A Little Nudge to Cheer on the 2020 Friends Group

2020 refuge awards for refuge manager, refuge employee, refuge volunteer and Friends group

Photo credit: NWRA

The National Wildlife Refuge Association’s 2020 Refuge Award Dinner is going virtual. Everyone is invited to attend this event on Thursday, October 22 nd, 7 to 8 PM EST. The awards honor the outstanding accomplishments by refuge managers, refuge employees, volunteers, and Friends groups.

This year, the Refuge Association is having a Friends Group competition. The winner will receive:

  • One hour of advocacy consulting from NWRA during a board meeting,
  • One hour of fundraising consulting from NWRA during a board meeting,
  • And one video highlighting your Friends Group!

To learn more about the competition and to register for the event go to https://bit.ly/3jMCBQt

Raise Your Voice!

pronhorns moving from left to rightFriends, have you read the Office of Inspector General report on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Friends Program? Every Friends group that supports a refuge or hatchery that is managed by USFWS should give it a read. A major finding of the report is that the USFWS did not maintain the information necessary to manage their Friends program. Additionally, portions of the report imply that Friends are using donations inappropriately.

Friends groups and volunteers are an enormous resource for the refuge and hatcheries systems. These community volunteers are dedicated to their local site and are scrupulously devoted to ensuring their activities benefit their site and the refuge and hatchery systems as a whole. The OIG report appears to question the use of funds generated by the Friends for expenditures for activities that benefit that Service site. These appear to be unfair accusations.

Ultimately, this report will bring changes to the Service’s policies and agreements with Friends organizations. Right now, the Service is crafting those changes. Friends, what’s your reaction to the report and the potential corrective actions that are being proposed? CORFA and the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) want to hear from you. Please share your comments and questions so we can all work together to strengthen the Friends program. NWRA/CORFA will compile the comments to be shared with Friends and the Service.

Go to https://bit.ly/34FG0tT for more information on submitting your comments and questions and for a link to the OIG report that contains USFWS response and corrective actions. Our goal is to provide the Service with input that will help create a strong program for both Friends and the Service.

Ensuring Independence for a Strong Partnership

The Interior Department’s Office of the Inspector General has completed their audit of the Refuge Friends program, and released their final report. The Refuge Association and the Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates have responded to this report with a letter to Interior Secretary Bernhardt expresses our dismay at the report.

volunteers after a clean up on a national wildlife refugeWe believe that Friends groups and volunteers are an enormous resource for the refuge and hatcheries systems. These community volunteers are dedicated to their local site and are scrupulously devoted to ensuring their activities benefit their site and the refuge and hatchery systems as a whole. They provide support by getting children out on a refuge to explore puddles, buying toilet paper, and raising funds for visitor centers. The implication that they are unable to operate under the laws of the State in which they are registered as a 501(c)(3) is insulting. Friends groups are being denigrated in the press by an under-researched and inaccurate report. 

Portions of the report imply that Friends are using donations inappropriately. The report does not recognize that Friends are independent organizations that must raise funds to support their operations and not all funds are raised on Service-managed property. Friends need to use funds, even those generated on site, for expenditures such as salaries and liability insurance that are required to operate nature stores. The report incorrectly assumes that all revenues generated by Friends must be used exclusively for the benefit of that refuge or hatchery. This stipulation only applies to net revenues generated on Service-managed property.

Click on the links to read the entire OIG report at and read our response letter