Together for Wildlife Refuge Conservation

  • Post category:News
  • Reading time:1 mins read

Ever wonder about the partnership between the Coalition of Refuge Friends and the National Wildlife Refuge Association? We have created a brochure to explain our partnership in support of the Friends community and the refuge and hatchery systems.

Check out and share the brochure.

Photo credit: Joan Van Gorp

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CORFA Submits Testimony to the House

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

Submitted by Mark J Musaus, Vice President, Board Member for the Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates

May 6, 2024

photo of Mark Musaus

Written Testimony to the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Concerning Fiscal Year 2025 Appropriations for the National Wildlife Refuge System

Dear Chairman Simpson, Ranking Member Pingree, and Members of the Subcommittee:

This testimony is being submitted on behalf of the Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates, which was formed in 2020 to support the National Wildlife Refuge System. We appreciate the opportunity to submit comments on the fiscal year (FY) 2025 Interior Appropriations bill. We request Congress to allocate $602.3 million in funding for National Wildlife Refuge System Operations and Maintenance account under the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

“National Wildlife Refuges are places where the music of life has been rehearsed to perfection, where nature’s colors are most vibrant, where time is measured in seasons, and where the dance of the crane takes center stage. They are gifts to ourselves and to generations unborn- simple gifts unwrapped each time a birder lifts binoculars, a child overturns a rock, a hunter sets the decoys, or an angler casts the water.” This is a quote taken from Fulfilling the Promise in the forward by then U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)Director Jamie Clark

The Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates(CORFA) is a not-for-profit organization that supports more than 180 officially designated Friends Groups by FWS that support an individual or complex of National Wildlife Refuges across the United States. They are comprised of local citizens that volunteer and passionately support “their” refuge as well as citizens across the country that have visited a refuge and enjoyed that “gift” so beautifully described by Director Clark.

The gifts to the American public are not just in connecting with nature. National Wildlife Refuges provides billions of dollars in ecosystem services. Storm water attenuation, groundwater recharge, protection of important oil and gas infrastructure, and carbon storage are all important benefits that refuges provide to local communities as well as the country.

The Friends Community that supports Refuges is upset by the current conditions on refuges and concerned for their future due to the continual erosion in funding and staffing for the refuge system. Refuge staffs have been cut in half or have one staff person and most refuges are now part of a refuge complex with other refuges that have less staff. Trails are closed or poorly maintained, visitor centers are open only a couple days a week if at all. Worse yet is the unhealthy condition of habitats the refuges manage…rusting or inoperable water control structures, increasing spread of invasive exotics, the inability to use important habitat management techniques such as prescribed fire or impoundment management. The significant loss of biologists to monitor wildlife populations and provide the needed scientific expertise to ensure healthy wildlife populations, as well as the loss of refuge law enforcement officers to ensure the safety of the visiting public and stop poaching of wildlife have greatly impacted Refuges, the “gifts” Congress authorized over the last 121 years.

In order to continue to be the greatest network and lands and waters in the world set aside for wildlife, increased funding to operate the national wildlife refuge system is desperately needed. Although the funding need is huge, CORFA understands the current budget climate. A minimum of $602.3 million is needed to begin the road to recovery of the refuge system and the billions of dollars in ecosystem, economic, and recreational values to the American public.

Continue ReadingCORFA Submits Testimony to the House

FWS Friends Mentor Program, Spring Applications Process

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Friends groups along with their FWS Partners have an opportunity to apply for the FWS Friends Mentor Program. The Spring Application is now available. Applications will be accepted until May 31, 2024.

What is the Mentor Program? In many ways, it is just what you want/need it to be. Each mentoring relationship is different but, in a nutshell, Friends and their Refuge Management decide on the topics they would like to learn more about or have help with. That is part of the application. It could be training the board, planning a joint project, or, after this long Covid winter, a reboot to get your board and FWS staff excited about working together again, for example.

Once you have submitted the completed application it will be reviewed by the FWS Friends Coordinator, Linda Schnee, and the Regional Friends Coordinators. If your application is selected, you will be assigned a team of experienced and trained mentors, usually one FWS staff and one Friends Board/Staff person who will work with you on fleshing out an agenda, and then will come to your refuge to conduct a 2-day training.

At the end of that training, your group will identify a set of 3 or 4 objectives that you want to accomplish in the next year. Mentors then check in with you on a regular schedule to offer help, guidance, encouragement, and lots of cheers for the good work you are doing.

Sound like something that your group would benefit from? I’ve been on both sides of mentoring, as a Friends mentor and as a board member of a group being mentored and I can tell you from personal experience that this program provides a couple of skilled “consultants,” for a year, free-of-charge to your Friends group and your Refuge. So, what are you waiting for? Get that application going!

Should you want to find out more about the benefits of this program check out the 2023 recording about the USFWS Mentoring Program.

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Help Save the Refuge System

  • Post category:Advocacy
  • Reading time:6 mins read

Urge Congress to Make Funding the Refuge System a Priority!

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Congress is beginning to work on the budget for Fiscal Year 2025.The National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) and the Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates (CORFA) urge you to submit testimony to both the House and the Senate in support of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Written testimony for the House is due Friday, May 10th, by 5 pm ET.

Written testimony for the Senate is due Tuesday, May 15th, by 5 pm ET.

With easy edits the same testimony can be used for both the House and the Senate.

We are asking each of you to put at least two items in your written testimony:

1. The importance of your local national wildlife refuge, and what it offers to the community and to wildlife.

2. Your support for the overall National Wildlife Refuge System to which your refuge belongs, NWRA requests that you ask for $602.3 million in FY 2025.

It is important that we show the committees how much Friends Groups and members care about funding for the Refuge System. All of you have refuges that are understaffed and under-maintained and desperately in need of funding. It is critical that we get an increase for the Refuge System.

How to Submit Your Testimony to the House
Testimony can be submitted by Refuge Friends Groups or by individuals as supporters of a national wildlife refuge and the National Wildlife Refuge System. 

?Instructions for submission are here. 

What to Submit to the House:These two items must be attached to the email for it to be accepted:

1. Your final written testimony in PDF form with the information noted above (see attached sample testimony)

2. Witness disclosure form (see the attached PDF to which notes have been added)

Testimony to the House goes to IN.Approp@mail.house.gov. They are very good at confirming receipt, so if you don’t get confirmation, something might have gone wrong.

How to Submit Your Testimony to the Senate
Testimony can be submitted by Refuge Friends Groups or by individuals as supporters of a national wildlife refuge and the National Wildlife Refuge System. 

Instructions for submission are here. 

The Chair of this subcommittee is Jeff Merkley and the Ranking Member is Lisa Murkowski. If you are using your House testimony remember to change any references to the House to refer to the Senate.

Testimony to the Senate should be e-mailed to int@appro.senate.gov with the subject “FY25 Int OWT”.

If you have ANY questions, please let us know by reaching out to Libby Marking at NWRA at lmarking@refugeassociation.org. If you would like Libby or CORFA, coalitionrefugefriends@gmail.com, to review your testimony prior to submission, send it over! 

Thank you for your support of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Continue ReadingHelp Save the Refuge System