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.
Friends, have you read the Office of Inspector General report on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Friends Program? Every Friends group that supports a refuge or hatcherythat is managed by USFWS should give it a read. A major finding of the report is that the USFWS did not maintain the information necessary to manage their Friends program. Additionally, portions of the report imply that Friends are using donations inappropriately.
Friends groups and volunteers are an enormous resource for the refuge and hatcheries systems. These community volunteers are dedicated to their local site and are scrupulously devoted to ensuring their activities benefit their site and the refuge and hatchery systems as a whole. The OIG report appears to question the use of funds generated by the Friends for expenditures for activities that benefit that Service site. These appear to be unfair accusations.
Ultimately, this report will bring changes to the Service’s policies and agreements with Friends organizations. Right now, the Service is crafting those changes. Friends, what’s your reaction to the report and the potential corrective actions that are being proposed? CORFA and the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) want to hear from you. Please share your comments and questions so we can all work together to strengthen the Friends program. NWRA/CORFA will compile the comments to be shared with Friends and the Service.
Go to https://bit.ly/34FG0tTfor more information on submitting your comments and questions and for a link to the OIG report that contains USFWS response and corrective actions. Our goal is to provide the Service with input that will help create a strong program for both Friends and the Service.
The National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) and Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates (CORFA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), to formalize our long-standing partnership. The MOU outlines plans to work together to provide Friends organizations with information and materials they seek to strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of their organizations. So what does this mean – we will work together and with you to gather information to help Friends continue to be successful. We’ll work on creating an updated resource center, webinars, a quarterly Friends newsletter, and share information from and for Friends. NWRA is providing its expertise and assisting with the financing of this effort and CORFA is providing their experience and volunteer labor. We are doing this because we believe Friends bring an unmatched level of knowledge, skills, and dedication to the National Wildlife Refuge System, and together we make a formidable team. To support this effort please consider a donation to NWRA and let CORFA know what materials, information, discussions, etc. will help you and your organization.