U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s updated Friends Policy was finalized on July 12, 2021. This summer the Service has presented two webinars that provided overviews of the Policy. The Service provided the same content for each webinar however since the audience was different and therefore some of the questions differ. In addition to the recordings of the webinars held on July 28th and August 18th other materials from and mentioned during the webinar are available below.
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 websiteand 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, Cynthia Chief National Wildlife Refuge System
Photo credit: Friends of Brazoria Wildlife Refuges
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is in the process of updating the Friends policy including the Friends Partnership Agreement. To date, FWS drafted initial revisions to the 2014 policy. Those revisions were shared with FWS staff through an internal review process and their comments were incorporated in the second draft of the policy.
Friends, as the key partner of FWS, your input is now needed on the second draft of the Friends policy. The policy will impact your organization therefore your comments are vital.
FWS has provided the “clean” second draft of the policy and a redline version that shows the changes to the policy that was released in 2014. The documentation includes:
The four chapters of the policy and for each chapter there is a “clean” and redline version
New exhibit on financial reporting
Friends Partnership Agreement with a “clean” and redline version.
All of these documents are on the Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates (CORFA) Google drive. Please review them.
To help FWS with the collection and review of your comments they are providing a form for you to submit comments. To ensure that FWS will see every comment they request that you to fill out a separate form for each comment.
The deadline for comments is Monday, February 8, 2021
Please provide FWS with your comments on the policy and Agreement because they will help shape the partnership between the Friends and FWS.
More information on submitting comments are available at:
The National Wildlife Refuge Association and Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates hosted a discussion with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on the Federal Register notice about collecting information from Friends groups and updating of the Friends policy on January 5, 2021.
One component of updating the USFWS’ Friends Policy is ensuring that the USFWS has approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to collect information from Friends groups. While the updated policy will describe what information the USFWS may collect, this process ensures we have the approval to do so. The two processes are occurring simultaneously.
Obtaining OMB approval is a public process that requires input from those affected by the information collection. The proposed information collection was announced in a Federal Register notice and comments were accepted through January 8, 2021.
Why the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approval is needed,
What types of information collections are proposed,
The overall process,
How to comment on the proposal,
History of the Friends policy (how we got to where we are),
Broad changes addressed in the draft policy, and
How USFWS will distribute the draft policy and how to comment
Here is a recording of the webinar and supporting materials.
Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates (CORFA) and the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) urge Friends to respond to the notice in the Federal Register about collecting documentation from their organizations. Friends input is necessary to guide the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in the collection of information in support of our mutual goals and objectives. They may also influence revisions to the Friends policy and Friends Partnership Agreement (FPA).
These revisions would be the result of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit report of the USFWS Friends program. A finding of the OIG implies that FWS does not know if Friends are using donations appropriately. FWS agreed to take corrective actions to improve oversight of the program. These actions will include revising the policy and FPA to:
Establish accountability with respect to donations, revenues, and expenditures to ensure they benefit the applicable refuge or hatchery;
Require Friends to provide an annual performance report including donations, revenues, and expenditures, and
Periodically review the FPA and evidence of nonprofit status.
The revisions to the policies and FPA have the potential of impacting Friends organization’s practices and procedures.
Reflect your understanding of the documentation FWS is requesting,
List documentation Friends can provide FWS to assure them that funds raised for the benefit of your site are being properly accounted for,
Indicate how Friends would document the value to your refuge/hatchery of your programs and activities,
Assess the accuracy of FWS’ estimate of the time it will take to collect the documentation,
Describe ways to enhance the quality of the information, and
Suggest how to minimize the burden of providing the information.
The CORFA and NWRA have drafted comments to submit and Friends are welcome to review and borrow them. We do, however, want any comments submitted by Friends groups and members to be unique and particular to your specific refuge or hatchery—comments submitted through Federal Register requests are ore highly ranked if they are not the same as the other comments.
The deadline to comment is January 8, 2021.
Reference OMB Control Number “1018-Friends” in the subject line of your comments. The easiest and most direct way to submit your comments is to email comments directly to: Info_Coll@fws.gov.
You can also mail your comments to the Service Information Collection Clearance Officer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB (JAO/3W), 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803 (mail)
*There is a direct link to submit comments in the Federal Register announcement, but this link does NOT work.*
We urge Friends groups and members of their board to submit comments. Every Friends group, FWS site, and partnership in the Friends community is unique. Your comments need to represent your unique circumstance. FWS wants to hear from you!
Regards, Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates National Wildlife Refuge Association