That stands for National Wildlife Refuges! Lisa and I attended a fascinating talk Friday at our local bird club by Paul Baicich, a veteran birder (and former editor of Birding magazine) who currently consults for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on visitor issues at NWRs.
In addition to an elegant presentation that intertwined the history of birding, refuges and conservation, Paul made some points that really made Lisa and I stop and think.
For those who don't know much about NWRs, two quick bits of background: the first one was begun by President Teddy Roosevelt (of course!); and unlike National Parks, which are meant to serve people, National Wildlife Refuges are meant primarily to protect wildlife and habitat.
As Paul spoke, I got to thinking how often The Bird Couple visits an NWR. Probably once a month, at least. We are frequent guests at some of the fine refuges along the mid-Atlantic, including Blackwater NWR, Bombay Hook NWR and Eastern Neck NWR. Last month, we blogged about our first visit to John Heinz NWR, squeezed between an airport and an industrial wasteland right outside Philadelphia.
These places are amazing, and many of the 500+ refuges provide critical habitat for threatened or endangered species....
Like all things having to do with conservation, they are grossly underfunded. Some refuges, Paul says, have no staff biologist, or have to rotate staff among several nearby refuges.
Guess how they get their funding? Most of the funds for purchasing additional land for refuges come from the "Duck Stamp" - the stamp hunters have to buy each year. It costs $15 annually. Hunters buy the lion's share of the stamps. Birders, where are you? Get out and get your stamp!
How? Lovely Lisa will tell you how in our next post.