Don’t you love a good story that engages your senses and makes you want to take action?
We’re wired for stories. From the very beginning, as individuals and as a species, we immerse ourselves in stories from the arrival of our children to reminiscing about family members who have passed.
The stories we tell about our organizations let folks know why we exist and the impact we’re having on those we serve. The stories we tell about the work being done on our refuges and hatcheries should motivate folks to care about and support these sites.
*3 1-hr Sessions: Wednesday, January 25th at 7 – 8:00 PM ET Thursday, February 2nd at 2 – 3:00 PM ET Thursday, February 9th at 5 – 6:00 PM ET
*We want to hear from all Friends groups!!! We are offering multiple sharing sessions. Catch one session or all sessions. We hope to hear from you!
Has your Friends organization, refuge or hatchery, and community been impacted by the ongoing U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service budget shortfalls? Has the lack of national wildlife refuge or hatchery staffing impacted whether your friend’s organization can meet its mission? What are you experiencing?
Let’s tell our stories. Please share your thoughts and observations during a series of upcoming virtual sharing sessions created to hear your concerns and brainstorm actions.
It is our hope that by gaining an understanding of what you are seeing in your refuge or hatchery, we can work together to help build messages to send to our local, regional, and national representatives that will support the need for adequate funding and staffing for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs.
Homework: Participants should be prepared with information to discuss the following questions:
1) What are the greatest impacts to Friends’ organizations resulting from ongoing budget cuts? Share with us what you are seeing in any or all aspects of the refuge and hatchery systems that effect your friend’s group and the local community: land and water conservation, management, recreation, and public use (i.e.., hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, interpretation).
2)What is the one issue that you want your federal legislative representative to know?
Together, we all become stronger advocates for our beloved national wildlife refuges and hatcheries. So, let’s start by sharing our stories.
The Cedar Keys NWR was established in 1929 to help protect shore birds, which at the time were being taken in huge numbers for their plumage which was highly valued by the millinery business worldwide. The 900-acre refuge, made up of on 13 islands provides breeding grounds for thousands of ibises, egrets, spoonbills, pelicans, herons, and other shore birds.
The Lower Suwannee NWR was established 50 years later in 1979 to protect the water quality of the historic Suwannee River, 20 miles of which bisects the Refuge at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico. The flow of the Suwannee feeds the estuarine waters of the Gulf, habitat for the Gulf sturgeon and feeding grounds for resident and migratory shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl. The land had been heavily logged before becoming a refuge. The Refuge is working to restore and protect the bottomland hardwood swamps and forests along the Suwannee.
The Lower Suwannee Refuge also includes Shell Mound, an archaeological resource prominent as a civic-ceremonial site from about A.D. 400 to A. D. 650. The location held a burial site aligned with the setting sun on Winter Solstice.
What is our all-volunteer, 22-year-old Friends group doing now?
Celebrating Winter and Summer Solstice
Conducting Native Plant, Butterfly, and Photo Walks and creating trailside interpretive panels and new guides for visitor favorites such as gravel biking
Having outreach booths at local festivals and working to acquire a mobile outreach center to take the story of the Refuges to where the people are
Designing unique merchandise for our pandemic-inspired Online Store, with board members fulfilling orders from home
Acquiring grants to help restore Vista, a 14-acre former in-holding that the donors, who are members of Friends, turned over to the Refuge at our 2022 Annual Meeting.
Providing an extensive website with a blog, bios of Friends board and Refuge staff, a list of Friends members, descriptions of places of interest to visit on the Refuges, guides to seeing the Refuges from your kayak, maps and brochures for many Refuge areas and trails, a primer to butterflies of the Lower Suwannee Refuge, and a link to our widely-distributed and popular email News Brief
On Wednesday, December 21th, Libby Marking, Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy for the National Wildlife Refuge Association; Mark Musaus, NWRA Representative at Large and CORFA Advisory Council; and Joan Patterson, President of CORFA provided a legislative and regulatory update on recent issues impacting the National Wildlife Refuge System, including the appropriations process, and advocacy efforts for FY 2024.
The winner of the November Photo Contest is Julie Filiberti’s post of the community of birders at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in Vermont. The Friends of Missisquoi NWR hold monthly bird monitoring walks on four of the Refuge trails. As of Julie’s post they have had walks for a total of 151 months! They have tallied 162 different species and also as Julie wrote have “collected a wonderful group of people who come together to share the love of our avian friends.”
The Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1943 to provide habitat for migratory birds. It consists of 6,729 acres, mostly wetland habitats, which support a variety of migratory birds and other wildlife. The 900-acre Maquam bog is designated as a Research Natural Area and the Refuge was designated as an Important Bird Area in partnership with the Audubon Society. The Refuge in partnership with other publicly owned (State of Vermont) lands has been designated a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. A mosaic of wetland habitats offers opportunities to see and manage more than 200 species of birds. Fall migration features 20,000-25,000 migrating ducks. Nesting bald eagles, osprey and many other waterbirds are present on the refuge.
The Friends of Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge was established in 2002. The mission of the Friends is to promote a better awareness, appreciation, conservation and responsible utilization of the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge.
The majority of the Board members are birders, so a lot of their efforts tend to lean in that direction. Their aim is always to bring awareness to Missisquoi in new and creative ways. In addition, the Friends are the backbone for the Refuge in obtaining grant monies for invasive species control and natural science education. As with most refuges across the country, Missisquoi NWR does not have its operational needs met financially, so the Friends do what they can to help keep Missisquoi on its feet.
Julie said, “I have such appreciation for the group of birders that we’ve accumulated over the years. Many are regulars that make almost every walk we offer, and some are seasonal or join us occasionally. The Vermont birding community is very small and very friendly so it’s always exciting to have a new face appear and warmly welcome them into our birding group”.
Some other things to highlight about the Friends of Missisquoi: The Friends offer a store at the Refuge headquarters, but with Covid and subsequent lack of volunteer staffing at the refuge, it has been closed down other than when there has been an event onsite.
The Friends publish a quarterly newsletter highlighting what they have, what they are planning, and any Refuge information that is timely. Their Refuge Manager and Biologist always contribute a column also. All members of the Friends receive a newsletter.
The Friends have been hosting a Big Sit in October at the Stephen Young Marsh at the Refuge for a number of years now. Because they stay stationary on the marsh’s platform, it’s a chance for the public to connect with the Friends to find out what they are doing and maybe share a bit of avian and refuge knowledge. This year they tallied 41 different species in 12 hours in the marsh.
The Friends have been hosting “An Evening of Bird Tales” once a year in February. It started out as a live event where 4-5 people tell stories about birds. It could be any encounter or experience they’ve had with the avian world. Since Covid, it has turned into a virtual event, which has really widened the audience. In 2023, for the 7th annual Bird Tales, the Friends are partnering with the Vermont Center for Ecostudies and having biologists on their staff tell some of the stories of their encounters. It promises to be a win-win for both the Friends and VCE by bringing a new audience to both groups.
Because Bird Tales via Zoom has proved to be such a big hit, the Friends have been trying to host other online events throughout the winter months. This winter the focus is going to be on invasive species. They are planning a series of presentations from experts on the threats to the Refuge that are out there, what dangers they pose, and to teach visitors what to look out for.
In the spring of 2022 the Friends of Missisquoi NWR applied for and were awarded the National Wildlife Refuge Association’s O’Brien Prize. Julie wrote: We have developed a land acknowledgement recognizing the Abenaki culture that called the lands and waters home before the creation of the Refuge and have began working with the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi on ways to bring awareness to their existence. As stated in our acknowledgement, “We, the Friends of Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge, honor the Indigenous heritage of the region and welcome the opportunity to assist the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi in maintaining their close connection with their ancestral lands. Through education and partnership, we will work to bring awareness to their culture and existence. We invite our visitors to share in honoring this vision by engaging in mindfulness while enjoying the Refuge lands and waters and by holding the space with care and appreciation.”