancing the National Wildlife Refuge System. We look forward to working with all of you this year!