The Link — Fall 2022 Newsletter

  • Post category:News
  • Reading time:9 mins read

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

Here in Central Minnesota, when goldenrod is abuzz with pollinators and school supplies fill the shelves of big-box stores, we know that back-to-school time is nigh. Unfortunately, at the same time in some years—like this one—names like Katrina, Maria, and Ian monopolize the news, and photos of their devastation give us pause. Our hearts go out to our Friends/friends in Florida and the Southeast as their lives, homes, and refuges deal with what the hurricane has left behind. Our thoughts are with you.

Since environmental education is one of the Big Six public uses of national wildlife refuges, we have decided to focus our fall issue on education and how some of our Friends are supporting it at their refuges. Here at Sherburne NWR, over the past 12 years, we have been fortunate to work with staff at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center (PWLC), part of the Fergus Falls Wetland Management District, to develop a nature education program to meet our needs. The PWLC was the logical go-to resource, not just because of its proximity, but because of the exceptional hands-on learning options they offer, supported by the Friends of the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center.

The PWLC offers a standards-based curriculum geared to the season through a variety of programs for preschool and K-12 students as well as multi-day and overnight visits for 5th graders and older. This is impressive by itself. However, what makes the PWLC special is their Prairie Science Class, “an award-winning, internationally recognized partnership with Fergus Falls Public Schools.” This partnership uses “the local prairie wetlands ecosystem as an integrating and motivating context to engage 4th and 5th-grade students in science, language arts, critical thinking, problem-solving, and writing through real world, field-based learning experiences.” In short, the same 200 4th and 5th-grade students spend half of each school day for a full school year at the PWLC, where four district teachers have their own classrooms plus the 330-acre outdoor classroom for providing hands-on learning for their students.

At Sherburne, we have incorporated the principles of the PWLC Compass to Nature method into our approach and have developed our own standards-based curriculum for our work with our partner schools. Further, our education volunteers and some of our partner-school teachers have participated in the excellent Teaching in the Outdoor Classroom Workshop at the PWLC. We are grateful to the staff of the PWLC (past and present) as well as to the PWLC Friends for providing and supporting this valuable program. The Friends’ support has been essential—whether handling registrations for the outdoor classroom workshop, providing essential funding for the naturalist who manages the PWLC greenhouse, or rewarding Prairie Science Class students with ice cream on the last day of school. Hats off to the staff and Friends at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center!

Our Fall Features Include:

Read All Of The Stories!

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


Credits

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 https://www.refugeassociation.org/friends. And please add refugeassociation.org 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  https://www.facebook.com/groups/coalitionofrefugefriends/ 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 
    • Jim Stone– NWRA Board, Board member of Friends of the Wichitas

Continue ReadingThe Link — Fall 2022 Newsletter

The Link — Summer 2022 Newsletter

  • Post category:News
  • Reading time:6 mins read

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

Summertime and more folks are on the road again visiting family and friends, state and national parks—and our national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries. This issue features stunning photos by Friends of refuges from Hawaii to the east coast. Friends mentors have been on the road again as well; enjoy photos from their visits to Maine and California. 

Vacation time means that we also have the opportunity to meet with our elected officials as the House and Senate take recess. We have included tips for inviting your Congress members to visit your site and an example of a compelling story that can help you compose your own story to tell once those representatives arrive at your refuge or hatchery. On the subject of advocacy, “meet” Libby Marking, the new Director of Government Affairs & Public Policy for the National Wildlife Refuge Association. 

Finally, read about CORFA and fellow Friends meeting with USFWS Director Martha Williams, participate in a CORFA online questionnaire, and see what webinars are on the calendar for the next few months. It’s another jam-packed issue for you to enjoy! 

Our Summer Features Include:

Read All Of The Stories!

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


Credits

The Summer 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 https://www.refugeassociation.org/friends. And please add refugeassociation.org 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  https://www.facebook.com/groups/coalitionofrefugefriends/ 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 
    • Jim Stone– NWRA Board, Board member of Friends of the Wichitas

Continue ReadingThe Link — Summer 2022 Newsletter

Help Set the Direction for CORFA

  • Post category:Homepage
  • Reading time:3 mins read
group selfie

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:

  1. Connecting Friends through the CORFA Facebook group, The Link e-newsletter, and a monthly photo contest
  2. Supporting the Friends community with webinars, website, and advice
  3. 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.

Thank you!

Photo credit: Friends of the Hawaiian Islands NWR

Continue ReadingHelp Set the Direction for CORFA

The Link — Spring 2022 Newsletter

  • Post category:News
  • Reading time:6 mins read

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

Spring is taking its time getting to Central Minnesota this year. For several days in mid-March, warm, sunny days got our hopes up, but those hopes were soon dashed by bone-chilling winds, persistent gray clouds, below-normal temperatures, and s-n-o-w—that we’re still experiencing in mid-April. Despite the weather, though, the distinctive sounds of sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, and red-winged blackbirds in the wetlands have assured us that Mother Nature is still on schedule; and once the ice goes out and we see loons on the lakes, we’ll know for sure that it’s time to start checking ourselves and our pets for ticks. Ah, spring!

The definition of “spring” varies with location, so we’ve asked some Friends from across the country to send us photos of springtime on their refuges and tell us what special activities are in store for people visiting those refuges in the next couple of months. For example, here at Sherburne, there will be the opening of the Wildlife Drive, a couple of bird hikes, a Spring Celebration, and visits from Partner School students as we cautiously proceed to greet visitors in person after the long COVID-19 hiatus. 

We at The Link hope that you’ll enjoy this issue with photos of spring and other features geared to the interests of Friends everywhere.

Our Spring Features Include:

Read All Of The Stories!

Sincerely,
Sue Hix, Editor
Friends of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge


Credits

The Spring 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 https://www.refugeassociation.org/friends. And please add refugeassociation.org 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  https://www.facebook.com/groups/coalitionofrefugefriends/ 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 — Spring 2022 Newsletter

CORFA Submits Testimony to the U.S. House

  • Post category:Advocacy
  • Reading time:7 mins read

WRITTEN TESTIMONY TO THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON
INTERIOR, ENVIRONMENT, AND RELATED AGENCIES CONCERNING FISCAL YEAR 2022 APPROPRIATIONS FOR THE
UNITED STATES FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
MARCH 10, 2022

SUBMITTED BY CHERYL TUROCZY HART, BOARD VICE PRESIDENT OF COALITION OF REFUGE FRIENDS AND ADVOCATES

Chair Pingree, Ranking Member Joyce, and Members of the Subcommittee:

I appreciate the opportunity to provide written testimony on behalf of the Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates. Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates (CORFA) is a non-stock corporation in the Commonwealth of Virginia whose mission is to be a national peer support group for members of Friends organizations and community partners, who are working to promote the understanding and conservation of natural, cultural, and historical resources associated with the National Wildlife Refuge and Hatchery Systems. Our organization has approximately 800 participants. I am Vice President of the Board of this organization. We thank you for your support for the National Wildlife Refuge System and for the opportunity to offer comments on the FY2023 Interior Appropriations bill, most importantly regarding funding for the Refuge System Operations and Maintenance Fund, which we respectfully request you fund at $712 million for FY2023.

Volunteer removing blackberry vines

CORFA is an all-volunteer organization aiding the nonprofit groups that support National Wildlife Refuges and Hatcheries. These groups turn to CORFA to build relationships through conversations that answer questions and share information, insights, and experiences concerning nonprofit governance and management. Members of these nonprofits can receive and give advice on the various challenges our incredible organizations face such as building capacity, marketing and communications, fund-raising, and coalition building. I am a member of the Board of this organization and serve as Vice President.

When the pandemic quickly shutdown most federal, state, and local parks, and other public lands, there were few places visitors could go to safely enjoy and appreciate nature, while masked and socially distanced. One of those places was often a National Wildlife Refuge. Although Visitor Centers, restrooms, and even the parking lots might be closed, people flocked to National Wildlife Refuges by the millions to soak up a much-needed ration of the outdoors.

In 2019 over 59 million people visited National Wildlife Refuges. As more and more people “discovered” refuges as a respite in the very stressful time of Pandemic, there has been a heightened awareness of these public lands as a valuable resource to local communities. Refuges pumped $3.2 Billion into local economies in 2019. But, with increased awareness and usage came increased need for upkeep and protection. The Fish and Wildlife Staff has done a stellar job of preserving the habitat of our refuges, but they are working at a great handicap. The completely inadequate budgets continue to fail to cover the cost of maintaining the incredibly rich and diverse wildlife habitats that make up the Refuge System. Our refuges are being loved to death.

A 2020 National Audubon article stated, “A lack of resources throughout the refuge system is limiting its capacity to provide healthy habitat for birds and other wildlife. Essential infrastructure is crumbling. Managers oversee growing groups of refuges that are lumped together even when they’re hundreds of miles apart. And staff can’t provide the community outreach and visitor services they want to offer.

Fixing these problems would take at least $900 million a year, advocates say. That’s a far cry from the refuge system’s budget of $502.4 million for the 2021 fiscal year.”

This funding gap that has arisen due to low budget allocations over the last decade has degraded critical wildlife habitat and imperiled important species. The Refuge System cannot fulfill its obligation to the American public and our wildlife without increases in maintenance and operation funds. Even with the gains in FY 2020, overall funding for the Refuge System has declined substantially over the last twelve years. Funding in FY2010 was $503 million – $598 million in today’s dollars with inflation and salary increases. This difference of $95 million has forced the Service to cut back on programs and create efficiencies whenever possible – efficiencies that are sometimes harmful or even dangerous. For example, many refuges have been placed into complexes, where staff travel sometimes large distances to juggle duties on multiple refuges. We must change this trajectory.

National Wildlife Refuges are currently funded at 59¢ per acre per year. Compare that to funding for National Park Service at $30 per acre per year.

The number of annual Refuge System visitors jumped by 13 million over the last few years and is likely to take another jump for 2021 visitors, due to lack of access to many other nature areas as mentioned above. More people are looking to recreate on wildlife refuges, yet understaffed refuges struggle to provide those opportunities. Reductions in visitor services can be extremely limiting for constituencies who want to visit.

Equally troubling is a 15% drop in the number of volunteers since FY2011. At a time when record numbers of Americans are retiring and have the capability and desire to give back, the Service’s ability to oversee volunteer efforts has been curtailed. Volunteers provide an additional 20% of work on our national wildlife refuges, yet they are being turned away when the System needs them the most. We hear every day from Friends groups about the frustration their members are experiencing because they cannot perform the volunteer work for their refuge that they would ordinarily be doing. Outdoor areas will continue to be a safer and popular choice for Americans looking to escape the seclusion of pandemic restrictions but without adequate staffing, refuges cannot provide the volunteer supervision that makes many of their visitor services possible.

The Refuge System is bare bones right now and increased growth in urban spaces and outdoor recreation, and the impacts of climate change, place additional stress on the System. Every year, more and more refuges are closed to the public, habitat degrades, and visitors are turned away. Current funding is nowhere near the at least $900 million needed for full funding. Our goal is to reach that figure in the next three years. Funding the Refuge System Operations and Maintenance Fund at $712 million is a step to reaching that goal.

CORFA appreciates the Subcommittee’s consideration of our request of $712 mil for the refuge system operations and maintenance budget for FY2023 We look forward to working with Congress to accomplish this goal and appreciate your consideration of our requests. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Photo credit: Tualatin NWR Volunteer removing blackberry vines, photo credit: Brent Lawrence/USFWS

Continue ReadingCORFA Submits Testimony to the U.S. House