In October 2011, more than two dozen Friends leaders gathered at the National Training Conservation Center (NCTC) in Shepherdstown, WV, for the 4th Annual Friends Academy. I was at NCTC at the same time for the Refuge Management Academy, a threeweek course for new and aspiring refuge managers. My class had the good fortune to share two sessions with Friends.
We were treated to an inspiring speech by former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Lynn Greenwalt, who spoke of a conservation family and identified refuges with both struggles and successes. He reminded us of the path we need to take to save dirt in the 21th century, and it resonated with me, the refuge staff and Friends at my dinner table.
In our next session, Friends and refuge staff shared one major goal they had for their refuge within the next two years. It was hard to tell Friends from staff. The goal was always to enhance the refuge. Main themes included increased communication and transparency between Friends and staff, reasonable expectations for when accomplishments can be achieved, better use of Friends skill sets, and remembering that we are on the same team.
Jeramie Strickland, wildlife biologist at Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge, said, Personally, I feel that our Friends group (and the national Friends network) is a critical component to our stations and the entire Refuge Systems success.
Katie McVey is wildlife refuge specialist at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah.