by Ceal Craig
Visiting national wildlife refuges around the United States is a passion for many of us, I know. In June 2018, I had the opportunity to visit several on my trip north to Medford, Oregon, for a Friends Group PLUS Fish & Wildlife Service conference for Regions 1 and 8 covering Washington, Idaho, Oregon, California, Nevada, and the Pacifc. Meeting other Friends Groups and Service staf is always a pleasure, since we all share the same passion for the refuges we support. I learned a lot about the northwest refuges on this trip, in particular, several rural refuges, in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. Two of us representing the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex attended: me (Friends President) and Paul Mueller, the Volunteer Coordinator for the Refuge Complex.
In one thought provoking conference discussion, I learned how a Friends Group is affected when the refuge they support is taken over by people who would not allow the public to visit, or let Friends and refuge staff do their jobs, specifically, the occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in early 2016. At that time, I was at a national Friends and Fish & Wildlife Service conference in West Virginia caught in over 40 inches of snow. There too, I was meeting people who are passionate about refuges in the United States; passionate about helping wildlife, protecting habitat for endangered species, engaging the public, and fostering a sense of stewardship of the refuges.