UPDATE: I apologize for jumping the gun here a little bit as there was some confusion here. According to the Conserving the Future working group, there will be another document focusing on non-hunting/fishing use of NWRs which are covered, somewhat cryptically, in Recommendation 18. We await the release of that document, and hope that birders will make their voices heard in response to it. - Nate
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the government agency tasked with maintaining the nation's extensive and invaluable National Wildlife Refuge system, recently released the results of a planning session tasked with the critical issue of determining the vision for use and management of those refuges for generations of future users.
From that planning session came 24 recommendations covering notable aspects of NWR management from planning for the impact of climate change to seeking to make the workforce reflect the diversity of the American population.
Hunting and fishing got a lot of coverage, but perhaps you'll notice something missing on the cover page of the "Outdoor Recreation" group.
Despite the rise of birding and other wildlife observation hobbies and their increased (some would say constant) presence at these sites, there is no mention of "birding", "birdwatching", "photography", or "wildlife viewing" anywhere in the entire document.
And all this in the face of one remarkable statistic from USFWS showing the public use of the parks giving wildlife observation outdrawing hunting and fishing combined by a 3 to 1 margin (pg 6, .pdf).
It appears that USFWS did not solicit responses from any bird organizations during preparation of this document, so it is absolutely critical that birders and users of the NWR system who are marginalized in this document make their voices heard during the comment period, which runs through August 14, 2013.
USFWS would prefer you to go through their social network, but for those unwilling or unable to sign up, you can e-mail your responses to conservingthefuture AT fws.gov
This is a call to action! We urge you to make your voices heard, in whatever way you feel most comfortable. Let them know you are a birder who uses the refuge sustem and that you would appreciate being considered in future management decisions. We need to make our numbers known.
Please contact the NWR by August 14 so that those who are charged with managing these properties know birders have a voice and deserve a stake too.