Every Friday, teams of volunteers take to the waters of J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge to remove the nearly invisible monofilament fishing line that can be deadly to birds and marine life. In the winter, more than 40 volunteers show up each week. In the summer, a steady crew of six hits the kayaks weekly, organized by team leader and “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society board member Doris Hardy.

The Wildlife Society, the Friends organization for the refuge, purchased new kayaks for Monofilament Busters in 2010. The Society also provided new boat hooks and scissors made for cutting the fishing line.

In 2010, the crews brought in buckets of monofilament, in addition to coolers and cups, toys and plastic bags and lots of fishing gear. More than 120 birds and animals are treated each year for injuries caused by fishing line and hooks in the trees and water. “This is a much needed program that saves the refuge considerable time and expense,” said refuge ranger Jeff Combs. “The volunteers are saving wildlife from a horrible death.”

Friends of Black Bayou Lake Refuge promote events with signs on members’ lawns.
Friends of Black Bayou Lake Refuge promote events with signs on members’ lawns.
Credit: Brittany Petersen


A deceptively simple bit of publicity has garnered attention for special Friends events at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge: lawn signs displayed in the yards of Friends members.

The Friends printed simple double–sided, campaign–style signs for three annual events: the longstanding National Wildlife Refuge Week celebration and two newer family events—a wildlife walk and an International Migratory Bird Day Event. Only the date changes from year to year, so new dates are printed and affixed to the original signs. Inexpensive wire stands can be removed and re–used for each event.

The signs are stored at the refuge and distributed to Friends about a month prior to each event. Friend Becky Ham credits the signs sprinkled on lawns all over town for getting the word and boosting attendance especially at the newer refuge events.


For 11 years, a beach–ready wheelchair sat outside the gatehouse at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, waiting for anyone who needed it to enjoy the beach—like Neil McManus, increasingly disabled by Alzheimer’s. One morning when McManus arrived at the refuge with his wife Heather, the wheelchair was in a hundred pieces and Heather was in tears. Vandals had destroyed the chair as well as a nearby bike rack.

Friends of Parker River Refuge helped purchase a beach-ready wheelchair.
Friends of Parker River Refuge helped purchase a beach-ready wheelchair.
Credit: Jean Adams

But the Friends of Parker River Refuge and the nearby community rallied. The Friends donated $500, matched by $500 from Matter Communication in Newburyport. With individual donations and a contribution from the Beach Buggy Foundation of Sagamore Beach, the refuge purchased a new $1,300 buggy. The chair is made of PVC tubing and equipped with oversized plastic wheels and a large seat.

One of the first to try it was Neil McManus. Refuge outdoor recreation planner Jean Adams says several other people have used it as well—and now it’s being kept under lock and key inside the refuge’s newly upgraded visitor center. “It’s a great story,” said Adams, “because it shows how much people really do care.”

Puerto Rico—Georgia

Intrigued by Friends Forward stories of Friends birding trips to Costa Rica, the Okefenokee Wildlife League (OWL) began organizing its own trip—to visit Vieques and Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuges in Puerto Rico and their Friends groups in February 2011. The trip was planned for pleasure, cultural exchange and fundraising; each traveler was to contribute $100 to OWL.

Okefenokee Refuge ranger Gracie Gooch said the Puerto Ricans are passionate about their island but needed encouragement to participate in national and regional Friends conferences. “Each group was learning from each other,” said Gisella Burgos, visitor services manager for the Caribbean Islands Refuge. All the Friends groups want to improve their fundraising, increase membership, work with the community. “It’s easy to get sidetracked and important to keep an eye on the mission of the refuge,” said Burgos.

Two Friends from Georgia explore the beach at Vieques Refuge, PR.
Two Friends from Georgia explore the beach at Vieques Refuge, PR.
Credit: USFWS

TICATOVE at Vieques has many volunteers helping with endangered sea turtles but needed help establishing a formal organization, fundraising and working with the community. The Friends group at Cabo Rojo—“Comité Caborrojeños Pro Salud y Ambiente” (People from Cabo Rojo for Health and the Environment)—would like to open a book store at the Caribbean Islands National Wildlife Refuge’s new visitor center.

The trip fell slightly short of its goals when only three of the original eight travelers went, but Gooch said some still contributed to the organization. In the future, she says the group will require a deposit and have a stand–by list of travelers. Nonetheless, it was a valuable first trip in many ways. OWL travelers shared a slide presentation with senior and civic groups, with many people eager to sign up for the next trip, which organizer Sally Webb is already planning for this fall.