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Friends of Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge

The Friends of Rachel Carson helped secure Timber Point for the Rachel Carson NWR | David Jourdan

Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is situated along Southern Maine’s picturesque coastline, an area famous for its rugged beaches and beautiful scenery. It is home to a diverse array of wildlife that includes waterfowl, eagles, migratory shorebirds, and rich lobster fisheries. With so many appealing features, property along Maine’s coast is highly sought out for summer homes, and is a region encroached on by development and threatened by habitat loss.

The 5,300-acre Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge protects important habitat along Maine’s shoreline. Established in 1966, the refuge was later named for Rachel Carson, the world-renowned environmentalist author of Silent Spring, now in its 50th year in print, and former employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuge is home to many species threatened by habitat loss throughout coastal Maine and New England, including the piping plover, New England cottontail, and two species of sharp-tailed sparrows.

The Friends of Rachel Carson NWR have been dedicated to conserving this special landscape for the past 25 years. Formed in 1987, the Friends work in tandem with the refuge and other partners to protect estuarine, coastal and other habitats of Southern Maine. Partnerships are particularly important for this Friends group, since Rachel Carson has more neighbors along its boundaries than any other refuge in the System. The protection of Timber Point, one of the last undeveloped parcels of land along a 50-mile stretch of shoreline between Kittery and Cape Elizabeth, ME, was the result of extensive cooperation and coordination.

“The Rachel Carson Refuge is unique in that it lies at the confluence of the vibrant residential communities of southern Maine and some of the most significant natural habitat in the state,” said Bill Durkin, president of the Friends of Rachel Carson NWR. “Acquiring the Timber Point tract was crucial to the growth of the refuge.”

How Timber Point came to be protected as part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is a textbook example for how a Friends organization can successfully work with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, local land trusts, and national non-profit partners to protect important wildlife habitat. The Friends and other local groups such as the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust partnered with regional and national organizations like the Trust for Public Land and the Audubon Society to raise the $5 million needed to acquire the property as part of the Rachel Carson NWR.

In 2009, the Friends took their case to Congress. Friends President Bill Durkin testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies in support of acquiring new land for Rachel Carson NWR through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). This advocacy helped secure $3 million appropriation from LWCF, which is funded through oil and gas revenue on public lands.

The LWCF appropriation spurred a fundraising campaign to raise an additional $2 million from private donations and foundations. This resulted in more than 700 individual donations and a $200,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. In 2011 this hard work paid off, and the Timber Point property was conveyed to the FWS as part of the Rachel Carson NWR.

“In my 23 years with the Friends, the Timber Point acquisition has been the most exciting one for the Refuge. It is a spectacular point of land, where the fresh water meets the sea,” said Durkin. “This is a classic story for conservation, utilizing LWCF monies and private donor contributions. We need to keep the pressure on Congress to support full funding at $900 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, an integral part of the Timber Point Purchase equation.”

Looking forward there are still many challenges for the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and the 200-member Friends of Rachel Carson NWR organization. By serving as the “eyes and ears” of the refuge, the Friends help refuge staff achieve the conservation mission of protecting wildlife like the New England cottontail and endangered piping plover.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2012/04/friends-of-rachel-carson-national-wildlife-refuge/