Upper Mississippi

Friends of the Refuge Headwaters helped produce a full-color pocket naturalist guide to common species found on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.
Friends of the Refuge Headwaters helped produce a full–color pocket naturalist guide to common species found on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

It’s an uncommon introduction to common species: a glossy, full color, 12–page pocket naturalist guide to birds, waterfowl, mammals and mussels, reptiles, fish and insects found on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. Cortney White, a former STEP (Student Temporary Employment Program) employee, designed the guide with input from Friends of the Refuge Headwaters board members and funding from a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant.


Friends sold half of the first printing of 1,000 to other Friends groups along the river as well as to such outside organizations as the Minnesota Marine Art Museum and the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, IA. The guides are being sold for $5.99 at outreach events, refuge visitor centers and nature stores: 700 sold in the first four months.


Mary Stefanski, Winona District manager for the Upper Mississippi River Refuge, says the guides are perfect for the “Let’s Go Outside” backpacks lent to families because they show easily identifiable images of wildlife people can expect to see. “It’s eye–catching and it’s great exposure for Friends,” says Stefanski, noting that the Friends and refuge Web addresses—as well as a scannable code for the refuge Facebook page—are right on the back every guide.


New Jersey

A partnership between Carneys Point Generating Plant and Friends of Supawna Meadows National Wildlife Refuge has given some Pennsville High School students a chance to have a rare outdoor field trip.


The local school system rejected a request from science teacher and Friends board member Bob Belding for field trip funds. “We felt that getting him funding would help his class and give the refuge a good image in the community,” said Friends vice president Judy Oshipp. “The refuge had been vandalized and littered recently and we thought we could give the young people a sense of pride and ownership of Supawna Meadows.”


Carneys Point, a staunch supporter of several major Friends projects on the refuge, provided $5,000 to pay for books, water testing kits, field guides and bus transportation for students in an environmental science class. Belding designed a curriculum and provides the on–site instruction so the field trip counts as classroom time; he also created a Science Club that could receive money from the Friends.


Belding plans to have students come to the refuge for half a day twice each year; the program started in spring 2011. Students measure evergreen and deciduous trees, identify migratory birds and their habitats, and collect soil and water samples. They also net and identify aquatic organisms before posting their data on charts back in the classroom.


High school students may catch sight of an indigo blue bunting on science-packed field trips to Supawna Meadows Refuge, NJ.
High school students may catch sight of an indigo blue bunting on science–packed field trips to Supawna Meadows Refuge, NJ.
Credit: Steve Maslowski

“I have started a program of environmental monitoring that should last 10 years,” says Belding. “The students gain ownership of the data, the project and eventually the refuge... they will learn so much more standing in an estuary than in a month in the classroom.”


“The high school is only about three miles from the refuge, but a shocking number of people don’t realize that a national wildlife refuge is in their township,” says Friends leader Judy Oshipp. “This helps give us a higher profile.”


Mississippi

It all started three years ago with a phone call from a young hunting/fishing enthusiast and student at Mississippi State University to Larry Box, then president of the Friends of Noxubee Refuge. Might the refuge have a day’s work for MSU’s Kappa Alpha fraternity pledges? You bet!


Ever since, about two dozen young men show up on a fall day when MSU isn’t playing football to assemble concrete benches, weed and mulch a native garden, clean trash from the lake shore and a stretch of highway that traverses the refuge, clear brush from hiking trails and algae from sidewalks. Half a dozen young men show up for a second work day in the spring. The fraternity provides lunch and the Friends provide drinks, a short video about the refuge and a question–and–answer session (“Are there alligators on the refuge?” “How can I get a real job here?”)


“They’re very industrious workers,” says a grateful Box. “We have made the fraternity a sponsor and added them to our plaque of major donors.”


Kappa Alpha fraternity pledges from Mississippi State University work at Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, MS, one day each fall and spring.
Kappa Alpha fraternity pledges from Mississippi State University work at Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, MS, one day each fall and spring.
Credit: L/F Box

New Jersey

By Dave Blood

From the wildlife drive on Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, the skyline of Atlantic City is clearly visible. This juxtaposition created an exciting opportunity for the Friends of Forsythe.


A fleet of privately–owned jitney mini–buses serves Atlantic City. When the jitneys were updated to newer, compressed natural gas–powered models, an owner/operator who lives near the refuge offered to donate an old vehicle to the Friends, making them the owners of an Atlantic City institution.


In the late fall 2011, the first two–hour tour of the refuge was led by a volunteer Master Naturalist and the bus was driven by a certified driver volunteer. Tours are scheduled every Saturday except during the summer, because the jitney air conditioning doesn’t work. “The first tour had one participant,” said Friends president Dave Blood. “Now we have a waiting list.” “Snowbirding at Forsythe” tours were especially popular. An additional tour was scheduled one Saturday to accommodate a Cub Scout pack.


The tours have attracted a range of interests: visitors who just moved to the area; tourists; families who came out of curiosity; and previous visitors wanting to learn more. People who might not have visited the refuge otherwise were attracted by having an interpreter on board to provide insights and answer questions, and it’s a really positive introduction to the refuge.


Dave Blood is president of the Friends of Forsythe.


Volunteer drive Marjo Atack heads out on a jitney tour of Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, NJ.
Volunteer drive Marjo Atack heads out on a jitney tour of Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, NJ.
Credit: Friends of Forsythe