Great American Outdoors Act & Refuges

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

Double rainbow over field of grain

The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) provides funds to address the maintenance backlog of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other public lands agencies. The funding for GAOA comes from energy development on Federal land and water. Up to $1.9 billion will be available in each fiscal year from 2021 to 2025 to address these maintenance needs. USFWS receives 5 percent of this annual allocation. The following links provide information on FWS projects:

The GAOA also provides full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Congress created LWCF in 1964 to protect Federal lands and waters and provide recreational opportunities. GAOA provides LWCF with $900 million annually to support this program. Annually, FWS receives a portion of these funds to support projects, access and land acquisition.

For more information on GAOA and LWCF click here.

Photo credit: Alex Galt/USFWS

Continue ReadingGreat American Outdoors Act & Refuges

The Link — Summer 2021 Newsletter

  • Post category:News
  • Reading time:5 mins read

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

As we enter mid-summer, we are so excited to be focusing this edition of The Link on the sustainability of our organizations! At its very heart, sustainability is all about long-term planning—why does your organization exist and how are you going to accomplish your goals? 

The mission of the Refuge Association is to “protect, promote, and enhance America’s wildlife heritage through strategic programs that serve the System and wildlife beyond its boundaries.” In order to be a sustainable organization so that we can achieve that goal, we rely on fundraising from partners, major donors, grants, foundations, and corporate sponsors. This support allows us to hire expert, professional staff who understand the Refuge System, understand Friends groups and their importance to the Refuge System, and care deeply about the success of these programs and the sustainability of wildlife habitat and public lands. 

We hope you enjoy this edition of The Link and that it helps your Friends group as we continue to work together to build up all of our organizations so that we can support, defend, and protect our nation’s National Wildlife Refuge System.

Caroline Brouwer
National Wildlife Refuge Association

From the Editor

In mid-April on a beautiful spring day, our Friends of Sherburne NWR treasurer of 14 years passed away suddenly while doing volunteer gardening at a local hospice. Carol was both a Friend and friend, so those of us who had worked closely with her felt her loss keenly. To make matters worse, not only did she handle our Friends banking, prepare monthly financial statements, and manage our budget, but she also served as our Friends membership chair, manager of our member/donor database, organizer of our silent auctions, and willing volunteer for all kinds of other small, but essential, duties. Ironically, at a Zoom meeting just a few days before her death, we had joked that, when it came to Friends like Carol, we were truly vulnerable, or “truck-sensitive” as we termed it. That is, we had good-naturedly warned her to beware of any speeding trucks that might come her way. At least we had let her know how much we appreciated her, but that was small consolation when we learned of her passing.

Into the lurch stepped our immediate past president. After all, someone had to process deposits, pay bills, and handle essential correspondence; however, this could be only a temporary fix. We would need to recruit a qualified treasurer, continue work in progress to select and convert to a “constituent relationship management” (CRM) system, separate the membership duties from the financial work and recruit someone to take these on, etc., etc. The good news was that Carol’s work was up to date and her records were organized and complete. Related processes and procedures were documented and had been recently reviewed. It could’ve been worse. Today we can report that we have used our member network to recruit a new, highly qualified treasurer; we are about to commit to a CRM system provider; we have qualified board members who have agreed to convert and help to maintain our database; and we have other essential tasks covered, at least for the immediate future.  

Friends of Sherburne will survive our loss, but it has illustrated how vulnerable all Friends organizations may be, especially those with all-volunteer leadership and administrative management. With that in mind, for this issue we have invited three Friends organizations to tell us what they have done or are doing to attract, train, retain, and sustain effective leadership and otherwise maintain their organizations as challenges inevitably arise. Their hard work and persistence, combined with the support of their USFWS partners, Friends mentors, or consultants, enabled these Friends to survive and thrive. We invite you to read and be inspired by their stories. I think Carol would appreciate our adding this to her legacy. 

Sue Hix

Read About Sustaining Your Friends Organization And Its Leadership:

Other Features In This Issues:

Read All Of the Stories!


The Summer 2021 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 
  • Caroline Brouwer—NWRA VP of Government Affairs 
  • 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 
  • Jim Stone– NWRA Board, Board member of Friends of the Wichitas

Continue ReadingThe Link — Summer 2021 Newsletter

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:2 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:3 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.