The Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates (CORFA) is embarking on a strategic planning process. Friends, your input is essential in setting the goals and objectives for CORFA’s programs and activities. CORFA acts as a hub to help address your needs. Therefore, we invite you to assess what we are currently doing and help us set the direction for supporting the Friends community.
Over the last years CORFA has worked to build a network of support for Friends. We do this by partnering with you, the National Wildlife Refuge Association, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Our focus is:
Connecting Friends through the CORFA Facebook group, The Link e-newsletter, and a monthly photo contest
Supporting the Friends community with webinars, website, and advice
Advocating for the needs of Friends and the Refuge System
More information about our programs and activities is on this website.
This all-volunteer organization values your input! Please go to our Facebook group take 15 to 20 minutes to complete the questionnaire pin to the top of the group. Let us know if our current programs and activities are helpful. Further, tell us how we, as members of the Friends community, can support each other as we all continue to work toward strengthening our organizations so we can better support our refuges and hatcheries. We want everyone’s input!
Please share your thoughts by completing the questionnaire by Monday, August 1, 2022. Your individual input will be kept private; however, we will share a summary of all input with the Friends community.
When Martha Williams began her new role as Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service on March 8, 2022, the Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates (CORFA) recognized an opportunity to connect and make sure the new director knew about Friends groups and all they do for federal partners and their communities. CORFA identified topics that they wanted to share with the director and then selected representatives of a few Friends organizations to present in a virtual meeting on July 5, 2022. These Friends, highlights, and requests from their organizations are outlined below:
* Jim Stone, board member of Friends of the Wichitas (OK) told how the Friends helped to restore the historical Ferguson House, which was destroyed during a prescribed burn on Fort Sill in 2015. Jim also discussed how nature stores connect refuges with the community and build revenue for long-term support of the refuge. Further, he shared that Friends of the Wichitas assist with eradicating 120,000 invasive species annually. Finally, Jim made our guests aware of a staffing issue on his refuge. “With 2.3 million visitors per year to the refuge and two law enforcement officers, sometimes one of them has been detailed to another location to help with wildfires or hurricanes and it’s almost impossible to perform the functions that they need to, and that greatly affects everything on the refuge.” * Kathy Woodward, board member of Friends of Great Swamp NWR (NJ) told how the refuge was founded by local citizens who worked to save the land from becoming a jet port in northern New Jersey. Their Friends recruit and train volunteers to be at their visitor center and visitor contact station and staff volunteers at their boardwalk 7 days a week, year-round. Kathy also shared that they have created interpretive materials and guides, including a tree and shrub guide, auto tour guide, Jr Refuge Manager Program materials, and interpretive signs. The group has also accepted a bequest from the family of Chandler S. Robbins, the field biologist who first banded Wisdom the albatross on Midway Island, to create a viewing platform at Great Swamp NWR in his memory. * Aimee Arent, executive director of Friends of Ottawa NWR (OH) shared how her group worked closely with refuge staff to form a strategic plan and a joint vision for the future. Some of their goals included expanding habitat and outdoor recreation through land acquisition and public access projects. Aimee noted that they have purchased 69 acres of woodlands, wetlands, and prairies to date. Their first land acquisition project was the 40-acre Fox Nature Preserve, which they purchased with the help of a $100,000 donation in 2019.It is now open to the public, and later this summer, through grants and donations, the group will construct an ADA-compliant hiking trail. She also indicated concern for staffing on the refuge and asked for continued communication and partnership to help ensure that the Refuge System has necessary funding. * Jim Chapman, vice president, and Vicky Guerra, board secretary, of Friends of the Wildlife Corridor (TX) joined from Santa Ana and Lower Rio Grande Valley NWRs. They shared that the Friends have revegetated more than 15,000 acres along the river and acquired seven tracts of land. They’ve also started native plant gardens at 40 local public schools. Their most urgent concern is the continued construction of the 86 miles of border wall, part of which will affect the Santa Ana Refuge. Border walls do not allow for any terrestrial wildlife movement back and forth across the river, creating a major habitat disturbance. Jim and Vicky asked Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland to urge the Secretary of Homeland Security to rescind the existing border wall waivers to defend their refuge lands and wildlife for present and future generations. * Finally, the Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates briefly highlighted their work connecting Friends across the country, supporting the Friends community, and advocating for the needs of the Friends and Refuge System.
Director Williams thanked the groups for their presentation and for what Friends do to support our refuges and hatcheries. She recognized that USFWS couldn’t meet their mission or reach as many people as needed without the help of Friends. We thank Director Martha Williams, Refuge System Chief Cynthia Martinez, and Deputy Director of Operations Wendi Weber for joining us and hope that this meeting was a good step toward continuing open communication between the Friends and Service leadership.
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.
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.
The June Photo Contest theme was “Celebrate Take a Hike Day” and “Get Outdoors Day”. Lisa Mayo with the Friends of Blackwater NWR submitted the winning photos of the Marsh Edge Trail at Blackwater NWR, Cambridge, Maryland, The Marsh Edge Trail is one of Lisa’s favorite trail at Blackwater NWR because it has great water views of the rivers at the refuge. It’s closed for part of the year due to nesting bald eagles and herons along the trail, but when it’s open to the public, everyone enjoys the trail and its awesome river boardwalk that the Friends helped fund with money we raised from our Wild Goose Chase women’s bicycle ride.
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is the largest wildlife refuge in Maryland and was established in 1933 as a waterfowl sanctuary for birds migrating along the Atlantic Flyway. The Friends of Blackwater is a nonprofit citizen’s support group founded in 1987, assisting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff to carry out their educational, interpretive, and public use missions. One of the ways the Friends do this is by supporting maintenance of the land and paddling trails at the refuge. Most recently, the Friends built and installed six new bridges along the Woods Trail and installed bike racks at all the trailheads. The Marsh Edge Trail is a popular waterfront trail with an active eagle’s nest. For this trail the Friends paid for signage, Romtec toilet roof repairs and the installation of a scenic river boardwalk using proceeds from the Wild Goose Chase women’s bicycle ride, which is an annual event run by the Friends that has raised over $175,000 for the refuge. The Friends have also supported maintenance of the paddling trails at the refuge since 2003, and have raised money in the past to install kiosks and update signage along the trails. Helping to provide wildlife-friendly recreational access to the refuge has been just one way the Friends of Blackwater enjoy supporting refuge visitors.
Photo credits: Lisa Mayo with the Friends of Blackwater NWR
Do you know how land acquisition priorities are determined for USFWS? Can Friends acquire lands? Do you wonder how Friends can influence funding decisions for land acquisition? These topics and more will be covered in this upcoming webinar on land acquisition. We will talk about the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Duck Stamp Programs as well as the 30×30 conservation initiative and its potential impact on Refuges. If you have questions about the role of Friends in land acquisition this webinar is for you.
We are excited to have as our presenter Joe McCauley, who served for 32 years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service working within the National Wildlife Refuge System as a wildlife refuge manager, land protection planner, Atlantic Coast Joint Venture Coordinator, and Realty Officer and also a past National Wildlife Refuge Association Northeast Regional Representative.