November Photo Contest Winner

The winner of the November Photo Contest is Julie Filiberti’s post of the community of birders at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in Vermont. The Friends of Missisquoi NWR hold monthly bird monitoring walks on four of the Refuge trails. As of Julie’s post they have had walks for a total of 151 months! They have tallied 162 different species and also as Julie wrote have “collected a wonderful group of people who come together to share the love of our avian friends.”

  • People looking for birds
  • pond surrounded by trees
  • path through ferns surrounded by trees
  • people in front of a kiosk
  • people on a viewing platform over a marsh

The Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1943 to provide habitat for migratory birds. It consists of 6,729 acres, mostly wetland habitats, which support a variety of migratory birds and other wildlife. The 900-acre Maquam bog is designated as a Research Natural Area and the Refuge was designated as an Important Bird Area in partnership with the Audubon Society. The Refuge in partnership with other publicly owned (State of Vermont) lands has been designated a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention. A mosaic of wetland habitats offers opportunities to see and manage more than 200 species of birds. Fall migration features 20,000-25,000 migrating ducks. Nesting bald eagles, osprey and many other waterbirds are present on the refuge.

The Friends of Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge was established in 2002. The mission of the Friends is to promote a better awareness, appreciation, conservation and responsible utilization of the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge.

The majority of the Board members are birders, so a lot of their efforts tend to lean in that direction. Their aim is always to bring awareness to Missisquoi in new and creative ways. In addition, the Friends are the backbone for the Refuge in obtaining grant monies for invasive species control and natural science education. As with most refuges across the country, Missisquoi NWR does not have its operational needs met financially, so the Friends do what they can to help keep Missisquoi on its feet.

Julie said, “I have such appreciation for the group of birders that we’ve accumulated over the years. Many are regulars that make almost every walk we offer, and some are seasonal or join us occasionally. The Vermont birding community is very small and very friendly so it’s always exciting to have a new face appear and warmly welcome them into our birding group”.

Some other things to highlight about the Friends of Missisquoi:
The Friends offer a store at the Refuge headquarters, but with Covid and subsequent lack of volunteer staffing at the refuge, it has been closed down other than when there has been an event onsite.

The Friends publish a quarterly newsletter highlighting what they have, what they are planning, and any Refuge information that is timely. Their Refuge Manager and Biologist always contribute a column also. All members of the Friends receive a newsletter.

The Friends have been hosting a Big Sit in October at the Stephen Young Marsh at the Refuge for a number of years now. Because they stay stationary on the marsh’s platform, it’s a chance for the public to connect with the Friends to find out what they are doing and maybe share a bit of avian and refuge knowledge. This year they tallied 41 different species in 12 hours in the marsh.

The Friends have been hosting “An Evening of Bird Tales” once a year in February. It started out as a live event where 4-5 people tell stories about birds. It could be any encounter or experience they’ve had with the avian world. Since Covid, it has turned into a virtual event, which has really widened the audience. In 2023, for the 7th annual Bird Tales, the Friends are partnering with the Vermont Center for Ecostudies and having biologists on their staff tell some of the stories of their encounters. It promises to be a win-win for both the Friends and VCE by bringing a new audience to both groups.

Because Bird Tales via Zoom has proved to be such a big hit, the Friends have been trying to host other online events throughout the winter months. This winter the focus is going to be on invasive species. They are planning a series of presentations from experts on the threats to the Refuge that are out there, what dangers they pose, and to teach visitors what to look out for.

In the spring of 2022 the Friends of Missisquoi NWR applied for and were awarded the National Wildlife Refuge Association’s O’Brien Prize. Julie wrote: We have developed a land acknowledgement recognizing the Abenaki culture that called the lands and waters home before the creation of the Refuge and have began working with the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi on ways to bring awareness to their existence. As stated in our acknowledgement, “We, the Friends of Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge, honor the Indigenous heritage of the region and welcome the opportunity to assist the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi in maintaining their close connection with their ancestral lands. Through education and partnership, we will work to bring awareness to their culture and existence. We invite our visitors to share in honoring this vision by engaging in mindfulness while enjoying the Refuge lands and waters and by holding the space with care and appreciation.

Congratulation Julie!




Continue ReadingNovember Photo Contest Winner

October Photo Contest Winner

Cathy Allen is the winner of the October photo contest. Cathy and her teddy shared photos from her recent trip to D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and archives in Spearfish, SD. Congratulations Cathy!

  • Gift shop a fish hatchery
  • Teddy bear looking at fish
  • statue if a man and boy
  • Teddy bear in a gift shop

More than 30 years before the first national wildlife refuge was established in 1903, the first national fish hatcheries were created. Throughout 2022 the National Fish Hatchery System has been marking its 150th anniversary. 

Teddy knew hatcheries were an important part of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service history, so he was thrilled to visit the DC Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and National Fish and Aquatic Conservation Archives in Spearfish, South Dakota in October. What a fabulous day of discovery he had! Founded in 1896, this fabulous place is still carrying out its original mission, stocking more than 50,000 brown and rainbow trout in 14 reservoirs across South Dakota and Montana in 2021. Named after its first superintendent, DC Booth also preserves the historic and cultural heritage of the USFWS, with a living fisheries museum, an active archive of fisheries records and artifacts, plus interpretive and educational programming.

Teddy was surprised to learn that none of the 67 fish hatcheries have Visitor Services staff or funding. Yet, DC Booth was named “Best Place for a Family Day” in a local contest. How are they able to do take such good care of 190,000 visitors annually? Easy! Their Friends! The Booth Society manages the volunteer corps required to operate multiple educational venues on the site including historic homes, a museum, an underwater viewing area, even a replica Fisheries Railcar.  All of it – every single venue on the property – is staffed with two shifts of volunteers daily throughout the season – all managed and paid for by The Booth Society. That’s 14,000 volunteer hours!

Let’s tip our hats to the amazing board of directors and staff at The Booth Society. Executive Director Karen Holzer, Gift Shoppe Manager Nancy Cole, a volunteer board, and a scattering of interns have created a huge legacy – raising the money to pay for facilities renovations, interpretive signage, even land purchases – to build DC Booth National Fish Hatchery into the spectacular place to visit that it is today. Teddy had a great day and highly recommends taking your whole family for a fun day of exploration and learning.

Congratulation Cathy!




Continue ReadingOctober Photo Contest Winner

Where Birds Can Be Birds

In the shadow of the Tampa-Saint Petersburg metropolitan area are three emerald islands that dazzle visitors with their white sandy beaches, spectacular nesting birds, and historical artifacts. These islands are Egmont Key, Passage Key and Pinellas National Wildlife Refuges.

According to the Friends of Tampa Bay NWR, “Each refuge serves as a critical wildlife habitat and a time capsule for the story of Florida.” The Friends of Tampa Bay NWRs produced a 20-minute film that takes you on a journey to these remarkable national wildlife refuges. If you have not seen the film yet, you should view it now!

The film which was created by Jennifer Brown of IntoNature Films and funded by the Friends has also been accepted at several film festivals including the 2022 Florida Environmental Film Festival and the 38th Festival of Menigoute in France.

Continue ReadingWhere Birds Can Be Birds

Friends, Boost Your Year-End Fundraising

  • Post category:Funding
  • Reading time:3 mins read
Virginia Creeper

Did you know that one-third of annual giving occurs in December? And 12% happens the last three days of the year? It’s almost time for the annual giving season which drives billions of dollars for the nonprofit sector. Now is the time to start planning your end-of-the-year campaign! This webinar was hosted by Courtney Phelan, the National Wildlife Refuge Association’s Director of Development. With over a decade of nonprofit fundraising experience.

The webinar covered:

  • Three steps to start your campaign
  • Who do we solicit?
  • How to write a good appeal
  • Tools
  • What is Giving Tuesday?
  • Thanking donors
  • Goals and metrics

Below are links to the recording and other materials from the webinar:

A huge thank you to Courtney Phelan, for this presentation.

Continue ReadingFriends, Boost Your Year-End Fundraising

Can Friends Groups Advocate and Even Lobby?

  • Post category:Advocacy
  • Reading time:2 mins read
Photo with Senator Merkley (OR)

Occasionally Friends groups will here that they cannot lobby, but that is not true. The U.S. Congress and IRS say that it’s legal for nonprofits to lobby as long as it’s not a substantial portion of your activities. In 1976 Congress established clear guidance on how much a 501(c)(3) can expend on lobbying activities. Learn how to measure your lobbying activities using the expenditure test.

Since refuge and hatchery employees are paid with government funds, they are not allowed to lobby, or seek to directly influence specific legislation that effects refuges or hatcheries. However, Friends groups have the right, and arguably even the obligation, to lobby on behalf of the National Wildlife Refuge System, the Hatchery System and their own personal national wildlife refuge or hatchery. Just remember not to lobby while at a Service-managed site (like your refuge or hatchery).

Photo: National Wildlife Refuge Association Former Board Members Chad Brown (left) and service dog Axe and Cheryl Hart (right) with Senator Merkley (OR)

Continue ReadingCan Friends Groups Advocate and Even Lobby?