TESTIMONY FOR S. 2244: The National Wildlife Refuge System Volunteer and Partnership Act
BY: Molly Krival, Ph.D., Volunteer and Board Member of the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society (DDWS), J. N. "Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel, Florida
DATE: June 7, 1998

INTRODUCTION

My name is Molly Krival. I come to you as the archetypical little old lady in tennis shoes -- one of many little old ladies and younger people -- who volunteer at a national wildlife refuge.

When my husband and I retired from the U. of Wisconsin System, we moved to Sanibe l-- off the SW coast of Florida -- because of the refuge there and because of the conservation ethic of that city. As soon as our boxes were stowed away, we went to the visitor center to apply to become volunteers. That was 10 years ago.

We were trained to provide information to the public first in the visitor center and later on Wildlife Drive where we focus our spotting scope on some of the wonderful wildlife in view. We joined the refuge's cooperating association, the Ding" Darling Wildlife Society and, in time, were elected to the board where I have served as President. Our 150-160 volunteers are funded primarily by Society income and are trained and organized by a volunteer coordinator from the refuge staff.

A few years ago, the Society offered training to Managers of other refuges -- and now National Parks also -- to help them organize Friends groups of their own, training that has been repeated by the National Conservation Training Center each year since. And I am a member of a mentor team which visits refuges nationwide who are ready to start a Friends group.

This year I was selected as the Volunteer of the Year for the refuge system -- a great honor. Another board member and I have given 5,000 hours to the refuge. It is this background that enables me to speak for this Refuge System Volunteer and Partnership bill. I will direct my remarks to three of its provisions.

REASONS FOR SUPPORT OF S. 2244

1. It encourages the use of volunteers. facilitates partnerships and encourages donations.

On many refuges, the most likely people seen by visitors are volunteers. Refuge staffing is often at a bare minimum and they are deeply involved in managing the resource for wildlife. When they train volunteers, the staff multiplies its productivity. You can imagine a flow chart in which volunteers, partners and staff contribute to the amount of work done on a refuge.

Partnerships often provide a refuge with cooperative funding for needed projects not covered by federal appropriations. Civilian Friends groups, such as the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society, also do that. So do partnerships with gateway cities like the City of Sanibel, and private groups like the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. Grant providing institutions recognize the value of funding partnership projects which tend to do more for the dollar.

2. Section 3 of this bill allows gifts and donations to be made to individual refuges and I creates a new matching grants program to encourage donations.

During my first week as a volunteer, an elderly woman who had known "Ding" Darling came to the visitor center with a drawing he had given her. She wanted to give the drawing to the refuge. The staff member I consulted looked frustrated. The refuge couldn't keep donations. The Society could. The word circulated that the Society could accept donations and we have received many. Since not all refuges have a Friends group to receive donations, gifts have either been refused or sent to some mysterious agency reservoir never to be seen again.

As I travel to refuges all over the country, I find that local people form an allegiance to their own local refuge first and want to support it. That conviction of the heart leads to donations of time and other gifts in kind as well as money. Being sure our donations will stay "at home" is very important to us. I find that local people are far less likely to make donations if those gifts go to some distant agency.

Lately our Society decided to raise $2 million in private funds to build a new Center for Education. This is a first effort of its kind in the refuge system. So far, we have raised about one million four hundred thousand dollars. We expect to complete our drive with only a small portion coming from government associated grants. But other refuges with high visitation rates and strong Friends groups have goals that outstrip their fund raising capabilities; such as,

They need money. Almost always they can raise a portion themselves, but the option for a matching grant would be very encouraging to them. That provision in this bill would light a lot of fires that we wouldn't need to put out.

3. S. 2244 allows the Dept. of Interior to start a regional pilot project that includes providing a volunteer coordinator to organize and oversee volunteer programs

Volunteers are a resource of people with all sorts of skills who want to help the refuge. We continue volunteering when we are well-trained, well-organized, and recognized for our contributions.

There are many refuges where a few volunteers simply work with the staff. Where public visitation runs into the hundreds of thousands annually -- visitation is rising everywhere -- volunteer numbers increase. Those refuges need a volunteer coordinator to do the job right.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

All of the provisions of SB 2244 encourage people living near -- or who have an attachment -- one of the over 500 national wildlife refuges

I believe our political system works best when people freely associate themselves with it. Many of us, when we grow older, find enormous satisfaction in helping conserve the best of what we have for future generations. Many of us suddenly have time to see a bird, an alligator, a flowering plant for the miracle of nature it is. Our hearts leap up.

I thank Senator Chafee and the fourteen co˙2Dsigners for selecting this means of helping the largest land management system in the world, the National Wildlife Refuges. And I thank this committee for the privilege of addressing you.