- Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge: Mary Smallwood, President
- Friends of St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge: Lisa Johnston, President, Nancy Stuart, President Emeritus, Susan Cerulean, Vice President and President-elect
- Friends of the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges: Russ Hall, President, Bill Dummitt, President-elect, Peg Hall, Communications Committee Chair
We each described our Refuges and what makes each of us get involved with our Friends organizations.
The introductions revealed commonalities and differences among the four Refuges. They also highlighted differences among the Friends groups, how they see their roles, and how they operate in supporting their Refuges.
The Friends is a 30-year old, large, well established, and sprawling organization, with many volunteers, about 500 Friends members, generous donors, and standing committees in such areas as development and advocacy. The Refuge serves a large visitor base and sees that as one of the Refuge’s significant contributions to the region. At least some of St. Marks volunteers are managed by Refuge staff.
Because of its isolation, St. Vincent has few visitors, and the Friends group has a comparatively small member base of about 100, but is actively involved in political activism. Friends of St. Vincent recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of its founding. Both St. Marks and St. Vincent Friends groups have strong ties with Florida State University.
Our Friends organization is 16 years old, with about 250 members. We want to increase support of our Refuges through volunteers and the kind of advocacy in which St. Vincent Friends is doing.
- Reaching out to our members through social media
- Reaching out to local and state officials
- Directing advocacy to Senators and Representatives or the Secretary of the Interior
- Advocating for the Refuges through op./ed. writing for local papers
- Requesting members to make calls or visits to elected officials
- Joining groups preparing petitions
- Participating in fly-ins to congressional offices in Washington, D.C.
- In response to a suggestion from the National Wildlife Refuge Association’s (NWRA) weekly Action Alert, possibly asking city and county commissioners to pass a resolution requesting that the Congress provide full funding for the refuges and other public lands to meet their statutory obligation to provide the local entities with payment in lieu of taxes. This effort was discussed as a possible way to document and build support for refuges in local political and community circles.
- Chaos in D.C.
- Neal Dunn
- Refuge Visits
Friends of Lower Suwannee & Cedar Keys also has a contact with Dunn’s office. It came about through a Dixie county commissioner who attended a recent presentation about a critical road on the Refuge. The presentation was arranged by Board Member Debbie Meeks and given by Jason Coates of the Lower Suwannee Refuge staff.
- Lobbying in D.C.
- Social Media
- Secretary Zinke
- Presidential Budget Proposal
The meeting ended quickly thereafter with participants expressing satisfaction at the outcome and hopes to have another get together in the relatively near future. All were grateful to Mary for hosting us.