The Flyer E-Newsletter: November 2015



David Headshot

Thanksgiving is upon us and we at the National Wildlife Refuge Association are very grateful for you, our friends, supporters and advocates.

This year, the Refuge Association celebrated so many wonderful conservation successes for which we are incredibly thankful. Out west, years of collaborative conservation efforts between agencies, local partners and private landowners has resulted in a new model to ensure protection of the greater sage-grouse. And, with the release of a new report, The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: An American Crown Jewel In Need Of Permanent Protection, we launched a campaign to educate refuge supporters about the need to provide permanent Wilderness designation for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And in the south, we’re making great strides to further conserve the world-class wildlife resources in Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and habitat beyond the boundaries of this refuge located in south Texas.

We could not achieve these successes without the support of our members and donors. If you’d like to further contribute to our work and ensure our wildlife refuges have the necessary resources to thrive, consider making a donation to us this year. A great time to do so is on #GivingTuesday, Dec. 2. For more information on the giving season, keep an eye out in your inbox or on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

This year we’d also ask you to consider thanking the talented and inspiring men and women who serve our Refuge System. Do you know someone who works on a refuge as a manager, employee, volunteer or Friends group that goes the extra mile? Nominate them for a 2016 Refuge System Award.

Nominations are due Dec. 1. Don’t miss this opportunity to honor the people who put their hearts and souls into this System we love so much.

From all of us at the National Wildlife Refuge Association to you, have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

See you on a refuge,



David Houghton


Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, Calif.

Stranded Rail at Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge in California | Credit: Kirk Gilligan/USFWS

Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge protects the last salt marsh habitat in Southern California. But this ecosystem is threatened by the effects of climate change and rising sea levels. A recent U.S. Geological Service study revealed the marshes of Seal Beach are experiencing sea levels rising three times higher than in other Southern California marshes.

Seal Beach is embarking on a pilot project to conserve what remains of and even increase the salt marsh. In November, a thin layer of sediment will be applied to more than 10 acres of low salt marsh, which provides a natural nesting habitat for two endangered species: the California least tern and the light-footed Ridgeway’s (formerly clapper) rail.


The sediment project is the first of it’s kind on our nation’s west coast. Previously this method was applied to coastal wetlands in Louisiana, marshes in North Carolina and portions of the Chesapeake Bay in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland. These pilot studies have shown promising results.

Kirk Gilligan, refuge manager at Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, stated this could be the “future of salt marsh conservation.”

Seal Beach was founded to protect and conserve vital habitats for endangered and threatened species. Thousands of birds migrating up and down the Pacific Flyway use this area as a wintering habitat. The refuge also provides a home for the he United States’ third largest population of light-footed Ridgway’s rails. More than 400 endangered rails have been released back into the wild, courtesy of the refuge’s breeding program which began 14 years ago.


Fifteen, four-month old Ridgeway's rails were released on Sept. 25 – the last release of the season. |Credit: Charles Gailband
Fifteen, four-month old Ridgeway’s rails were released on Sept. 25 – the last release of the season. | Credit: Charles Gailband

Because Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge is located within an active military weapons station (Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach), access to the refuge is limited to special events and escorted tours. On the last Saturday of each month, Friends of Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge hosts monthly walking tours.

For more information, visit the refuge’s website



Due Dec. 1: Refuge System Awards Nominations

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah
Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah

Since 1994, the National Wildlife Refuge Association has sponsored national awards to highlight the individuals and groups who consistently go the extra mile to benefit and maintain our national wildlife refuges.

Let’s help recognize these dedicated supporters or Refuge System employees, and show our appreciation for their outstanding contributions!

Nominate a Friends Group, employee or volunteer for a 2016 National Wildlife Refuge System Award. Nominations are due Dec. 1.



2013 Award Winners

Past winners have included an employee of the year whose efforts have resulted in population increases among several at-risk species at Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Additionally, the 2013 volunteer of the year awardee’s 10,000 hours of service included playing a key role in restoring Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, in Utah, after it was left in ruins by a flood.

The National Wildlife Refuge System Awards seek to highlight personal stories describing the efforts of a dedicated refuge manager, employee, volunteer or friends group in their community. Read the inspiring stories conveying the achievements of the 2015 awardees.

For more information or to submit a nomination, visit the National Wildlife Refuge System Awards page at:

If you have additional questions, please email Debbie Harwood or call (202) 417-3803 x16.



Congress is finishing up the FY16 appropriations bills before current funding runs out at midnight on Dec. 11. Included in these discussions is the the operations and maintenance (O&M) accounts for the National Wildlife Refuge System, which is used to manage wildlife refuge lands and waters nationwide.

At the end of October, Congress negotiated a two-year budget deal which included a slight increase and the two chambers are working on finalizing appropriations. The Refuge Association has asked Appropriations Committee for robust budgets in this year’s bill and for no additional legislative language, called riders, to be included.




We support a clean appropriations bill that includes no riders, such as authorization of a road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. In our 2015 Legislative Priorities report, we recommended the National Wildlife Refuge System receive at least $508.2 million in operations and maintenance funding in FY16.

Land & Water Conservation Fund
Discussions on ways to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) are ongoing in the House and Senate. This federal land acquisition program expired on Sept. 30 and efforts have been underway for months to reauthorize it.

Opposing bills in the House have been introduced, one of which is bipartisan and would reauthorize the program with some minor tweaks for sportsmen’s access, while the other would dramatically change the program and has attracted criticism from conservationists, sportsmen, and other users. You can read our blog post about these bills.

On the Senate side, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) passed the sportsmen’s bill out of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee that would reauthorize LWCF with several minor changes.

The Refuge Association has supported LWCF for many years, as funding from the program has contributed to refuges across the country, from Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas to Rappahanock National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia to Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Washington and many more.


Spring Break on a Wildlife Refuge

Pahranagat Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. | Credit: Friends of Nevada Wilderness

Three years ago, Friends of Nevada Wilderness, set out to complete a variety of rehabilitation and beautification projects at Desert National Wildlife Refuge, the largest refuge in the lower 48 states. At first, it seemed the needed enhancements would not be finished in the near future. But after removing 4.07 acres of invasive plants, restoring 1.6 miles or routes of trail, planting 200 native plants and removing 0.15 miles of fencing, the group has a new challenge–finding work projects on the refuge. The restoration that seemed endless is tapering off. An awesome problem to have!




Friends of Nevada Wilderness’ volunteer group also includes college students who pitch in during the organization’s annual Alternative Spring Break. For the past four years, 15 to 20 students sign up for four days of stewardship projects. This year 13 students from the University of Nevada Las Vegas and Nevada State College learned restoration techniques, which included planting 1,000 willow trees at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge (Nevada). Due to an unusually wet spring, waters were much higher than normal and students could be seen planting willow saplings in chest deep water.

On the fifth day of spring break, project leaders take students out for a day of fun. Hikes and awe-inspiring views are their reward after four days of volunteering.

During the winter months, the refuge is looking for volunteers to help biologists monitor game cameras. If you’re in the area and would like to participate, email Jose Witt, Southern Nevada Manager for Friends of Nevada Wilderness.

For more info, visit the website:

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

Students plant willow saplings as part of their Alternative Spring Break activities at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada | Credit: Friends of Nevada Wilderness


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!


Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Narrowly Avoids Major Environmental Catastrophe



Kirk Gilligan, refuge manager at Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge | Credit: Mark Beaty

Kirk Gilligan is the refuge manager at Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, Calif.

The Refuge is Best Known For: Migratory birds visiting a highly urbanized area that has preserved its natural coastal salt marsh habitat.

The Refuge’s Best Kept Secret: The Refuge, located within Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach and normally closed to the public, is open to for tours the last Saturday of each month. (The next tour is on Nov. 28.)

 The Most Interesting Species on the RefugeGreen sea turtles, which normally don’t go this far north, were noticed here three years ago. They rely on ocean currents to migrate.

My Favorite Activity on the RefugeWorking on the boat to maintain bird nesting platforms.

The Best Time to Visit the Refuge: Depends on what you’re looking to see/do. Birders love October to January; marine life is most visible from June to August or September; and the gardens are blooming in March and April.



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: 

Wild turkeys

Keep an eye out for these upcoming events: 

Nov. 26: Thanksgiving Day. Thank you for helping us care for America’s national wildlife refuges all year long!

Nov. 28: Friends of Seal Beach hosts a free walking tour of Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge (California)

Dec. 1: #GivingTuesday. Donate to the Refuge Association. Help conserve our national wildlife refuges. (nationwide)

Dec. 1National Wildlife Refuge System Awards close. (nationwide)

Dec. 4Wilderness Wingding, Friends of Nevada Wilderness hosts its ninth annual end of year celebration and volunteer awards ceremony (Nevada)

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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