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?

What We Friends Can Do: Part 2

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

Across the country, nonprofit sector leaders from many different areas (conservation. child welfare, health care, arts, education, etc.) are working overtime to make sure that all nonprofit board members everywhere understand that advocacy is an important strategy for achieving their mission. (Find out more about the national campaign at the Stand For Your Mission website here.) The right to provide information to our elected leaders is fundamental in America, and 501(c)(3) organizations absolutely share in that right. Advocacy – including lobbying at the national, state, and local levels –  is a critical part of our role as Friends. Remember, there are limits on what our Service colleagues can do to advocate for the refuges we love. If attacks on public lands continue or gain traction, it will be up to us to mount the defense.  So what can we do to get ready?  Here are my thoughts.

Clarify your mission.  If you haven’t already done so, please read the blog Joan Patterson posted on November 5 regarding the mission of Friends groups. Share it with your colleagues on the board and ask for time on the next meeting agenda. Ask yourself and each other: “If the administration proposes or supports actions that threaten the refuge system, are we ready to oppose it?” “Is our mission to support the refuge or the organization that manages it?” “Do we as a board believe that a threat to any refuge is a threat to us here?” “Is it part of our mission to defend Vieques, Arctic, Monomoy or Loxahatchee?” Have those discussions internally and know where your group stands before the time comes.

Cathy Allen with Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio in his DC office

Know Your Rights.  There is a lot of confusion about the laws governing nonprofit advocacy. Misinformation abounds. Since my days as Executive Director of Ohio League of Conservation Voters, I have successfully relied on The Bolder Advocacy Initiative of the Alliance for Justice (AFJ). They provide legal information, tools for effective advocacy, even a technical assistance hotline for getting your questions answered. Their attorneys want us to engage in vigorous conservation advocacy without crossing legal lines.  They are an excellent resource. Click through to learn more.

Establish an Advocacy Policy. AFJ and others recommend that all organizations put a policy in place governing their practices, stating what issues they would take up (or not) and what activities they will engage in (or not.) The Friends of the Carr Refuge adopted such a policy a few months ago, thereby empowering me as advocacy champion to take quick action when an issue emerges. I know exactly what my board colleagues want me to do and not do, and I can use my title and the name of the organization within those parameters without any risk of getting ahead of the group.  We will make adjustments as we go, but we are ready.  To download the policy we created, click here.

Joan Patterson and Cathy Allen on Capitol Hill

Sign up for action alerts.  If you don’t already receive the action alerts Desire Sorenson-Groves sends from the National Wildlife Refuge Association, please visit their website and sign up.  She and her team provide a quick and easy way to stay up to date on the issues in Washington, and the Refuge Association’s stance on them. They craft position papers on everything from the budget to species conservation to threats against individual refuges.  Together with the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement, they kick out a great deal of information about how to lobby, the positions taken by individual members of congress, and how we can best help. If you do talk to a representative or senator, make sure to feed that information back to Desiree. It all helps. 

Participate in coalition activities.  As refuge Friends groups we are not alone. Many other organizations stand with us in the fight to defend our public lands. There are Friends groups at national parks, state parks, and local land trusts, as well as conservation-minded organizations like The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, Audubon, League of Conservation Voters, and many more. Many savvy and experienced advocates are out there waiting for us to add our voices to ongoing efforts. If there is a local coalition or network in your area, make sure you are part of it.  If there isn’t, call a meeting. There is strength in numbers.

Much as we Friends love being in close partnership with our Service partners, on the question of advocacy we must be on our own.  Let’s use this forum for open discussion among ourselves.  Please comment and share widely.

Cathy Allen is a nonprofit organizational development consultant in Florida who is also a passionate lover of wildlife refuges.  A former president at Friends of Ottawa NWR (Ohio), she currently serves on the board at Friends of the Carr Refuge.

Continue ReadingWhat We Friends Can Do: Part 2