The Link — Winter 2023 Newsletter

  • Post category:News
  • Reading time:8 mins read

The Link is a quarterly newsletter produced in coordination between Friends, the National Wildlife Refuge Association and Coalition of Refuge Friends & Advocates.

It’s no secret that our refuges and hatcheries are underfunded and therefore understaffed. Sure, some overall budget increases have been approved recently, but by the time you account for inflation, much-deserved staff pay increases, and special projects for which Congress has designated funding, there’s not enough left to keep our refuges and hatcheries adequately staffed at the local level. At the least, Friends and volunteers may be feeling confused or frustrated; at the worst, they may be angry, desperate, or even disheartened.

So what’s a Friends organization to do? Well, advocate, of course! And this means advocating with decision-makers beyond those associated with our partners in the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This issue of The Link features stories of Friends who have worked to invite community members to their sites, not only to be more inclusive but also to gain fans and—ideally—more supporters and vocal advocates. You’ll see that perseverance is key, as is the ongoing effort to cultivate relationships with Members of Congress (MOCs) and their staff members.

Our Friends organization at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge (MN) has been cultivating relationships with our Representatives and Senators since before I joined the group almost 25 years ago; all of them have visited many times over the years, and we’ve even gotten acquainted with their local staff members. It’s not unusual for newly elected MOCs to contact the refuge about coming for a tour. The Friends are always invited to join in, and then we start the process of building relationships.

This doesn’t mean that dollars are on the way. However, several years ago a letter to our Regional Director, from a Representative known for condemning earmarks, is said to have influenced the Service to choose to allocate limited funding our way. We now have a Learning Center with a classroom, if not the entire Visitor Center that we have been advocating for, but this still counts as a big win.

Things are different now in 2023. Our needs at Sherburne are more basic—specifically, a visitor services staff member to support, among many other things, the work that volunteers and Friends do for the refuge. We aren’t giving up, though, and I hope you won’t, either.

Please read on for more news and views!

Read All Of The Stories!

Sue Hix, Editor
Friends of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. MN


The Fall 2022 version of The Link has been a coordinated effort between the National Wildlife Refuge Association and Coalition of Refuge Friends & Advocates. 

To receive the next issue of The Link, complete the form at the bottom of this page And please add to the safe list for your email account.

You’re invited to join the CORFA Facebook group, a place to connect with other amazing members of the Friends community to share information, insights, and experiences concerning nonprofit governance, management, and advocacy. Go to and request to join this private group.

  • Sue Hix (Editor) – Friends of Sherburne NWR
  • Joan Patterson (Co-editor)—Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates 
  • Libby Marking—NWRA Director of Government Affairs & Public Policy
  • Eden Taylor (designer)— NWRA Communications Associate 
  • Friends Editorial Staff:
    • Cheryl Hart—NWRA Board, Board member of Friends of Tualatin River NWR 
    • Kathy Woodward—Former NWRA Board Member, Board member of Friends of Great Swamp NWR 

Continue ReadingThe Link — Winter 2023 Newsletter

Webinar: Engage Your Audience With Stories

Wednesday, January 18th, 2023

Double rainbow over field of grain

Don’t you love a good story that engages your senses and makes you want to take action?

We’re wired for stories. From the very beginning, as individuals and as a species, we immerse ourselves in stories from the arrival of our children to reminiscing about family members who have passed.

The stories we tell about our organizations let folks know why we exist and the impact we’re having on those we serve. The stories we tell about the work being done on our refuges and hatcheries should motivate folks to care about and support these sites.

This webinar addressed:

  • Why storytelling is effective
  • Essential building blocks of a story
  • Types of stories needed
  • Finding and sharing your stories
  • Outcomes and measures

Here are the materials from the webinar:

We want to thank the presenters which were you, the Coalition of Refuge Friends, and Advocates/National Wildlife Refuge Association team

Continue ReadingWebinar: Engage Your Audience With Stories

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?

December Photo Contest Winner

  • River surrounded by trees
  • Pine flatwoods with deer-tongue blooming
  • Great Egret fledglings
  • Freshwater pond in hardwood swamp
  • Sun setting over former burial ground
  • Creek surround by marshes and palm trees
  • Beach at North Key in florida

Peg Hall’s post with Ann Kamzelski’s photo of the Lower Suwannee NWR in Florida was the winning photo for the December contest.

Friends of Lower Suwannee & Cedar Keys NWRs is lucky to have two quite different refuges to support, under a single management.

The Cedar Keys NWR was established in 1929 to help protect shore birds, which at the time were being taken in huge numbers for their plumage which was highly valued by the millinery business worldwide. The 900-acre refuge, made up of on 13 islands provides breeding grounds for thousands of ibises, egrets, spoonbills, pelicans, herons, and other shore birds.

The Lower Suwannee NWR was established 50 years later in 1979 to protect the water quality of the historic Suwannee River, 20 miles of which bisects the Refuge at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico. The flow of the Suwannee feeds the estuarine waters of the Gulf, habitat for the Gulf sturgeon and feeding grounds for resident and migratory shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl. The land had been heavily logged before becoming a refuge. The Refuge is working to restore and protect the bottomland hardwood swamps and forests along the Suwannee.

The Lower Suwannee Refuge also includes Shell Mound, an archaeological resource prominent as a civic-ceremonial site from about A.D. 400 to A. D. 650. The location held a burial site aligned with the setting sun on Winter Solstice.

What is our all-volunteer, 22-year-old Friends group doing now?

  • Celebrating Winter and Summer Solstice
  • Conducting Native Plant, Butterfly, and Photo Walks and creating trailside interpretive panels and new guides for visitor favorites such as gravel biking
  • Having outreach booths at local festivals and working to acquire a mobile outreach center to take the story of the Refuges to where the people are
  • Designing unique merchandise for our pandemic-inspired Online Store, with board members fulfilling orders from home
  • Acquiring grants to help restore Vista, a 14-acre former in-holding that the donors, who are members of Friends, turned over to the Refuge at our 2022 Annual Meeting.
  • Providing an extensive website with a blog, bios of Friends board and Refuge staff, a list of Friends members, descriptions of places of interest to visit on the Refuges, guides to seeing the Refuges from your kayak, maps and brochures for many Refuge areas and trails, a primer to butterflies of the Lower Suwannee Refuge, and a link to our widely-distributed and popular email News Brief
  • Participating in CORFA initiatives!

Congratulation Peg and Ann!

Continue ReadingDecember Photo Contest Winner

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