This was a busy year for the Friends. The Refuge is operating with only 50% of their staff, which greatly impacts the ability of the Refuge to fulfill their mission of wildlife conservation, habitat preservation, and visitor services. As a result, the role of the Friends is increasingly critical in this time of staff and funding shortfalls. The Friends have stepped in with finances and volunteer labor to initiate or continue projects so important for the welfare of wildlife and their habitat. Another hurdle this year was Covid-19, which resulted in the Visitor Center being closed all year. Many staff also worked from home, leaving volunteers, including Friends members, as the visible presence at the Visitor Center or on field projects.
Nature Shop and Finances
The Nature Shop in the Visitor’s Center has been closed since the beginning of the Covid epidemic. Our enterprising volunteers staff the Center, meet people on the patio, answer questions and offer items for purchase such as refuge maps, caps, pins and t-shirts. Sales for the Nature Shop were down because of the closure. In 2019, we received $7,534 in sales. In 2020, it was $4,682 and in 2021, it was $2,714.
Income primarily stems from membership dues, donations, grants, and Nature Shop sales. Expenditures in 2021 included Nature Shop inventory, fundraising expense, grant project expenditures, the volunteer appreciation lunch and expenses, outreach/education, insurance and, most importantly, refuge assistance.
At the request of the Refuge, the Friends purchased an iPad and accessories for $750 for volunteers to use in the field. We purchased a wildlife trail camera for $232. The communal freezer used by seasonal volunteers went defunct and the Friends purchased a new one for $300. The Friends bought crushed gravel to enhance the native plant garden at headquarters for $528. In addition, Friends supplied the refuge with boundary fence and gates with a cost of approximately $1400. Friends also allocated $2,500 from membership funds and grant money to hire workers to assist on refuge projects.
2021 Financial Summary:
|Bank Balance Jan 1, 2021||$8,258.00|
|2021 Incoming Funds|
|HPC Grant 2020 Reimbursement||$1,470.50|
|Lush Grant 2021||$9,954.00|
|Nature Shop Sales||$2,713.90|
|Total 2021 Income||$23,053.65||$23,053.65|
|2021 Outgoing Funds|
|Lush Grant Expenditures||$1,400.12|
|Nature Shop Inventory||$887.25|
|Total 2021 Expenses||$7,302.59||$7,302.59|
|Ending Bank Balance Dec 31, 2021||$24,009.06|
One of the best ways Friends help the refuge is by funding through grants. Two grants were pursued in 2021:
LUSH Cosmetics – We applied and received a $9,954 grant from LUSH. This will be used for wildlife-friendly fence, wildlife drinkers and other conservation items. The grant will enable Friends to hire a contractor and purchase materials for repairing boundary fence, welding gates, and constructing cable swing gates to keep cattle out of washes.
Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation (AZSWC) is a non-profit organization that provides grants for wildlife conservation, funded by sales of “wildlife conservation” license plates for vehicles. Friends applied for and recently were awarded $12,515 to fund construction of a solar pump, solar panels, and a storage tank at San Luis Well on the refuge. The well is redrilled and ready for construction of these items. Once restored, the well will be a prime water site for wildlife. This is increasingly important as drought conditions continue in this arid region.
Membership numbers totaled 86 in 2021and we have 1,454 followers on Facebook. Our membership chair Janine Higgins relinquished her position because of other obligations. We miss Janine. She has been a devoted member and volunteer for many years. Friends are seeking a replacement. Please consider volunteering for this vital part of our Friends work. We need your help!
Outreach, Programs and Hikes
Because of constraints due to the virus, no programs or hikes were allowed in Brown Canyon. Sadly, Brown Canyon is currently closed to all visitors. This delightful mountain enclave contains the Environmental Education Center, a charming stone ranch house dedicated to nature seminars and overnight stays by environmental groups. Coupled with virus problems is the refuge’s funding and staff shortage that resulted in no maintenance of the rugged canyon entrance road or for the water and well problems at the Education Center. Friends’ members and volunteers cleared brush along the road and on the trails but the road is not easily passable.
Dedicated Friends member Jean Thomas trained new hike leaders and we now have ten leaders ready to lead people into beautiful Brown Canyon once it is open again.
Once the virus subsides and activities are back to normal, Friends Board of Directors will look into future educational programs. Several naturalists have offered their services for Brown Canyon hikes or programs. In spite of virus constraints, the Friends produced three excellent webinars, two of which were in 2021 – one on the Masked Bobwhite Quail and one about Bald Eagles.
A special treat for the public, funded by Friends, are the bimonthly wildlife essays supplied by a Prescott College wildlife professor, Walt Anderson. These are a fun and educational bridge to the public in this era when we cannot have outdoor programs. They are viewable on the Friends website – www.friendsofbanwr.com.
The Friends of BANWR purchased an attractive bench featuring an artistic wrought iron hummingbird motif to commemorate a long-standing, dedicated Friends member and volunteer, Bob Farrell. Friends financed a memorial plaque that is mounted on the bench. The bench sits on a hillside near the visitor center overlooking the valley. The Friends are coordinating native plantings with the local Audubon Society at this site.
Each year in January, an area rancher organizes a trash pickup along the 40-plus mile highway 286. The Friends’ volunteers did their part by cleaning up a 5-mile stretch within the refuge. Everyone had fun and the event was a success again this past January. You never know what you will find. One man found a $5 bill, so he got paid to pick up trash!
The refuge is also removing mesquite to open up visibility for these grassland species. Because of habitat improvement through the fence and mesquite programs, the Arizona Game and Fish Department will try to move 25 Pronghorn from the San Bernadino Valley to the Refuge in 2023.
A group of 12 from Wilderness Volunteers came in November and helped build one mile of boundary fence to restrict cattle access. They also removed old fence that was being replaced, repaired two miles of north boundary fence, and maintained trails in Brown Canyon. The monsoon rains bring lots of grass and shrub growth and if trails are not maintained, they can disappear. We all hope that Brown Canyon will be open for hikes and other uses next Fall.
Please Join and we need your help!
If you are not a member of the Friends of Buenos Aires NWR, join us! If you are a member and have not renewed, please do. Your membership and contributions will help the refuge continue its mission of safeguarding a marvelous legacy of wildlife and the sweeping grasslands, riparian areas and mountain enclaves that they call home.
Please consider volunteering to chair our membership program. This would not need to be a Board position.
In addition, we would love to talk to you about a Friends of BANWR Board position. We need energetic, enthusiastic Board members who are ready to make our group bigger and better and to help us further our goal of conserving our wildlife heritage.