Three of the oldest refuge Friends organizations are celebrating 30 years of work—Friends of the Minnesota Valley, Friends of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge (FL), and the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society (FL).


Friends of the Minnesota Valley began as an effort to establish the refuge and now supports the entire Minnesota River watershed. Executive director Lori Nelson believes key accomplishments are Community Clean–ups for Water Quality and leading opposition to construction of a nearly 20,000–seat amphitheater next to the refuge. “We are tenacious and committed,” says Nelson, explaining the group’s longevity.


Steve Horowitz, Friends of Loxahatchee president, agrees: “The single most important thing is the dedication of members.” There is also an ongoing commitment to “improving the experience of every visitor,” according to one grant application. “Friends of Loxahatchee has 300 dues–paying members, with 25 members Horowitz considers super–active and about 100 who can be counted upon for single events.


The “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society started when 11,000 visitors came to the new visitor center during its first month—and the refuge staff turned to volunteers for help. A trusting and collaborative partnership with the refuge is still the number one strategy for keeping a Friends group strong and active, says executive director Birgie Vertesch.