By Poppy Benson
Vice President for Outreach
We just finished out a great year of volunteering, educating, and advocating for refuges. But it takes a lot of us volunteering to run Friends so that we can create opportunities for you and offer real help for the refuges. We need YOU to help make it all happen for 2024.
Our biggest immediate need is a Treasurer as Jason Sodergren is stepping down from the Board after 16 dedicated years. Fiduciary responsibility is a key Board function, and this position is part of the executive committee. Anybody out there with a love of refuges and a comfort level with budgets? And no, you don’t have to stay 16 years! A two-year commitment is all we ask.
We also need three new Board members of which the Treasurer would be one to bring us to 11. With 16 refuges and 76 million acres we have a lot to keep track of. We need a Board big enough to balance this work load. Our only employee, Melanie Dufour, has most of her time allocated to running the Shorebird Festival which means we are a working Board. The advantage of being on our Board? We know what’s going on with monthly briefings from Refuge Managers and other staff. We get to know Refuge staff, the issues and the land. We know our refuges are worthy of our time. We know we are doing a good thing in lending our talents to help carry out our mission of educate, support and advocate for Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges.
Meet our newest refuge liaison: Karyn Murphy for the Alaska Maritime Refuge. Karyn writes, “Living on Kachemak Bay, I have been a naturalist guide, local scientist-in-residence and an artist incorporating the natural elements of the coast into my creations. Because of this, the Maritime Refuge has always been close to my heart and I am thrilled to become more involved in representing this amazing area and the people doing research.”
We also need refuge liaisons for Izembek and Selawik refuges. Izembek is so important and so isolated. A friendly voice checking in with them and carrying their needs to the Board will be much appreciated by the refuge. The same with Selawik. They have a fun staff but Friends has not been very responsive to them because we just don’t have “A Person” watching out for them. A liaison checks in with “their” refuge once a month and prepares a brief report on what is going on with them and any needs they have. A liaison is the bridge between a refuge and the Board.
Want to serve on a committee? Have communication skills? We need a communications committee to work on the newsletter and other communication methods. This would be a brand-new committee. The outreach committee could use somebody in Kodiak or Bethel or an additional member to help Pam Seiser in Fairbanks or Meg Parsons in Anchorage. Both our finance and advocacy committees could use another member or two, and we don’t even have a fundraising/grant committee and need one. Last year the refuges asked us for $50,000, and we don’t have that kind of money. Yet we want to start a scholarship for Native youth and pay for interns on understaffed refuges and . . . . .and. . .