Your Refuge Needs Your Help!
The nation’s first national wildlife refuge was once a showcase refuge, but Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is no longer considered a priority, It is suffering significant reductions, including loss of staff. Pelican Island and other national wildlife refuges are in serious trouble due to severe underfunding and loss of personnel.
The Pelican Island Preservation Society urges you to get involved and help us solve the problem. Your refuge needs your help.
Fighting for Our Refuge
– Dr. David Cox
It all began with one man and one boat protecting pelicans on a tiny five-acre island in Florida. Now, Pelican Island, the birthplace of our National Wildlife Refuge System, is threatened once again.
For generations, residents of Indian River County have taken pride in knowing Pelican Island was a very special place. However, with this special gift comes the responsibility to stand up and fight to protect Pelican Island and its wildlife heritage.
For generations, residents of Indian River County have shouldered this responsibility. Beginning with Paul Kroegel, continuing through Joe Michael, Maggie Bowman, and others, they stepped up to fight for Pelican Island. Now it’s our turn.
Today’s threats are real. Yet our ability to protect Pelican Island is being eroded by actions far away in Washington. In the end this place is ours to protect. And protecting it is a sacred trust we keep for the future.
This is about more than just a special place – the land, water, and wildlife – it’s about who we are. I know you will join with us in urging our elected representatives and officials in Washington to restore full funding for our national wildlife refuges.
Today, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is 5,000 acres larger and over a hundred years older, and its protection needs more than just one man and one boat. We must fight for a renewed commitment to our refuges, one that will benefit wildlife and our community for the next one hundred years.
Refuge Funding Crisis
– Walt Stieglitz
Despite minimal increases this fiscal year, the severe funding crisis facing the National Wildlife Refuge System continues and must be addressed soon. Since 2003 the Pelican Island staff has been reduced by two positions. Two more are scheduled to be eliminated when vacated. When this occurs the total staff for Pelican Island and Archie Carr will consist of only two full time employees – an overall reduction of 66%. In addition, funding for operations and maintenance (O&M) is totally inadequate. When fully implemented these overall reductions will have major impacts on the protection and management of the refuge. Some examples of these impacts are:
- Refugewide control of invasive species – virtually eliminated
- Inventory of wildlife populations – probably eliminated
- Enforcement of refuge regulations – greatly reduced or eliminated
- Ability to monitor progress of expensive habitat restoration and control of invasive
- Species in restored areas – greatly reduced or eliminated
- Environmental education and interpretation – eliminated
- Wildlife observation and photography – reduced
- Volunteer program (no staff to coordinate) – greatly reduced
- Coordination with cooperators, other agencies, local governments – greatly reduced
- Restoration of endangered beach mouse – greatly reduced
It must be emphasized that the refuge funding crisis is nationwide in scope. There are more than 550 refuges in the Refuge System and most of them are being adversely impacted in ways similar to Pelican Island.
SOLUTION: The only solution to the crisis is a substantial increase in refuge operations and maintenance funding over the next few years. The current O&M funding level is $463 million. Congress has the ability to change the numbers, and our task is to convince the House and the Senate that the Refuge System is in serious trouble and that they must substantially add to the Administration’s request. As developed by the CARE group (Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement), the target figure for O&M for Fiscal Year 2010 is $514 million (a $51 million increase over the current year). The short term goal is to increase O&M funding to $808 million by Fiscal Year 2013.
You can help obtain the funding needed to properly manage our priceless national wildlife refuges, and they need your help TODAY! You can make a meaningful contribution by writing, emailing, or calling (or do all three) the Washington Office of your Congressional delegation. Urge them to support an O&M funding level for the Refuge System of $514 million in Fiscal Year 2010 and an increased level to $808 million by Fiscal Year 2013. To be most effective your communications should be sent immediately. If possible, letters should be faxed to the appropriate office as regular mail is much slower and time is of essence. Please see “More Information” below.
Further down the page you will also find a series of news articles on the refuge funding crisis.
For more information, please visit the National Wildlife Refuge Association website. Among other information, their website has a section entitled “Take Action” where you can edit and sign on to a preformatted letter to your Congressman. Please note that you need to register for free on their site to send the letter.
Here are some other organizations that have additional information on the NWRS funding crisis:
- The Wilderness Society
- “Engines of Ecotourism, Understaffed Wildlife Refuges Still at Risk”, report from the Environmental News Service
- “Wildlife Refuges on Chopping Block Amidst Budget Cuts“
You can also visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Southeast Region website to read about the workforce reduction planning process, background, fact sheets, questions and answers, and the full Workforce Management Plan itself.
Facts about National Wildlife Refuges
- How may refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System? 548
- How many acres in the Refuge System? Over 96,000,000
- National wildlife refuges provide habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 mammals, 250 reptiles and amphibians, and more then 1000 fish.
- Refuges offer protection to 260 endangered or threatened species.
- In 2006 refuges attracted over 35 milliion visitors who generated over $1.7 billion for local economies, including 27,000 jobs and $185 million in tax revenues.
- There is at least one national wildlife refuge in each state plus some in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Pacific Islands.
- Volunteers generate 20% of all work done on refuges, valued at $25 million per year.
- According to the 2007 Banking on Nature Report, issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, on the average refuges return $4 of economic activity for each $1 appropriated by Congress for their operation.
- The current annual cost of keeping up with inflation and inceased personnel costs for the refuge system is $15 million.
- The amount appropriated for refuge operations and maintenance (O&M) for the entire refuge system in Fiscal Year 2007 (10/1/06 – 9/30/07) was $395 million.
- The amount appropriated for the current fiscal year (2008 – 10/1/07 through 9/30/08) for O&M is $434.1 million. You may recall that the target established by the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) and CARE (Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement) was $451 million. The House actually appropriated $451 million, but the Senate only went for $414 million. The final appropriations bill basically split the difference.
- The President’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2009 (10/1/08 – 9/30/09) calls for no increase for refuges at $434.1 million. Obviously, this really means a budget cut of $15 million since that amount is needed to just cover inflation and increased personnel costs.
- The target funding level for Fiscal Year 2009 established by the NWRA and CARE is $514 million for refuge O&M. This is the level we need to support.
- The target funding level by Fiscal Year 2013 is $765 million. This is the amount required to allow the refuge system to meet its core mission.
- An updated refuge funding crisis report is due in late February from CARE. Check it out at: http://refugenet.org/CARE/carehome.html.
How can you help?
We need you to write your Congressman and Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Dept. of the Interior. Please visit some of the references listed above for more information. To send a reformatted letter, please click the link above for the National Wildlife Refuge Association. In addition, you can visit the following websites with Take Action letters too!
- The Wilderness Society
- Caribbean Conservation Corporation & Sea Turtle Survival League – This site contains more information and a couple of preformatted letters that you may print and mail to the appropriate people
You can also send you own letters to our local Congressman and Secretary Kempthorne at the addresses below. If you do not live locally, you can find contact details for your Senators online.
Senator Bill Nelson
Senator Mel Martinez
Representative Bill Posey
132 Cannon House Office Building
The Honorable Ken Salazar
Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior
For more information on visitng the refuge, driving directions and hours of operation, please visit the official Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge website.
Report Shows National Wildlife Refuges Provide Economic Boost
US Fish & Wildlife Service, November 27, 2007
Recreational use on national wildlife refuges generated almost $1.7 billion in total economic activity during fiscal year 2006, according to a report released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The report, titled Banking on Nature 2006: The Economic Benefits to Local Communities of National Wildlife Refuge Visitation was compiled by Service economists.
According to the study, nearly 35 million people visited national wildlife refuges in 2006, supporting almost 27,000 private sector jobs and producing about $543 million in employment income. In addition, recreational spending on refuges generated nearly $185.3 million in tax revenue at the local, county, state and federal level. The economic benefit is almost four times the amount appropriated to the Refuge System in Fiscal Year 2006. About 87 percent of refuge visitors travel from outside the local area.
“We’ve always known that national wildlife refuges enrich Americans’ lives,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall. “This report reveals that the Refuge System, while admirably fulfilling its conservation mission, also repays us in dollars and cents. Those economic benefits go far beyond the system’s mandated mission to ensure wild creatures will always have a place on the American landscape.”
Click here to read the full press release and to access the Banking on Nature report.
Audubon Board Chair Carol Browner Tells Congress Refuges Deserve Better
– “Audubon Advisory”, October 12, 2007
Former EPA Administrator and current chair of Audubon’s national board Carol Browner testified Tuesday before the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans Subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives. The hearing focused on the successes and failures of the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act, a Clinton-era law intended to improve oversight and management of refuges. Ms. Browner told the panel that wildlife refuges are “underappreciated, underfunded, and underprioritized,” and highlighted several deficiencies in implementation of the Improvement Act, particularly regarding failure to adequately expand the Refuge System to protect ecosystems and failure to secure adequate water for wetlands. Other panelists included former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s director, Dale Hall.
Click here to read Ms. Browner’s full testimony to the subcommittee.
Refuge Association Calls Refuge Funding Crisis Top Obstacle in Fulfilling Mandates of Guiding Legislation
– National Wildlife refuge Association, October 10, 2007
Washington, DC – The National Wildlife Refuge Association yesterday urged Congress to commission an independent study of what it will take for the National Wildlife Refuge System to fulfill its mandates under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997. Calling the Refuge System funding crisis the main obstacle in accomplishing the worthwhile mandates of the Act, the NWRA detailed how the lack of funds is undermining the biological integrity of refuges, impeding public outreach opportunities, fostering lawlessness on refuges, and limiting their ability to adapt to habitat changes wrought by climate change.
“Today, on the 10th Anniversary of the passage of the Refuge Improvement Act, we face perhaps the greatest challenges ever to the conservation of wildlife in America; if we are to protect our nation’s wildlife heritage for the benefit of future generations, then sufficient funding and political capital must be allocated to successfully carry out the Act,” said Evan Hirsche, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association.
Hirsche cited urban and suburban encroachment; invasive species; the rush to develop energy on public and private conservation areas; competition for water; and a public that is increasingly removed from the natural world, as representing enormous challenges to refuges. Adding that global climate change will require a “sea change” in the way we manage refuge habitat and the strategic growth the System, Hirsche stated that, “now is exactly the wrong time to shortchange our nation’s premier conservation gems.”
To illustrate how the funding crisis has limited the FWS’s ability to implement the act, Hirsche described how despite attracting 40 million visitors a year, half of the 548 refuges go without a staff biologist; just 5 percent of the refuge workforce is assigned to public outreach; vandalism and drug manufacturing is proliferating in the System; vital refuge acquisitions and private lands partnerships are falling by the wayside; and portions of refuges are drying up because requisite water rights haven’t been secured.
Also testifying at the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans hearing were former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director, Dale Hall, former EPA Administrator and Audubon Board Chair, Carol Browner, Bill Horn of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, and John Frampton, Director of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Copies of NWRA’s testimony can be downloaded at www.refugenet.org.
The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge Association is to protect, enhance and expand the National Wildlife Refuge System, lands and waters set aside by the public to conserve America’s diverse wildlife heritage. Its membership is comprised of current and former refuge professionals, more than 140 refuge Friends organization affiliates and thousands of refuge supporters throughout the United States.
Appropriations Update for the National Wildlife Refuge System – Fiscal Year 2008
– “Capital Flyer”, September 7, 2007
National Wildlife Refuge Association
The NWRA and partners in the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) are working to ensure the Refuge System receives an increase in funding for its Operations and Maintenance accounts for next year. Flat budgets and cuts have forced refuges to lay off staff and curtail many vital activities. Currently, as reported in past issues of Capitol Flyer, the House has passed a funding allocation of $451 million, which would fund the system at the amount allocated in FY04, adjusted for inflation. The Senate’s allocation, passed by the full Appropriations Committee and awaiting a floor vote, falls well below this at $414 million.
With the federal government’s fiscal year ending on September 30th, time is running out for Congress to complete work on the Interior Appropriations bill, as well as other spending bills. To ensure the government is not shut down, Congress is expected to pass a Continuing Resolution, or “CR.” This will continue to fund government programs at FY07 levels and allow Congress more time to work through the appropriations process. Hill insiders expect that several appropriations bills could be rolled into a much larger bill, or “omnibus,” later in the fall. NWRA and its conservation partners in CARE will work to ensure the funding levels for FY08 are as close to the House passed bill as possible.
To help, send an instant message to your U.S. Senators by visiting the NWRA homepage (www.refugenet.org) and clicking on the Action Alert.
House subcommittee proposes largest refuge budget in history!
– “Capital Flyer”, June 5, 2007
National Wildlife Refuge Association
The House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment held its fiscal year (FY) 2008 “markup” May 23rd, with Chairman Norm Dicks (D-WA) announcing in his opening address that the subcommittee had proposed an increase to the Refuge System operations and maintenance (O&M) budget from $395 million in FY 2007 to $451 million for FY 2008. If enacted, this would be the largest annual Refuge System budget in history.
NWRA, Friends nationwide and our partners in the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) have been delivering a strong and unified message to lawmakers to fund the NWRS at $451 million for FY08.
As published in May’s Capitol Flyer, five members of Friends Groups and the NWRA testified before the Subcommittee and at least 17 more submitted written testimony supporting $451 million. This, coupled with Friends nationwide urging their decision makers to increase refuge funding, made an obvious difference to members of the subcommittee as Chairman Dicks made a specific point to mention that the focus of this bill is on the Parks and Refuge Systems.
The bill will go to the Full Appropriations Committee June 7th and will then move to the floor of the House before being sent to the Senate. Stayed tuned!
NWRA Applauds House Appropriators For Making Refuges a Priority
– National Wildlife Refuge Association, May 23, 2007
The NWRA thanks Chairman Norm Dicks (D-WA), ranking member Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) and all members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Committee, for supporting a strong funding request for FY08 Refuge System operations and maintenance. In a challenging budget year, approval of $451 million, an increase of $56 million above the President’s request, is a powerful statement of support for America’s premier network of wildlife conservation lands and waters.
At today’s Mark-Up, Chairman Dicks noted in his opening remarks that this bill’s focus is parks and refuges, the major issue at hand being the current lack of staffing in these systems. Mr. Dicks highlighted the importance of wildlife refuges and mentioned their need to move in the direction of the National Parks. He further noted that many people attended the Public Witness Day this year – including five representatives from refuge Friends groups – on behalf of the National Wildlife Refuge System and made a compelling case. The proposed bill will help restore recent staffing reductions and begin to rebuild the management capacity in the Refuge System.
The NWRA also appreciates the Subcommittee’s recommendations for federal land acquisition dollars, and funding for State Wildlife Action Plans, both of which will help to conserve vital habitat beyond refuge boundaries. Specifically, the Chairman’s mark for Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) – funding to support land acquisition for refuges and other federal lands – is $268 million, $181 million over the President’s request. The proposed bill also provides a total of $85 million for the State and tribal grants program (State Wildlife Action Plans).
NWRA extends its special thanks to members of the Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus that led a House letter with 80 signatories in support of a significant Refuge System funding increase, and refuge Friends groups from across the country that have successfully communicated the needs of their local refuges to decision-makers.
Interior Appropriations – NWRA & Friends Testify (FY08)
– “Capitol Flyer”, May 3, 2007
National Wildlife Refuge Aossciation
On April 19th, five members of Friends Groups and the NWRA testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies concerning budget cuts faced by the Refuge System, and priority needs for refuges.
Members of the subcommittee listened intently as Marie Springer, President of the Friends of Wallkill River NWR (NJ); Molly Brown, President of the Friends of Back Bay NWR (VA), David Raskin, President of the Friends of Alaska NWRs (AK); John McCabe, Board member from the J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society (FL); and Walt Stieglitz, Board member of the Pelican Island Preservation Society (FL), presented compelling stories about individual refuge needs and those of the entire Refuge System.
The opportunity to speak to the subcommittee at “Public Witness Day” was issued on a first come, first serve basis. Many Friends groups that had requested the opportunity were turned away due to the limited available slots. However, these groups and several more submitted written testimony in lieu of appearing in person. We thank all these Friends for their outstanding commitment and passion on behalf of their individual refuges and the System as a whole and we thank the members of the Subcommittee for providing them the opportunity.
Along side the Friends, Vice-President of Government Affairs, Desiree Sorenson-Groves testified on behalf of the NWRA. In addition to the Association’s request of $451.5 million for the National Wildlife Refuge System’s Operations and Maintenance account, the NWRA requested the following:
- An allocation of $1 million to implement Refuge Landscape Conservation Initiatives, strategic partnerships among the FWS, NWRA, refuge Friends and other national, regional and local interests that work with states, counties and municipalities to identify, prioritize and implement land and water conservation opportunities beyond refuge boundaries;
- An allocation of $1 million to continue to support volunteer projects on and in connection with refuges, including the Cooperative Volunteer Invasives Monitoring Program (VIMP) and competitive grants, which utilize Friends and volunteers to identify and eradicate invasive species;
- The withholding of funding for implementation of a new National Bison Range Annual Funding Agreement, pending the conclusion of an investigation by the Department of the Interior Inspector General into FWS employee grievances and completion of a FWS Refuge Tribal AFA policy;
- An allocation of $100 million in the FWS land acquisition budget through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to acquire vital habitat from numerous willing sellers across the country;
- An increase in the FWS construction budget to prevent further degradation of Refuge System infrastructure;
- An allocation of $3.23 million for Midway Atoll NWR, to initiate the public visitation program, provide needed equipment for safety and cooperative work, and to stop the deterioration of facilities that will be integral to visitor use;
- An allocation of $85 million for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program and;
- An allocation of $9 million for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) in the FWS’ Resource Management General Administration appropriation.
The NWRA also submitted written testimony to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies on April 27th. There is expected to be a quick mark up and vote in the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, perhaps by mid-May, with later action on the Senate side. After a vote in subcommittees, the bills move to the full Appropriations Committees, then to the floors of both chambers.
FUTURE OF NATION’S WILDLIFE REFUGES AT RISK
Diverse Coalition Issues New Report Showing that Refuges Face Crippling Funding Crisis
– April 25, 2007
CARE – Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement
The nation’s wildlife refuge system needs $765 million in annual federal operations and maintenance funding to prevent further decline and deterioration of the system, according to a new report released today by the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE). The group, comprised of environmental, sportsman, recreation, and scientific organizations, finds that refuges across the country, including the Pelican Island/Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuges are threatened by chronic under-funding.
The report, Restoring America’s Wildlife Legacy 2007, details the nationwide impact of funding shortfalls, illustrates some of the deteriorating conditions present in national wildlife refuges, outlines the consequences of under-funding and recommends funding levels for Fiscal Years 2009-2013 to offset the damage already occurring system-wide.
According to recently released regional workforce plans from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the refuge system is cutting 20 percent of its staff, a permanent loss of 565 positions. The report finds that without these jobs, visitors will encounter:
- Shortened or eliminated visitor center hours;
- Dilapidated viewing platforms and hiking trails;
- Reduced or cancelled hunting and fishing events;
- Outdated materials, maps, brochures and websites.
For Pelican Island/Archie Carr NWRs, a lack of sufficient funds means cutbacks in educational outreach activites and inadequate staffing for proper monitoring of wildlife nesting and other activities.
The report goes on to surmise that “Unless Congress increases the annual appropriations for the refuge system soon, the FWS will be unable to perform its Congressionally mandated duty to ‘administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations.’”
The refuge system needs an annual increase of $15 million per year simply to keep up with inflation. CARE recommends a total budget of $765 million per year by FY 2013 based on a comprehensive analysis of refuge system funding needs. “Incremental increases over the next five years will enable the refuge system to fulfill its mandate of protecting wildlife and provide wildlife-dependant recreation by fiscal year 2013,” states the report.
The report can be found on line at www.refugenet.org/CARE/resources.html.
For more information on CARE. visit www.fundrefuges.org/care/carehome.html.
CARE State Fact Sheets Available
For over a century, the National Wildlife Refuge System has protected America’s unique wildlife and irreplaceable habitats. But the chronic under-funding of American’s national wildlife refuges threatens the special places intended to preserve America’s wildlife and wild lands.
Refuges across the country are facing deteriorating conditions and severely limited resources. CARE (Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement) has completed fact sheets on how the funding crisis is impacting refuges in your state. The fact sheets are available for download from CARE at: www.refugenet.org/CARE/StateFunding.html.
– “Capitol Flyer”, April 2, 2007
National Wildlife Refuge Association
In the time since President Bush sent his fiscal year (FY) 2008 budget request for the Department of the Interior appropriations to Congress on February 5, the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA), along with the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE), has been hard at work gathering support for funding increases to the National Wildlife Refuge System.
In the House, NWRA and other members of the CARE group worked to get 80 Representatives to add their names to a sign on letter to appropriators urging a funding level of $451.5 million for Refuge System operations and maintenance (O&M). The letter was led by the Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus co-chairs, which includes Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI), Jim Saxton (R-NJ), Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Michael Castle (R-DE).
In the Senate, NWRA and CARE rallied support for a similar letter. That letter, led by Sens. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), garnered 30 signatures. Last year, a sign on letter for FY07 appropriations had 27 signatures.
The next steps for FY08 funding in Congress will be public testimony and appropriations committee action.
Get mad about what is happening to ‘Ding’ Darling Let Congress know you support refuge
– Guest Opinion: Jim Sprankle, president of J.N.”Ding” Darling Wildlife Society
Ft. Meyers News Press, April 02, 2007
J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and its wildlife need your help.
The federal government has drastically cut refuge budgets, and the effect on “Ding” Darling may be devastating. It could mean reduction of staff, Education Center hours, and environmental education programs. Compound that with the detrimental effect that deteriorating water quality and accelerating algae growth are having on the refuge, and we have a real crisis on our hands.
In 2004, “Ding” Darling generated $47.4 million in economic activity related to recreational use, despite the affects of Hurricane Charley in August of that year. The refuge generates 490 jobs for the Southwest Florida community. It is the county’s second most-visited attraction and the second most-visited wildlife refuge in the country. None of us can afford to lose this important asset, this national gem.
Every citizen of the United States should be up in arms about the government’s lack of concern for wildlife habitat.
Anyone who has ever stepped foot on our refuge should be worried enough to take action.
Do the right thing: Write your Congressional representatives. Let them know that recent budget cuts to the National Wildlife Refuge system are unsustainable and unacceptable.
My good friend and fellow “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society board member, Chip Lesch, advises us that we should espouse zero tolerance on these issues, and I agree.
It’s easy to find the names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of your Congress representatives. Just visit www.senate.gov and www.house.gov, Or call the United States Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
“Ding” Darling Wildlife Society, or DDWS, the refuge’s nonprofit friends’ group, is spearheading a campaign to get 1,000 letters in front of Florida Congressmen by May 1.
Handwritten, individually drafted letters are most effective. For help with points to include in your letter and representatives’ addresses, visitwww.dingdarlingsociety.org/SAVE_OUR_REFUGES.html.
DDWS is dedicated to advocacy for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Members of our Board regularly make the trip to Washington, D.C., to attend workshops on government advocacy and to meet with Florida representatives on behalf of “Ding” Darling Refuge and the National Wildlife Refuge System in general.
This year, DDWS goes so far as to form a new Advocacy Committee.
We welcome any and all input regarding our advocacy efforts. Toward our ends, DDWS will be making strident efforts to boost membership. Big membership numbers mean big impact in Washington.
So, in addition to making your conservation voice heard on the Hill, joining DDWS helps our cause. If we all work together, we can be heard. With your help, we can make a difference.
You can read this opinion online at: www.news-press.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070402/OPINION/704020328/1015.
– “Capitol Flyer”, March 14, 2007
National Wildlife Refuge Association
On February 5, president Bush presented his fiscal year (FY) 2008 budget request for the Department of the Interior appropriations, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) National Wildlife Refuge System. Congress has begun hearings on the Refuge System budget and will develop its own budget in the coming months.
The president’s request proposes $394.8 million for the Refuge System operations and maintenance (O&M) account, approximately $13.1 million more than the administration’s FY 2007 request. While this request represents an increase, the Refuge System needs a minimum of a $15 million increase each year to fully cover actual inflationary costs. By contrast, the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) and the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) have requested $451.5 million, an amount that will simply keep refuges at the level they were at the height of funding in FY 2004.
In addition to O&M funding, the FY 2008 request includes a $6 million programmatic increase for the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program bringing the overall Partners funding to $48.4 million. The Partners program is vital to the FWS’s ability to conduct conservation initiatives on private lands and is operated by the Refuge System in regions 3 and 6.
Also receiving a boost is the construction budget at $23.1 million, an increase of $3.3 million over the administration’s FY 2007 request.
Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) (IL), Rehabilitate Devil’s Kitchen Dam – $2m
Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge (MD), Repair/renovate water/sewer infrastructure – $5m
Midway Atoll Wildlife Refuge (Midway Atoll Islands), Replace fuel farm – $2.346m
Decreases include the FY 2008 request for land acquisition, which totals $18 million, and the Challenge Cost- Share program, which was cut by $1.9 million.
The cut in land acquisition is a reduction of $9.1 million from the administration’s FY 2007 request of $27.1 million. According to the request, “$5.5 million is for line-item land acquisition for acquiring interests in lands, including easements that provide important fish and wildlife habitat.”
National Key Deer NWR (FL) – $1.044m
Upper Klamath NWR (OR) – $4.5m
Once again, the President’s request fails to budget $1 million “for cooperative projects with [F]riends groups on invasive species control,” a program that has resulted over the past two years in a total of 1,682 volunteers contributing 33,766 hours to the management of 139,790 refuge acres. We will once again pursue language in Congress to continue this worthwhile program (a priority for the NWRA).
The president’s budget request also includes revenue assumptions from oil lease sales in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The President’s FY 2008 Budget proposal again mandates receipt of $7.0 billion from the first Arctic Refuge lease sale, followed by $1.0 billion from a follow-up sale, two years later. Under the President’s proposal, the sales take place in FY 2009 and 2011, respectively.
Underfunding Cripples U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System
– Environmental News Service
WASHINGTON, DC, March 12, 2007 (ENS) – In an attempt to cope with a huge budget backlog, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is cutting and redeploying staff in the National Wildlife Refuge System across the Southwest and the Pacific Regions. Reductions in services will impact refuges in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Guam and several Pacific islands.
As a result of the cuts, environmental education programs for school children will be eliminated, there will be cuts in endangered species recovery programs, habitat management and law enforcement will be diminished.
In the face of “increasing operating costs and increasing conservation needs,” Chris Pease, chief of National Wildlife Refuges in the Southwest says the region will be eliminating 38 positions over the next three years.
The Southwest workforce plan consists of a mix of cost-savings measures over a three year period to obtain a budget ratio of 80 percent salary to 20 percent operating expenditures. “Permanent staff reductions are planned as personnel costs consume a hefty portion of the budget,” Pease said. Staff reductions will occur through retirement, attrition and relocation, and staffing reductions will also occur in the Regional Office located in Albuquerque with the savings to be directed to the field stations, Pease explained.
These reductions come on top of the 22 positions left vacant since 2004. The plan further states that “each subsequent year beyond Fiscal Year 2009 may require annual reductions of five to seven positions just to cover cost of living increases.”
The Pacific region contains 64 national wildlife refuges covering more than 3.5 million acres of public land and waters. According to the workforce plan that outlines the cuts, the Pacific region is leaving 32 positions vacant and will eliminate another 17 jobs by fiscal year 2009, resulting in a total of 49 eliminated positions. Because of these staffing cuts, 28 refuges, or 44 percent of the refuges in the region, will remain completely unstaffed and 21 refuges, or one-third of the refuges in the region, will experience further reductions.
The plan calls for the elimination of almost a quarter of the biologists in the Pacific region, crippling the wildlife agency’s ability to monitor and restore wildlife populations. One quarter of the staff that actively manages habitat will also be eliminated, causing over 40 invasive species control projects and wetland restoration projects to be reduced or abolished outright.
Click here to read the full story.
Federal Funding Cuts Jeopardize SW Wildlife Refuges
– Press Release, March 9, 2007
National Wildlife Refuge Association
Contact: Evan Hirsche, 202-333-9074 or email@example.com
Washington, D.C. – A new plan to accommodate federal funding cuts for staff and conservation programs at national wildlife refuges in the Southwest threatens to undermine endangered species recovery efforts, hinder conservation partnerships and turn away the public. According to the Southwest Region National Wildlife Refuge System Workforce Plan, released yesterday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), wildlife conservation will suffer as 55 FWS staff are cut by fiscal year (FY) 2009 in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
“Our magnificent wildlife heritage is under siege,” said Evan Hirsche, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA). “The Southwest plan is just the latest in a series that shows us how the federal government is abrogating its responsibility to conserve our nation’s wildlife treasures.”
According to the plan, a dozen biologists will be cut as well as 11 refuge managers, among others. The dramatic staffing cuts will result in decreased habitat management and restoration projects, fewer acres managed to control invasive species, a reduction of public use opportunities, and a degraded infrastructure. Arizona will see a 16% reduction in field staff at refuges, while New Mexico will lose 20%, Oklahoma 18% and Texas 11%. All 2.86 million acres of the 45 national wildlife refuges in the Southwest will suffer, unless more funding is allocated by Congress.
Along with a diverse group of national conservation and recreation groups, the NWRA has determined that the 100-acre National Wildlife Refuge System requires at least $451.5 million in FY08 simply to stabilize the decline in Refuge System stewardship. This funding level accounts for inflation over the past four years and would prevent further declines in biological and public use programs on national wildlife refuges across the country.
The full Southwest Workforce Plan can be viewed at:http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/docs/R2%20Workforce%20Plan.pdf
Established in 1975, the National Wildlife Refuge Association is the only organization dedicated exclusively to protecting, enhancing and expanding the National Wildlife Refuge System, lands and waters set aside by the American people to protect our country’s diverse wildlife heritage. A national membership organization, the organization benefits from the support of U.S. Fish and Wildlife professionals, more than 125 refuge “Friends” group affiliates, and thousands of individual members in all states. For more information, visit www.refugenet.org.
Panel says refuge budget dangerously low
– Allison Winter
E&E Daily reporter, February 28, 2007
The Bush administration’s plans to flatline national wildlife refuge funds and lay off staff across the country could imperil the system and the wildlife that call it home, members of the House Resources Committee said yesterday.
Leaders of the Fisheries, Conservation, Wildlife and Ocean Subcommittee told Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall that his agency’s fiscal 2008 budget request does not provide enough for the 547 wildlife refuges in deserts, swamps, forests and wetlands across the United States.
“It is hard to see how you are going to conserve and protect fish, wildlife and plants under these budget realities,” said Subcommittee Chairwoman Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam).
The budget request would allot $394 million for operations and maintenance at wildlife refuges — $12 million more than the refuges received in fiscal 2006 but still far below the amount needed to address the $1.5 billion maintenance backlog and rising operations costs, Bordallo said.
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Wildlife refuges lack means to survive
The system that spans states is being forced to choose between programs, and in some cases, animals, as staff and funding levels fall.
– By Tim Reiterman Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times, February 27, 2007
LOS BANOS, CALIF. — The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex, where tule elk bugle across grassy uplands and migratory waterfowl splash in languid sloughs, has been run for years out of a strip mall 12 miles away, next door to a Sears store.
There is no money to build a visitors center on the 44,000-acre complex that provides recreation for about 90,000 tourists, anglers, hunters and bird watchers each year. Nor is there money to hire a second full-time law enforcement officer for the complex’s three far-flung refuges in Merced and Stanislaus counties.
So Ranger Anthony Merrill patrols the largest freshwater wetland complex left in California with a dog named Scott.
A high-energy, 80-pound Belgian Malinois, Scott can be a formidable ally when Merrill is tracking down poachers, breaking up altercations, searching for marijuana patches and meth labs, or investigating burglar alarms at refuge warehouses. But the pair can cover only one refuge at a time, although drug crimes, fish and game violations, vandalism, dumping and medical emergencies occur throughout the complex.
The National Wildlife Refuge System, part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was created a century ago to provide a haven for the most imperiled species. But today the mosaic of 547 refuges covering nearly 100 million acres of swamps, islands, wetlands, deserts, grasslands and forests is itself jeopardized by budget constraints.
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Wildlife refuges face severe staff cuts
– By HENRY A. STEPHENS
Press Journal, December 20, 2006
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — More than 100 years after the federal government rescued Pelican Island from plume-hunters, business and environmental leaders want to rescue the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge from the government.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last month announced plans to eliminate almost 90 positions — or 12 percent of the workforce in the Southeast — to meet operating costs in an increasingly lean federal budget.
Plans call for the 5,000-acre Pelican Island refuge near Sebastian to lose its entire biological staff, a ranger who also serves as a volunteer coordinator and an administrative assistant, in three years. The Pelican Island staff also covers the adjoining 900-acre Archie Carr refuge.
“We are so concerned with this because Pelican Island is not even selected as a ‘focus’ refuge, even though it was the first national wildlife refuge,” said Bonnie Swanson, president of the Pelican Island Preservation Society.
Budget woes hit Pelican Island refuge
Wildlife refuge will lose its only ranger
– BY JIM WAYMER
FLORIDA TODAY, November 29, 2006
SEBASTIAN – Many days, Joanna Taylor is the only one to explain to visitors why white pelicans flock from so far to this tiny island, America’s first wildlife refuge.
Often, the sole ranger at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is a one-woman welcoming center. She cherishes the role and the refuge, so she took hard the news that, after almost two decades with the national system, she would no longer have a job.
Two vacant positions — a biologist and a biologist technician — also will go, as will a forester at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
They are among about 90 refuge jobs that will be eliminated within the next three years in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southeast region. The cuts add to 68 positions done away with in the past two years, for a combined 2 in every 10 in the 128 refuges.
“I wasn’t expecting after 20 years of service that my position was going to be abolished,” Taylor said. “I’ve grown to love this area, and I’ve seen this refuge evolve in the past six years I’ve been here.”
Budget cuts hurt wildlife refuges
– By SUZANNE WENTLEY
Press Journal, November 4, 2006
Federal budget cuts have left Treasure Coast wildlife refuges without environmental education programs, wildlife surveys and police protection against poachers, refuge managers said Friday.
Throughout the southeast, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans to eliminate almost 90 positions — or 12 percent of the refuge workforce — to meet operating costs in an increasingly lean budget.
The Pelican Island, Archie Carr and Hobe Sound national wildlife refuges will lose four workers, and managers said those positions will mean an end to most public outreach activities and wildlife management projects.
The entire biological staff, a refuge ranger who also served as a volunteer coordinator and an administrative assistant will be forced out at the 5,000-acre Pelican Island — America’s first refuge — and the adjoining 900- acre Archie Carr refuge.
NWRA Submits Testimony to Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on FY07 Interior Appropriations for US Fish & Wildlife Service
The National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) submitted written testimony to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies on April 28 for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s fiscal year (FY) 2007 budget. In addition to the Association’s request of $415 million for the National Wildlife Refuge System’s Operations and Maintenance account, the NWRA requested: $1 million for volunteer projects on and in connection with refuges, including the Cooperative Volunteer Invasives Monitoring Program (VIMP) and competitive grants, which utilize Friends and volunteers to identify and eradicate invasive species; increases in the FWS construction and land acquisition budgets and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife and the Contaminants programs; $9 million for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; and $85 million for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program (otherwise known as State Wildlife Action Plans).
The Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE), chaired by the NWRA, orchestrated a sign-on letter in the Senate asking the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to fund the Refuge System at $415 million in FY07. The letter, led by Senators Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT), was signed by 27 members of the Senate and was addressed to Interior Appropriations Chairman Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Ranking Member Byron Dorgan (D- ND).