The incredible accomplishments of the Friends Grassroots Network

Let’s Begin With Thank You

In honor of National Volunteer Week, the staff of the Conservation Lands Foundation would like to say thank you to the people who are part of the Friends Grassroots Network, made up of 63 of the best, most effective non-profit conservation organizations working in the U.S. today.

These organizations work tirelessly for the National Conservation Lands–to steward and protect habitat, wildlife species, sacred lands, our connections to history, and the places that give us clean air, water and refuge. And they do it 365 days a year, often while facing great challenges and formidable foes.

Earlier this year we conducted a survey of groups in the Friends Grassroots Network that showed the magnitude of the Network’s collective accomplishments. We can’t say we are all that surprised; still, they are simply huge—and having a critical impact on protecting, restoring and expanding America’s newest system of protected public lands.

Thirty-seven organizations reported on the work they did in 2015. They range from long-established groups like the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project, founded in New Mexico in 1967, to Nevada’s Friends of Basin and Range National Monument, which is just getting off the ground this year.

Positive On-the-Ground Impact:

  • The 37 groups located in 11 states conducted 335 restoration-stewardship events.
  • 2,821 staff and volunteers worked 53,131 hours on these events.
  • Their work impacted 122 miles of rivers and streams
  • They closed 44 miles of illegal roads, rebuilt or maintained 212 miles of trail, and removed invasive and/or planted native species on 17,331 acres of habitat.

In addition, Friends Grassroots Network groups conducted clean-ups and/or removed graffiti an astounding 838 times. Groups also conduct water quality monitoring and have volunteer “site steward” programs to monitor and protect cultural resources.  More than 290 volunteers serve as board members for these organizations, accepting fiscal responsibility and providing leadership for countless programs.FriendsofOrganMountainsDesertPeaks

Smart Fundraising:

It takes financial resources to accomplish this and other important work. In 2015, Friends Grassroots Network organizations received 193 foundation grants, were supported by 1,243 business and corporate grants, received 59 grants from government sources and held more than 163 fundraising events. Using creativity and persistence, groups collectively raised more that $11.5 million to help protect, restore and expand the National Conservation Lands.

In local communities throughout all western states and Florida, these groups organize or conduct hikes, movie tours, restoration and cleanup projects, school trips, winter lectures, spring native plant seminars, guest speakers, bio-blitzes, film festivals, booths at art fairs, National Public Lands Day events, preservation workshops, mapping projects, fossil hunts, petroglyph patrols, radio shows, conservation cafes, bird watching hikes, presentations at cultural sites, video series, Earth Day symposiums, Artist-in-Residence programs, Tread Lightly! and Leave No Trace trainings, letter-signings, photo contests, kayak tours, transportation grants for at-risk schools, Great Backyard Bird Counts, bike rides, wild food workshops, weekly gardening sessions, tree planting for local families, caving expeditions, citizen science projects. If that’s not enough, we’ll call out one of our favorites: a flying squirrel viewing party and fundraising reception.

Action on the Policy and Partnership Front: 

The Friends Grassroots Network builds relationships with BLM offices around the country that help create and influence policies for the National Conservation Lands. Almost all groups have—or are in the process of establishing—formal MOUs or agreements with their local BLM office that allows them to partner on restoration projects, educational programs, volunteer staffing, and other community outreach. 

Groups serve on and make presentations to Resource Advisory Councils, meet with elected officials, give testimony, and stay engaged for months—usually years—in Resource Management Plan (RMP) processes. The Conservation Lands Foundation asked the Friends Grassroots Network to sign on to eight letters in 2015 – letters opposing attacks on the Antiquities Act, legislative riders that undermine conservation, or sending appreciation to President Obama and his administration for designating new monuments. For each of these letters, more than 45 groups answered CLF’s call.

Communications and Diverse Constituencies:

The Friends Grassroots Network reaches:

  • 37,823 people with e-newsletters
  • 90,693 people of Facebook
  • 6,587 on Twitter
  • 2,932 on Instragram
  • 535 on Youtube

And these are conservative numbers. Groups also generated 1,457 media hits about units of the National Conservation Lands and their roles in stewarding them.

Six organizations in the Network, including CLF, have Diversity Initiatives—specific programs designed to expand outreach to, and inclusion of, more diverse groups of people in public lands conservation. Almost every group reported reaching out to their communities in innovative ways. For example, engaging more youth groups, Native Americans, AmeriCorps interns, veterans, Latino communities, sportsmen, Latter Day Saints and other faith-based groups, scouts, at-risk elementary kids, college students, and more. Others are updating their websites and materials to provide information in Spanish.

We know this is merely a glance at the accomplishments of organizations in the Friends Grassroots Network–and that we can’t possibly convey all that they do.  We think that makes this report all the more impressive, and we extend congratulations and our gratitude to all.  Together we will keep up the great work.

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