activities or programs related to the Big 6 uses: hunting, fishing, environmental education, wildlife observation, interpretation, and photography

June Photo Contest

Winner: Jim Osborn, Friends of Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, Illinois

The monarch butterfly, like so many butterflies, is a remarkable and beautiful insect. Its beauty lies not only in its physical appearance but also in its remarkable life cycle, migration, symbolism, and ecological significance. One of the most remarkable aspects of monarch butterflies is their long-distance migration. Every year, millions of monarchs undertake an incredible journey, flying thousands of miles from Canada and the United States to Mexico or Southern California. This natural phenomenon showcases their resilience and adds to their enchantment.

The monarch butterfly population has been declining in recent years due to habitat loss, climate change, and pesticide use. As a result, their beauty becomes even more precious and a symbol of the need to protect and preserve our natural environment. Butterflies serves as a reminder of the wonders of nature and the importance of conservation efforts to ensure its continued existence.

The Friends of Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge received a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for a pollinator garden to create habitat for monarchs and other pollinators. It has been a huge success. The garden provides an opportunity for visitors to learn about the importance of native plants and their role in supporting local wildlife, including pollinators. It showcases different gardening techniques that can be used to create wildlife-friendly habitats, such as planting native species, incorporating water features, and creating nesting structures.

In addition to its educational value, the garden also offers a peaceful and scenic setting for visitors to enjoy. It provides a chance to observe birds, butterflies, and other wildlife that are attracted to the diverse plant life within the garden. The garden and the milkweed field attract monarch butterflies who rely on milkweed plants as their exclusive host plant for laying eggs and as a food source for their caterpillars. The Friends of Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, along with refuge staff, work to maintain and restore milkweed populations within the refuge. By ensuring a healthy supply of milkweed and other nectar-rich plants, they provide crucial resources for monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge (CONWR) is a 43,890-acre national wildlife refuge located in southern Illinois. Established in 1947, the refuge is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Its primary objectives are to provide habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife, conserve natural resources, and offer recreational opportunities to the public.

The refuge is supported by the Friends of Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and promoting the refuge’s mission. The Friends group consists of individuals passionate about conservation and wildlife preservation. They contribute their time, resources, and expertise to assist with habitat restoration, wildlife monitoring, environmental education, and community outreach initiatives. The group organizes events, workshops, and guided tours that promote environmental awareness and engage the local community in conservation activities. To find out more about the Friends go to Friends of Crab Orchard NWR.

In summary, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge is a diverse wildlife habitat that provides essential resources for a variety of species, including butterflies like the monarch. The Friends of Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge play a key role in supporting the refuge’s mission and working towards the conservation and preservation of butterflies and other wildlife.

Congratulations Jim!

Continue ReadingJune Photo Contest

May Photo Contest

  • Hulē‘ia National Wildlife Refuge
  • Kilauea Point Lighthouse
  • Kilauea Point Lighthouse

The Friends of Kauaʻi Wildlife Refuges always post wonderful videos of their beautiful Refuges and the amazing wildlife found there. So, we are spotlighting their Refuges this month.

Map of Kaua'i

Friends of Kauaʻi Wildlife Refuges supports the environmental and wildlife conservation, historic preservation and community education programs of the Kauaʻi National Wildlife Refuge Complex and includes Kīlauea Point NWR, Hanalei NWR and Hulēʻia NWR.

The Friends help to fill in the gaps in the programs administered by the Refuge team by providing funding and Friends group staffing to support a variety of refuge priorities. Friends of Kauaʻi Wildlife Refuges also manages the Friends Nature Store and Visitor Center at Kīlauea Point NWR, supports environmental education programs, administers an annual scholarship, conducts community outreach and much more!

Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge is the oldest and largest of the three Refuges located on Kauaʻi. It was established in 1972 to recover threatened and endangered species, including the koloa (Hawaiian duck), ʻalae keʻokeʻo (Hawaiian coot), ʻalae ʻula (Hawaiian Gallinule), aeʻo (Hawaiian Stilt) and nēnē (Hawaiian Goose). The Refuge is comprises 917 acres and is located near the town of Hanalei.

The Refuge consists of managed wetlands that mimic the unique natural Hawaiian wetland systems, which provide all the necessary life history requirements for native Hawaiian and migratory waterbird species. In addition to the five threatened and endangered waterbirds for which the refuge is primarily managed to protect, 49 other species of birds also use the Refuge.

nēnē stands on a hill side

Hulē‘ia National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1973 to recover threatened and endangered species, including the koloa (Hawaiian duck), ʻalae keʻokeʻo (Hawaiian coot), ʻalae ʻula (Hawaiian Gallinule), aeʻo (Hawaiian Stilt) and nēnē (Hawaiian Goose). The Refuge is comprises 241 acres and is located near the city of Līhu‘e.

A mōlī parent sits on its recently hatched chick.

Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1985 to protect and enhance migratory seabirds and threatened and endangered species including the nēnē (Hawaiian Goose) and ʻaʻo (Newell’s Shearwater) populations and their habitats.

The Refuge is located on the northernmost point of Kaua‘i and the Main Hawaiian Islands and includes a spectacular 568-foot ocean bluff. Kīlauea Point NWR is home to thousands of migratory and resident seabirds including ʻā (Red-footed Booby), mōlī (Laysan Albatross), ʻiwa (Great Frigatebird), koaʻe kea (White-tailed Tropicbird), koaʻe ʻula (Red-tailed Tropicbird), ʻuaʻu kani (Wedge-tailed Shearwater), and ʻaʻo (Newell’s Shearwater). The Refuge is comprised 199 acres and is located near the town of Kīlauea.

The Refuge team is also charged with the preservation and maintenance of the Daniel K. Inouye Kīlauea Point Lighthouse and lighthouse keepers’ homes, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Out of public view is a comprehensive multi-partner wildlife conservation project entitled the Nihokū Ecosystem Restoration Project. The project was developed in 2012 to provide a predator-free nesting area for ʻaʻo (Newell’s Shearwaters) and ʻuaʻu (Hawaiian Petrels), Hawaiʻi’s only two endemic seabirds, and enhance existing breeding colonies of mōlī (Laysan Albatross) and nēnē (Hawaiian Goose

We thank USFWS for the photos.

Continue ReadingMay Photo Contest

April Photo Contest Winner

Why It Matters” – April Winner!

  • People standing around an endangered plant
  • hiker on trail in a montane rain forest
  • people gathered in front of sign for Hakalau Forest
  • Volunteer at Hakalau Forest
  • Volunteers resting in Hakalau Forest
  • Magnificent tree

Ken Kupchak’s post of Hakalau Forest NWR was the April winner. Ken shared that the Refuge is “a place to hang out, contemplate, share with a “Friend” in the most special places around.” Ken is always posting interesting photos of this incredible Refuge so check the Facebook page often.

Map of Hawai'i

Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1985, consists of 2 distinct parcels. The Hakalau Forest Unit is a 32,830-acre parcel on the windward slopes of Mauna Kea on Hawai’i Island. In 1997 the USFWS purchased 5,300 acres south of Kailua-Kona, on the slopes of Mauna Loa, which became the Kona Forest Unit. In 2019, an additional 10,000 acres were added to the Kona Unit through the purchase of McCandless Ranch lands adjacent to the original parcel, making the total acreage for the Kona Forest Unit 15,448 acres.

The higher elevation Hakalau Forest Unit contains some of the finest remaining stands of native montane rain forest in Hawai’i and habitat for 29 critically endangered species including 7 birds, 1 insect, 1 mammal and 20 plants found nowhere else in the world. Currently, it is the only place in Hawai’i where native forest bird populations are stable or increasing.

The lower elevation Kona Forest Unit is predominantly ‘ōhi‘a (Metrosideros polymorpha) trees with an understory of nonnative trees & shrubs & home to a number of endangered birds, plants & one insect. This area was home to the last wild pair of ʻalalā (Corvus hawaiiensis) in 2002. The primary purpose of this unit is to protect, conserve and manage this native forest for threatened or endangered species.

The Friends organization was established in 2006 and provides vital fundraising, volunteer and advocacy support to help make Hakalau Forest NWR one of the most significant refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The mission of the Friends of Hakalau Forest (FOHF) is to support the USFWS’s efforts at the Hakalau and Kona Forest Units in terms of preserving, protecting and restoring the biological diversity at both locations, while simultaneously providing opportunity for wildlife-dependent recreation such as birding or photography, education, cultural experiences and scientific research.

orange and grey bird

FOHF has contributed directly to the quality of habitat at Hakalau Forest NWR by such efforts as providing volunteer labor to propagate and out-plant native trees and rare plants, conducting weed control efforts and by raising funds for the construction of much needed facilities including a 10,000-gallon tank to store water for the plant nursery and a new roof for the Volunteer Cabin.

Congratulations Ken and the Friends of Hakalau Forest NWR!

Hawai’i ‘akepa photo by Ellen Schwene

Continue ReadingApril Photo Contest Winner

March Photo Contest Winner

Why It Matters” – March Winner!!

Jim Osborn’s post of the Bluebird Box Project at Crab Orchard NWR, IL, received the most likes in March. Jim wrote that thanks to this project at the Refuge, the species is making a comeback. Jim shared photos of Volunteer Rick Whitecotton, who along with his wife Ruie regularly monitors 19 of approximately 100 boxes on the Refuge. Other volunteers monitor the rest. One of the photos shows a nest with 6 new eggs! What a great project to help this beautiful bird!

  • Bluebird eggs in a nest
  • nesting box with a bluebird nest
  • person checking a bluebird nesting box
  • rock bluff
  • Jeep driving along dirt road through a forest
  • People bird watching
  • people fishing at a pier
  • Building

Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, located in southern Illinois, was established in 1947. The Refuge’s 44,000 acres of land and water contain a wide diversity of flora and fauna. Major habitat types on the refuge include hardwood forest, agricultural land, grazing units, brushland, wetlands, and lakes. The Refuge provides significant resting areas for migratory birds utilizing the Mississippi Flyway. Wintering numbers of Canada Geese can peak at 200,000. A total of 700 plant species, 245 bird species, 33 mammal species, 63 fish species, and 44 reptile and amphibian species have been documented on the refuge.

The western 24,000 acres of the Refuge provide a wide range of recreational opportunities and include a 4,050-acre wilderness area. The eastern portion, 20,000 acres, is a wildlife sanctuary, and public use is limited. Industrial activities on the Refuge range from manufacturing and storage facilities to administrative offices. Many buildings now housing industries were used in the manufacturing of explosives during World War II, and they are still used for military ordnance production today. The concrete igloos built for munition storage are now leased to private industry for storage of many types of products.

Established in 2000, the Friends of Crab Orchard Refuge have worked collaboratively with the Refuge staff and the community to fundraise, provide volunteer services and support Refuge programs. The Friends are dedicated to enhancing use of the Refuge for wildlife conservation, conservation, recreation agriculture and industry. The Friends have over 180 members and operate the Woodland Gift Shop. They also support the Pollinator Gardens at the Refuge, eradication of invasive botanical species on the Refuge and creation of new habitat. The Friends have also purchased kayaks, archery equipment, picnic tables and more for the Refuge.

Congratulation Jim and the Friends of Crab Orchard NWR!

Continue ReadingMarch Photo Contest Winner

February Photo Contest Winner

Lisa Jansen-Rees has shared several photos of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and her post this month was the winner for February. Lisa wrote in her post “the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge matters because its unspoiled beauty gives us a glimpse of our history. And while many artists try to capture that beauty on canvas, nothing beats experiencing the sites, scents, sounds, and feel of walking through God’s country”. Mike and Cathy Ward’s stunning sunset photo at Caddo Lake was included with the post.

  • Wichita Mountains
  • Lake Elmer Thomas Trail Wichita Mountains
  • Mural welcoming people to Oklahoma
  • Sunset as Caddo Lake

Also in January, Lisa shared another reason the Refuge matters. Health studies indicate spending time in nature increases feelings of calmness, increases endorphin levels and dopamine production, restores capacity for concentration and attention, reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, lowers blood pressure and cortisol levels, reduces irritability and decreases feelings of isolation. The WMWR includes 8,570 acres of designated Wilderness area where people regularly go to “lose their minds and find their souls.”

Wichita Mountains is one of the oldest, most prestigious national wildlife refuges in America. Set aside in 1901, Wichita Mountains was originally established as a forest reserve. President Theodore Roosevelt redesignated the area in 1905 as the Wichita Forest and Game Preserve created “for the protection of game animals and birds and shall be recognized as a breeding place thereof.” Encompassing 59,020 acres (about 90 square miles), the refuge manages 22,400 acres for public use and 8,570 acres of Wilderness.

The Refuge is located about 20 minutes northwest of Lawton, Oklahoma and attracts between 1.52 and 1.72 million visitors each year. The Refuge hosts a rare piece of the past – a remnant mixed grass prairie, an island where the natural grasslands escaped destruction because the rocks underfoot defeated the plow. Worn by time and nature, the Wichita Mountains loom large above the prairie in southwest Oklahoma—a lasting refuge for wildlife. Best known for its roaming herds of bison, longhorn, and Rocky Mountain elk, Wichita Mountains also offers quality opportunities for wildlife dependent recreation including fishing, bird watching, wildlife photography, hiking, camping, and kayaking.

The Friends of the Wichitas was loosely formed in the late 1980’s, near the time the USFWS started it’s Friends Initiative, by a group of faithful Refuge volunteers with a vision for the future. Since that time the FOW has filed its 501c3 certificate with the state of Oklahoma, updated its charter and policies with the help of CORFA and the NWRA, opened a very popular Nature Store within the Visitors Center, funded historic restoration, led extremely popular public tours on behalf of Refuge management, and regularly boasted approximately 300 members strong.

Congratulation Lisa and the Friends of the Wichitas!

Continue ReadingFebruary Photo Contest Winner