Corporate sponsorship back pocket

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s ’ a c i r Ame

y a w e Gat

e r u t a to N

How the Refuge

Association Mobilizes and Empowers Communities to Protect


Greatest System

of Public Lands


About the


Wildlife Refuge Association

We rally together Refuge Friends Groups and volunteers, birders, hunters, anglers, ranchers, students, and other conservation nonprofits, to create a collective voice for the Refuge System. We cooperate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to help staff efficiently and effectively accomplish an ambitious conservation mission for the benefit of the American public, protecting endangered species, biological diversity, and all the wildlife that call the Refuge System home. 2


Founded in 1975, the National Wildlife Refuge Association’s (Refuge Association) mission is to conserve America’s wildlife for future generations through programs that protect, enhance, and expand the Refuge System and the landscapes beyond its boundaries.

The Refuge

Association meets its


by working in three distinct ways

1 2 3

Building a strong constituency for wildlife, Advocating for wildlife conservation with decision makers, and Conducting on the ground collaborative conservation with the Refuge System and local landowners



Build a Strong Constituency for Wildlife The Refuge Association mobilizes and empowers over 220 refuge friends groups, with over 40,000 private citizens across the country, to tackle the challenges facing our national wildlife refuges. Through training workshops, communications networks, partnerships, and advocacy, we generate support for wildlife refuges and vital wildlife habitats at the local and national levels.

landowners working together to build public-private partnerships, by hiring its first Executive Director, Steve Jester.

In order for large landscape conservation efforts to be successful, collaborations and partnerships with all stakeholders are required. For years, the Refuge Association has established and fostered effective partnerships with private landowners and organizations to support good conservation programs and policy. In 2013, the Refuge Association began a long-term partnership with Partners for Conservation, a collaborative group of private

The Refuge Association works to engage future generations of conservationists through a student internship program, which puts those seeking possible careers in the conservation world, the opportunity to intern on a national wildlife refuge. Others are able to intern with the Refuge Association in Washington, D.C., to learn about conservation policy, Congress, and the Administration.


In addition to working with farmers, ranchers and private landowners, the Refuge Association has expanded its reach to deepen opportunities for urban and suburban Americans to connect with wildlife and national wildlife refuges.



Conducting on the Ground Collaborative Conservation


From polar bears in the Arctic to manatees swimming in warm Florida waters to the pronghorn of the Great Basin, wildlife in America is threatened by habitat loss and human encroachment near national wildlife refuges. In response to the alarming loss of vital refuge buffer habitat, the Refuge Association launched the Beyond the Boundaries program in 2005 to expand support for conserving landscapes surrounding national wildlife refuges. We believe that conservation cannot be confined to lines on a map or a refuge “box.” Through partnerships with government agencies, private landowners and conservation organizations, our conservation programs and science brings a compelling vision of landscape conservation together with the people and resources that can make it happen. Our strategic approach to landscape conservation seeks to safeguard open spaces, rural ways of life, and a healthy environment while ensuring that our wildlife heritage is protected for generations.

Advocating for Wildlife Conservation with Decision Makers

The Refuge Association addresses Refuge System funding, management, and strategic growth, while also promoting other programs that help maximize the System’s conservation impact. We depend on Refuge Friends organizations, our growing internal network of supporters, private landowners, and metropolitan community groups, to carry our message forward to key decision-makers in Washington D.C.


We vigilantly watch for policies and legislation that undermine the integrity of the Refuge System, while advocating for efforts that advance wildlife conservation.




of the Refuge

Association Friends Groups

Are A Grassroots Powerhouse

Over 200 Refuge Friends Group affiliate organizations comprise the muscle of the Refuge Association’s grassroots network. Located throughout the nation, these independent 501(c)3 organizations work in partnership with the Refuge Association to combat harmful proposals at the local and national level, while also supporting their individual national wildlife refuge and the entire Refuge System. For over 25 years, the Refuge Association has trained over 2,000 Friends Group members in core non-profit capacities, advocacy, and outreach. We’ve built a successful community via our digital hub, Refuge Friends Connect, which connects members of the Friends Group community to share insights and best practices.



Friends groups are leaders in their communities. They come in all political stripes from conservative Republicans to liberal Democrats and everything in between. They leave their political differences at the door knowing that they all seek the same goals — to protect and conserve the Refuge System for future generations.

Recent Successes H Led by the Refuge Association, the Refuge Friends community has been a force to be reckoned with on Capitol Hill. In 2016, the Administration was pushing to remove 1/3rd of Vieques National Wildlife Refuge in Puerto Rico to offset its debt crisis by investing in real-estate development. The Refuge Association took swift action, mobilized over 120 Friends Groups nationwide, and collaborated with coalitions within the Latino community, to send informative letters to their congressional leaders. As a result of our efforts, the provision to reduce the size of the refuge was removed from the Puerto Rican debt bill.

H In December 2016, because of the ongoing pressure from the Refuge Association and partner Friends organizations nationwide along with the Friends of Nevada Wilderness, a provision to remove management authority of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada to the Department of Defense, was removed from the 2016 Defense Authorization bill. We anticipate this will be back in the 115th Congress.

H Since 2016, the Refuge Association has conducted six communications workshops across the country to more than ten Friends Groups. These communication workshops have increased Friends Group’s understanding of how to use appropriate channels to communicate effectively with community leaders, decision-makers, congressional leaders, and refuge supporters.


Empowering Future Conservation Leaders For years, we have been developing future conservation leaders in environmental policy and wildlife conservation. In 2015, the Refuge Association, in partnership with the USFWS, launched and scaled a successful 10-week long summer volunteer internship program on national wildlife refuges, which provides emerging leaders with real-world conservation experiences. For years, the Refuge Association has also provided comprehensive summer wildlife policy and conservation programs internships for exceptional students from Duke University here in Washington D.C.

Recent Successes H The Refuge Association Summer Volunteer Internship program has grown from 10 refuges hosting interns in 2016 to 22 refuges in 2017. The number of applicants interested in working on a national wildlife refuge increased from 30 NWRA

applicants in 2016 to 162 applicants in 2017.

Recent Successes

Build Successful Public-Private Partnerships with Working Private Landowners

H In 2013, the Refuge Association began a long-term partnership with Partners

We work with private landowners, ranchers, hunters, and anglers, to build and promote successful public-private partnerships on national wildlife refuges.

for Conservation, by hiring its first



Executive Director. Partners for Conservation is a collaborative movement of private landowners that work with conservation partners to support and conserve working landscapes by improving collaboration through voluntary, incentive-based programs.

Discovering Nature and

Urban Wildlife Refuges There are over 100 refuges across the country, located within 25 miles of metropolitan areas, with populations of 250,000 people or more. With 80 percent of Americans living in or near densely populated areas, it is important for us to offer culturally appropriate opportunities to deepen people’s engagement and connection to their metropolitan area and urban national wildlife refuge. The USFWS has prioritized 14 of these refuges and we are working in close coordination with each of these refuges to connect people to nature in a thoughtful and authentic way. We promote the healthy benefit of refuges, cultivate community relationships, inspire emerging leaders, and collaborate with partners to support our national wildlife refuges.

Recent Successes H In 2016, we partnered with Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Wetland Management District Complex and Refuge Friends, Inc., to build staffing capacity that supports their Urban Wildlife Conservation Program efforts to engage underrepresented youth and communities in the Twin Cities.

H We continue to reach beyond refuge boundaries through our partnership with San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex’s Southern California (SoCal) Urban Wildlife Refuge Project. Our SoCal Regional Refuge Partnership Specialist is helping to expand the reach and impact of the first urban refuge awarded special funding to specifically engage urban communities about the significance of conserving and protecting our nation’s wildlife heritage and biological integrity. We are working in Ventura County to highlight condor conservation, communities along the Los Angeles River through the River Rover and RiverCorps Program, and in San Diego by connecting people of all ages to the


wildlife heritage and natural resources.


Recent Successes tion groups, from the National Rifle Association to Defenders for Wildlife, the Refuge Association has worked to increase appropriations for the Operations and Maintenance fund, which funds the daily operations of wildlife refuges. We face an enormous challenge over the next few years to maintain this funding in an anticipated climate of severe budget cuts and all-out assault on discretionary programs.

H For the past several years, the Refuge Association, the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, and conservation partners, have successfully worked to stop every attempt by the Alaska Congressional delegation to build a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

H From 2011-2014, the Refuge Association exclusively fought extreme measures by some members of Congress to eliminate the ability of the executive branch to create or expand units of the Refuge System, something they have had since 1903. By bringing to bear the grassroots power of refuge Friends organizations and private landowners, the Refuge Association successfully fought this effort and was able to ensure the bill never came to the floor for a vote in the House or was removed from bills in committee.

H In 2012, the Refuge Association single-handedly killed the Freedom from Over-Criminalization and Unjust Seizures Act of 2012 (FOCUS Act) which would have taken away the authority of USFWS law enforcement officers to be able to carry guns — including on national wildlife refuges. The Refuge Association was the only organization speaking out about what the proposed bill would mean to the visiting public and the wildlife resources the Refuge System was created to protect. In early 2017, a similar bill was introduced by Rep. Chaffetz (R-UT). While Chaffetz’s bill focuses on the US Forest Service and BLM, as written could be interpreted to include any lands in the Department of the Interior and thus, the Refuge System. We will be actively


working to kill this bill with our conservation partners for all public land.

H For the past several years, our work to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska has been proactive, specifically by urging President Obama to transmit a wilderness recommendation to Congress for 12.5 million acres, which he did in early 2015. However, we anticipate that the next four years will be an all out assault to open the Arctic Refuge and the sensitive coastal plain to oil and gas drilling.

H In July 2015, the Refuge Association worked closely with the House of Representatives to hold the 1st Refuge Expo. This event brought in hundreds of House staffers and conservation groups to celebrate the reformation of the House Wildlife Refuge Caucus and the “Big 6” recreational uses of the Refuge System.

H In August 2016, due in large part to the work of the Refuge Association in contacting Secretary of State, John Kerry, to advance the expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the U.S. now leads the world in ocean conservation through the Refuge System, now 850 million acres of waters and land.

H In December 2016, due to intense pressure from the Refuge Association, Friends groups nationwide, and partner conservation organizations, a measure to move divest half of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts was not advanced.

H In 2017, in partnership with Partners for Conservation, we have successfully convinced congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle in the Senate to re-authorize the US Fish and Wildlife Partners for Conservation program, which provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners that wish to conserve their working lands. For every $1 invested, almost $16 dollars are leveraged from private and other public sources because of these programs.


H Within the CARE coalition, a group of 23 diverse conserva-


Government Affairs

Give Wildlife a Voice

The Refuge Association is a world-class leader in mobilizing outdoor enthusiasts to advocate for good conservation policy, and to stop harmful legislation in Washington D.C. We depend on Refuge Friends organizations, our growing internal network of supporters, private landowners, and metropolitan community groups, to carry our message forward effectively to key decision-makers in Washington D.C. Since 2001, the Refuge Association has led the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE group), which is a coalition of 23 international and national organizations with over 16,500,000 members. From hunters to anglers to birdwatchers, photographers and scientists, we work together to ensure that the Refuge System has adequate federal funding.


H In partnership with the USFWS, we have developed a national branding strategy to aspire millions of outdoor enthusiasts to visit and support their National Wildlife Refuge System.


Building a Constituency to Support the National Wildlife Refuge System With over 48,000,000 visitors a year, the Refuge System has an incredible opportunity to grow and cultivate its constituency-base with our strategic support and innovative guidance. The Refuge Association is leading a project with the USFWS to grow and enhance the constituency by co-creating a national branding, marketing, and technology strategy. Our goal is to increase the Refuge System’s constituency by deploying place-based and innovative digital technology solutions to empower refuge visitors and outdoor enthusiasts to support for the Refuge System.


Recent Successes

Go Wild

Recent Successes H Since 2011, the Refuge Association has led an assessment of over 500 at-risk species in the Southeast, in partnership with the USFWS and US Forest Service, convening experts to identify the status of At-Risk Species on state and federal lands in the Southeast, reducing anticipated litigation and listing costs, and conserving species.

H The Refuge Association has been working in the Greater Everglades Region to strengthen and enhance Florida’s network of wildlife refuges, by ensuring that there is adequate funding for land protection and by building strong relationships with community leaders.

H The Refuge Association is working with the NATIONAL ELK REFUGE | © USFWS

Wyoming Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program to accelerate and conserve critical habitat in the heart of the sage-grouse ecosystem. We hired a Rangeland Ecologist focused on working with the Wyoming Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program to engage private landowners in rangeland conservation in Southwest Wyoming.

H The Refuge Association began operations in Puerto Rico in Nov. 2016 with the selection of a Caribbean Conservation Coordinator to sup-

Conservation Programs and Science

port national wildlife refuges and working with

The Refuge Association supports landscape-scale conservation initiatives that secure the ecological well-being of national wildlife refuges and their surrounding natural systems. The Refuge Association convenes public and private partner agencies, nonprofits and community members, identifies key challenges and opportunities in ecosystem conservation and helps set common goals, and then works with partners to build community support and secure funding from a variety of sources to accomplish wildlife conservation goals on the ground. In addition, science capacity is provided to help the National Wildlife Refuge System and Fish & Wildlife Service address habitat management or species population questions

Cordillera Central of Puerto Rico and assisting the

federal and Puerto Rican agencies in important conservation landscapes. Work includes acoustic monitoring of released Puerto Rican Parrots and other endangered species in the Karst Region and Caribbean Landscape Conservation Cooperative (CLCC) with the permitting and environmental compliance documents related to the Rio Grande de Arecibo fish barrier removal project.

H In 2016, the Refuge Association hired an ecologist for an 18-month assignment to assist with habitat restoration and adaptive management of Midway Atoll NWR. This has been primarily through control of invasive exotics vegetation and growing and establishing native plants.


Senior Staff

Geoffrey Haskett

Mark Musaus


Chief Operating Officer, 202-417-3803, ex. 23

Geoffrey Haskett has a wealth of experience as a leader in con-

Mark is the Chief Operating Officer of the Refuge Association

servation. He served as the Polar Bear Commissioner for the U.S.

but also represents the Refuge Association to facilitate commu-

— Russia Polar Bear Commission, appointed to that position by

nication between local stakeholders, nonprofits and the Service

both Presidents Obama and Bush. The work of that organization

about issues dealing with government affairs and conservation

is considered to be a landmark in cooperative wildlife man-

programs in the southeast region. Mark retired in December 2012

agement between governmental and Native representatives

as the Deputy Regional Director for the Southeast Region of the

of the U.S. and Russia. He also served as head of delegation for

USFWS after a 38+ year career. He has served as assistant refuge

the U.S. at the last four Range States Meetings for Polar Bears

manager at Choctaw (AL), J.N. Ding Darling (FL), Piedmont (GA),

in Norway, Canada, Russia and Greenland. He headed up the

and Tennessee (TN) national wildlife refuges, and as the deputy

delegation on the Porcupine Caribou Herd Board with Canada.

project leader at Savannah Coastal Refuges (GA).

For the last eight years Geoff was the Regional Director for the

In 1998, he was selected as the project leader for the Arthur R.

USFWS in Alaska where he was responsible for management of

Marshall Loxahatchee and Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refug-

almost 80 million acres of land within 16 National Wildlife Ref-

es. In May 2007 he accepted the Chief of the Division of Visitor

uges all actions under the Endangered Species Act and for the

Services and Communications for the Refuge System. He led

fish and migratory bird resources. Prior to this he was stationed

communication and outreach programs for the refuge system,

in Washington D.C. as Chief of Refuges from 2005 to 2008 where

partnerships with other federal, state, and conservation organiza-

he was responsible for a strategic plan for Refuges that resulted

tions, worked closely with congressional staff, and helped to fur-

in major funding increases for the NWRS.

ther develop the Refuge System’s Friends Program. Mark oversaw

Geoff also served as Deputy Regional Director for the Southwest Region and Chief of Refuges in the Southeast Region, and as the Service’s Washington Office as Chief of Realty. He is the recipient of the Secretary of the Interior’s Meritorious Service

supervision of 1,500 employees in 10 states and the Caribbean in diverse Service programs ranging from the Refuge System to the Endangered Species Program, Migratory Birds, and Wildlife Law Enforcement.

Honor Award. Geoff has worked closely with the Refuge Asso-

Mark received the Refuge Manager of the Year Award in 2000, the

ciation for over 20 years and is very proud of the accomplish-

Department of Interior Superior Service Award in 2001, and the

ments made together during that time.

Department of Interior Take Pride in America, U.S. Fish and Wild-


life Service Federal Land Manager of the Year award in 2005.

Desiree Sorenson-Groves

Joy Blackwood

Vice-President of Government Affairs

Urban Wildlife Refuge Program Manager, 202-417-3803 ex. 13, 202-577-3396

Desiree directs the Refuge Association’s government affairs

Joy is responsible for the Refuge Association’s urban wildlife

activities including development and execution of legislative

refuge program. Working in partnership with 14 urban refuges

and regulatory strategy; advocating policies and programs

around the nation both on-the-ground and at the national lev-

in Congress and the Executive Branch; analyzing legislation;

el, she works to bring forth their visions for the future, provide

development of congressional testimony and communication

technical assistance, support collaborative efforts that raises

tools, including position papers, testimony, speeches and arti-

awareness and elevates the importance of wildlife refuges in

cles for publications. Desiree also Assists the Refuge Association

urban areas.

President in implementation of strategic plans and goals of the organization.

Prior to joining the Refuge Association, Joy directed a distinguished coalition of national environmental and conserva-

Prior to her current position, Desiree served as the Refuge

tion executives that represents a broad spectrum of voices,

Association’s Director of Grassroots Outreach and was responsi-

perspectives and environmental policy issues to protect the

ble for identifying, educating and mobilizing local conservation

communities in which we live, work, pray and play. She led the

constituencies to support national wildlife refuges across the

development of the Green Leadership Trust, a network of board

country with the goal of increasing community awareness,

members of color and indigenous leaders and established a

volunteer involvement and advocacy on behalf of the Refuge

first-of-its-kind partnership with Green 2.0 for environmental

System. Before joining the Refuge Association, she was Assis-

nonprofits to publicly release their organization’s diversity data.

tant Director of Grassroots for the National Audubon Society, where she also served as the Audubon representative on the Teaming With Wildlife Steering Committee, promoting the goals and objectives of the congressionally mandated State Wildlife Action Plans.

Before working with the environmental sector, Joy spent many years managing multi-faceted public health education and training programs; advocating to end the AIDS pandemic; fighting to reduce the stigmas of the disease and empowering underrepresented individuals and communities. Joy’s passion for protecting the majestic places are rooted in her British and Jamaican background, as well as the years she devoted to promoting the benefits of the great outdoors.


Join Us

As we continue to promote and protect our nation’s largest system of public lands, we seek your support and partnership to help us meet our mission. The Refuge Association has over 40,000 of the most passionate nature and wildlife enthusiasts in the country, ready to tell your story across our 566 NWRs. To find out more about future opportunities, please contact Geoffrey Haskett, President National Wildlife Refuge Association 202-417-3803 x 40 •

Stand with us and help wildl

humanity and theife,

planEt to


thrive 1001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 905, Washington, DC 20036