Last month, the Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General (OIG)issued their report on theU.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 letterto 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.
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,
Friends, 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 hatcherythat 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/34FG0tTfor 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.