The Flyer E-Newsletter: August 2015



David Headshot

It’s hard to believe August is almost gone. In some places, leaves are just beginning to turn, and some bird species are beginning their southern migrations. But while summer is still upon us, we’re enjoying the last blasts of warmth before cooler fall temperatures take hold.   

To that end, we thought it fitting to highlight the abundance of migratory birds and family activities visitors can enjoy at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. The refuge will be offering plenty of fun events, including campfire sing-a-longs and hikes, over the next few months.

And as summer winds down, we said goodbye to two college students who completed summer refuge internships as part of a new program we launched this year with the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition. The three month internships provided the students with valuable habitat management and community outreach experiences.

Meanwhile, the Friends of Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge recapped a successful peer-to-peer workshop they recently hosted. This dedicated group is working to enhance manatee habitat and grow their education programming. Local administrators feel the education activities, offered to 4th and 5th grade classes starting in 2012,  have helped boost student test scores.

And although Congress is currently in recess, this month’s Flyer highlights what to expect in the coming weeks in terms of funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System. House and Senate proposals for the Refuge System Operations and Maintenance budget as well as the Land and Water Conservation Fund differ and will need to be reconciled before the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30. Please consider contacting your Congressional representatives, and urge them to adequately fund the Refuge System. Our actions can help ensure we benefit wildlife and wildlife habitat.

We’re in the final stages of preparing for the next Refuge Photo Contest, which launches September 15. Start looking at  your recent refuge photos or plan a trip to capture some new images of your favorite landscape, species or historic structure. We look forward to seeing the refuges through your lens!

Enjoy your final warm days of summer, and I’ll see you on a refuge,


David Houghton


Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, New Jersey

Edwing B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge | Credit: Raymond Corwin

Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, located in southern New Jersey, is the place to visit if you’re looking for a mix of birds, beach, children’s play areas, wetlands and trails. It’s a place you can take the whole family during any season.

The refuge, named after the late Congressman from New Jersey, was established in 1984, but its history goes back further than that. Edwin B. Forsythe Refuge’s Brigantine and Barnegat Divisions (Forsythe) were originally two distinct refuges, established in 1939 and 1967. Those divisions were formed to protect habitats for migratory birds, which flock to the refuge today.

Virginia Rettig, manager, and Sandy Perchetti, volunteer coordinator, highlighted activities you can enjoy on a future visit and upcoming events on the refuge. One of the refuge’s main attractions is the migratory and shoreline birds, such as the piping plover. The piping plover, a small light tan and white bird that makes its home on sandy beaches, is a threatened bird species in New Jersey. 



Wildlife Drive offers great spots to view bird life. This 8 mile long self-guided tour goes through saltwater marsh, freshwater habitat and upland forest. The area was formerly a railroad that closed in the 1890s after it was damaged by a hurricane.

In autumn and spring, Forsythe hosts combination nature walks and campfire sing-a-longs for families with young children. In addition to the regular activities, there will also be a clean up during a hike on Friday, Sept. 25 in honor of National Public Lands Day. Perchetti noted that these walks began five years ago as a way to connect children, especially those living near urban areas such as Atlantic City, with nature. Young nature fans can also play in the Children’s Nature Discovery Area, where they can explore the outdoors, look for artifacts, build a bird nest using natural supplies provided by the refuge and more.

Whether you’re travelling solo, on a family vacation or spending time with friends, Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge has something for you. Visit the website to learn more and plan your trip.

Perched Bird at Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge | Credit: Jeffrey Schmoyer


Refuge Association and Tigers for Tigers Coalition: Providing Summer Internships on a Refuge

Robin Lloyd at Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge


Thanks to a partnership between the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition and the Refuge Association, two college students participated in a summer 2015 internship at a wildlife refuge. Robin Lloyd from Auburn University and Sierra Hoisington from Clemson University, are the first to benefit from a new program matching Coalition members with conservation-focused internships on wildlife refuges. The two students spent three months learning about habitat management and community outreach.

Robin, a zoology and animal biology major, helped maintain the bottomland hardwood forests of Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge in western Kentucky. He assisted with banding migratory birds, rehabilitating an injured kestrel and managing the growth of beaver dams. Robin also educated visitors about the local ecosystem and about broader environmental policy. Part of his policy project included a trip to Washington, D.C. where Robin advocated for stronger wildlife trafficking regulations. 


Sierra Hoisington, in the owl costume, educates students about  Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
Sierra Hoisington, in the owl costume, educates students about Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Sierra Hoisington, spent the summer at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. In June, when visitation to the over 430,000-acre Okefenokee Swamp is at its peak, Sierra worked in visitor services before transitioning into hands-on conservation work for the remainder of her internship. The wildlife biology major also helped coordinate the annual Junior Refuge Ranger Summer Camp, taught lessons about swamp conservation at local libraries and assisted to maintain the refuge’s visitor center.

Matching college students with National Wildlife Refuges is a win for both —students gain real world experience working to conserve wildlife refuges and they help refuge staff complete projects during the busy summer season. Both Robin and Sierra enjoyed the experience and spoke highly of their summer on the refuge. The Refuge Association and Tigers for Tigers Coalition will likely continue the internship program in the summer of 2016.

For more information, read the interviews highlighting Robin Lloyd’s experience at Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge and Sierra Hoisington’s time at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. 


By Justin Jacques, Communications Intern


In the two months since the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved their annual bills to fund the Department of the Interior, under which the National Wildlife Refuge System and other wildlife conservation programs operate, Capitol Hill has been abuzz with activity.

The House and Senate have proposed legislative language in hopes of officially passing the bills before FY2015 appropriations expire on October 1. But despite progress, the Interior bill has not passed either chamber, nor do we expect it to. Congress will likely pass an omnibus bill or a Continuing Resolution (CR) prior to the October 1 deadline.


But overshadowing the passage of any individual bills is the fact that Congress and the President have differing views on spending caps. Two years ago, the “fiscal cliff” (deep mandatory proposed spending cuts across the entire government) was averted with a two-year deal, which rejected such cuts.  Those years are up and the Republican-led House and Senate believe the cuts should be reinstated.  The President believes those cuts will hurt our economy.  This sets up the potential for another government shutdown at the beginning of October.

In the current drafts, both the House and Senate Interior bills keep funding levels for critical conservation operations and maintenance and grant funding relatively intact. There are, however, several riders included in both bills that could have harmful impacts to America’s wildlife refuges.

For the Refuge System Operations and Maintenance FY2016 budget, the House recommends an increase of $10 million (for a total of $484 million) and the Senate recommend an increase of $1 million, (for a total of $475.2 million). For the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the House supports a cut of $20 million and the Senate proposes an increase of $1.4 million from FY2015’s $47.5 million in total funding. The Senate bill also contains a rider that would authorize the completion of a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, which the National Wildlife Refuge Association has opposed.

The President’s request recommended increases for both: $508.2 million in appropriations for the Refuge System’s Operations and Maintenance budget, which supports daily conservation activities on more than 568 million acres of public lands across the nation, and $58.5 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which invests profits from offshore oil and gas drilling to enhance public lands.

Even at these higher amounts, the Refuge System would be operating on a budget of less than $1 per acre when including their marine responsibilities in the Pacific. Such restrictions not only impact wildlife management, but also local economies. The Refuge Association has long advocated that the Refuge System needs at minimum, $900 million annually to meet operational needs.

In addition to providing habitat for more than 350 endangered species and being great places to recreate, wildlife refuges are also economic powerhouses. Studies have shown that for every $1 appropriated to the Refuge System, about $5 is added into local economies. Each year, the Refuge System provides approximately 35,000 jobs, and $2.4 billion in total economic output.

Please consider contacting your Congressional representatives, and urge them to adequately fund the Refuge System. Our actions can help ensure we benefit wildlife and their habitats.



Benefits of Peer-to-Peer Workshop
By Justin Jacques, Communications Intern

Arial View of Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge | Credit: USFWS

Recently, a peer-to-peer workshop was hosted by the Friends of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. The weekend long workshop, held at Florida’s Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, attracted about 60 attendees from area Refuge Friends Groups, local wildlife refuges and the National Wildlife Refuge Association. They discussed the new Friends policy agreement and offered presentations on member recruitment and engagement strategies, social media and fundraising. Ross Knudsen, president of the Friends of Crystal River, local wildlife photographer John Moran, Refuge Association’s Joan Patterson and others gave remarks at the workshop. 


“My vision was to make these workshops an important part of Friends Group plans to come together in the future for this purpose of working together,” said Shirley Knudsen, who helped to organize the workshop and serves as a chairperson for the Friends of Crystal River. “That vision was realized when the Ding Darling Friends Group volunteered to host the workshops in two years.”

In the months since the workshop’s attendees went home “tired but inspired,” the Friends of Crystal River have held meetings to promote the refuge’s vision to provide stronger protections for Florida manatees, which live nearby and attract visitors from across the nation. The refuge proposed a new set of rules in August that would restrict visitors from swimming with local manatees wintering in Three Sisters Springs, and has been accepting suggestions from the public.

“Our Friends Group fully supports the refuge in its efforts to protect the manatees and their habitat,” Knudsen said.

Friends of Crystal River has been perhaps most successful in its efforts to develop an education program, which has engaged local 4th and 5th grade students since 2012. The “Nature of Learning” program, fully-funded by the Friends Group, provides field trips to the refuge that include hands-on learning activities. The Friends Group is seeking to strengthen this program, which Citrus County School System administrators believe has contributed to an overall increase in 5th graders’ standardized test scores since it began. The organization’s plan is to build a dedicated education center that would accommodate students, adults and tourists. They also want to expand their existing program to teach a wider range of schools and age groups.

If you are a Friends group interested in having a positive impact like this on your local community, click here for more information. Or contact Joan Patterson at

Manatee at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge | Credit: Carol Grant


Donate Today to Receive a Limited Edition 40th Anniversary Photo Book!

PhotobookTo keep the party going and continue celebrating our 40th anniversary, we are unveiling a new limited edition 40th Anniversary Photo Book. This photo book includes 40 of the best photographs from our photo contests representing the immense variety of wildlife and landscapes throughout the Refuge System.

For a limited time, this special photo book can be yours for a donation of $140 or more to the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

Click here to get your limited edition photo book now!




Birding Community E-Bulletin August



GETTING TO KNOW Virginia Rettig


Virginia Rettig and Sally Jewell | Photo: USFWS


Virginia Rettig is manager of Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, New Jersey

The Refuge is Best Known For: The refuge’s most well-known feature is Wildlife Drive, an 8-mile road that goes through woodlands and wetlands. In my opinion, it’s one of the best spots on the east coast to go birding.

The Refuge’s Best Kept Secret: The deCamp Wildlife Trail is located in the northern section of the refuge. Visitors who find this hidden gem are rewarded with a beautiful walk through a forested area.

The Most Interesting Species on the Refuge: I I would say it’s the piping plover. It’s a threatened species in New Jersey.

My Favorite Activity on the RefugeWalking on Holgate Beach in the winter. You can walk the beach, view wildlife and just plain relax in the crisp air.

The Best Time to Visit the Refuge: Every day–really, there is always something to experience on the refuge!



Friends, are you connected?

RefugeFriendsConnect graphic is a membership site that is managed by NWRA and a group of volunteers. If you are a Friends group member or are refuge staff working with Friends you are welcome to join.


Keep an eye out for these upcoming events: 

White-tailed Deer with a female Cowbird perched on its head | Stephen Maxson
Stephen Maxson

Sept. 8 – 50th Anniversary of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota

Sept. 11 – 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance (nationwide)

Sept. 12-13 – 14th Annual Dragonfly Festival at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

Sept. 14-18 – Association of Partners for Public Lands: Partnership Academy (online)

Sept. 19 – Cradle of Birding Festival, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, Pennsylvania

Sept. 19 – Quarter Celebration at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware

Sept. 26 – National Public Lands Day, also a fee free day (nationwide)

Sept. 26 – Nisqually Watershed Festival, Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, Washington

National Wildlife Refuge Association


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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

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