Sign On Letter to the Service about OIG Report

  • Post category:USFWS Policies
  • Reading time:2 mins read

landscape with yellow foliageLast month, the Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued their report on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Friends Program. The report details changes that the OIG believes need to be made to the Friends program. The Director of the Service, Aurelia Skipwith, concurred with the recommendations and the Service started implementing corrective actions before the report was made public.

The Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates (CORFA) and the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) want to thank all the refuge and hatchery Friends groups that provide us with comments on the report and the Service’s response. We have taken those comments and put together the in this letter to be sent to Director Skipwith.

We hope every refuge and hatchery Friends group (not individual Friends) will sign on to the letter to let the Service know that the Friends community wants to work with them to strengthen the Friends program. One of our objectives is to express our concerns with some of the OIG recommendations and the Service’s corrective actions. Our primary goal is to work with the Service, Friends, NWRA, CORFA and the Public Lands Alliance (PLA) to implement changes that will strengthen the partnership.

Please follow this link to the letter and then the sign on form. The deadline for sign-ons will be 5pm eastern Friday, October 30th. If you have questions contact us at http://coalitionofrefugefriends.com/contact/.

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A Little Nudge to Cheer on the 2020 Friends Group

  • Post category:News
  • Reading time:1 mins read
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

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Raise Your Voice!

  • Post category:USFWS Policies
  • Reading time:2 mins read

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.

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Ensuring Independence for a Strong Partnership

  • Post category:USFWS Policies
  • Reading time:2 mins read

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

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The Link — Fall 2020 Newsletter

  • Post category:News
  • Reading time:3 mins read

The Link is a quarterly newsletter produced in coordination between the National Wildlife Refuge Association and Coalition of Refuge Friends & Advocates.


Letter from Caroline Brouwer, VP of Government Affairs, NWRA:

As you are reading this, refuge staff are wrapping up their work under the current fiscal year (FY 2020) and beginning to implement their plans for this next year of work (FY 2021). Most visitor centers remain closed due to COVID-19, yet visitors are flocking to refuges to recreate, bird watch, hunt waterfowl, and get outside. Last year, over 59 million people visited wildlife refuges, and I’m sure that number is up dramatically due to the lockdowns.

Here in Washington, DC, Congress will be in recess the entire month of October to campaign in their states and districts before the election on November 3. Not only is this year a presidential election, but all members of Congress are on the ballot and 33 Senators are up for re-election. Please remember to get out and vote either by absentee/mail-in ballot or in person!

This year has seen some enormous successes for wildlife refuges. With your help, and the help of many partners, we got the Great American Outdoors Act passed. This act provides full and dedicated funding for land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund plus Refuge System backlog funding of $475 million over 5 years. This bill is one of the greatest conservation accomplishments in many years, and we appreciate all your help in getting it across the finish line!

Refuge Friends continue to be a critical part of the work we do. Last year, 56 Friends groups donated to the Refuge Association. As you know, a nonprofit is constantly fundraising, so we appreciate your support! We held our first quarterly Friends call on September 16 and are planning our second call in December 2020. Stayed tuned for a date and time! In February, we will be asking Friends groups to submit testimony to Congress on the state of their refuge—we need all of your voices to be heard!

I hope everyone is enjoying the fall weather!


Articles in the fall edition of The Link*

A Budget – All Friends Should Have One
Budget—it’s not always a favorite task but is one that Friends boards are responsible to undertake on a regular basis. Creating a budget and regularly reviewing it allows members, donors, prospects, and grant-makers to review your strategic priorities and gauge the health of your organization.

So You’ll Be Meeting with a Donor
Regardless of your Friends organization’s fiscal year-end, you will likely want to solicit donations as 2020 draws to a close. Why focus on year-end campaigns?

Creative Fundraising – Virtual and Otherwise
Successful organizations, including refuge Friends, must be nimble and able to pivot should circumstances require them to adjust to new or unexpected circumstances. We are pleased to share some ideas that are allowing Friends to continue raising funds, pay their bills, and support refuge projects as the pandemic continues.

*Articles are hosted on the NWRA website, just follow any of the article links above to access them all.

Continue Reading The Link — Fall 2020 Newsletter