National Wildlife Refuge System

From friend to friend

Florida

Twelve water trails at Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges are now featured on laminated paddling guides for visitors in kayaks and canoes. “We are not simply providing recreational access to paddlers,” says Peg Hall, a paddling project organizer with the Friends of the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys Refuges. “We are providing a significant new connection between the people who live around here and the refuges.”


The front of each 11 x 17 guide shows a map, trail length, required skill level, time to paddle and directions. The back describes the various biozones along the trail—open water, salt marsh, transition marsh, and maritime hammock along the Shired Creek trail, for example.


The $10,000 project was funded by the refuge and executed by Friends. Visitors will borrow the guides and leave a deposit to cover the replacement cost. “Such a project must meet a clearly defined purpose that ties directly to the Friends’ goals as an organization,” advises Hall. Mark Gluckman—an avid paddler who originated the idea—believes the guides would work wherever there are safe waters to paddle. “Kayaking is a great way to experience nature,” says Gluckman. “It’s a fast growing sport, good exercise and anyone can do it.”


Friends of Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges created 12 guides to paddling trails on the refuges.
Friends of Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges created 12 guides to paddling trails on the refuges.

Gluckman also expects the Friends to form partnerships with local businesses willing to make the guides available, since the refuge headquarters is remote from most of the paddling sites. Hall’s goal is for the Friends to offer guided paddle trips and an interactive website where paddlers can add information about their refuge experiences.


South Carolina

The mission of the Friends of Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge is to support the refuge in protecting and preserving the longleaf–wiregrass ecosystem, in part by offering educational and civic activities. “Longleaf and Lunch”—a landowner demonstration day focused on managing longleaf pine—fit the bill perfectly.


Invitations to the free half–day event in October were sent to more than 200 area landowners. The event was also advertised on a Web site and in two local newspaper articles. Registration was limited to 25 people, the capacity of two vans provided by the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, a member of the Sandhills Longleaf Pine Conservation Partnership. The partnership—which includes the Friends and a variety of other government agencies and nonprofit organizations—strives to maintain, improve and establish the longleaf pine system in parts of South Carolina. Several partners contributed time, knowledge or funds for the landowner event.


Participants visited private lands in various stages of restoration—newly planted, 10 or 20 years old, regularly burned—and learned about longleaf pine management. Presentations by two attorneys on the tax implications of conservation easements were especially popular. Refuge manager Lyne Askins said, “The audience was very engaged and asked many questions. The event generated a lot of support for longleaf pine—and directly supported the key functions of the Friends.”


Missouri and Florida

The Friends of Big Muddy National Wildlife Refuge, MO, collaborates with Missouri River Relief to offer a free, monthly speaker series featuring experts who discuss river issues, biology, hydrology and history. Topics have ranged from the Lewis &; Clark expedition to mussels, pollinators, bats and white nose syndrome, vireo migrations and the Osage Indians.


The Friends of Big Muddy National Wildlife Refuge, MO, sponsors a popular speaker series on the biology and history of the Missouri River.
The Friends of Big Muddy National Wildlife Refuge, MO, sponsors a popular speaker series on the biology and history of the Missouri River.
Credit: Steve Hillebrand

The series has expanded from a cabin on the refuge to two restaurants in Rocheport and Kansas City, with two additional presentations held in St. Louis. The speakers volunteer and the restaurants host the events at no charge.


Big Muddy Refuge park ranger Tim Haller says the speaker series generates “networking opportunities with numerous professionals and interest groups involved in natural resource management. Most speakers have a correlation with the Missouri River which provides the life line of the refuge.”


The “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society, FL, partners with The Sanctuary Golf Club, where free weekly lectures are regularly filled to capacity (100 people); this year, the lecture will be presented twice—10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Fridays from January through March.


The lecture series was started eight years ago as a way to bring people back to the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge after Hurricane Charley. “It has proven to be very effective in bringing people to the education center and gaining some new members,” says executive director Birgie Vertesch.


The first lecture of 2012 featured Anne Morkill, manager of the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuge Complex, speaking on climate change. Larry Richardson, a wildlife biologist and photographer at Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, will talk this year about using remote cameras to capture images of the Florida panther. Speaker topics are frequently scheduled to coincide with new exhibits or special events at the refuge.


Friends of the St Croix Wetland Management District, WI, offered patches for Boy Scout Conservation Day.
Friends of the St Croix Wetland Management District, WI, offered patches for Boy Scout Conservation Day.


Wisconsin

“It’s all about relationships,” says Tom Kerr, project leader at St. Croix Wetland Management District, to explain the many successes of the relatively new Friends of the St. Croix WMD. Established in July 2010, the group’s 50 members have generated several thousand dollars worth of grants, organized two Friends and Neighbors Night Out events and hosted 450 Boy Scouts and their families for the district’s first Conservation Day.


The local high school principal and two biology teachers came to the first Friends and Neighbors Night Out in 2010, leading to a service learning day when Friends and students planted 4,000 plugs of prairie forbs.


When a local Scout leader was invited to a Friends meeting, the idea for Conservation Day was born. The event was funded with grants from the WalMart Foundation, the National Wild Turkey Federation and others. A neighboring farmer offered his field for parking. There were hikes and exhibits as well as opportunities to remove invasive buckthorn and earn merit badges.


The real value of Conservation Day, says Kerr, was getting “450 people on their wetland production area where they could learn what the Service is doing and experience a beautiful day outside. It’s the first step in stewardship of our WPAs.” After the event, the Friends signed up two new members and the WMD Facebook page signed up 35 new fans.



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Friends Forward Winter 2012

Last updated: March 1, 2012