The Flyer E-Newsletter: October


Dear Friends,

As this issue of The Flyer lands in your inbox, the federal government shutdown is still in effect and the stories of ruined vacations, cancelled hunting, fishing and birding trips, and refuge festivals put on hold are flooding into the National Wildlife Refuge Association.  These are heart-breaking stories in their own right, but they also speak to the economic losses to refuge gateway communities that were just beginning to recover from our historic recession.  Refuges are incredibly important wildlife habitat, but they are also economic engines that have been turned off.  Every dollar that Congress does not invest in the National Wildlife Refuge System means there are more than four dollars not being generated  in refuge communities.  Economic recovery for refuge communities in every state and territory of this great nation has stopped dead in its tracks – what a shame.

Additionally, nearly 9,000 highly qualified conservation leaders who make great things happen for wildlife, provide $32 billion in ecosystem services, and work closely with communities and states are not doing the work of the American people and not providing for their own families. Our hearts go out to every furloughed Fish and Wildlife Service employee – as well as those who have been on the job, but still don’t know if or when they will be paid.  At the National Wildlife Refuge Association we believe that all 9,000 employees at the Fish and Wildlife Service are essential staff and we thank you for your work and your service, and we are fighting for you.  To the lonely Federal Wildlife Officers protecting our national wildlife refuges,  be safe, and thank you for risking so much to protect and conserve what is so important to us – you are unsung heroes. Wildlife law enforcement can be the most dangerous of all enforcement work, and we appreciate all that you do.

This is a sad story: opportunities missed, important conservation left un-done and economic recovery put on hold.  What startles me the most is this is NOT an American story.  We are a “can do” people.  We are the largest economy, and we are a nation of innovators: the first personal computer; first human to set foot on the moon, first to develop the assembly line, first iPhone. We’re better than this. We are also connected to one another by the majestic landscapes we share and the sea shores that surround us. We have always prided ourselves for protecting our natural heritage for future generations. Shutting down the government is not what we do. Closing hunting grounds and nature centers, denying access to wildlife refuges and national parks, turning off our  economic recovery is not an American solution.

The National Wildlife Refuge Association has one message to Congress – open our government back up!!






Shutdown Casualties- National Wildlife Refuge System

Local economies hurt with all national wildlife refuges closed


  • 561 national wildlife refuges, 38 wetland management districts, 150 million acres.
  • Refuges on average return over $4 for every $1 to run them
  • There is a refuge within an hour’s drive of every major city.
  • All refuge staff are furloughed except Refuge Managers and Federal Wildlife Officers for public safety and protecting property.
  • 42,000 Friends and volunteers that contribute more than 1.4 million hours annually, the equivalent of 700 staff performing 20% of work in the Refuge System, cannot volunteer during the shutdown.
  • The shutdown comes on top of years of deep budget cuts to Refuges and if the sequester cuts continue, refuges will lose 500 positions and experience a nearly 30% cut.



  • National Wildlife Refuge Week began in 1995 and has been celebrated every year since, until now.
  • Hundreds of celebrations nationwide have been cancelled, leaving local communities in the lurch.
  • Visitors for such events stay in local hotels, eat in restaurants and shop in local businesses.



  • 329 refuges and 38 waterfowl production areas have hunt programs, 271 refuges have fishing areas.
  • 2.5 million hunting visits, 7 million fishing visits and 31 million wildlife viewing visits.
  • Refuges provide a variety of hunting opportunities: big game, small game, upland bird, waterfowl.
  • “Once in a Lifetime” hunts on hold and some hunters have waited 20 years for a hunting permit tag and spent thousands of dollars.
  • Public safety unnecessarily on the line because urban refuges are not able to do small hunts to cut the deer populations to reduce vehicle collisions.
  • Commercial guides make most of their money in the fall and this shutdown impacts their bottom line for the entire year.



  • 2000 active wells on 260 national wildlife refuges.
  • Key areas: Gulf (Texas, Missouri and Louisiana), North Dakota and Arkansas.
  • Oversight of wells: all oil and gas specialists (two at the national level, one in Texas, one in Louisiana and two at specific field stations) are all furloughed and the only oversight is done by Federal Wildlife Officers and Refuge Managers.



  • Species recovery depends on accurate scientific data yet no monitoring is occurring on refuges nationwide. Scientists cannot reach monitoring stations and will have a sizable gap in their work for both species and climate change. Some species impacted: California condor, ocelot, prairie dog, Mexican wolf, red wolf, red cockaded woodpecker and red knot.

NWRA Brings Director of “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society to D.C.

Vertesch speaking with Senators Cadin (MD), Boxer (CA), and Nelson (FL) | Photo Credit: Desiree Sorenson-Groves

Birgie Vertesch, Executive Director of the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society, a non profit organization supporting the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Sanibel, Florida, traveled to Washington D.C. to let members of Congress know just how much closing our national wildlife refuges is hurting her community. The J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR attracts nearly 800,000 people every year and is the economic engine for the community.

Vertesch spoke at a press conference October 8, hosted by Senator Barbara Boxer of California, Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland and Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. She told reporters that the Society has already had to cancel one event, and should the shutdown continue, will be forced to cancel one of the biggest events of the year, their annual “Ding” Darling Days. This annual event draws more than 5,000 people during the “slow” season and is a significant economic boost to neighboring Sanibel. The Society has events scheduled for 7 straight days and is very concerned about the impacts of a cancellation of this event.

“This shutdown hurts our entire community,” Vertesch told the press. “National wildlife refuges are economic engines for local communities.”

For every $1 Congress appropriates to run the “Ding” Darling NWR, more than $30 is returned in economic activity into their local community. The nearly 800,000 visitors eat in restaurants, stay in hotels, and shop in local stores. The small island community relies on the refuge, and the longer the government is shut down, the harder it will hit their local businesses and their employees.

Vertesch said that as a result of the refuge closure, 23 employees of a local nongovernmental  tour operator on the refuge were laid off with no guarantee of back pay. She added that the last time the government shut down for a long period of time, it was so bad for Sanibel’s tourism industry that the city offered to pay the salaries of refuge staff to open the visitor’s center and wildlife drive.

Sen. Nelson expressed concern about the shutdown’s impact on other Florida destinations as well, such as the Merritt Island NWR and its neighboring Cape Canaveral.

Friends Groups around the nation are dealing with similar shutdown losses. Friends and volunteers contribute over 1.4 million hours annually to the Refuge System – the equivalent of 700 staff. Every day the government is shut down, that work goes undone in addition to the work not being done by staff. The Refuge System was already suffering from three years of budget cuts, so this volunteer workforce is needed now more than ever.

The National Wildlife Refuge System includes 561 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts that attract more than 40 million visitors each year. The fall is one of the highest visitation times of the year.

Top 5 National Wildlife Refuges Impacted by Government Shutdown

St. Marks Shutdown electric sign_Craig Kettendorf
An electric sign at the St. Marks NWR on the Florida panhandle, direts the public that the refuge is closed. | Photo Credit: Craig Kettendorf

Across the nation, communities are feeling the effects of the government shutdown. For communities that depend on tourist dollars from national wildlife refuges, the refuge closures are especially difficult. Fall migration is well underway and hunting season is just beginning. The nation’s National Wildlife Refuge System, with nearly 46 million annual visitors, offers prime wildlife viewing, hunting and fishing opportunities, so this time of year is particularly important to local merchants, outfitters, guides and other businesses that rely on refuge visitors. Adding insult to injury, volunteers are unable to contribute their time, skills and expertise – volunteers nationwide provide 20% of work done on refuges – the equivalent of almost 700 full time staff.

While each of the 561 refuges is affected, here are the Top 5 National Wildlife Refuges impacted by the government shutdown:

1.   Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia generates a whopping $155 in local economic activity for every $1 Congress appropriates to run it. Over 1.4 million Americans annually visit its scenic shoreline and historic lighthouse. A celebration to commemorate the re-opening of the Assateague Lighthouse, located on the Chincoteague NWR was scheduled for Saturday, October 5th but was ancelled. Volunteers at the Chincoteague Natural History Association have spent six years raising funds for its repair, and the re-opening ceremony was expected to draw hundreds of visitors.

2.   J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel, Florida has nearly 800,000 annual visitors.  The 24th annual “Ding” Darling Days Festival, set to take place Oct 20-26, is in jeopardy and a ceremony scheduled for October 1st to re-open their Wildlife Drive after repairs was cancelled. The refuge returns $30 to the local economy for every $1 appropriated.

3.   Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma attracts almost 2 million visitors, many of whom come to participate in bugling elk tours and elk hunts, all of which have been cancelled until further notice. Sportsmen wait years for a permit to hunt elk on the refuge. The Wichita Mountains NWR returns $44 to the local economy for every $1 appropriated.

4.   Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska welcomes over 1.1 million annual visitors and is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the Kenai Peninsula, welcoming hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers and photographers. Popular fall hunt programs are currently on hold, leaving hunting guides and tour operators in the lurch. The refuge returns $22 to the local economy for every $1 appropriated.

5.   Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota draws over 100,000 visitors and is a popular destination for nearby residents of the Twin Cities.  The 20th Annual Fall Wildlife Festival with a first ever 5K run, anticipated to bring 2000 attendees, scheduled for October 5, was cancelled.

For information about other refuges affected by the government shutdown, contact Desiree Sorenson-Groves (202-290-5593) at the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

National Wildlife Refuge Week- Canceled Due to Shutdown

Refuge Week events at Rappahannock River Valley NWR are cancelled | Photo Credit: Rappahannock River Valley NWR Friends Group

“America’s national wildlife refuges are the gold standard when it comes to protection of wildlife and habitat,” said NWRA President David Houghton. “They are a wise investment, constantly pumping money into local economies. Jobs and businesses rely on refuges and the visitors that come along with them. Refuges also improve the air we breathe, the water we drink, and improve soil quality and provide protection against flooding. Refuges are a priceless commodity.”

Unfortunately due to the shutdown, no one has been able to enjoy these majestic areas in the past 11 days. Since Theodore Roosevelt established the first national wildlife refuge in 1903, the National Wildlife Refuge System has become the nation’s premier habitat conservation network, encompassing over 150 million acres in 561 refuges and 38 wetland management districts. Every state has at least one national wildlife refuge. There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major cities. And our national wildlife refuges are home to more than 700 types of birds, 220 varieties of mammals, 250 kinds of reptiles and amphibians, 1,000 species of fish and countless invertebrates and plants. They provide havens for some 280 endangered species, from the Florida panther to the polar bear.

National wildlife refuges also offer world-class recreation, from fishing, hunting and wildlife observation along 2,500 miles of land and water trails to photography and environmental education. It is a shame that none of this can happen because of the shutdown.

One of the main events of the year will now be canceled because of the shutdown –  National Wildlife Refuge Week. National Wildlife Refuge Week has been celebrated annually all over the nation since it began in 1995. Unfortunately, this year most of the events will have to be moved to alternate locations, or canceled altogether. This is devastating on numerous levels for a vast majority of communities around the nation. Not only are these events something to look forward to the entire year, but a great deal of them generate large portions of the funds needed to run refuges.

One of many examples of a canceled event was Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge’s 20th Annual Fall Wildlife Festival. “It is extremely disappointing,” said Sue Hix, president of the Friends of Sherburne, which was co-sponsoring the event with the refuge. “We have a huge investment in this whole day.” The event was anticipating over 2,000 guests this year which would have been a huge stimulus to the local economy and the refuge itself.

Here is a list of just a small portion of events that have been canceled thus far:

Wander Wild at Pinckney NWR, South Carolina

The Big Sit at Wheeler NWR,Alabama

The 75th Anniversary Celebration at Wheeler NWR, Alabama

Field Tour, LEED certified Visitor Center Grand Opening at Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, Michigan

Fall Round Up at Chincoteague NWR, Virginia

Amateur Radio Broadcasts through Balcones Canyonlands NWR, Texas

Annual Refuge Appreciation Day at Patoka NWR, Indiana

20th Annual Fall Wildlife Festival at Sherburne NWR, Minnesota

Field Day at Presquile NWR, Virginia

Fall Festival at Cherry Valley NWR, Pennsylvania 

Wild Things 2013 at Southeast Louisiana NWR, Louisiana

9th Annual Red River National Wildlife Refuge Celebration at Red River NWR, Louisiana 

Friends of Black Bayou Fall Celebration at Black Bayou NWR, Louisiana

Ivory Crush at Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, Colorado

Pioneer Days and Ribbon Cutting to Reopen Boardwalk at Okenfenokee NWR, Georgia

“Ding” Darling Days at “Ding” Darling NWR, Florida

A Closer Look: All Day Tour at Rappahannock River Valley NWR, Virginia

National Wildlife Refuge Week Celebration at Balcones Canyonlands NWR, Texas

Wildflower walk and Youth Hunt for White-Tailed Deer at Carolina Sandhills NWR, South Carolina

Public Open House Celebrating National Wildlife Refuge Week at Hakalau NWR, Hawaii

Wild About Life Lecture Series and National Wildlife Refuge Week Celebration at Deer Flat NWR, Idaho

Government Shutdown from Perspective of Retired Refuge Manager 

As the government shutdown impacts national wildlife refuges all over the nation, NWRA had the chance to get the perspective of a retired Refuge Manager, Mr. Kelby Ouchley from Rocky Branch, Louisiana. Ouchley managed the Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge during the last shutdown and he shares his experiences during that difficult time.  His perspective sheds light on what is happening at refuges nationwide during this shutdown:

Black Bayou Lake NWR closed_Mike Roberts-1
Photo Credit: Mike Roberts

“Having gone through two previous government shutdowns as a manager of National Wildlife Refuges, I have a pretty good feel for the waste of human resources and taxpayer money that occurs.  Much of the concern expressed recently pertains to the loss of public use opportunities such as birdwatching, hiking, and hunting.  These issues along with environmental education activities are very important, but refuge closure does more than inconvenience visitors as natural resources are also impacted.  For example, almost all government operations except critical law enforcement cease on refuges.  Here in Louisiana, that means water cannot be pumped into wetland impoundments for migrating waterfowl that are arriving daily. Wildfires cannot be attacked promptly because fire crews are furloughed.  Long-term scientific research on wildlife stops because biologists can’t work.  October is often the driest month of the year in our area, and much of the annual field work occurs now when swamps, bottomland hardwood forests, and other wetlands are most accessible for equipment.  Roadsides are mowed after wildflowers have bloomed; water control structures and levees are repaired; reforestation sites are prepared for winter planting; and endangered red-cockaded woodpecker habitat is thinned to benefit the species.  Even a few days of a government shut-down can make a big difference. . . . and if history of the previous shut-downs serve as examples, the ensuing benefits to conservation will be as scarce as compromise in Washington.”

The National Wildlife Refuge System has nearly 46 million annual visitors annually and offers prime wildlife viewing, hunting and fishing opportunities, especially in this time of year. As Ouchley mentioned, not only does the wildlife suffer, but also the local merchants, outfitters, guides and other businesses that rely on refuge visitors. Adding insult to injury, volunteers are unable to contribute their time, skills and expertise – volunteers nationwide provide 20% of the work done on refuges – the equivalent of almost 700 full time staff. The shutdown is having drastic impacts on the National Wildlife Refuge System all over the nation- the wildlife is suffering as well as the local economies.


Government Shutdown and National Wildlife Refuge System- What Happens? 

Closed Refuge sign_MN Valley_Evan Hirche
Photo Credit: Evan Hirsche

You might be wondering about the details regarding the shut down itself. How do refuges shut down? Who’s on staff, what work is being done on our 561 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts?  To begin with – they are all closed to the public. This includes hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, school trips – anything. Employees or refuge volunteers may NOT volunteer their services. If you are a Friends member or refuge volunteer, you would have had to get any personal property from the refuge before it closed on October 1.  You will not be allowed on the refuge until the government opens again.  If you have an upcoming celebration for Refuge Week (October 13-19) and it occurs on a refuge, it will be contingent on the government opening back up – numerous events have already been cancelled.  And, should the refuge open in time for your festival, know what your plans are to go forward.  Some FWS staff are “essential” and will be working and available via e-mail and phone – but the vast majority of staff are not essential and will NOT answer e-mails or phone calls; they could be fired if they do.

FWS overall estimates that it takes a half day to shut down most operations; they needed approximately another 100 employees from across FWS that stayed up to 8 hours, and in some cases more, to assure property is secured.  Of the approximately 3500 Refuge System staff, about 310 are considered “essential”.  Throughout the entire FWS, essential staff include animal caretakers, who must feed and care for live animals such as California Condors at the Hopper Mountain NWR Complex; refuge management personnel who are expected to protect federal property and public safety; essential infrastructure personnel who are essential to providing support services, such as information technology and building security to other excepted employees; and Federal Wildlife Officers, including refuge law enforcement and special agents.  FWS will not retain staff at every refuge, but will have a Refuge Manager or Federal Wildlife Officer at every station with on-site staff, including major refuge complexes.

For more information, read the FWS Shut Down plan and Fact Sheet which includes not only refuges but endangered species, fisheries, fire programs and others:


Fact Sheet: http://www.doi.gov/shutdown/fy2014/upload/FWS-Fact-Sheet.pdf


Once the Government Opens, There’s a Huge To Do List


After Congress returned from their August Recess, they had very few legislative days to complete any work prior to the Shutdown. When Congress does finally open the government back up, they are likely to just pass a short-term CR (Continuing Resolution) funding programs for a few weeks at FY 13 levels.  They still haven’t passed their annual appropriations bills – the reason for this whole mess. Hopefully calm heads on the Hill will prevail and the House and Senate will come to agreement on funding bills – including those that fund the National Wildlife Refuge System and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

To recall where we left things, here’s a quick status check:


The House is proposing very steep cuts to America’s wildlife refuges and elimination of funding altogether for a long list of key conservation programs. The House bill could slash the Refuge System’s Operations and Maintenance accounts by 27% which would take the National Wildlife Refuge System to $394 million for FY 2014—setting them back to FY 2004 levels, before accounting for inflation. Leaving an average of only $2.62 per acre for the 150-million-acre System, this funding level could force many refuges to:

  • Close visitor centers and eliminate recreational opportunities, including popular hunting and fishing programs and environmental education.
  • Super Complexing – numerous refuges would be managed by a smaller team of staff  – stretching staff across hundreds of miles in some cases.
  • Reduce or eliminate invasive species control, fire management, and other habitat and management activities that are central to the Refuge System’s conservation mission.

These impacts pose severe threats not only to the nation’s wildlife, but also to the American people who rely on them.  The nation’s wildlife refuges attract almost 47 million visitors annually, contribute an estimated $2.1 to $4.2 billion in economic output to local communities, and provide more than $32.3 billion in environmental goods and services each year.

The House bill would also eliminate funding for many vital FWS programs including the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, and the FWS Construction account, which funds large-scale habitat restoration projects. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) would only receive $20 million for FWS land acquisition and conservation easements.  LWCF, which is authorized to receive $900 million each year from oil and gas drilling royalties, is a promise Congress made to the American people in 1965 to mitigate for the extraction of minerals offshore. The House bill would also remove the ability of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to establish new refuge units administratively.


The Senate bill, although not as high as the President’s request, proposes a much-needed increase to current funding and would take the Refuge System from its current $453 million for Operations and Maintenance to $484 million. And very importantly, the Senate proposes $400 million for the LWCF, of which $86 million would go to FWS and the Refuge System. The Senate bill would also restore funding for the grant programs that were zeroed out in the House bill.


NWRA Brings Friends to Washington 

Friends on Capitol Hill | Photo Credit: Desiree Sorenson-Groves

On Thursday September 26, 17 Friends members and partners from all over the United States flew into Washington, D.C. to speak with their Representatives and Senators in support of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Carrying a unified message of robust funding for both the Refuge System and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the group took to the Hill. The Friends’ two main asks for FY14 were: fund the National Wildlife Refuge System’s Operations and Maintenance accounts at $499 million and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million. Armed with a strong ask full of facts and statistics along with compelling personal stories of the importance of refuges to local communities, the Friends were a force to be reckoned with.

Not only did the Friends advocate for more funding, but they relayed the need for urban programs that engage urban and suburban communities in wildlife conservation. Currently, about 80% of America’s population live in urban or suburban areas. To engage these communities in wildlife and habitat conservation, meaningful connections must be created that result in residents building awareness of nature, fostering a deeper understanding, which results in commitment to conservation.

Friends are integral to the future and past successes increasing funding for the Refuge System. In the current budget climate, Friends are more important than ever. Thank you to all those in attendance.


Friends Groups Represented at the ‘Fly In’:

San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society
Booth Society
Friends of the Heinz Wildlife Refuge
Friends of Hackmatack
Eden Place, Fuller Park Community Development
Wild Indigo Community
Chicago Audubon Society
Houston Wilderness
Friends of Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge
Friends of Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge
Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge
Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges
Two Ponds Preservation Foundation


Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative

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Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative Logo | Courtesy of Americaswildlife.org

As part of the Refuge System’s new vision for the future, Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has launched an Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative. Outlined in the thirteenth recommendation of the overall vision, the Service seeks to “Create an urban refuge initiative that defines excellence in our refuges, establishes the framework for creating new urban refuge partnerships, and implements a refuge presence in ten demographically and geographically varied cities across America by 2015.”

About 80% of America’s population live in urban or suburban areas. To engage these communities in wildlife and habitat conservation, meaningful connections must be created that result in an appreciation of nature, our interconnectedness and a deeper commitment to conservation.  The Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative seeks to help accomplish these goals.

FWS created Standards of Excellence as a way to set the framework for the Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative. The seven standards are:

  1. Connect urban people with nature via stepping stones of engagement
  2. Build partnerships
  3. Be a community asset
  4. Ensure adequate long-term resources
  5. Provide equitable access
  6. Ensure that visitors feel safe and welcome
  7. Walk the sustainability walk

They are outlined in much greater detail here.

To launch the initiative, the Refuge System established eight pilot urban wildlife refuge partnerships. These new partnerships will allow the FWS to work with organizations already established in communities.  The partnerships announced on September 26th are:

  • New Haven Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, Connecticut;
  • Forest Preserves of Cook County Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, Illinois;
  • Albuquerque Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, New Mexico;
  • Houston Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, Texas;
  • Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, Rhode Island;
  • Masonville Cove Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership,Maryland;
  • Lake Sammamish Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, Washington;
  • L.A. River Rover Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, California.

For more information about each partnership, visit here or watch a quick video here!


NWRA, along with Trust for Public Land, National Audubon Society and Southwest Airlines, were sponsors of an Urban Academy hosted by the FWS at the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) in West Virginia, September 23-25. Designed for FWS staff, Friends groups, and partners who are working in urban areas, the Academy provided training on the standards of excellence developed by the Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative Implementation Team, modeled new ways for FWS to develop outreach partnerships in urban centers, and shared strategies for meaningful engagement with diverse communities, including overcoming barriers.

FWS is making a strategic decision to engage urban communities in wildlife conservation for the benefit of current and future generations and we applaud their work. As stated by FWS Director, Dan Ashe, “Too many Americans have grown up without a real connection to wildlife. This initiative gives us the chance to change that.”

Friends of Maga Ta-Hohpi, 2013 Refuge Friends Group of the Year Receives Their Award

Friends of Maga Ta Hohpi, the 2013 Friends Group of the Year | Photo Credit: Shannon Marvel

On Saturday, September 14, NWRA’s Vice President of Government Affairs, Desiree Sorenson-Groves, traveled to Huron, South Dakota to honor the very deserving Friends Group of the Year, the Friends of Maga Ta-Hohpi (pronounced Maha-ta-hopie) Waterfowl Production Area (WPA). The Friends of Maga Ta-Hohpi even received congratulations from Senator Tim Johnson with a message that read “Congratulations to the Maga Ta-Hohpi Friends Group on this tremendous honor!  You all have helped connect countless people to wetlands and wildlife conservation through fun and educational events. This award speaks volumes about the dedication of your volunteers, the effectiveness of partnerships, and the importance of the Maga Ta-Hopi Waterfowl Production Area.  Congratulations again, and keep up the great work!”

The Friends of Maga Ta-Hohpi is comprised of 40 members who support the waterfowl refuge located just a few miles west of Huron. These members work extremely hard to fundraise and sustain the refuge.

Frank Amundson, who accepted the award on behalf of the Friends of Maga Ta-Hohpi was interviewed by the Huron Statesman where he expressed his gratitude, especially to the members of the Group. “We have a fantastic working relationship with the National Fish and Wildlife Center,” said Amundson. “But if not for our dedicated members none of this would be possible.”

Because of federal budget cuts, national wildlife refuges everywhere have been struggling just to keep the doors open. Despite these immense challenges, the Friends of Maga Ta-Hohpi have stepped up to the plate to rise above the challenges and continue to raise money through fundraisers and donations. Amundson attributed this drive in his interview with the Huron Statesman to the understanding that they are doing this for the greater good. “It’s all for the benefit of you. Our goal is to bring ourselves back to nature. I hope when you come out here on our trails you can take a walk around in nature.”

The presentation of the award was done at Huron Prairie Fest, an event held at the Maga Ta-Hopi Waterfowl Production Area, full of activities and hands on experiences with nature themes. The event was a fantastic way to honor this astounding group of and reflected the values that the Friends of Maga Ta-Hohpi hold. Amundson stated that “I want my grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and future generations to enjoy [the refuge]”.

Mrs. Sorenson-Groves was deeply impressed by all of the work the Friends have done. “Really the amount that they give back to this refugee is amazing. For a group of around 40 people it is pretty amazing. They’re doing this because it’s an American ‘giving-back’ ethic.”

For the complete article, please visit http://www.plainsman.com/v2_news_articles.php?heading=0&page=72&story_id=20801


September: National Wilderness Month

View of Havasu National Wildlife Refuge in California and Arizona.  Photo Credit: U.S. FWS

President Obama declared September, National Wilderness Month in honor of the 49th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Wilderness Act, signed into law by President  Lyndon B. Johnson on September 3, 1964, is a designation only Congress can bestow and is the highest level of conservation protection in the United States.  Indeed, it is arguably the highest level of protection to wild lands and waters in the world.  A truly eloquent piece of legislation,  the Act reflects some of our nation’s deepest values: patriotism, democracy and a shared conservation ethic for future generations.

“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

In the 1950s, The Wilderness Society (TWS) identified a real need to protect more of America’s natural areas. In 1956, their concerns were translated into a bill written largely by then TWS Executive Director, Howard Zanhister, a long time proponent of wilderness who began his career at the U.S. Biological Survey, the precursor to the U.S. FWS. The bill went through 66 different revisions over 8 years. Sadly, Zanhister, one of the Act’s most passionate advocates, died just just four months before it became law. On September 3, 1954, President Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law establishing a National Wilderness Preservation System; at the time including 9.1 million acres of wilderness areas. Currently, there are over 700 wilderness areas covering over 109 million acres of federally owned land- almost 20% of which are part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The Refuge System has 75 wilderness areas on 63 refuges in 26 states – more than 20 million acres of the System’s 150 million acres are designated wilderness. About 90 percent of the Refuge System’s wilderness is in Alaska – including controversial areas such as the Arctic NWR and the Izembek NWR.  The proposed road at the Izembek NWR would go directly through the biological heart of the refuge and set a dangerous precedent regarding the de-designation of wilderness.

Interesting facts about Wilderness and the Refuge System:

We hope you enjoy and appreciate your local wilderness areas, especially during National Wilderness Month. To see a map of where refuge wilderness areas are throughout the nation, visit: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/whm/wilderness.html.


NWRA Adds New Staff

Christine McGowan has joined the Refuge Association as the Director of Strategic Communications. Christine will help the organization strengthen its brand and reputation. She will manage a broad range of public relations activities and serve as an ambassador for NWRA to help drive awareness, increase engagement among key constituencies of wildlife enthusiasts, and raise revenue. She can be reached at cmcgowan@refugeassociation.org. To view her full bio, click here.

A Successful Fundraiser at Fisher’s Island!

Some of the golfers on the 15th hole as our current board chair Stuart Watson and former board chair Don O’Brian watch their technique and style.

In the shadow of ospreys and migrating red-tailed hawks, over 80 golfers teed off to benefit NWRA on Monday September 23 at the spectacular Fisher’s Island Golf Club.  Thanks to the generosity of NWRA board members Larry and Andrea Ross, David Preschlack and Janice Mondavi, along with the Fisher’s Island Golf Club and Ross & Company, NWRA’s first golf tournament fundraiser was an outstanding success, raising over $100,000 for wildlife conservation!

The day started out bright and early with golfers arriving at the Fisher’s Island Ferry in New London, CT and traveling just a tee shot away from the Stewart B. McKinneyNational Wildlife Refuge. Following a hearty brunch and a welcome by the Club, Larry Ross, and NWRA board chair Stuart Watson, 21 foursomes were off! Even though it is a challenging — and world renowned — course, there were birdies all around (and ospreys flying overhead!) and all of the participants enjoyed the fantastic ocean views and outstanding fall weather.  Board members Don O’Brien and Andy Woolford joined Larry Ross and Stuart Watson on the course (some wielding clubs and others juggling cameras), and we missed event contributors Bill Buchanan, Janice Mondavi, Rebecca Rubin and John Cornely, who were there in spirit and through their featured silent auction prizes.

With a glow of wind and sunburn, golfers gathered back at the clubhouse for cocktails and a barbecue while  Board chair Stuart Watson and President David Houghton eloquently introduced NWRA and our mission as it applies both locally in relation to Hurricane Sandy recovery, the McKinney, Silvio Conte and New Jersey refuges, and nationwide, from Puerto Rico to the Pacific Islands.



Have you ever admired the dedication and talent of a co worker?  Have you ever wanted to recognize a colleague for his/her outstanding work?  Here’s your chance!

The National Wildlife Refuge Association announces that we are now ACCEPTING NOMINATIONS for the 2014 National Wildlife Refuge System Awards.


 Sponsored by the National Wildlife Refuge Association, these Awards,  honor outstanding accomplishments by refuge managers, refuge employees, volunteers and Friends groups.  Recognizing the excellence of these individuals and groups not only highlights the dedication and devotion of those who support the Refuge System, but also raises awareness about the diversity of the National Wildlife Refuge System, the challenges it faces, and the innovative efforts across the country to meet those challenges.

For an overview of each award and links to the nomination forms please click here.


Awards and Presentation

Results will be announced in March 2014. Award recipients will receive a commemorative plaque and a monetary award ($1,000 for Refuge Manager, Employee and Volunteer awards, $2,000 for Friends Group).

Our 2013 Award Winners!

Click here to view the winners from previous years.

Nomination Guidelines

Think back over the past year, consider what has been accomplished for the Refuge System, and take this opportunity to recognize the dedicated people whose achievements were instrumental in strengthening our national wildlife refuges.  We want to solicit diverse nominations from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends Groups, other federal, state, and local government agencies, private individuals, and conservation organizations.  We welcome the nomination of candidates from previous years who were not selected to receive an award.  Feel free to make this application information available to any individual, group or agency you think might be interested in providing a nomination.

Nominations are due no later than November 15, 2013.


To learn more about the awards program and to download and print the required nomination forms, please visit http://refugeassociation.org/people/awards/overview/ or contact Debbie Harwood at dharwood@refugeassociation.org or 202-417-3803 x 16.


Volunteers harvesting salmon eggs at the Richard Cronin National Salmon Station in Sunderland, MA. | Photo Credit: James Weliver/USFWS
Volunteers harvesting salmon eggs at the Richard Cronin National Salmon Station in Sunderland, MA. | Photo Credit: James Weliver/USFWS


Friends and volunteers contribute 1.4 million hours annually to the Refuge System, the equivalent of adding 700 staff to the 3500 System employees, an approximate boost of 20% to the workforce.






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

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2013/10/the-flyer-e-newsletter-october/