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Cathy goes to Washington

Cathy Allen

This week Cathy Allen of Marblehead, representing the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Association (ONWRA), is in Washington to take part in the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition fly-in. Allen, former executive director of the Ohio League of Conservation Voters, will be joined by Matt Misicka, Vice President of the Ohio Conservation Federation and Chair of the Ohio Advisory Committee for the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance. 

The agenda

After a briefing by the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, Allen and Misicka will be visiting with their congressional representatives to garner support for their mutual concerns. 

Allen’s wish for the trip is “to let our friends know what they can do to help us.” Though she has no specific expectations, Allen will be meeting with Sen. Sherrod Brown, Sen. Rob Portman, Rep. Bob Latta and Rep. Marcy Kaptur to get legislative backing for funding for maintenance and operation of ONWR. The recent federal government shutdown and sequester have seriously affected programs at ONWR. 

The value of the Refuge

A report released last week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) shows that national wildlife refuges are a good investment for American taxpayers and boost local economies. The Banking On Nature study shows that for every $1 Congress provides in funding to run the National Wildlife Refuge System on average $4.87 is returned to local communities. 

“Conservation conserves more than wildlife, it is conserving our tax dollars; an important value for Americans of all political stripes” said David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA). “There is nothing more conservative than conservation or more progressive than preserving our natural world for future generations.”

The need

“The Refuge System is facing the loss of more than 450 staff positions by the end of next year should Congress continue slashing their budget,” said Houghton.  “Refuges will be forced to eliminate popular hunting and wildlife watching programs, end volunteer efforts due to lack of staff to provide oversight and many will close their doors entirely. These short sighted budget cuts will ultimately hurt not only wildlife, but local economies that depend on these unique federal lands.”

In a statement drafted by the Board of Directors of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Association, the Board calls on national leaders “to ensure that a budget is passed in sufficient time to avoid a repeat government shutdown. The recent lapse in appropriations had significant negative impact on the Refuge Complex and on our Association.” 

The statement further details that negative impact, including: 

 Closure of the Refuge and Visitor’s Center, prohibiting the public from accessing their land for any purpose, including observation of migratory birds, waterfowl and deer hunting, and school programs.
 Lapse in vital research as migratory birds are caught, weighed and measured, and tracked over the course of years.
 Lapse in maintenance projects on the Refuge, including fall activities such as invasive species control, habitat restoration, winterization of outbuildings and regular maintenance of equipment.
 Closure of the ONWRA Bookstore, located in the Visitor’s Center, diminishing their nonprofit association’s annual revenues.
 Inability of Association members and volunteers to access the office, records, mail, or computer equipment, causing delays in fund deposits, member communications and all ongoing projects.

For further information on Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, go to www.fws.gov/midwest/ottawa. 

For further information or to volunteer with ONWRA, visit www.onwra.com.

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