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President’s Welcome to the Friends of O`ahu National Wildlife Refuges

Aloha All, and welcome to the Friends of O`ahu NWR. We are the newest Friends group associated with U.S. Fish and Wildlife refuges in the United States. As with our National Parks and National Forests, the USFWS has associated Friends groups as partners and supporters. Friends’ groups are not government entities but are non-profits that operate under a Friends Agreement with a refuge or refuge complex.

The Friends of O`ahu NWR is a registered non-profit, approved by the IRS as a 501c3 organization and approved by the State of Hawaii as a registered non-profit. Our website and Facebook page are brand new, thanks to the hard work of Dustin Hattenburg, our social media expert. We are ready to begin accepting members. Join today, these tax-deductible memberships and donations will grow our ability to support refuge projects.

Among our roles, we provide members to support refuge activities such as invasive plant removal and similar projects, under a Volunteer Service Agreement. We support the wildlife refuges in their community education efforts. We are also authorized to provide advocacy for USFWS needs and programs, and to serve as a lobby (though not on refuge property). Finally, we will sponsor or support grant requests to conduct refuge programs. You can read more about our mission and vision here.

In upcoming weeks, we will highlight refuge activities and opportunities. We will also ask each of our directors to craft an article discussing their background and the passions that led to their service with the Friends.

I am serving as the initial President of the organization. Born and raised in the northeastern U.S., but first lived in Hawaii over 50 years ago and have resided here since 1990. My community service includes leadership in Rotary, the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, the Kapolei Foundation, and the Hawaii Chapter, Safari Club International, as well as past leadership roles in the Air Force Association and the Sea Lancers Diving Club.

I’m a serious lifelong birder and with Pete Donaldson, co-lead the public tours on James Campbell NWR. As you meet our directors in future articles, you will note that while we share a passion for our environment and the amazing creatures that inhabit the refuges, we each have slightly different special interests. That’s as it should be. These small refuges provide many things for us. They are treasure troves of human and avian history, home to endangered plants, invertebrates, Green Turtles and Monk Seals, and they are places of learning. You’ll note that the Bristle-thighed Curlew is our Friends logo. That is to call your attention to the importance of the refuge units on O`ahu for migratory species. Our curlews (Kioea) and Pacific Golden-Plovers (Kolea) spend almost nine months of the year in Hawaii, where many establish feeding territories which they defend. These are our birds to care for!

In future issues, we will talk about some of those migrants, and will discuss the importance of our refuges in a time of sea level rise and inundation of many low-lying atolls in the Central Pacific. We will also note the important work done by Pacific Rim Conservation to restore endangered albatrosses and petrels within the predator-exclusion fence on James Campbell NWR.

Given adequate funding from the government, our refuges, now designated as urban refuges, can provide a variety of non-intrusive activities which will grow the approximate 500 visitors a year, to several hundred thousand. This will require a visitor center, interpretive trails in non-sensitive areas, a drive through option near the current prawn and shrimp ponds, and more. Specifically, it will require added funds, equipment and especially, increased USFWS personnel strength. We will support that!

It will be an exciting journey, and we invite you to be a key part of it. Please join us in supporting our refuges. We will be looking for volunteers as tour docents and for a couple of future directors. Please contact me if interested.

Mahalo Nui Loa,

Dick May

(808) 375-2439

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