Dear friends and supporters,
The National Wildlife Refuge Association had a busy July, working hard to protect America’s wildlife refuges. We hosted a successful workshop on At-Risk Species in Asheville, NC, presented Dr. Keith Weaver with the 2016 Refuge Manager of the Year Award in Chattanooga, TN, and empowered our grassroots community by providing internship experiences for college students and circulating our “Recess Action Toolkit” to Friends Groups so that they make the most of the Congressional recess by reaching out to their public officials at home.
The Refuge System is continuing to face profound challenges as Congressional leaders attempt to break it apart. The House passed the Fiscal Year 2017 Interior Appropriations bill, which contains a variety of harmful policy riders that would negatively impact the National Wildlife Refuge System. Despite a long collaborative history between the Town of Chatham, Massachusetts and Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, proposed legislation could remove half of the refuge from federally protected status. The Refuge Association in conjunction with local partners and the USFWS, is working collaboratively with the town to resolve these issues.
At Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada, the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act includes a rider that would eliminate USFWS management from the western half of the 1.6 million acre refuge and transfer management to the U.S. Air Force. The USFWS and the Air Force have cooperative on management for many years, for the benefit of desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoise and other Mojave dwellers.
And, we continue to seek a productive outcome at the National Bison Range. Proposed legislation to remove the National Bison Range from the Refuge System to the Department of the Interior for management by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe (CSKT) has been the source of heated conversation about both process and outcomes among many in our extended Refuge System family. As a staff, board and broader community we have moved carefully through many complex issues related to this proposal and a statement approved by the Refuge Association’s Board of Directors is posted on our website.
Now is a critical time to take action and show your support for your local National Wildlife Refuge and the National Wildlife Refuge System as your legislators are within their home state. The Refuge Association has all hands on deck, and we sincerely thank all of you who continue to take action to protect America’s National Wildlife Refuge System.
David Houghton, President
ON THE REFUGE
Building Conservation Skills for the Next Generation of Conservation Leaders:
This summer the Refuge Association partnered with the USFWS to host at 10-week long summer internship program on wildlife refuges across the Southeast, and the interns report that they are having an experience of a lifetime. Aspiring conservation leaders are gaining real world experience in resource conservation management, and becoming life-long stewards of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Meanwhile the interns are providing their host Refuges and Friends Groups with substantial help during busy summer months.
Derrin Foster, an Auburn University student, is interning at Red River National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana. Derrin recently organized a recreational camp for local youth focused on recreation safety, canoeing, fishing, archery, and shotgun shooting.
“This is my first time traveling west of Alabama. When I reached the refuge, the staff and volunteers greeted me with open arms. I felt right at home. My first time canoeing, shooting archery, and shooting a shotgun was during the recreational camp. I was nervous at first, but when I saw the kids approaching the activities with no fear, it encouraged me to embrace the challenge. This was probably my favorite camp so far because I was learning right along with the kids!” said Derrin.
Macie Broussard, who will be a senior at Clemson University, is working on a loggerhead sea turtle nest recovery project at South Carolina’s Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.
“A lot of people do not understand what this project entails. Some people think I’m playing on the beach all day while others think I’m working with adult turtles. Every morning we travel to the islands off of Cape Romain to look for new crawls left behind, identity nests, and relocate them if we need to. It has been a pleasure to intern here at Cape Romain – but its hard work too!,” said Macie.
Chelsea Connor, a recent graduate of Towson University, who is interning at National Key Deer Refuge in the Florida Keys said, “The rewards are never ending. Seeing an endangered Bartram’s Scrub Hairstreak butterfly, loggerhead sea turtle tracks and nests, catching newborn Key Deer fawns on camera traps, listening to white crowned pigeons cooing nearby, kayaking the shoreline of mangrove forests, snorkeling with nurse sharks and stingrays makes the hard work and mosquitos worth it. It is a special piece of paradise that I wouldn’t give up, and neither should you.”
Click here to read more about our intern’s experiences.
THE REFUGE ASSOCIATION IN ACTION
Keith Weaver Accepts the Refuge Manager of the Year Award; The Refuge Association Convenes Experts to Assess At-Risk Species in the Southeast
We were delighted to present Dr. Keith Weaver with the 2016 Refuge Manager of the Year Award on the occasion of the Southeast Region’s Project Leaders Meeting in Chattanooga, Tennessee on July 27th. David Houghton presented the award to Keith, and was accompanied at the meeting by Southeast Regional Rep Mark Musaus and Urban Wildlife Refuge Program Manager Joy Blackwood.
Keith, the project leader at Central Arkansas National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Arkansas, is well deserving of this award, as exemplified in his accomplishments and character as an individual. Keith successfully led his staff to expand the refuge boundary at Cache River NWR with vocal support from the community, acquire 10,327 acres of new fee-title lands at the Cache River NWR, has established extensive partnerships to restore hundreds of acres of newly acquired refuge lands to bottomland hardwood forests, conducted restoration projects, acquired important wetlands, established the nation’s second “National Blueway” in 2013, and conducted land exchanges with several NGOs and private citizens to continue the protection of large blocks of bottomland hardwood forest habitats at Cache River.
Keith is highly respected by senior leadership and his staff because of his dedication as a Refuge Manager who exemplifies character, integrity, and honesty in all aspects of his work and personal life. He is a leader whose management style can best be described as strong, fair, empowering, and inspiring as he always puts people first. His humble approach and positive attitude resonate in everything that he does. He is a true team leader, acknowledging his staff for their accomplishments and motivating them to achieve their career goals.
What sets Keith apart as an outstanding leader and Refuge Manager in the USFWS is his ability to effectively gather support for the refuges he manages. He does this by building long-standing relationships whether it be with congressional staff, or a myriad of partners including federal, state, and local agencies, NGOs, corporations, landowners, hunters, and refuge enthusiasts. We are so proud to have presented this award to Keith.
The Annual Refuge System Awards recognize excellence among refuge system staff, volunteers and Friends Groups who demonstrate outstanding leadership and conservation success on America’s national wildlife refuges. Click here to learn more.
The Refuge Association Convenes Experts to Assess At-Risk Species in the Southeast
Over the past several years, the National Wildlife Refuge Association has been working with the USFWS Southeast Region to assess the status of potential habitat on already protected lands for approximately 400 fish, wildlife and plant species petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act
The Refuge Association organized a series of workshops to evaluate these at-risk species within eight groups based on geography, hydrology, and habitat factors that could contribute to the occurrence of at-risk species on the 129 National Wildlife Refuges in the Southeast. Almost 300 subject matter experts evaluated 376 unique at-risk species and concluded that one or more species occurred on 89 National Wildlife Refuges. The USFWS Inventory and Monitoring program has initiated a variety of projects as a result of these efforts to conserve and monitor at-risk species.
In 2015 and 2016, the U.S. Forest Service has provided additional funding to help broaden the scope of this assessment, and the Refuge Association, multiple programs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Refuges, Ecological Services, and the Inventory & Monitoring Program- as well as the Forest Service and state agency partners are joining together for a series of new workshops across the Southeast.
In mid-July, the Refuge Association and partners held a workshop in Asheville, North Carolina.. These dialogues have enhanced the collaboration between subject matter experts from academia, wildlife managers, private landowners and NGOs. As a result of this cooperation, partners are identifying the role that public lands play in supporting at-risk species populations, recognize knowledge gaps, determine habitat management and monitoring opportunities, and develop best practices moving forward.
These efforts have also heightened recognition of the need for plant conservation. With guidance and expertise from the Forest Service, partners are evaluating at-risk plants and endangered plant species.. The Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Atlanta Botanical Garden will host a five-day symposium in November in Atlanta in which one of the workshops will focus on at-risk species.
As a result of this project, the project steering committee will develop landscape habitat and management recommendations and implementation steps to ensure that these species are well managed.
House Passes Fiscal Year 2017 Interior Appropriations Bill; Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge – Conflict on Cape Cod
Prior to departing for their summer recess, the House of Representatives passed the FY17 Interior Appropriations bill. The bill includes an important increase of $3.5 million to the Refuge System’s Operations and Maintenance budget that will allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support critical programs such as the Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative and Refuge Law Enforcement.
Unfortunately, this gain is deeply offset by damaging riders that undermine the National Wildlife Refuge System. Some of the damaging riders include:
- Prevent the USFWS from implementing its Comprehensive Conservation Plan at Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
- Prevent the USFWS from implementing a rule on predator hunting regulations on Alaska refuges to prevent harvesting brown bears over bait, aerial gunning, and killing wolves at den sites. The rule codifies how refuges have been managed in Alaska for years and does not affect subsistence hunting regulations.
- Prevent the USFWS from removing unsafe and contaminated structures on Midway Atoll NWR.
- Prevent the USFWS from updating an antiquated rule for managing non-federal oil and gas development on wildlife refuges that would conserve wildlife and reduce costs of oil spill clean ups.
- Prevent the USFWS from addressing recreational use on part of the Havasu NWR that is negatively affecting migratory birds and other wildlife.
All refuge supporters can join us through the summer to reach out to Congressional delegations and express our concern about damaging policy riders that are embedded in appropriations bills. Subscribe to our Refuge Action Network to stay informed and take action to support the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge – Conflict on Cape Cod
Every year, hundreds of thousands of migratory birds descend upon the beaches and waters of Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Chatham, Massachusetts, to feast on clams, mussels, and other shellfish. Under protection by the refuge, horseshoe crab populations have thrived at Monomoy, providing essential food for declining species like red knots. Chatham residents also depend on these coastal resources for their livelihoods and have worked harmoniously with the refuge while harvesting clams and other shellfish for more than 300 years.
While the Town of Chatham and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have a 72-year partnership managing the resources in and around the refuge, this relationship has unfortunately deteriorated in recent months. Following the public comment period of Monomoy’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan, the Town raised concerns that the USFWS could implement regulations on shellfishing in refuge waters.
Now, legislation has been drafted that would relinquish the rights of all submerged lands and waters within Monomoy NWR to the State of Massachusetts, effectively giving away 3985 acres that is presently protected by the refuge.
While the legislative proposal is intended to address a local issue, introducing the legislation would have potentially devastating national implications that extend far beyond Cape Cod. The proposal plays right into a growing anti-federal lands movement that has now been adopted as part of the Republican Party’s platform. Because a bill not only compounds the current conflict between the Town and the Refuge but also also opens a Pandora’s Box of unintended consequences at the national level and creates a dangerous public lands precedent, the National Wildlife Refuge Association and many local and national conservation organizations feel this legislation is simply not an option.
Does this mean the Refuge Association and other conservation organizations are not interested in issues posed by the Town of Chatham? Absolutely not – the Town is a respected partner in natural resource management. We must, however, strongly urge both the Service and the Town to negotiate to common ground and address management issues by establishing a collaborative process for resolution and cooperation.
Thankfully, by working with Congressman Keating’s office we have so far succeeded in delaying the introduction of legislation and productive negotiations between the Service and the Town are in progress. The Refuge Association and other groups have urged the Service and the Town to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and avoid the need for legislation. The MOU strategy can fully address the Town’s concerns about future management, protect wildlife and way of life in Chatham, and avoid creating a dangerous precedent for the National Wildlife Refuge System—and prevent a piece of legislation that would likely be adopted by conservation and public lands opponents, with devastating unintended consequences for wildlife, refuges, and public lands across the nation.
For more information regarding Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, please read our most recent blog.
REFUGE FRIENDS CONNECT
Summer is a Great Time to Take Action at Home: Our Recess Action Kit:
With all 465 House seats and 34 Senate seats up for election, Representatives, Senators, and their political rivals will be in their home states to talk about important issues such as your local National Wildlife Refuge and the National Wildlife Refuge System. Good laws and adequate funding are essential for the Refuge System to thrive and members of the Friends community are the most qualified to communicate these issues to Congress.
Congress values your input and relies on constituents like you to inform them about how they can help their local refuges and the National Wildlife Refuge System. Your voice is one of the most powerful tools available to enhance the National Wildlife Refuge System. So don’t be afraid to use it!
We created a Recess Action Kit that contains valuable tools and resources to help you advocate for your local refuge and the entire National Wildlife Refuge System. Over the course of the next few weeks, we encourage you to schedule district office meetings with your member of Congress and invite them to your local National Wildlife Refuge.
Some of these resources include:
- Lobbying 101 – The Basics
- Dos and Don’ts for Friends During the Election Season
- Appropriate Fact Sheets
- Sample Letter to Your Lawmaker
- Invite Your Lawmaker to Your Refuge
You can find, download and share all of the resources that we have developed on RefugeFriendsConnect.
Keep an eye out for these upcoming events:
August 9: Learn the basics of archery, including safety training, target practice, scoring and friendly competition at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Five day class for children ages 10 and up. Free, but registration is required. Click here to learn more. (NY)
August 15-19: Celebrate the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial with the USFWS (DC)
August 20: Come join a Refuge Ranger for an informal walk on the prairie to look and listen for birds, blossoms, butterflies, and more at Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge – La Crosse District Visitor Center. (WI)
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