Happy New Year! 2014 is starting off on a very positive note. In the recently released FY14 Department of Interior budget, the National Wildlife Refuge System received a 4% increase in funding. This is a huge feat given the poor economic circumstances, and severe budget cuts most departments are facing. The increase in funding for refuges is a sign of hope for the future, and is a direct result of the efforts brought forth by Friends, volunteers, NWRA staff, and partners. We hope to continue this upward trend into FY15, but we cannot do it without all of your continued support.
January also brought exciting momentum for NWRA’s Beyond the Boundaries work. We had the pleasure of helping to host Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell at the Durando Ranch in Florida in support of our efforts to expand the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area.
2014 also brings about some internal changes. If you haven’t noticed already, we have a new look for the Flyer! Thank you to everyone who filled out our survey. Based on your feedback, we are excited to include more stories about what is happening on the ground in the Refuge System. We’re trying a new format to highlight a specific refuge and a refuge employee or volunteer member in each issue. This month, we are featuring Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Sebastian, Florida, and two of its volunteers, Anne and Paul Lins. Please let us know what you think, and suggest refuges that you’d like to hear more about.
I hope you enjoy our new Flyer and are having a great start to new year.
Don’t forget to visit your local refuge!
ON THE REFUGE
This month we are featuring the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge located in Sebastian, FL- the very first national wildlife refuge ever created! Although the Refuge started on just a 5-acre island, it has grown and expanded to cover 5,400 acres of the surrounding area, most of which is in the Indian River Lagoon. The Indian River Lagoon is the second largest estuary in the country, and it is the most biologically diverse (has the highest number of species) in all of North America. The Lagoon is in poor condition, but thanks to the refuge and the incredible support from the community, it is vastly improving.
The Refuge got its start during an era in American history when plumage in women’s hats was all the rage. To obtain these large, ornate feathers, men hunted a wide variety of birds, many of which were on Pelican Island. Paul Kroegel (pronounced Kre-gil, rhymes with “bagel”) realized this was a problem and began to voluntarily guard the island in his boat with a shotgun. After word got back to President Teddy Roosevelt about what was going on, he determined that Pelican Island was a space worth saving to protect the birds that lived there, and thus created the nation’s first federally protected bird sanctuary and our first national wildlife refuge. Kroegel was appointed the first game warden and then the first refuge manager. Interestingly, Congress refused to pay his salary, but luckily the newly formed National Audubon Society stepped up to pay his wages. Read more...
To honor the Refuge System’s first volunteer and employee, Kroegel, and his dedication to conservation, the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge held a celebration for what would have been his 150th birthday. Held on January 9, 2014, the festival was set up so that visitors felt like they were back in the time when Kroegel was patrolling the island. Despite the fact that it was a Thursday and pouring rain, 453 people attended this fantastic event. As Kevin Lowry, the Visitor Services Manager, explained, “The festival was unlike any other that regularly occurs in Sebastian. Everything was purely educational and free.” The celebration featured traditional pioneer music, food, and live demonstrations. It was designed for people to imagine what it would have been like to live in Florida back in the times with no modern day technology, no mosquito control, and no development- it was a jungle like setting.
Photos from the event: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwssoutheast/sets/72157639875420725/
Currently, the refuge is going beyond the celebration to commemorate Kroegel’s legacy. Paul Kroegel was born in the small town of Kemnitz, Germany, from where he, his father, and brother emigrated. Refuge staff are reaching out to Kemnitz leaders to show them what one of their descendants accomplished here in the United States. The mayor of the German town, professors, and journalists are all now telling his story. A documentary will be released titled “America’s Gatekeeper- the Story of Paul Kroegel”. See the trailer here:
Upcoming Events on the Refuge:
March 15, 2014 (10am-4pm): Twenty-second Pelican Island Wildlife Festival. Since Pelican Island proper is designated wilderness, the event is geared toward educating the public about what wilderness actually is. They will be celebrating 50 years of wilderness in honor of the anniversary of the Wilderness Act.
NWRA IN ACTION
In the lush grassland and longleaf pine savannah landscape of central Florida’s Durando Ranch you see what the State of Florida was like 150 years ago. Many people think of white sandy beaches, delicious oranges, and warm weather when picturing the Sunshine State, rather than cattle ranches and farms. In reality, Florida is number one in the calf-cow industry in the United States with ranches across the center of the state, including Kissimmee River area.
The Durando Ranch, in collaboration with the Northern Everglades Alliance and National Wildlife Refuge Association, hosted a tour and meeting on Jan. 9, 2014 with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. David “Lefty” Durando led the tour of the 12,000 acre ranch just north of Okeechobee. Read more... Secretary Jewell came to visit Durando Ranch to learn about efforts to conserve ranch land in the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. These ranch lands provide important water storage, wildlife habitat, food for the nation, and buffer for the Avon Park Air Force Range. Ranchers in the Everglades Headwaters want to continue their way of life while conserving these lands for the future. By entering into conservation easements, the ranchers have the opportunity to continue ranching and farming, while also supporting conservation efforts. Secretary Jewell recognizes the importance of these lands to the state and our nation and the importance of keeping working lands working. She recognizes the importance of moving forward with protecting Everglades Headwaters. “We’re going to get this done,” stated Secretary Jewell. With the help of Bud Adams – a Florida ranching icon – and Lee Ann Adams of the Adams Ranch, and Carlos Vergara of Camp Lonesome, these local ranchers made the Secretary’s visit a memorable one. With swamp buggy rides in the rain, and views of this beautiful ranch – including cattle, wetlands, wildlife, palm and oak trees, this trip was not one she will forget anytime soon.
Secretary Jewell came to visit Durando Ranch to learn about efforts to conserve ranch land in the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. These ranch lands provide important water storage, wildlife habitat, food for the nation, and buffer for the Avon Park Air Force Range. Ranchers in the Everglades Headwaters want to continue their way of life while conserving these lands for the future. By entering into conservation easements, the ranchers have the opportunity to continue ranching and farming, while also supporting conservation efforts.
Secretary Jewell recognizes the importance of these lands to the state and our nation and the importance of keeping working lands working. She recognizes the importance of moving forward with protecting Everglades Headwaters. “We’re going to get this done,” stated Secretary Jewell.
With the help of Bud Adams – a Florida ranching icon – and Lee Ann Adams of the Adams Ranch, and Carlos Vergara of Camp Lonesome, these local ranchers made the Secretary’s visit a memorable one. With swamp buggy rides in the rain, and views of this beautiful ranch – including cattle, wetlands, wildlife, palm and oak trees, this trip was not one she will forget anytime soon.
The National Wildlife Refuge System received a 4% increase in funding! An omnibus-spending bill for fiscal year (FY) 2014 – which funds the government from October 1, 2013 – September 30, 2014 – was enacted earlier this month. The government had been operating under a Continuing Resolution since the government shut down in October. This spending bill combined all 12 appropriations bills (funding for the entire government) into one massive bill – requiring only one vote and no amendments. Included in the Interior Appropriations bill portion was a desperately needed 4% increase for the Refuge System’s Operations & Maintenance accounts taking the System from $454 million to $472 million.
This increase in Refuge System funding is a direct result of NWRA’s efforts to organize Friends, partners, and volunteers to urge their lawmakers to support this needed funding. These efforts succeeded – for now. But it won’t bring the System back to where it was just a few short years ago – there is still work ahead of us for FY15. Read more...
Here is a brief summary of some of the other important programs pertinent to the National Wildlife Refuge System included in the bill:
Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a land acquisition fund, will receive $54.4 million for the Refuge System – $35 million for projects, including:
Crown of the Continent, MT – $11.94 million
Dakota Grasslands Conservation Area (CA), ND/SD – $8.65 million
Everglades Headwaters NWR & CA – $5 million
Longleaf Pine – Okefenokee NWR, GA; St. Marks NWR, FL; Cape Romain and Waccamaw NWRs, SC – $9.481 million
State Wildlife Grants Program, which helps states keep species from becoming endangered, will be funded at $58.7 million.
Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation grants that assist in conservation of these species will be funded at $3.66 million
Refuge Fund, payments to offset tax losses to counties where refuge(s) are located, is funded at $13.2 million.
We are overjoyed at the increase in funding for FY14, but we also know that FY15 is right around the corner, and our work must continue to ensure robust funding for the Refuge System.
Your voice is making a difference. Please keep an eye out for future Action Alerts so you can take action and protect the National Wildlife Refuge System.
REFUGE FRIENDS CONNECT
J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida is a destination for many different types of visitors, from world travelers to school children in the elementary school next door to the refuge. But after the BP oil spill, visitation dropped by about 11 percent even though no oil reached the island. According to Birgie Vertesch, Executive Director of the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society, visitation is still down 5 to 7 percent.
In 2012, The Ding Darling Wildlife Society applied for and was awarded a $60,000 grant from the Gulf Tourism and Seafood Promotional Fund. The Fund was established to promote tourism in Gulf Coast areas impacted by the BP Oil Spill. The Society is using the funds to promote the refuge in magazines, social media, and other outlets. Last month they unveiled a short 90 second marketing video. The video was produced by the talented Cameron Michael and it displays the outstanding landscapes and beautiful bird species. This video shows the magnificence of this refuge and the diverse the species utilizing it. View the video here:
MORE HEADLINES FROM THIS MONTH
GETTING TO KNOW THE LINS
Paul and Anne Lins volunteer for both Pelican Island and Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuges and serve on the board of the Archie Carr Friends Group. They are avid sea turtle scouts, and certified Master Naturalists who know the area very well.
PELICAN ISLAND NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
The Refuge is best known for: The birds! White Pelicans of course, but also Roseate Spoonbills and Herons – a lot of people come here to see the birds.
The Refuge’s best kept secret: Residents often don’t realize that right in their backyard they have 5,400 acres of beautiful landscape full of unique birds and wildlife.
The most interesting species on the Refuge is: The Roseate Spoonbill.
Favorite activity on the Refuge: Birding
Best time to visit the Refuge: Depends on your interests! Activities abound all year long.
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:
Jan. 28th, 9:00 pm(EST) – President’s State of the Union address
Feb. 5th, 2014 – NWRA announces the 2014 Refuge System Award recipients
March 4th- President to release 2015 budget
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