Florida

An abundance of urban wildlife can make trash cans a tempting source for an easy dinner. Animals eat materials that make them sick or worse. So the Friends and Volunteers of Refuge Florida Keys (FAVOR) sponsored a “Say No to Nibblers” free trash can corral giveaway.


Friends and volunteers built 40 trash can corrals of lumber, provided at reduced rates by a local vendor. The corrals were given free to residents of Big Pine and No Name Keys. The project helped educate neighbors about the importance of securing their trash to keep wildlife safe, and they were pleased they no longer had to pick up debris the animals left behind.


Nevada

Seeking to attract visitors who are new to the refuge and to camping, Friends of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex last spring held its first overnight camping event. Friends provided food—hot dogs, quesadillas and s’mores—while REI loaned tents and sleeping bags and an educator from the Southern Nevada Agency Partnership led a guided evening walk. “All our new friends needed to bring was a sense of adventure,” says Friend board member and event planner Frank Simpson.

During an overnight camping trip at Desert National Wildlife Refuge, children observed small mammals in plastic jugs and then released them where they had been caught.
During an overnight camping trip at Desert National Wildlife Refuge, children observed small mammals in plastic jugs and then released them where they had been caught.
Credit: USFWS

“Camping is a great way to get people out on the refuge,” says Simpson. “No one is rushing off to get the kids to soccer in the middle of your program. Your Friends’ sense of passion for the refuge really has a chance to shine through.” About 15 campers spent the night; another 30 were on a waiting list. Next year, Friends plan to include experienced campers who will serve as mentors for the beginners. Simpson taught campers how to put up tents, start a fire, cook breakfast and dinner, survive in the desert and leave no trace. Volunteer Bruce Lund shared information about small mammals that had been caught in live traps during the night.


The Friends used email, fliers and Facebook to publicize the event. “Get partners on board with MOUs (Memorandum of Understanding) signed well in advance,” adds Simpson. “The more you do in advance the more fun you’ll have at the event. If you are enjoying yourself, your participants will too!”


Texas

The hard work of Friends of Brazoria Wildlife Refuges volunteers built and opened two urban trails at the Dow Woods Unit of San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge. The 338–acre property, donated by The Dow Chemical Company, is located in the city of Lake Jackson.


A Friends team coordinated planning with refuge staff, obtaining $220,000 in grants from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and The Dow Chemical Foundation. The Texas Master Naturalist Cradle of Texas Chapter provided a team of experienced volunteer craftsmen to build five boardwalks and an observation platform. Dow Chemical employees and local residents also volunteered. Recruiting volunteers from the community helped build a sense of ownership in the trail.


Friends of Brazoria Wildlife Refuges, TX, built two new trails in an urban unit of the refuge.
Friends of Brazoria Wildlife Refuges, TX, built two new trails in an urban unit of the refuge.;
Credit: Friends of Brazoria

Experienced members of the Friends board developed detailed specifications so that even the lowest competitive bids would meet certain performance requirements. This was especially helpful in evaluating the bids, as prices varied widely on individual items such as decking, concrete work, trail edging and restrooms. Volunteers from the Friends board made sure that grant requirements for time and cost reporting and public bid solicitations were met. Local dignitaries, community and local business leaders and administrators of other local tourist destinations attended the grand opening, which was featured in the local newspaper.


Two trails now meander through the hardwood forest of the Columbia Bottomlands. One, nearly a mile of universally–accessible path, is named in honor of local naturalists Gloria and John Tveten; the other is a 1.5–mile compacted granite woodland path called Bayou Loop. Benches and an interpretive display welcome visitors. The trails are open daily from sunrise to sunset.


Vermont

The Friends of Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge unveiled its Giving Goose Project on International Migratory Bird Day in May. Local artist Paule Gingras donated a 4–1/2 x 5–1/2 foot painting titled Blue Goose Marsh, with 50 brass geese across the sky. Each small goose will be engraved for a $350 minimum donation.


The Friends of Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge, VT, a brass goose for each donation of at least $350.
The Friends of Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge, VT, a brass goose for each donation of at least $350.
Credit: Friends of Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

“We’ve ordered an extra handful of geese,” says Friends vice president Rich Kelley, “so we can send them out for engraving without having a blank spot. We haven’t yet decided what we’ll do when we get the 51st donation, but that will be a good problem to have.”


The brass geese are about the size of an index card. Kelley says a big part of the initial expense was creating the template. Other Friends can use the Missisquoi template if interested. Contact info@friendsofmissisquoi.org for details.


A plaque below the painting includes a quote from Mollie Beattie: “What a country chooses to save is what a country says about itself.” Beattie was a University of Vermont graduate and the first woman director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.