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

Friends Photo Contest Winner for February

Our Photo Contest for February brought in so many spectacular photos. One small change-only in the event of a tie, will the two photos go to NWRA’s Facebook page to determine the winner. We are still working out all the “kinks” for this and appreciate your patience.      

For February the winning photo taken by Dale Bales, is of a bison and a fiery red sunset at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Prairie City, Iowa. Linda Frazier has other photos of the Refuge.    

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City, Iowa was established in 1990 with the purpose to protect, restore and reconstruct and manage native ecosystems of tallgrass prairie, oak savanna and sedge meadow. Prior to European-American settlement, tallgrass prairie covered 85% of Iowa. Today, less than 0.1% of Iowa’s prairie remains in small isolated fragments. In an effort to bring back native prairie plant communities, refuge staff and volunteers gathered and used local seed sources to replant or reconstruct 4,000 acres of tallgrass prairie.

Today, the refuge protects over 6,000 acres of wildlife habitat and provides visitors, students, researchers and local landowners with educational, recreational and volunteer opportunities to learn about and enjoy their native tallgrass prairie heritage.

The Friends of Neal Smith NWR exists to assist the Refuge and the staff in a variety of ways. Helping with publicity, including through funding of a billboard is ongoing. Concerts, Bison Days, trail walks, guest speakers, gatherings of Friends group members, volunteer work days, art exhibits, photography contest and exhibits, scholarships, funding of transportation for school field trips, funding for internships, greeting visitors and operating the Nature Store are just some of the ways in which the Friends of NSNWR are involved with this special Refuge. 

Continue ReadingFriends Photo Contest Winner for February

Spotlight on Fort Niobrara NWR

Last month, Mark Lindvall shared this amazing video when he was at Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge during their bison roundup. Thank you, Mark!

Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge is located in north central Nebraska and encompasses also 20,000 acres. The Refuge was once a frontier military fort and was established in 1912 as a “preserve and breeding ground for native birds”. Later, the Refuge’s purpose was expanded to include the conservation of bison and elk herds, like those that once roamed the Great Plains.

At Fort Niobrara NWR you will see a unique blend of topography, soils, and rock formations. The Niobrara River flows across the Refuge for 9 miles, cutting deep canyons into the limestone rocks along the river.

You can drive the 3 ½ mile auto tour route near the Visitor Center to see bison, prairie dogs, elk, many different birds and historical points of interest. There is a scenic overlook just off the highway that runs by the Refuge. Also, a nature trail descends stairs down to the base of Fort Falls and continues to the Niobrara River.

Definitely put Fort Niobrara on your list of Refuges to visit!

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Friends Share the Marvels of your Refuge or Hatchery!

Friends members post photos of your Refuge/Hatchery (or of a Refuge/Hatchery you have visited) as often as you would like on the Coalition if Refuge Friends and Advocates (CORFA) Facebook group. When you post photos, your Refuge/Hatchery could be chosen for the monthly “spotlight”. If chosen, your Refuge/Hatchery will have a special profile on the CORFA Facebook page, website.

This program will be a great way to celebrate the wonder and beauty of the Refuge System and explore our similarities and differences. Every Refuge/Hatchery is unique – let’s share this with each other and grow awareness of these extraordinary places.

When you post a photo, please include a short description, the name of the Refuge/Hatchery, the state it is located in and your name. This opportunity if for members of Friends organizations that support refuges and hatcheries managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. By posting your photo, you agree that CORFA and potentially other partners can use the photo in their social media.So, get out your camera and share what you love about your Refuge/Hatchery!

Photo of one of the older bull bison at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Prairie City, Iowa. This bison was born in 2003. Each year the new calves have a microchip implanted, blood drawn and a hair sample taken so the Refugee staff can track their age, DNA and other vital statistics.
Photo credit: Joan Van Gorp/Friends of Neal Smith NWR, IA

Continue ReadingFriends Share the Marvels of your Refuge or Hatchery!

Friends Mentoring: A Program To Boost Your Partnership’s Success

The Fall 2021 application for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Friends Mentor Program is now available! This program boosts the success of the partnership between Friends and USFWS staff by providing peer-to-peer coaching.

To learn more about the program check out the materials from the Webinar held on Wednesday, September 15. The webinar addressed:

  • What is mentoring all about?
  • How does the program work?
  • What kinds of challenges can be addressed by the Mentor Program and what things cannot?

Below are the recording and other materials from and mentioned during the webinar.

We thank Linda Schnee, National Friends Coordinator, and Cheryl Hart, Refuge Friends Mentor for presenting this webinar.

Applications are due October 31, 2021. For additional information on this program go to the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Friends page.

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Survey about Webinars: What Else You Shared!

CORFA logo with a wordcloud

This is the third and final blog on what we learned from our recent survey about webinar topics. Thank you to the 88 people who responded to the survey and for all your thoughtful comments. CORFA is all about Friends helping Friends so if you see a topic listed that you or your Friends group has some experience and expertise with, please let us know at, we’d love your help.

The graphic above depicts some of the most common topics that Friends mentioned in the tell us more section of the survey. These topics are listed in order of the number of times they were mentioned. What we hear is the Friends are looking for information on:

  • Fundraising with specific requests for training on capital campaigns and bequests as well as virtual fundraising.
  • Board and Volunteer recruitment along with community outreach. The survey tells us that we have work to do to build the boards and organizations that represent our communities and reach out to all members of those communities and welcome them to our refuges/hatcheries.
  • Strengthening partnerships with the refuge was mentioned several times. One goal of our webinars is to provide opportunities to learn more about our partners’ program, don’t forget there are other resources as well. The FWS Friends Mentoring program is targeted at strengthening partnerships. The next round of applications for Mentoring is expected right after Labor Day and we will be doing a webinar on mentoring and the application process closer to that date.
  • Finance, earlier this year two webinars were presented. You can access the recordings of those and all the webinars we’ve presented in the Resource Center tab on this website.
  • Stores, online stores, and inventory were also mentioned. Are you aware that CORFA has a Facebook group for retail that is very responsive to questions. We have also talked about starting some informal discussion groups one of which could center around topics related to stores. We’re looking for volunteers to help with this effort.
  • Collaboration with other Friends groups, we don’t get together often enough at the regional or national level. We are cooking up some ideas for Friends gatherings—probably virtual for now.
  • And finally what time of day should the webinars be offered? People who work during the day are not able to attend live. We are at a loss as to when we could present the webinars so that everyone who wants to participate live, can do that. Our refuge and hatcheries Friends groups span 9 time zones and the International Dateline. If you have suggestions, let us know.

While we try to provide a wide range of training specific to Friends groups, again, we are not the only resource. Someone asked for training on wildlife and environment. Someone else was concerned about hunting on refuges. That is not in our wheelhouse but there are many workshops and trainings available through FWS’s National Conservation Training Center, most of which can be paid for by FWS scholarships. Talk to your Regional Friends Coordinator about training in the topics you are interested in.

We are searching for Friends groups with expertise in all of these topics. If you are interested in sharing your experiences and expertise please contact us at

You gave us so much valuable information and we are trying to make good use of it to provide you with the training you want and need. Thank you!

Be sure to join the CORFA Facebook group and NWRA Friends contacts (E-Newsletter and Advocacy and Webinar invitations)

Continue ReadingSurvey about Webinars: What Else You Shared!