February is budget season on Capitol Hill, and it’s been all hands on deck since President Obama unveiled his FY16 budget proposal on Feb. 3.
The budget includes a $34 million increase for the National Wildlife Refuge System budget and the full $900 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. For more information including a breakdown of the Land and Water Conservation Fund projects, be sure to check out the Inside Washington section of this month’s Flyer.
Meanwhile, we’re thrilled about the president’s recent announcement about new protections for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Thank you to everyone who sent in letters of appreciation to President Obama and Secretary Jewell. To keep the ball rolling, please consider submitting a Letter to the Editor to your local paper to voice your support. It’s easy! Just click here, input your information, and click send. You also have the option to edit the letter if you wish.
It’s always inspiring to hear about Friends achieving great success, and up north in Minnesota, the Friends of Tamarac are moving mountains! They have raised more than $600,000 for a new discovery center on the refuge. Construction is close to complete, with a grand opening planned for the Spring. Be sure to read the Refuge Friends Connect feature to see how they did it.
Further south, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is involved with many local partnerships, an extensive invasive species prevention plan, water management plans, and much more. Learn about all the cool things happening at this urban refuge in this month’s On the Refuge feature.
The snow continues to pile up in my neck of the woods in New Hampshire. I hope wherever you are, you are enjoying winter out in nature.
See you on a refuge,
ON THE REFUGE
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
Home to one of the rarest ecosystems in the world, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is also an urban wildlife refuge. Sitting at the north end of the Everglades ecosystem, the refuge is involved in great partnerships, offers many activities for visitors to partake in, and is proactively preventing the invasion of pythons.
The refuge was established in 1951 and protects a remnant of the once vast northern Everglades. It was formed in response to a natural disaster. In the early 1900s a series of floods killed thousands of people in the region as a result of hurricanes. To protect the residents of this area, the State of Florida went to the federal government and asked that flood protection zones be established. Part of this flood protection included setting aside one of the water control areas as a national wildlife refuge. This became known as the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
This refuge is home to many fish and wildlife populations including endangered species such as the Everglades snail kite and wood stork, more common species such as alligators, and many species of indigenous plants and insects. Deer, otters, and raccoons are also found on the refuge, and if visitors are lucky, they might see a bobcat. Read more...
As the only area in the country and the world where this type of ecosystem is found, it’s incredibly important to protect the Everglades. Unfortunately, as with the case of many refuges, there is pressure to develop surrounding the refuge borders. Both private and commercial properties are in planning stages, under construction, or have been completed. Thankfully for the refuge, many non governmental organizations fight to keep this area protected.
As an urban refuge, Loxahatchee is increasing efforts to reach the surrounding urban audience. The city of West Palm Beach is only 30 minutes away from the Refuge, the cities of Ft. Lauderdale and Miami are within an hour and a half’s drive, totaling more than 6 million residents living within 60 miles of the refuge. Getting about 360,000 visitors a year, the refuge provides activities and events for visitors from many different backgrounds. One of the main efforts is to increase Environmental Education on the refuge. The refuge is working closely with the Caridad Center, a local nonprofit that works to “upgrade the health, education and living standards of underserved children and families”, to reach underserved communities that may not know about the refuge or what it is. The refuge also brings high school Reserves Officers’ Training Corps, (ROTC) students out to the refuge for a week of field days. Activities are all wildlife and conservation related, but they work in the ROTC training as well. The refuge also hosts a wide variety of school aged children as well for events ranging from field trips from local schools, to hosting children from the local Jewish Synagogue where they participate in Environmental Education Programs.
In an effort to better serve the Spanish-speaking community near the refuge, Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is hiring a new Park Ranger who will speak and write fluently in Spanish, and the refuge is also hiring additional interns. The refuge also started small tram tours around the refuge so visitors who are not comfortable walking either because they do not feel safe or because they physically cannot walk, can see the impoundments.
Partnerships are also a key to the success of the refuge. Loxahatchee is lucky to have two local nonprofits devoted to the refuge: The Friends of Loxahatchee and the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation for the Everglades. Friends of Loxahatchee has built fishing piers, hired interns, and done fundraising for special projects, while the Marshall Foundation provides educators and other resources for events on the refuge.
The refuge also partners with the State of Florida, the Army Corps of Engineers, National Parks, USGS, other refuges in the area, and nonprofit organizations. The refuge shares resources, planning efforts, events, and much more all in the name of conservation.
One big project these partners are working on is an effort to combat the invasive python. The python has taken off in the Everglades National Park and its range is reaching closer and closer to Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge, USGS, Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Army Corps of Engineers are all working together to devise a plan to keep these invasive reptiles out of the refuge. Pythons are extremely good at hiding, they guard their nests, and eat mammals of any size, making them very successful at invading, and extremely hard to control. Currently, the best method for control is capturing them by hand, which has a very low success rate. Hopefully, new technology to better track and control the reptiles will be developed.
Luckily for the wildlife and the visitors the snakes have not arrived at the refuge, so don’t let that deter you from coming to visit. The refuge offers many activities for visitors such as hiking and bird watching. But the most popular activity is kayaking along a 5.5 mile kayak trail that people drive from all over to visit.
THE REFUGE ASSOCIATION IN ACTION
On January 25, 2015 the President of the United States announced new protections for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, and the Refuge Associate could not be more thrilled.
In support of this decision, the Refuge Association rallied supporters to thank President Obama and Secretary Jewell for their dedication to protecting America’s wildlife.
In a press release, Secretary of the Department of the Interior Sally Jewell released a new Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for how the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is to be managed. It includes a formal recommendation to designate the Coastal Plain, Western Brooks Range and Porcupine Plateau Wilderness Study Areas as wilderness – the highest level of protection for public lands.
President Obama said he is formally proposing the areas be designated wilderness, and while only Congress can officially designate wilderness, the President’s proposal and the Service’s Record of Decision mean the areas will be managed as wilderness. This is the first time since 1974 that a U.S. President has proposed wilderness for a national wildlife refuge.
The coastal plain is the biological heart of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and one of the last places on earth that has been undisturbed by humans. We owe it to our children and their children to permanently protect this invaluable resource. Read more...
We applaud the President and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for making the right decision based on compelling science and extensive public input to protect nearly the entire Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from future development.
Top Reasons Why Wilderness Designation Is the Right Thing to Do
- With its unique wildlife, unspoiled wilderness where natural processes reign, cultural heritage that bespeaks its importance to Alaska Natives, and important habitat for hundreds of Arctic wildlife species, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the crown jewel of the National Wildlife Refuge System and one of the most important protected areas on planet Earth.
The 19.8 million acres that comprise the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are also home to Native Alaskans, including the Inupiat and Gwich’in, and the resources of the refuge sustain these populations and protect their indigenous traditions and way of life.
- The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is critical to wildlife with 26 polar bear dens which is 50% of all US dens, and a porcupine caribou herd of 160,000.
- For over 30 years, the Arctic Refuge’s coastal plain has been at the center of an ongoing debate over oil and natural gas drilling. Designating the coastal plain and other areas of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness will ban oil and gas drilling, and other development in those areas.
The Comprehensive Conservation Plan recommends wilderness designation of three Wilderness Study Areas: the Coastal Plain along the Beaufort Sea, the Western Brooks Range and the Porcupine Plateau, encompassing nearly all non-wilderness lands inside the refuge. Although only Congress can designate wilderness, a Presidential wilderness recommendation means the areas will be managed as wilderness until formal Congressional designation.
There simply is no place left on the planet where enormous herds of Arctic caribou roam free, or where musk oxen, polar bears, wolves and grizzly bears can still thrive.
Wilderness not only protects these Arctic wildlife species, but it also protects the cultural values of Alaska Natives and the conservation values shared by the vast majority of Americans.
Thank you to those who expressed your support for this courageous decision by thanking President Obama and Secretary Jewell. If you have not already done so, please show your support for this bold step to protect the Arctic refuge. Send a Thank You note to President Obama and Secretary Jewell for their outstanding conservation leadership!
President Obama unveiled his FY16 budget proposal on Feb. 3, and it had some good news for the National Wildlife Refuge System. The budget request includes a $34 million increase for the National Wildlife Refuge System budget and $900 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund among its conservation priorities.
The President’s FY16 budget request includes $508.2 million for the Refuge System’s Operations and Maintenance Budget. This $34 million increase for the Refuge System would provide funding for restoration projects, staff positions that have remained vacant for years, and improved recreation for the 46.5 million visitors that contribute over $4 billion in economic output.
“President Obama’s budget proposal reflects the importance the nation places on conservation, particularly in places like national wildlife refuges that generate jobs and revenue in every state and territory,” said David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association.
The budget includes increased funding for the Urban Wildlife Refuge Program, an initiative of the National Wildlife Refuge System, which seeks to engage urban constituencies. Also included were two new legislative proposals. The first would give the Secretary of Interior limited authority to increase the price of a Duck Stamp to keep pace with inflation, with the approval of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission; and the second would give the Service the authority to recoup the cost of damages from responsible parties when they harm Refuge System or Fish Hatchery resources. Read more...
Other funding highlights include:
- Land and Water Conservation Fund at the full $900 million, including $164.6 million for Refuge System acquisitions;
- Click here to see LWCF current authority projects
- Click here to see LWCF permanent funding projects
- Refuge System Ranked Project List:
- Hakalau Forest, HI – $8.59 million
- Dakota Grasslands, ND/SD – $6.5 million
- Sangre de Cristo, NM/CO – $1 million
- Dakota Tallgrass Prairie, ND/SD – $3 million
- Camas, ID – $280K and Red Rock Lakes, MT – $1 million
- Everglades Headwaters, FL – $2.091 million
- Rappahannock River, VA – $1.6 m and Blackwater, MD – $1.51million
- Everglades Headwaters, FL – $2.5 million
- Grays Lake, ID – $2.5 million
- Northern Tallgrass Prairie, MN/IA – $500,000
- Silvio O. Conte, NH/VT/CT/MA – $2 million
- Bear River, ID/UT/WY – $2 million
- Flint Hills, KS – $840,000
- The Partners for Fish and Wildlife program at $52.4 million;
- The Coastal Program at $13.375 million;
- North American Wetlands Conservation Fund at $34.1 million;
- Multinational Species Conservation Fund at $11.06 million;
- State Wildlife Grants at $70 million;
The Refuge System returns almost $5 for every $1 appropriated, and provides more than $32 billion in ecosystem services.
The National Wildlife Refuge Association urges Congress to support the President’s funding request for the Refuge System, Land and Water Conservation Fund, and wildlife conservation programs. Congress is expected to take up the President’s budget in the coming months and hopes to pass final appropriations bills by the end of the fiscal year, September 30, 2015.
REFUGE FRIENDS CONNECT
Although some challenges may seem daunting, it does not mean they are impossible. For instance, raising over $600,000 for a new discovery center in a town of just 7,000 people may have seemed impossible at first, but the Friends of Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge overcame obstacles and accomplished their goal.
The idea for this project came after Friends members realized that they could do more for the thousands of children visiting the refuge who would end up sitting in aisles and hallways of the visitor center to eat their lunch. The visitor center simply didn’t have the capacity to accommodate the large number of visitors the refuge had, especially the large numbers of school children.
2009 is when the ball really started rolling. The Friends hired a consultant to do a survey of the community to see if there was support for this project. With an 80% positive response, they knew it was the right choice. The Friends proceeded to put together a task group and started to raise money. They also hired an architect to assist with the building design. Although it is much more expensive to build on federal land than on private land, the Friends saved some money by hiring their own private contractor. Read more...
Everything that went into the building was approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the recently completed building is very energy efficient. The floor is heated through geothermal energy, they have very powerful insulation to reduce heating and cooling costs, and many other features that make the building more energy efficient and friendly to the environment. It’s a 2,000 square foot building with state of the art audio and visual features and an amphitheater outside for kids to sit and eat and participate in outdoor learning.
After about a year and a half of construction, the building will start being used by school children in the coming weeks with a grand opening sometime in the spring. The refuge now welcomes over 3,300 students each year. Programs are geared towards children in kindergarten through sixth grade. The refuge and Friends have created partnerships with different schools to provide environmental education programming that addresses Minnesota state standards. Friends, volunteers, and Service employees all work together to make these environmental education programs happen.
Raising the funds for this incredible project was no easy task for the Friends of Tamarac. The closest town is only about 7,000 people and the Friends group was relatively unknown. It took a over a year of outreach to the local community with dozens of presentations to raise awareness of the Friends group before they even started soliciting donations for the Discovery Center. The President of the Friends group, Ron Jenson, explained that they presented to over 25 different service groups in one year talking about the refuge, the Friends, and the educational programs on the refuge. He said the key to their successful fundraising efforts were the personal interactions. In his words, “it takes a lot of personally knocking on doors”. He says that if they can do it, many other Friends groups can too!
Give a Donation to the Refuge Association
Your generous donations help the Refuge Association bring Friends to Capitol Hill and advocate in support of the Refuge System, protect species beyond the boundaries of refuges, and support local Friends groups strengthen their non-profit governance, fundraising and advocacy. We wouldn’t be able to accomplish our mission without your help. Please consider a donation to the National Wildlife Refuge Association.
MORE HEADLINES FROM THIS MONTH
GETTING TO KNOW ROLF E. OLSON
Rolf E. Olson is the Project Leader at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
The Refuge is Best Known For: Its alligators, and being the northernmost remnant of the historical Everglades.
The Refuge’s Best Kept Secret: We have one of the largest remaining cypress swamps. It starts on the refuge and goes off into county land and water management district land.
The Most Interesting Species on the Refuge: Most people would say the snail kite because it’s very endangered, but seen often on the refuge. But my absolute favorite is the wood stork; it’s beautiful and ugly at the same time.
Your Favorite Activity on the Refuge: I love exploring different parts of the refuge. Some of the areas in the middle are overgrown and wild and you can only get there by airboat. Those spots are really beautiful.
Best Time to Visit the Refuge: Definitely early morning as the sun comes up, and as the sun goes down in the evening. That is when birds are moving on or off the refuge as they roost. The absolute best time is the morning after a cold night when the sun is out, because the alligators come out to rebuild their body heat.
Friends, are you connected?
RefugeFriendsConnect.org is a membership site that is managed by NWRA and a group of volunteers. If you are a Friends group member or are refuge staff working with Friends you are welcome to join.
Keep an eye out for these upcoming events:
March 9 – 15: National Wildlife Week
March 18: Public Witness Day on Capitol Hill
March 20: First Day of Spring
March 30: Friends Academy Application Deadline. More information here.
The National Wildlife Refuge Association is on the cutting edge of wildlife habitat conservation and citizen engagement in the United States. But we need your help to advance our work protecting large landscapes, educating decision-makers in Washington, and mobilizing refuge Friends in support of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Please make a generous donation today!
Flyer Masthead Photo Credit: Kestrel, Wade Dowdy