FROM THE PRESIDENT:
While we are only into the third month of 2017 big changes have been happening everywhere, from leadership changes in the White House and Congress to some closer to home within the Refuge Association. When things change, we often look to our natural world to celebrate, to seek inspiration, and to remain grounded in our fast paced world. Indeed, places like national wildlife refuges help us connect with what matters most in the world and cope with things beyond our control.
At the beginning of February, I became the Acting President of the Refuge Association and my good friend and colleague, Mark Musaus, became Chief Operations Manager. For us, it is an opportunity to continue the very important work of our predecessors, David Houghton and Anne Truslow, as well as to be the outspoken vocal advocates for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Both Mark and I were career federal employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I recently retired as the Regional Director in Alaska but lived and worked all over the United States for the USFWS, including Washington, DC, as the Chief of Refuges. Mark similarly retired as the Deputy Regional Director in the Southeast, and before that had worked on many Refuges and in the Washington Office during his career. Mark is also a previous Refuge Manager of the Year! As federal employees, we weren’t always able to say what we wanted to about decisions by various administrations or Congress regarding the Refuge System. But those days are gone and we are now proudly able to advocate for the Refuge System as much as we want. And with the challenges facing the Refuge System these days, we feel this advocacy couldn’t come at a better time.
The National Wildlife Refuge System faces incredible challenges ahead with some in Congress looking to rescind marine national monuments created by Presidents Bush and Obama, as well as those who seek to dismantle the federal estate through the sell off or give away of public lands including refuges. To combat these efforts, we’ll need help and support from each and every one of you – along with your family and friends! – in helping us protect America’s unique public lands heritage.
Unfortunately, something very important to me was defeated this week in the U.S. Congress. On March 21,the Senate followed the House in voting to use the Congressional Review Act to permanently void the Alaska National Wildlife Rule, which had prohibited aggressive predator control like killing mother bears and cubs in their dens on national wildlife refuges in Alaska.
I am profoundly disappointed with this vote not only because it was something I had started when I was the Regional Director of FWS in Alaska, but because it is just so terribly wrong and misguided. You can read more about what happened on our blog.
On March 16, President Trump proposed a 12 percent cut to the Department of the Interior in his FY18 budget. If the cuts were made evenly across all Interior programs, it would slash $58,000,000 from the National Wildlife Refuge System’s budget, which could lead to closure of refuges across the nation, loss of staff and the elimination of hunting, fishing, environmental education and other public use programs. You can read more about this proposal on our blog.
And if those issues weren’t enough, we’ve learned that the House National Resource’s Federal Lands Subcommittee plans to hold a hearing on two “Public Lands Takeover” bills that would negatively impact the Refuge System. The first would authorize a land exchange to allow a road to be built through the Izembek NWR in Alaska, and the second would change the boundary of Monomoy NWR in Massachusetts, reducing the size of the refuge by nearly one-half and giving the state authority over submerged lands and waters that have been under the jurisdiction of the FWS since 1944.
I’m confident that we, collectively, will defend the Refuge System from these emerging threats and I implore you to continue to showcase your support for the National Wildlife Refuge System. I sincerely want thank you for being a member of our community.
Geoffrey L. Haskett
Great Thicket Joins the National Wildlife Refuge System
On January 18th, Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge became the 566th refuge to join the Refuge System! The Nature Conservancy in the Town of Dover, New York, approved the donation of a 144-acre parcel of grassland habitat known as the Nellie Hill Preserve to the USFWS. During President Obama’s term, 14 refuges and one marine national monument in the Atlantic Ocean were added to the National Wildlife Refuge System, and two more marine national monuments were expanded in the Pacific. Quite a conservation legacy!
REFUGE ASSOCIATION NEWS:
Mobilizing Friends Groups to Advocate for Refuges
In January, the National Wildlife Refuge Association hosted a successful Friends training at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge in Hawaii to teach Friends organizations how to craft and deliver effective messages they can use to advocate for the Refuge System. This was the first time Hawaii’s Friends organizations met together in person, and attendees forged relationships that will be essential for working together to support both Hawaiian refuges and the entire Refuge System.
The Refuge Association Partners with Folk-Rock Band River Whyless
The National Wildlife Refuge Association partnered with the folk-rock band River Whyless and other non-profit partners to launch their official music video for their new single, “Hold Me To Ya.” The breathtaking sagebrush landscape of Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming inspired the band to produce the track and generate support for national wildlife refuges across the country. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Refuge Association. Listen and download the new track today.
Julie Morris Receives Prestigious Conservation Award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Julie Morris, our very own Florida and Gulf Coast Programs Manager, will receive the 2015-2016 Regional Director’s Conservation Award presented by Southeast Regional Director Cindy Dohner in May. This award is presented to partners who have made extraordinary contributions to conservation in the Southeast. Julie has worked extensively in Florida and the Gulf Coast to advance on-the-ground conservation through policy, advocacy, and constituency building. She has been instrumental in our work in at Everglades Headwaters and at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuges. Congratulations, Julie, for your accomplishments! We are so proud of you!
The National Wildlife Refuge System Celebrates 114 years of Conservation
The National Wildlife Refuge Association celebrated the 114th birthday of the National Wildlife Refuge System on March 14th by launching a fun digital campaign. CARE group members, partners and Friends groups came together to showcase their support and appreciation for your national wildlife refuges. As we celebrate recent successes, and prepare for upcoming challenges, we look forward to celebrating an additional 114 years of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Supporters like you are invaluable to our work and we sincerely wish to say thank you for participating in our birthday campaign.
The Refuge Association looks forward to working with Interior Secretary Zinke to protect and enhance the National Wildlife Refuge System
Earlier this month, Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke was confirmed as the 52nd Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. We look forward to working with Secretary Zinke to conserve our nation’s wildlife and to support the National Wildlife Refuge System.
“Secretary Zinke is a Teddy Roosevelt conservationist, and this philosophy of conserving our nation’s wildlife and habitat while providing access for hunters, anglers, birders, and all wildlife enthusiasts will be essential for his new position overseeing this country’s natural resources,” said Haskett. “I am encouraged by Secretary Zinke’s commitment to keeping our public lands public, and am confident he will appoint a Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who shares his great dedication to all our public lands.”
Secretary Zinke has consistently voted to keep public lands in public hands, and his experiences working with ranchers, Native Americans, sportsmen, wildlife enthusiasts, and government agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during his time as Montana’s Congressman will prove invaluable as Secretary of the Interior.
Conservation Programs on the Chopping Block
Earlier this month, President Trump announced that his Fiscal Year 2018 budget will call for a $54 billion increase in defense spending, which will come at the expense of all other discretionary programs, including the National Wildlife Refuge System. This aggressive budgetary action would slash the Department of the Interior budget by 12 percent. For the Refuge System, a 12 percent cut is almost $58 million below its current insufficient budget of $481.4 million, resulting in a dismal $423.7 million.
What would a $58 million budget cut to the Refuge System look like on the ground? The following impacts are all but guaranteed:
- Permanent refuge closures
- Significantly limited hours of operation for refuges that can remain open
- Staff layoffs
- Cancellation of hunting and fishing seasons
- Termination of volunteer programs
- Sharp declines in essential wildlife management practices like prescribed burns, invasive species removal, and habitat restoration
Congress must step up and ensure that these drastic budget cuts are not enacted. We need your support to protect your local national wildlife refuge and the entire National Wildlife Refuge System. We at the Refuge Association will continue to provide you with the resources to take action to protect America’s wildlife and national wildlife refuges. Make sure you are signed up to receive our Action Alerts every Tuesday!
WE NEED YOUR HELP TODAY!
Congress has wasted no time introducing legislation, changing congressional rules, and rolling back environmental regulations finalized by the previous Administration. These are YOUR national wildlife refuges, and it is critical to let your lawmakers know that you oppose any sell off of public lands and urge them to vote against any legislation that attacks the integrity of your Refuge System.
We cannot let our nation’s public lands be swept under the rug. We must ensure that our voice is heard and protect our national wildlife refuge system for future generations. As the only non-profit solely dedicated to the protection of the National Wildlife Refuge System, we will never stop fighting for America’s wildlife.