Thursday, March 19, 2015

What Are Friends For?

On Saturday, March 21, Friends members will gather at the Refuge to celebrate the accomplishments of the past year and hear the "State of the Refuge” from Kathy Whaley, Refuge Manager.  In addition, the many volunteers who  carried out Friends activities at HNWR in 2014 will be recognized.

The present-day Friends of Hagerman NWR was organized in 2005, with this mission:
… to instill reverence, respect and conservation of our wild creatures and habitats through supporting environmental education, recreational activities, and programs of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, Sherman, Texas, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

An earlier Friends organization operated in support of Hagerman NWR for a number of years but later went out of existence. In 2005, the newly constituted group grew from the steering committee responsible for organizing the first Red River Valley Birding and Nature Festival, held that spring, and the Friends have continued to grow in number, in programs offered at the Refuge, and in support of Hagerman NWR ever since.

Here is a recap of Friends history in general directly from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website:

The first Refuge Friends organizations started in the 1980's. Today, about 220 private, independent, nonprofit organizations build links between communities and their national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries.

Friends organizations partner with national wildlife refuges to conduct public events, teach the community about conservation, restore habitat, maintain trails, coordinate volunteers, operate nature stores and raise funds. ( )

From its start in 1903, the National Wildlife Refuge System has owed its very existence to concerned citizens eager to protect America's natural resources. There are now more than 200 Friends groups, with about 10 new organizations created each year. Some support a single refuge while others are connected to a refuge complex or an entire state.

Friends organizations are crucial to the collective mission of the Refuge System to conserve and protect the wildlife of this great nation. Friends organizations are essential to helping millions of Americans understand that their actions today determine the legacy we leave for tomorrow. ( )

In 1937, the Department of the Interior Appropriations Act recognized the legal status of cooperating associations but it wasn't until the 1980s that such associations began to support National Wildlife Refuges. Cooperating associations were authorized by Congress to support the education, interpretation and research activities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society formed in 1982 in Florida followed by the San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society in 1987.

In 1994, the Service and "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society hosted the first training sessions for cooperating associations in Tampa, Florida. The following year, President Bill Clinton signed an Executive Order on the "Management and General Public Use of the National Wildlife Refuge System." During a workshop sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – "From Executive Order to Collective Action" – participants listed Friends organizations as the top priority for strengthening the Refuge System.

The Service joined the National Wildlife Refuge Association, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

and the National Audubon Society in a partnership called the Friends Initiative to jump start the creation of more refuge support organizations. The National Audubon Society began its Audubon Refuge Keepers (ARK) program to stimulate citizen action on refuges through local Audubon chapters.

By 2008, there were more than 200 nonprofit Refuge Friends organizations with more than 50,000 members nationwide working on behalf of the National Wildlife Refuge System. ( )

Here are additional resources for learning more about specific Friends groups:

Directory of Friends Facebook Pages:

Find a Friends organization:

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