Help Save the Refuge System

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

Urge Congress to Make Funding the Refuge System a Priority!

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Congress is beginning to work on the budget for Fiscal Year 2025.The National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) and the Coalition of Refuge Friends and Advocates (CORFA) urge you to submit testimony to both the House and the Senate in support of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Written testimony for the House is due Friday, May 10th, by 5 pm ET.

Written testimony for the Senate is due Tuesday, May 15th, by 5 pm ET.

With easy edits the same testimony can be used for both the House and the Senate.

We are asking each of you to put at least two items in your written testimony:

1. The importance of your local national wildlife refuge, and what it offers to the community and to wildlife.

2. Your support for the overall National Wildlife Refuge System to which your refuge belongs, NWRA requests that you ask for $602.3 million in FY 2025.

It is important that we show the committees how much Friends Groups and members care about funding for the Refuge System. All of you have refuges that are understaffed and under-maintained and desperately in need of funding. It is critical that we get an increase for the Refuge System.

How to Submit Your Testimony to the House
Testimony can be submitted by Refuge Friends Groups or by individuals as supporters of a national wildlife refuge and the National Wildlife Refuge System. 

?Instructions for submission are here. 

What to Submit to the House:These two items must be attached to the email for it to be accepted:

1. Your final written testimony in PDF form with the information noted above (see attached sample testimony)

2. Witness disclosure form (see the attached PDF to which notes have been added)

Testimony to the House goes to IN.Approp@mail.house.gov. They are very good at confirming receipt, so if you don’t get confirmation, something might have gone wrong.

How to Submit Your Testimony to the Senate
Testimony can be submitted by Refuge Friends Groups or by individuals as supporters of a national wildlife refuge and the National Wildlife Refuge System. 

Instructions for submission are here. 

The Chair of this subcommittee is Jeff Merkley and the Ranking Member is Lisa Murkowski. If you are using your House testimony remember to change any references to the House to refer to the Senate.

Testimony to the Senate should be e-mailed to int@appro.senate.gov with the subject “FY25 Int OWT”.

If you have ANY questions, please let us know by reaching out to Libby Marking at NWRA at lmarking@refugeassociation.org. If you would like Libby or CORFA, coalitionrefugefriends@gmail.com, to review your testimony prior to submission, send it over! 

Thank you for your support of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Continue ReadingHelp Save the Refuge System

Ask Congress to Increase Refuge System Funding!

  • Post category:Advocacy
  • Reading time:3 mins read

Testimony For The House of Representatives Appropriations is due next Friday, March 17th, by 5 pm ET

The National Wildlife Refuge System encompasses more than 850 million acres of lands and waters across America’s 568 National Wildlife Refuges, including 5 Marine National Monuments. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to fulfill its obligation to the Refuge System’s 59 million annual visitors and diverse wildlife on a budget of a mere 59¢ per acre.

As Congress begins the appropriations process for fiscal year (FY) 2024, it is important that those who love the Refuge System let them know how critical increased funding is for refuge funding in FY2024. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies has called for written public witness testimony on the budget to be submitted by next Friday, March 17, 2023 by 5 pm ET. This is an opportunity for Refuge Friends organizations and individuals to tell the Subcommittee about the funding needs and lack of staffing of the Refuge System. Please take part in this process to ask that they fund the National Wildlife Refuge System’s Operations and Maintenance fund at $1.5 billion in FY2024 appropriations.

To help you through this process, the National Wildlife Refuge Association has drafted sample testimony and provided instructions for providing the testimony to the Subcommittee. Please note that a Witness Disclosure Form and an attached resume/cv must also be included with your testimony.

Resources For Testimony

Thank you for supporting the National Wildlife Refuge System,

Libby Marking
Director of Government Affairs & Public Policy
National Wildlife Refuge Association

Continue ReadingAsk Congress to Increase Refuge System Funding!

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

REQUEST FOR TESTIMONY ON FY2023 APPROPRIATIONS FOR THE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE SYSTEM

  • Post category:Advocacy
  • Reading time:2 mins read

Deadline to Submit Written Testimony is March 10, 2022

According to NWRA it is very important that we show the committee how much Friends Groups and members care about funding for the Refuge System. All of you have refuges that are understaffed and under maintained and desperately in need of funding. It is critical that we get a huge increase for the Refuge System this year. This is why we are asking for $712 million for the next fiscal year.

For more information and instructions on submitting your testimony go to the National Wildlife Refuge Association,

This is also the time for hatchery groups to submit testimony.

Continue ReadingREQUEST FOR TESTIMONY ON FY2023 APPROPRIATIONS FOR THE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE SYSTEM