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Dear Refuge Friends,

Welcome to “The Link” - the newest way the National Wildlife Refuge Association would like to connect with refuge Friends nationwide - and connect Friends to each other! The Link is a newsletter that will highlight events and programs Friends are conducting from prairies to mountains and cities to sea. Each month we’ll report on these issues and also call for information about upcoming events that you can share with each other. For instance, in the summer, we will ask Friends to share Halloween ideas so that other Friends considering putting on a similar event have enough lead time to think about hosting something as well.

We at the Refuge Association know that Friends are the glue that holds our Refuge System family together. The work Friends and volunteers accomplish on refuges is equal to an additional 640 full time equivalent staff throughout the Refuge System.

So, please take a gander and let us know what you think! If you have ideas for future issues or would like to submit something your group has done or is working on, please contact our Communications Associate, Eden Taylor at etaylor@refugeassociaiton.org.

Happy Spring and thanks for everything you do!

Geoffrey Haskett, President

Earth Day

This Earth Day Friends Groups from across the country put on many great events supporting their National Wildlife Refuge! In this newsletter we would like to highlight some of them to showcase them and also serve as inspiration for your Friends Group's Earth Day event next year!

  • Cleanup: Friends of Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge (ME) coordinated a two day cleanup event with their partners. Over 1,500 pieces of foam, glass and plastic were collected during the event.
  • Education & Engagement: The Friends of the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge (FL) hosted elementary age children to the refuge teaching them about why Earth Day was created and its importance. The children also engaged in many other fun activities including, talks on marine animals and the dangers of marine debris and visits to the refuge's bat house and log cabin.
  • Festivals & Fairs: Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society (Friends of Coastal North Carolina Refuges) celebrated with USFWS and other partners at the annual Earth Fair OBX (Outer Banks) near Nags Head, NC where they had a table setup to engage with the public. A town litter cleanup also took place in coordination with the event.
[Top Left & Clockwise] Marine Mammal and Debris Talk at the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge (Photo: Friends of the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys NWR), Coast Cleanup in Maine (Photo: Georges River Land Trust), A loggerhead sea turtle hatchling at Pea Island NWR (Photo: USFWS)

This Earth Day we launched our Wisdom Campaign working with Kim Steutermann Rogers, a local artist/photographer, longtime Friends member of Kilauea Point Natural History Association (and now a founding member of Friends of Hanalei NWR, HI) and owner of Albatography. Her beautiful bracelets are hand-stamped with Wisdom's band number and we are giving them away with each $100 donation to the National Wildlife Refuge Association and $5 of every gift will go directly to the Friends of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge for on-the-ground work to protect Wisdom’s home.

April at the Refuge Association

Friends Assessment Webinar:

This month we broadcasted our first ever Facebook Live webinar with our Vice President of Government Affairs, Desiree Sorenson-Groves. The topic of the webinar was a Friends Group Assessment based on a survey that we conducted back in 2017. We had some very interesting findings in the assessment and had a great time interacting with Friends Groups members from across the country! In case you missed the webinar, you can find the video below. We look forward to organizing future Facebook Live events with Friends to further strengthen our relationship!

Keep America's Refuges Operational Act:

On April 23, H.R.3979, the Keep America’s Refuges Operational Act (KARO) of 2017, became law, after being passed by the Senate on April 9th and the House in December. Both chambers of Congress passed this bill unanimously. The bill reauthorizes the Volunteer and Community Partnership Act, allowing continued access to the public for recreational and volunteering opportunities on wildlife refuges through 2022. Last Fall we called for you to join us in support of KARO by signing onto a letter to Congress. We had over 50 Friends Groups sign on and we couldn't have done it without your support from across the country! You can read our full press release here.

Reminders:

Friends Help Line

We wanted to take the time to remind you that the Refuge Association is always here to help! If you have questions ranging from nonprofit management to communications strategies or questions about diversifying your board we have you covered. Just call us on our Friends Help Line (202) 417-3803x31 and our Communications Associate, Eden Taylor will pick up and get you the answer you need!

Things You Can Do Right NOW To Help The Refuge System & Your Friends Group

Congressional/Administration

  • FRIDAY, May 18th is the Deadline for Submitting Written Testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee: As in years past, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies is accepting written testimony from outside organizations to help them determine the needs of the programs under their jurisdiction for next year. We encourage ALL Friends to let them know the funding needs of the Refuge System and how those needs effects your refuge or complex. Please send written testimony to the House supporting the Refuge System!

Your Friends organization submitting written testimony is a valuable resource for the Subcommittee to understand how your refuge is doing and what your needs are. Without vital information like this, they assume everything is wonderful and you have no need for increased funding. In other words, they believe that the funding declines over the past eight years aren’t having an impact.

It’s up to YOU to let them know that’s not the case!

In years past, Friends testimony to this subcommittee made increases in Refuge System funding possible. NOW, your written testimony is essential to help to refuges maintain their current management capability. The deadline for submitting an electronic copy of your testimony to the subcommittee is FRIDAY, May 18, 2018.

NWRA’s testimony also includes other FWS programs such as the State Wildlife Grants, North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, Migratory Bird Conservation Fund and Landscape Conservation Cooperatives as well as specific funding requests for programs within the Refuge System like Law Enforcement, prescribed Fire and Refuge Revenue Sharing. Our LWCF requests do not encompass all the great projects in the country so be sure to talk about your own needs as well as the larger picture! We would appreciate receiving a copy of your testimony and would like your permission to post it on our website. Thank you so much and if you need any assistance please contact our Director of Government Affairs, Caroline Brouwer.

  • Action Alerts: Keep an eye out for our Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Alert we will be sending out next week. In case you aren't already signed up for our Action Alerts, you can sign up here!

Grants

  • Columbus Zoo Fund for Conservation By providing grants to local conservation leaders, the Zoo puts its money to work on the ground to advance conservation research, build capacity among local populations, strengthen environmental education, promote community involvement, and foster behavior change that benefits animals and people. Grant requests may range from $1,000 to $25,000. Grants are limited to $5,000 for first-time applicants.
  • NFWF: Developing the Next Generation of Conservationists The program provides grant funding for urban, tribal and minority youth to engage with the natural world and discover career opportunities available in conservation.
  • The Fuller Foundation Wildlife Grant Wildlife, Endangered Species- Their Environment, and Animals Helping People.

Webinars & Other Resources

Community Engagement

Many Friends Groups, particularly those affiliated with Refuges located in highly populated areas, like Detroit River IWR, Valle de Oro NWR or Patuxent Research Refuge, have asked “what can we do to connect and engage with youth and families in our surrounding community?” We have just the initiative that’s happening during the month of May, Zeta Days at the Refuge. This exciting initiative encourages members of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority to visit national wildlife refuges to engage in outdoor recreation and learn about natural resource conservation.

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., is a historically African-American sorority founded in 1920 by five women at Howard University in Washington, DC. With more than 800 chapters across the United States and worldwide and more than 125,000 undergraduate students as well as graduate-initiated members. In addition, Zeta Phi Beta includes a national network of youth affiliates (between the ages of 8-14 years).

  • Join Refuge Managers or Visitor Services Managers in welcoming Zeta Phi Beta members and their families and friends at your local Refuge.
  • If your Refuge is hosting a local Zeta chapter, please urge them to post pictures on social media during their visit using the hashtag #ZetaDaysUSFWS and your Refuge’s hashtag (if available).

Next month, more details will be shared about this year’s Zeta Days at the Refuge Photo Contest. Stay Tuned!

Next month our theme will be Refuge Photography, we would love to hear your tips and tricks for capturing that amazing shot! We would also like to hear the different ways your Friends Group incorporates photography into Refuge events, through photos contests, photography tours and more!

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