What’s in a name? Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuge Friends group changes moniker as 21-year commitment to wildlife continues
The Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuge Friends group has recently changed their moniker, but their commitment to local wildlife stewardship through science and education pervades.
Formerly known as FAVOR, Friends and Volunteers of Refuges, Florida Keys Wildlife Society organized as part of a nationwide effort to develop Friends groups for National Wildlife Refuges in 1997, forging a wildlife ambassadorship for the over 400,000 acres of wildlife that make up the subtropical Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges. Since then, they’ve helped make certain that Crocodile Lake NWR, National Key Deer Refuge, Great White Heron NWR and Key West NWR—home to some of the world’s most endangered habitats, plants, and wildlife species—retain their status as some of the most beautiful and unique natural resources in the world.
“The Society is a critical link in helping us conserve and protect the wildlife and habitats of our refuges,” says Ranger Kristie Killam. “They help communicate the issues to our visitors and residents, and they provide a call to action on numerous issues that include the importance of trash cleanups, building wildlife habitat, responsible pet ownership, ethical wildlife viewing, and sustainable living.”
With more than two decades of successful advocacy, why the name change?
“We wanted to let people know, right up front, what we are all about— the Wildlife of the Florida Keys,” says Friends member Nancy Chatelaine. “Our name has changed, but our mission hasn’t. We are the same wonderful, passionate people, with a lot of the same goals as before.”
Through their fundraising and volunteering efforts, the group supports the many seasonal programs, activities, and events the refuges offer: Camp Run-A-Muk, a three-day adult “summer” camp held in January for residents; Rockin’ Refuge Rangers programs for kids on Saturdays during Feb and March; family-friendly walks and programs in the summer that include evening star and pollinator programs, and marsh rabbit rambles; and a refuge photography club with monthly field trips.
“Unfortunately, it seems there are always more needs than there are funds.” She says. “So, we may decide on a project and raise money to complete that project that benefits the refuge – and all of us -because National Wildlife Refuges belong to all of the American people.”
This year’s focus is in assisting with the completion of the new Nature Center, where the Friends plan to help via “boots on the ground” and fundraising for its new exhibits. The Center, which is expected to open Fall 2018, will become a refuge complex “hub” for locals and visitors, educating them about the local environments and the plants and animals that inhabit them.
The group invites anyone with an interest to explore their own wildlife ambassadorship by joining the group as a member, volunteering with clean ups and work day projects, shopping at the Key Deer Bookstore, making a donation, or simply showing up to enjoy the refuge programs and their many events and activities, which includes the Third Annual Outdoor Fest, a week-long outdoor extravaganza spanning the four refuges from March 10 – March 17 that features expert-guided birding, nature walks, kayaking; evening wildlife programs; nature sketching, nature photography workshops and a photo contest; two family-fun wildlife fairs; a sneak-peek opening of the National Key Deer Refuge Nature Center, and the 4th Annual Run with Deer 5K in Big Pine Key.
To learn more about Florida Keys Wildlife Society or to register for upcoming Outdoor Fest events, visit floridakeyswildlifesociety.org, stop in at the visitor center on Big Pine Key or follow them on Facebook. For more information contact Refuge Ranger Kristie Killam at 305.304.9625, or email Nancy or Jan at email@example.com . Brought to you in part by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.