Building Company Spirit on the Refuge


March 29, 2016 - When your company suggests you and your coworkers volunteer for a day at a nearby national wildlife refuge, you may be surprised where that leads:

  • To clearing a recreation trail;
  • Planting host plants for a rare butterfly;
  • Cleaning a beach of marine debris;
  • Pulling invasive English ivy;
  • Collecting native seeds for propagation; and
  • Establishing 300 black cottonwoods as cover for endangered Columbian white-tailed deer.

But that’s just for starters. What you may not expect is falling in love with the place…or taking a personal stake in wildlife conservation.

Refuge staff have seen it happen time and again as the popularity of such corporate initiatives grows. A short list of firms that reward workers for volunteering at refuges includes Brother International Corporation, Canon Inc., DTE Energy Co., General Motors, Nike, Inc., OMRON Scientific Technologies, Inc., Patagonia, Inc., The Home Depot, The North Face, Inc. and Wells Fargo & Company. [See longer list below of some corporate-refuge initiatives.] Some company teams help on their own time; some work on the company clock.

At Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, a crew from The North Face’s Lincoln City store came to the refuge 10 times last year, with the company’s blessing. The eight-to-ten crew members helped restore coastal prairie by planting early blue violets, checkermallow and native grasses for a 2017 re-introduction of the threatened Oregon silverspot butterfly.

“I think every single one of them came to the refuge for the first time as part of this planting,” says visitor services manager Dawn Harris. “Now some of them have been back with their families to walk the trail and show it off. They want to be here for any event tied to the prairie restoration. They ask me, ‘When are the butterflies coming?’ because they feel invested in the project.”

Benefits for participating companies often exceed expectations, too. Brother International executives in Bridgewater, New Jersey, cite their work at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge as an example. Last April, a 33-person Brother team visited the refuge for the fourth year in a row to clear trail and pull invasive plants.

“We started out wanting to do something for the community,” says Doriana Allyn, senior environmental health and safety manager. Inside the company, the goodwill spread. “When employees get to know each other by doing something [beneficial] together, there’s a wonderful gift that happens,” she says. “We do good work for the refuge, and the company gets something back in return from the camaraderie that gets built up.”

Some companies frame volunteer initiatives as team building. Some couch them as community service. Either way, refuges welcome the efforts.

“Absolutely, we like it,” says visitor services manager Jonathan Rosenberg at Great Swamp Refuge. “It brings visitors to the refuge, gets work done on the ground, sells our mission and gets our conservation message out there in the corporate world. It’s all good stuff.”

Even occasional missteps don’t seem to dim volunteers’ enthusiasm. One day last May, outdoor enthusiast Nancy Armstrong joined co-workers from OMRON Scientific Technologies at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Their task: clearing and bagging invasive French broom, a woody shrub. Armstrong left with a sense of accomplishment and something else: a nasty case of poison oak. “My entire left forearm was covered with welts for a week.”

She laughs it off. “It was a fantastic souvenir,” she says, “but you know what? I’ll be back next year. …I was amazed at how beautiful the refuge was, how wild it was and with this beautiful view of the bay. It was amazing.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit, or connect with us through any of these social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.


Photos: Flickr album, company teams on national wildlife refuges here.  


Some company teams and the refuges where they volunteered in 2015:

Brother International Corporation  
Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, NJ
Canon Inc. 
Valle De Oro National Wildlife Refuge, NM
DTE Energy Co. 
Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, MI
General Motors 
Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, MI
The North Face, Inc., Lincoln City store
Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge, OR
Samson Corporation 
Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, TX
Patagonia, Inc.
Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, TX
Pelican Pub & Brewery  
Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, WA
HP Inc. 
Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, WA
Incisive Software Corp. 
Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, CA
OMRON Scientific Technologies, Inc. 
Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, CA
Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.
Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, CA
U-Haul International, Inc.  
Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, MD
Wells Fargo & Company 
Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, IA
The Principal Financial Group, Inc. 
Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, IA
Marriott International, Inc.’s Fairway Villas
Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, NJ
The Home Depot, Inc. 
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, MN
Syngenta Corp.
Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, WA
Nike, Inc.
Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, WA
Best Buy
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, FL

Scientifice Technologies employees dispose invasive French broom.
OMRON Scientific Technologies employee Nancy Armstrong, right, and a co-worker dispose of invasive French broom that they cleared last spring at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Employees from Brother International Corporation
Employees from Brother International Corporation -- part of a 33-person company team -- clear trail and pull invasive plants last spring at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, NJ.