National Wildlife Refuge Association

Connected wildlife refuge advocates in the Lower 48 States with Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – and with each other.

Florida & New Mexico

Meeting each other through the Resource Media workshop really cemented the partnership between the Friends groups in the Middle Rio Grande Valley.
Michael Hanauer, Friends of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
Special Projects Director
The Situation

Supporters of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have a problem. The Arctic Refuge, though big, beautiful and renowned for its value to both wildlife and Native peoples, is really far away from most Americans. It’s hard to get people to care about a place that’s at risk when they’ve never visited – and likely never will.

Advocates have struggled to make the Arctic Refuge “real,” to build the drumbeat of support necessary to protect it from the threat of energy development and push Congress and the White House to back permanent protections. Luckily, there are dozens of organizations who seem poised to contribute to that drumbeat, if only we can help them see the connections between their local wildlife refuges and the Arctic: the Refuge Friends groups.

Our Role

Many Refuge Friends groups lack the communications skills or staff to advocate effectively for their own refuges, much less the Arctic Refuge. So we worked with the National Wildlife Refuge Association to develop a two-day workshop that connects Friends groups to the Arctic Refuge through locally-tailored photos, videos and presentations by Arctic experts. The workshop then provides hands-on practice in communicating with decision-makers, the media and their own members about the importance of safeguarding wildlife refuges and the Arctic Refuge, and how to leverage various communications platforms, including social media, to spread the message.

We delivered the workshop to Friends groups in New Mexico and Florida, focusing on high-profile refuges including Bosque del Apache NWR and J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR. In both states, staff and volunteers from several other nearby Friends groups also attended – in many cases, meeting each other for the first time. The workshop modules are now available for the Refuge Association to deliver to additional Friends groups, and ultimately, for the Friends to share with other like-minded groups.

The Impact

The 30+ people who attended our workshops in Florida and New Mexico came away with a much broader understanding of how all wildlife refuges are connected, and the opportunities to work together around bigger goals. In New Mexico, for example, the three Friends groups who met at the workshop are now collaborating on a joint water-management project that should benefit the chain of national wildlife refuges along the Middle Rio Grande Valley.

The workshops also built personal connections between Friends groups in Alaska and the Lower 48, and created opportunities for these groups to learn from each other’s communications successes and failures. The Friends groups who attended the workshops represent the inner circle in what we hope will be an ever-widening pool of supporters for the Arctic Refuge and the National Wildlife Refuge System.