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Visitors Praise Local Volunteers for Their Service at North Carolina’s Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge


March 11, 2005

Bonnie Strawser, 252-473-1668, ext. 230

Jim Rothschild, 404/679-7291


Whether leading a bird walk, selling a refuge souvenir, clearing a trail, or fixing a visitor’s van door, volunteers at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge near Manteo, North Carolina provide service with a smile.

“Without our volunteers, there would be a lot of things that wouldn’t get done,” said Susie Ahlfeld, park ranger for the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge Complex. “I’ve seen our volunteers strike up conversations with visitors. They’re first rate! Last week when winds were gusting at 40 miles per hour here, a visitor’s van door was blown off. One of our volunteers, Bill Slayton, got out his tools and fixed it.”

Largely because of their volunteer’s “customer first” attitude, Pea Island National Wildlife refuge was ranked among the best refuges in the nation for visitor satisfaction during a recent survey. In the survey commissioned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 100 percent of survey respondents agreed (1 percent) or strongly agreed (99 percent) that the Pea Island refuge staff and volunteers were courteous. Considering their overall experiences with Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, 65 percent strongly agreed and 34 percent agreed” to being satisfied with the quality of the recreational and educational experience.

“From the results of the survey, it seems we’re on the right track with visitor services,” said Mike Bryant, refuge manager. “I’m really proud of the volunteers and staff who work with the public at Pea Island. They love what they do, and they love to share that attitude with the public! It’s the attitude that really makes a difference.”

Nationwide, national wildlife refuges scored a 4.48 on a 5.0 satisfaction scale. Visitors were most satisfied with the service they received from employees and volunteers, giving them a 4.7 rating out of a possible 5.0. Survey results are based on responses from 2,456 visitors to 47 refuges during fall 2004. Complete survey results can be viewed at

About three million visitors enjoy Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge annually, and the volunteers are often the first people they see. The volunteers staff the visitor center with its wildlife exhibits and gift shop. They also lead bird walks three times a week at the refuge which is situated at the midpoint of the Atlantic flyway and is known as a “birder’s paradise.” More than 265 bird species nest, rest, or winter there. During their migration, piping plovers, federally listed as endangered, are found on the refuge’s beaches and dunes. Bald eagles, federally listed as threatened, are often seen on the refuge during the warmer months.

Volunteers also perform maintenance, such as cutting back vegetation near the public bird photo blind, or help with biological projects.

Pea Island’s volunteers are active in the Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society (CWRS), a local, non-profit refuge friends group established in 1989. The Society helps generate funds for refuge programs and activities and assists in volunteer recruitment for both Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and its sister Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in Manteo. Currently, the Society is raising funds to construct a large visitor center and office complex on Roanoke Island for Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

Tom White, Jr., CWRS president, explains the Society’s role as he sees it. “We have a real win-win situation. Particularly in these tight budget times for the Fish and Wildlife Service, they need volunteer assistance and contributed funds more than ever. As volunteers, we can perform a huge service for the community and have a great time while we help the Service accomplish their goals. We love just being out on the refuges. To be able to provide a valuable service while we’re there is just icing on the cake.”

“The Society meets the second Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge office in Manteo to plan projects and work days. We encourage everyone to join in,” said White.

For more information about the Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society, please visit the website

The Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is one of a 95-million-acre nationwide network of 545 wildlife refuges administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 fish and wildlife management offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the federal assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to State fish and wildlife agencies.

Refuge Volunteer Bob Burrell leads a bird walk on North Pond Trail. Photo by: Melissa McGaw


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