Updated Friends Policy

  • Post category:USFWS Policies
  • Reading time:2 mins read
child and adults looking at reptile at a Friends of Brazoria NWR festival.

Dear Friends Community-  

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 website and 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

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Raise Your Voice!

  • Post category:USFWS Policies
  • Reading time:2 mins read

pronhorns moving from left to rightFriends, 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 hatchery that 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/34FG0tT for 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.

Continue ReadingRaise Your Voice!