This new pavilion at Camas National Wildlife Refuge near Hamer, Idaho, is a result of hard work by the Friends of Camas and a generous grant from the CHC Foundation.
I was first introduced to the concept of a Friends group for a wildlife refuge about ten years ago when my wife and I visited Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. I had heard of Friends groups but I had never really seen what they could accomplish.
I was amazed at the great things they were doing for the refuge. Each year they organized the Festival of the Cranes, a wildly popular birding celebration that attracts 6,000 visitors from around the globe and generates $2.5 million. It is the biggest income generator in the county. They also helped the Refuge acquire much needed equipment, such as a D-8 Caterpillar tractor, that the Refuge budget could not afford, built a garden and rebuilt the visitor center. All with donated dollars.
I was certainly impressed and when I was offered the opportunity to join in the formation of the Friends of Camas National Wildlife Refuge group about five years ago, I jumped at the chance.
Wildlife Refuge friends groups are not really new. In about 1982, a group called The Ding Darling Wildlife Society, was created to support Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. By the 1990’s, as other groups formed, the name was changed to Friends and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had formalized the process of creating a friends group. Today there are over 200 National Wildlife Refuge friends groups with about ten new ones added each year, most supporting a single refuge.
Friends groups all have similar objectives as reflected in the mission statement of the Friends of Camas NWR: “The mission of the Friends of Camas National Wildlife Refuge is to support the goals of Camas National Wildlife Refuge to preserve, protect and restore biological diversity and historical resources of the Refuge landscape, while providing opportunities for wildlife-dependent recreation, education, interpretation and scientific research.”
Groups around the country participate in supporting education and research, building and maintaining facilities, monitoring wildlife populations and habitats, and obtaining equipment. There is almost no end to the value an active friends group can contribute to a refuge.
One focus of the Camas Friends group is to provide excellent outdoor educational activities for children from Idaho Falls and north. They have provided guided tours for many children. Most recently, they completed a large covered education pavilion with a grant from the CHC Foundation.
This Saturday, September 12, the Friends of Camas National Wildlife Refuge will host its annual members meeting. The public is invited to see what the Friends are all about. If you would like to join in the fun of: Birds, Bugles and Brunch - Discover Camas!, please contact Patti at 208.313.7581 to reserve your spot. You can find out more by visiting, www.friendsofcamas.org.
Whether you attend Saturday’s event or not, you should consider becoming a member of Friends of Camas NWR. It’s an opportunity to participate in fun activities with your family and to help make a difference in this world of ours.
Wildlife License Plates
Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.
No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.
Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.
Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program. Go figure.
"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson
That is embarrassing but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.
Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.
Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.
"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman
"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.
To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version
Copies are also available at:
Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls
Perfect Light Photo Supply
Museum of Idaho
Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming
Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah
Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho