Dear friends and supporters,
August 2016 was a historic month for the National Wildlife Refuge System and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. President Obama announced that the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Pacific Ocean will become the largest protected area on the planet, and increases the acreage of the National Wildlife Refuge System’s responsibility from 638 million acres to 852 million acres. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now manages more waters than lands and continues to be the world’s leader in wildlife conservation.
Moving to September, we anticipate an extremely busy month for Congress as they attempt to approve must pass spending bills before the end of the fiscal year on September 30th. But while they do that, they need to address a host of other issues including funding for the Zika virus; Louisiana flooding; Flint water crisis; passage of an Energy bill and a Defense authorization bill. They will recess for the entire month of October to campaign so there’s a lot to do with not a lot of time to do the doing.
On a good note, there seems to be consensus in Congress that shutting down the government isn’t an option so we anticipate a short term funding bill until after the election. That means Refuge Week activities should go on as planned unlike just a few years ago when the government shutdown forced events to be cancelled.
As the summer comes to a close, we hope that you were able to spend quality time with family and friends on your nearest national wildlife refuge.
David Houghton, President
ON THE REFUGE
President Obama Creates the Largest Protected Area on Planet Earth!
On August 26, President Obama announced an expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Pacific Ocean – now officially the largest protected area on planet Earth, increasing its size from 89 million acres to 373 million acres. This is a historic achievement for marine conservation, as the expansion will increase the protection for predator fish species, pelagic seabirds, endangered monk seals, green sea turtles, and coral reefs. The expansion has been widely supported by native Hawaiians, along with the scientific and conservation community. Papahānaumokuākea is regarded as sacred in native Hawaiian culture and ensures continued abundance of the ocean resources that provide both food security and economic security to the region.
“The establishment of this visionary marine national monument by President George W. Bush and the continuation by President Obama is a fitting symbol that wildlife and habitat conservation is not a partisan act – it is an act of humility and respect for future generations on this blue planet,” Refuge Association President David Houghton said.
Please help us in thanking President Obama for this extraordinary achievement.
Unfortunately, the Refuge System lacks the capacity and funding to manage our National Wildlife Refuge System effectively- including these new responsibilities. Over the past six years, the Refuge System has seen a 20% overall reduction in funding, leading to 500 lost positions nationwide. The National Wildlife Refuge System needs to have an annual budget nearly double it’s current $481 million to ensure it can fulfill its conservation mission. You can help our efforts to secure this need by donating here!
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge – A South Florida Jewel
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, situated in the backyard of Palm Beach, Florida, is the last vestige of the Northern Everglades. It was created through a unique license agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the state’s South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) in 1951 under the Migratory Bird Conservation Act. This license agreement authorizes the Service to manage the refuge while the SFWMD retains ownership of the land. As a priority urban national wildlife refuge, Loxahatchee provides incredible recreational opportunities for refuge visitors with over 30 miles of hiking trails, 13 biking trails, and a 5-mile kayaking trail. The refuge supports more than 100 jobs and generates $6.81 in economic output for every $1 appropriated.
Over the course of more than sixty years of management, the refuge has safeguarded some of Florida’s most at-risk species, including the endangered snail kite. No longer found in much of their historic range, snail kites continue to use Loxahatchee NWR for nesting, roosting, and feeding. But the refuge is now plagued with voracious invasive plant species whose spread threatens water quality and habitat for native species.
While removal of the invasives is possible, because of the location of the plants and the way they must be removed, the cost is very high – much more than the refuge currently receives. It is estimated that Loxahatchee NWR requires at minimum $5 million annually for the next five years to bring invasive species under control. This year, the FWS and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) exceeded that goal, contributing $2.9 million and $2.5 million respectively for a grand total of $5.4 million toward invasive species control efforts.
The Service and the South Florida Water Management District have worked together collaboratively with additional partners for decades to protect and enhance the refuge. Through effective collaborative conservation, the Refuge Association believes that all stakeholders can address the extreme invasive species infestation that is occurring on the refuge without revoking the lease agreement.
THE REFUGE ASSOCIATION IN ACTION
Douglas Head Receives the 2016 Employee of the Year Award
In August, the Refuge Association presented Douglas Head, the Assistant Zone Biologist at Texas Chenier Plain Refuges Complex, Texas Mid-Coast Refuge Complex, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, and Southwest Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex, with the 2016 Employee of the Year Award.
Doug truly exemplifies the ideal qualities of a Refuge System employee and is well-deserving of this award. Doug leads by example, motivates others and has a strong work ethic. He goes the extra mile by working nights, weekends, rain or shine, and it doesn’t seem to bother him. His sense of humor, infectious positive attitude, enthusiasm, and humble demeanor make him a true pleasure to be around. Doug has wide range of skills that makes him an indispensible asset on teams that require technical assistance in relation to oil spills, contaminant remediation, aviation safety, aerial operations, and wildlife mitigation. In his capacity, he has streamlined processes and data collection, minimized equipment needs, and is working to ensure that there is stable habitat throughout the Texas Gulf Coast to down-list the whooping crane.
Doug is an innovator and a resourceful thinker. He has improved productivity and cost effectiveness by building an effective equipment-sharing program among his refuges and between agencies. This resourceful thinking and cooperation has built bridges necessary for a true landscape conservation approach throughout the region.
Doug understands the importance of building a connected conservation constituency and inspiring the next generation. He can frequently be seen at Urban Refuge Outreach events, school field trips, and local outreach events including March Madness and the Waterfowl Expo on the Texas Gulf Coast.
The Refuge Association was honored to present Doug with the 2016 Employee of the Year Award
Congress Returns to Washington D.C.
Congress returned to Washington, D.C., after a seven-week recess with a long list of priorities to address before the end of the fiscal year on September 30th. Their priority list includes funding to combat the spread of the Zika virus and aid for both the recent Louisiana flooding and the Flint, Michigan water crisis. Congress also hopes to pass appropriations bills, the Energy Reform bill, and the Defense Authorization bill, each of which contains damaging riders that threaten the integrity of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
In July, the House passed their Interior Appropriations bill, which contains a wide variety of damaging riders that would negatively impact the National Wildlife Refuge System. From preventing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) from implementing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s comprehensive conservation plan to blocking a much-needed update to the Service’s rule on managing oil and gas development on refuges, the ramifications of these policy riders are significant and have no place on annual appropriations bills.
Unfortunately, the Senate Interior Appropriations bill also has plenty of its own riders targeting the Refuge System, including a provision that would allow construction of a road through designated wilderness in Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Despite all the riders, the House bill does include a critical $3.5 million increase to the Refuge System’s Operations and Maintenance budget.
The House Defense Authorization bill contains a dangerous rider that would transfer the Service’s management authority of half of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge – approximately 850,000 acres – to the Air Force. Desert National Wildlife Refuge is the largest national wildlife refuge within the contiguous United States and protects Southern Nevada’s remarkable biodiversity. Despite a historically cooperative relationship between the Service and the Department of Defense, there has been a continued push to turn over the refuge to the military. Inform your Congressional leaders to remove this rider from the Defense Appropriations bill.
Congress is also looking to present President Obama with a comprehensive energy reform bill before the end of the year. The Senate version of the Energy bill contains a harmful rider that would prohibit the implementation of the Service’s final rule clarifying predator control on Alaska’s national wildlife refuges (this rider can also be found on both versions of the Interior spending bill). The rule simply codifies how refuges have been managed in Alaska for years and does not affect subsistence hunting regulations.
Not all the Energy bill riders are negative – the Senate version also includes permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). This historic vote is the first time that either chamber of Congress has permanently authorized what is often hailed as one of America’s most successful conservation programs. LWCF uses proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties to secure lands and waters for conservation, and is one of the primary sources of funding for land and conservation easement acquisition by the Refuge System.
Now is the critical time to take action to support our National Wildlife Refuge System. Take action today.
REFUGE FRIENDS CONNECT
In July, the Refuge Association published our 2016 Summer Recess Action Kit which contains a variety of resources to help Friends Groups and supporters advocate for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Your congressional leaders will be returning to your district in October, so it will be very important for you and your Friends groups to mobilize support to educate your congressional leaders about issues facing your local refuge. Thank you so much for your continued support of our nation’s National Wildlife Refuge System and we hope that you enjoy our Recess Action Kit.
Keep an eye out for these upcoming events:
- September 10: 7th Annual Fall Festival– Great Swamp Complex NWR (NJ)
- September 17: 50th Anniversary Celebration– Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge (IN)
- September 24: National Public Lands Day!
- September 24: National Hunting and Fishing Day– Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge (NC)
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