USFWS guidelines that impact the actions of Friends organizations

Overview of Updated Friends Policy

  • Post category:USFWS Policies
  • Reading time:3 mins read

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s updated Friends Policy was finalized on July 12, 2021. This summer the Service has presented two webinars that provided overviews of the Policy. The Service provided the same content for each webinar however since the audience was different and therefore some of the questions differ. In addition to the recordings of the webinars held on July 28th and August 18th other materials from and mentioned during the webinar are available below.

We thank our amazing and knowledgeable presenters:

  • Linda Schnee, USFWS— NWRS, National Friends Program Coordinator
  • Maggie O’Connell, USFWS— NWRS, Branch Chief for Visitor Services

Continue ReadingOverview of Updated Friends Policy

The Inside-Out Rebranding of the NWRS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been on a journey to rebrand American’s Best Kept Secret, the National Wildlife Refuge System. Kristen Gilbert, USFWS Branch Lead for Communications and digital Services, shared this rebranding journey with Friends. The presentation included:

  • Developing a positive visitor-oriented experience,
  • Creating signage consistency that allows for individual refuge identity, 
  • Reaching new audiences that are more diverse and younger,
  • Expanding outreach – print, media, and sponsorship

Link to the webinar recording.

We want to thank our amazing and knowledgeable presenter, Kristen Gilbert, USFWS Branch Lead for Communications and digital Services.

Continue ReadingThe Inside-Out Rebranding of the NWRS

Updated Friends Policy

  • Post category:USFWS Policies
  • Reading time:3 mins read
child and adults looking at reptile at a Friends of Brazoria NWR festival.

Dear Friends Community-  

We are pleased to announce that the updated Friends Policy (633 FW 1- 4) has just been finalized and uploaded to the Service’s policy website and is effective immediately.  The policy is a tool to help the Service and Friends work together for the shared goals of protecting the resource and engaging communities. The policy is the last deliverable from the Department of the Interior Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audit and the culmination of a multi-year process. 

Policy revisions began several years ago and included discussions among the Service, NWRA and the Solicitor’s Office. Since receiving the audit report in September 2020, we have involved as many stakeholders as possible, both internal and external, to create a well-rounded, straightforward policy that addresses both longstanding concerns and issues raised by the OIG. We received more than 550 comments from within the Service, as well as an additional 550+ comments from the Friends community. We appreciate the concerns we have heard from the Friends Community about both the content of the policy and the process by which it was updated. Each and every comment received was carefully evaluated and changes were made wherever possible, taking into consideration the real-world implications both for Friends and Service staff.  

We know there will be a lot of questions and we are committed to providing both Service employees and the Friends community with the necessary tools and information.  We’ve created a communications and training plan to highlight changes and address questions, including FAQs, handouts on Ethics Guidelines for Service staff when working with Friends, and webinars, among other tools. We look forward to working with the Friends community to ensure we provide the necessary resources to help implement the policy. 

We will be rolling this information out to you starting next week including a timeline for sharing these materials and training opportunities. Please contact Linda Schnee with any questions.  

Thank you for your input and patience during this process. Friends partnerships are invaluable to the Service, and we hope this new policy reflects the appreciation and respect we have for our Friends groups. We look forward to working with you as partners to implement this new policy; ultimately strengthening our shared commitment to supporting conservation.    

Thank you,
National Wildlife Refuge System

Photo credit: Friends of Brazoria Wildlife Refuges

Continue ReadingUpdated Friends Policy


  • Post category:USFWS Policies
  • Reading time:5 mins read
2021-2022 Federal Duck Stamp image

In June of 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to revise regulations governing the annual Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (Duck Stamp) Contest to remove changes made in 2020.

Your comments are welcome, both on behalf of your Friends organizations, and as private citizens. The proposed rule is open for public comments until July 23, 2021.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicates in their press release “This proposed rule would remove the permanent “celebrating our waterfowl hunting heritage” theme and the mandatory inclusion of an appropriate hunting element beginning with the 2022 contest; revise the judging requirements to consider that the entries reflect this theme; and revisit the qualifications for selection as a judge. Since the implementation of the 2020 final regulations, many stakeholders have continued to express their dissatisfaction with this element being a requirement for all entries.”

The Federal Duck Stamp program began during the era of the Depression and Dust Bowl as a way to curb the widespread destruction of wetland habitats that were vital to the survival of America’s waterfowl.

In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act (or “Duck Stamp Act”). The Duck Stamp Act requires anyone 16 or older to purchase a Federal Duck Stamp for waterfowl hunting. However, you don’t have to be a waterfowl hunter to purchase a Federal Duck Stamp. Anyone who values wildlife and the habitats they depend on can help conserve habitat by purchasing a Federal Duck Stamp. This includes members of Refuge Friends groups, birders, wildlife photographers, and others.

Given the mandatory licensing requirement for waterfowl hunters over the age of 16, waterfowl hunters have been the primary group responsible for raising over $1.1 billion to conserve wildlife and healthy wetland habitats within the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The theme of this year’s Federal Duck Stamp is “Celebrating our Waterfowl Hunting Heritage.” An image of a drake Lesser Scaup with a lanyard and duck calls won the 2020 contest. The 2021 contest regulations with the mandatory inclusion of hunting references remains in effect.

U.S. FWS has proposed a new rule scrapping the hunting requirement that would be applicable beginning with the 2022 contest.

The proposed rule is OPEN FOR PUBLIC COMMENTS UNTIL JULY 23, 2021. All comments must be submitted through the process described in the proposed rule – if they are submitted any other way, they cannot be incorporated or considered. You can access the proposed rule and/or comment, via the Federal Register:…/FWS-HQ-MB-2021-0048-0001 . Or you can use this link: . Or you can search for the rule at using any of these search terms:

  • FWS-HQ-MB-2021-0048
  • Revision of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (Duck Stamp) Contest Regulations June 23, 2021
  • 2021-013476

Ahead of entering your final comments, we recommend that you create your letter, ready to cut and paste to the portal. You can comment on the rule via the portal described above, or by postal mail. U.S. Mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-HQ-MB-2021-0048, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 5275 Leesburg Pike, MS: JAO/3W, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.

The Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp have provided additional information about this change, including talking points, and a sample letter. You’ll also find more information there about this year’s Stamp, links, and more Stamp history.


FWS Draft Friends Policy for Review

  • Post category:USFWS Policies
  • Reading time:4 mins read

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is in the process of updating the Friends policy including the Friends Partnership Agreement. To date, FWS drafted initial revisions to the 2014 policy. Those revisions were shared with FWS staff through an internal review process and their comments were incorporated in the second draft of the policy.

Friends, as the key partner of FWS, your input is now needed on the second draft of the Friends policy. The policy will impact your organization therefore your comments are vital.

FWS has provided the “clean” second draft of the policy and a redline version that shows the changes to the policy that was released in 2014. The documentation includes:

  • The four chapters of the policy and for each chapter there is a “clean” and redline version
  • Two exhibits:
    • New exhibit on financial reporting
    • Friends Partnership Agreement with a “clean” and redline version.

All of these documents are on the Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates (CORFA) Google drive. Please review them.

To help FWS with the collection and review of your comments they are providing a form for you to submit comments. To ensure that FWS will see every comment they request that you to fill out a separate form for each comment.

The deadline for comments is Monday, February 8, 2021

Please provide FWS with your comments on the policy and Agreement because they will help shape the partnership between the Friends and FWS.

More information on submitting comments are available at:

Continue ReadingFWS Draft Friends Policy for Review