As the end of 2015 approaches, Advocacy! is still Friends top priority. A year ago at this time, our refuges had an onsite Refuge Manager and adequate staff. The refuge was working with several private land owners and public agencies to conserve lands and wetlands adjacent to the refuges and important to their mission.
The good news is that some of that work came to fruition.
The bad news is that our refuges are no longer independent, and have lost the resources needed to continue the good they were doing. The refuges are now part of a complex that drains away the limited human and financial resources. The Refuge Manager must spend most of his time in Crystal River on issues related to manatee tourism. Other staff members are often called away for long assignments at other refuges in the complex, or to fight wildfires in the west.
Our communities need the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys Refuges to have the wherewithal to be a presence and voice for wildlife, lands, and wetlands.
All government agencies must be lean and efficient. But Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys Refuges have proven their mettle in the hard times.
And, the US Fish and Wildlife Service budget just received relief from sequestration restraints. Friends are calling for the Fish and Wildlife Service to invest these newly released monies in Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys Refuges now.
Restore the refuges' independence. Restore the onsite, full-time refuge manager position. Restore the staffing and funding that allowed these proven leaders to be the force behind partnership conservation.
Friends calls on the Fish and Wildlife Service to put its money where its mission is . . . on leadership to conserve wilderness for wildlife, and to protect this region from the kind of development that would harm the wildlife, lands, wetlands, waters, and nature-based economy.