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Fish & Wildlife Service announces new Friends policy

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The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) wants to make friends. FWS is announcing in the Federal Register of Tuesday, April 22 that it is adopting a new “Friends” policy to help its employees work with partner “friend” non-profit organizations on helping achieve FWS' goals. The policy takes effect immediately.

The new policy is officially being adopted into FWS' Service Manual. It defines the relationship between FWS and its friends, responsibilities of staff, how to raise money and what Friends Partnership Agreements should say. The policy aims to promote public awareness of what FWS does and get people involved in helping in conservation. FWS cites several laws that permit these activities, including the National Wildlife Refuge System Volunteer & Community Partnership Enhancement Act of 1998 and the National Fish Hatchery System Volunteer Act of 2006.

The National Friends Program applies in all FWS property, including national wildlife preserves and national fish hatcheries. The program dates to 1996 and now includes about 200 preserve and 30 hatchery friend groups with between 40,000 and 60,000 members. About 10 new groups form each year, FWS says. Some support one refuge, others work statewide or regionally. Some are more active than others. The new final policies set financial and administrative rules, activities allowed on FWS lands and waters, how to develop friend programs and procedures for raising funds on federal territory.

FWS first proposed the policy for public comment on October 18, 2010. It opened a second comment period the next March. It received a total of about 40 comments. It made some minor changes in the final policy based on recommendations it received and also based on internal review.

FWS is allowing six months for refuges and friends to come into compliance with the new policy. For more info, contact Joanna Webb, Visitor Services, National Wildlife Refuge System, FWS, 4401
N. Fairfax Dr., Room 635, Arlington, VA 22203. (703) 358-2392.

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