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Looking Back: Forming the Refuge Association

To celebrate our 40th anniversary this year, we are publishing a “Looking Back” series of blogs. Each edition will feature a different person who was involved with the organization at different stages over its 40 year history. For our first edition, we are featuring Mr. Ed Crozier.


Ed Crozier grew up in western Minnesota. He was the founder and first Refuge Manager of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, was involved in the inception of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, a founder and former President of the Friends of Minnesota Valley, a charter member and a former President of the Minnesota Valley Trust Inc., a founder and board director of the Blue Goose Alliance, and a former mentor to Friends groups. Crozier is also the author of the book, Dream Hunter: a National Wildlife Refuge Manager’s Memoir.

This photo was taken in the late 1960s, when the idea for the Refuge Association was being discussed. On the left is Ed Crozier, and on the right is Forrest Carpenter. Crozier was receiving an award for an outstanding refuge planning publication. | Photo courtesy of Ed Crozier
This photo was taken in the late 1960s, when the idea for the Refuge Association was being discussed. On the left is Ed Crozier, and on the right is Forrest Carpenter. Crozier was receiving an award for an outstanding refuge planning publication. | Photo courtesy of Ed Crozier

Mr. Crozier was the chief of staff for the Midwest Region Refuge division of the National Wildlife Refuge System when he and his colleagues realized that refuges needed a nonprofit partner like the National Parks Conservation Association was to the National Parks system. The leadership in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was not focused on the Refuge System, and Mr. Crozier and his colleagues wanted to change that.

They brought the idea to then-Midwest Regional Refuge Supervisor Forrest Carpenter who was hesitant at first because they were all employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Once Mr. Carpenter retired, he changed his mind and starting moving this idea forward. Forrest Carpenter became the first President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

Mr. Crozier was intimately involved with the Refuge Association while he was still an employee of the Service, and for a long time after. While working for the Service, he assisted with the monthly “Blue Goose Flyer” and kept in close contact with Mr. Carpenter to tell him what was needed in the Refuge System. After retirement he became one of the first regional representatives, and served as Vice-Chairman for the Refuge Association.

From it’s inception to present day, a lot has changed with the Refuge Association. Mr. Crozier explained that it started as a volunteer organization. The “staff” and the first Board of Directors was mostly retired Refuge Supervisors donating their time to help local refuges wherever they could. Mr. Crozier said he couldn’t believe how much the organization had grown.

“Everybody who was involved initially would be extremely proud and amazed about what the organization has turned into.”

One of the biggest differences between when the organization first started and now is the larger focus on advocacy on Capitol Hill, Crozier said. When the Refuge Association was first starting out, there wasn’t enough capacity to bring citizens to testify on Capitol Hill. The organization’s volunteers spent more of their time addressing issues on specific refuges. They acted more as a consulting service to help refuge managers and other Refuge System employees face and overcome challenges. The Refuge Association also worked to raise the visibility and stature of the Refuge System by publishing the monthly “Blue Goose Flyer.”

Crozier said that one of the biggest challenges he saw the Refuge Association overcome was the lack of funding and capacity. In the beginning, the staff could barely bring in enough money to stay afloat. However, as they gained more credibility and as the Service started to recognize the value of the Refuge Association, they entered into partnership agreements with the Service and began to receive more grants and projects.

When asked what one of the biggest accomplishments of the Refuge Association was, Mr. Crozier didn’t skip a beat when bringing up the Friends movement. When the Refuge Association started, there were cooperative associations with refuges that ran bookstores, but they were not allowed to lobby or testify. Mr. Crozier was refuge manager when one of the first Friends groups got its 501c(3) status, the Friends of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Gradually the Refuge Association recognized the great need for Friends groups and became instrumental in growing the Friends movement. Now, Friends are a major component of what the Refuge Association does, spending a large portion of our capacity on assisting Friends with development, helping them run as a 501c(3), assisting with grant applications, and much more.

Mr. Crozier was impressed by what the Refuge Association has accomplished in the past 40 years, and we are all excited to see what the next 40 years will bring.

 

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2015/04/looking-back-forming-the-refuge-association/

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