resources for promoting the interest of Friends and refuges with the community and with decision-makers

How Important Is Advocacy for Your Refuge?

  • Post category:Advocacy
  • Reading time:4 mins read

Author: By Richard Dolesh, Chair, Board of Directors, Friends of Patuxent Research Refuge  (MD)

people surrounding a potted plant
As part of the Friends of Patuxent’s advocacy outreach efforts, the Friends did a container pollinator garden workshop in June of 2022 for new residents of Watershed, a large housing development on the northern boundary of Patuxent Research Refuge, Maryland | Alicia Menefee, HPS Management

The Friends of Patuxent Research Refuge takes advocacy seriously. The Patuxent Research Refuge has been threatened like never before in its 87-year history. Patuxent is a one-of-a-kind national wildlife refuge dedicated to wildlife research. It led a quiet existence, largely unknown by its surrounding communities, since its designation by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, but no more.

Not only are there the perennial issues of sufficient funding for budgets and staffing for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey missions on this 13,000-acre refuge that has been called “the lungs of Washington and Baltimore” by the late Paul Sarbanes, U.S. Senator of Maryland, but it faces external threats on virtually every boundary.

The threats to the refuge in recent years come from intensive, encroaching development in the Baltimore-Washington corridor; proposals by adjacent local and federal landowning agencies, namely NASA and Prince Georges County, to sell or develop large tracts of lands adjacent to the refuge once seemingly protected; and worst of all, a massive privately-owned transportation infrastructure project, the Baltimore-Washington Rapid Rail (BWRR) Superconducting Magnetic Levitation train, that would actually ‘take’ a significant amount of land from the refuge and permanently affect unique natural habitats of the refuge and the watershed of the Patuxent River and its tributaries.

group of people standing outside of a building
The Friends of Patuxent partnered with a group from the Prince George’s County chapter of The Links, a network of African American professional women, in 2021, to plant a containerized pollinator garden at the National Wildlife Visitor Center at Patuxent Research Refuge | Pierre Bahizi

Faced with such threats and incursions on all sides, the Friends of Patuxent have become staunch and vocal advocates for the integrity of the refuge and its research mission. We have been active in contacting local, state, and national elected officials, particularly the Maryland US Congressional delegation, to advocate for the refuge and Eastern Ecological Science Center of USGS. We have become media savvy and learned who the most effective reporters and opinion writers are for the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and local and regional media outlets, and we have invited them to take tours of the refuge, led by Friends members, to see firsthand what the threats were. And we have been vocal, testifying on appropriations and commenting on legislation and proposed regulations. None of this was easy, but it came naturally when we saw the urgency and magnitude of the threats our refuge was facing and how we were the only ones who could speak unfettered on its behalf.

Perhaps most importantly in our advocacy, we have tried to reach out to the communities that surround the refuge to encourage them to act on behalf of the refuge, not just to learn about it and come out to enjoy it, but to become advocates for its protection and its future. 

If your Friends group has not considered advocacy a critical part of your purpose, based on our experience at Patuxent Research Refuge, now is the time you should.

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Sharing Our Stories: What Impacts Of Ongoing Budget Cuts Do You See?

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

*3 1-hr Sessions:
Wednesday, January 25th at 7 – 8:00 PM ET
Thursday, February 2nd at 2 – 3:00 PM ET
Thursday, February 9th at 5 – 6:00 PM ET

*We want to hear from all Friends groups!!! We are offering multiple sharing sessions. Catch one session or all sessions. We hope to hear from you!

Has your Friends organization, refuge or hatchery, and community been impacted by the ongoing U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service budget shortfalls? Has the lack of national wildlife refuge or hatchery staffing impacted whether your friend’s organization can meet its mission? What are you experiencing? 

Let’s tell our stories. Please share your thoughts and observations during a series of upcoming virtual sharing sessions created to hear your concerns and brainstorm actions. 

It is our hope that by gaining an understanding of what you are seeing in your refuge or hatchery, we can work together to help build messages to send to our local, regional, and national representatives that will support the need for adequate funding and staffing for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs. 

Homework: Participants should be prepared with information to discuss the following questions:

1) What are the greatest impacts to Friends’ organizations resulting from ongoing budget cuts? Share with us what you are seeing in any or all aspects of the refuge and hatchery systems that effect your friend’s group and the local community: land and water conservation, management, recreation, and public use (i.e.., hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, interpretation).

2)What is the one issue that you want your federal legislative representative to know?

Together, we all become stronger advocates for our beloved national wildlife refuges and hatcheries. So, let’s start by sharing our stories.

Sign Up!

Continue ReadingSharing Our Stories: What Impacts Of Ongoing Budget Cuts Do You See?

NWRA/CORFA Winter 2022 Legislative Update for Friends

  • Post category:Advocacy
  • Reading time:2 mins read

On Wednesday, December 21th, Libby Marking, Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy for the National Wildlife Refuge Association; Mark Musaus, NWRA Representative at Large and CORFA Advisory Council; and Joan Patterson, President of CORFA provided a legislative and regulatory update on recent issues impacting the National Wildlife Refuge System, including the appropriations process, and advocacy efforts for FY 2024.

Recording of the webinar.

The slides and other resources shared during the webinar are available in our Resource Center.

orange wild flowers

Continue ReadingNWRA/CORFA Winter 2022 Legislative Update for Friends

Can Friends Groups Advocate and Even Lobby?

  • Post category:Advocacy
  • Reading time:2 mins read
Photo with Senator Merkley (OR)

Occasionally Friends groups will here that they cannot lobby, but that is not true. The U.S. Congress and IRS say that it’s legal for nonprofits to lobby as long as it’s not a substantial portion of your activities. In 1976 Congress established clear guidance on how much a 501(c)(3) can expend on lobbying activities. Learn how to measure your lobbying activities using the expenditure test.

Since refuge and hatchery employees are paid with government funds, they are not allowed to lobby, or seek to directly influence specific legislation that effects refuges or hatcheries. However, Friends groups have the right, and arguably even the obligation, to lobby on behalf of the National Wildlife Refuge System, the Hatchery System and their own personal national wildlife refuge or hatchery. Just remember not to lobby while at a Service-managed site (like your refuge or hatchery).

Photo: National Wildlife Refuge Association Former Board Members Chad Brown (left) and service dog Axe and Cheryl Hart (right) with Senator Merkley (OR)

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The Power Of Having Your Members Of Congress Visit Your National Wildlife Refuge

  • Post category:Advocacy
  • Reading time:2 mins read

Wednesday, July 20th, 2:00 pm ET

Friends do many things to show support for their refuge but perhaps few can have as much impact on budget and advocacy as having your Members of Congress and/or their aides visit your refuge or hatchery.

purple flowers

Please join us for our next webinar to learn more about how and why your Friends group might want to do this.

Our presenters will include:
Joann Van Aken, Executive Director, International Wildlife Refuge Alliance in Michigan
Libby Marking, Director of Government Affairs & Public Policy, National Wildlife Refuge Association

There will be plenty of time for questions and we hope you will also tell us about successful refuge visits that your Friends have had.

Congress’s summer recess (August 6 – September 6) is an excellent time to arrange for one or more of these important visits.

Sign Up Today!

Continue ReadingThe Power Of Having Your Members Of Congress Visit Your National Wildlife Refuge