Safe Haven for a Better Future: Friends of Brazoria Wildlife Refuges

When considering the topic of migration, it can be agreed that by and large, humanity accomplish it with relative ease. Trains, planes, automobiles and watercraft lend a level of mobility to our lives that other species can only dream of possessing.

With the ability to move massive amounts of human life at the speed of sound, all within a perfectly pressurized cabin tens of thousands of feet in the air, we are incredibly disconnected from the steep challenges that migratory animals, such as birds, face on a daily basis.

While gifted with the natural ability to fly, these animals have to deal with ill weather, incredible migration distances and human interference to reach their historic nesting grounds, a task many of them don’t survive. At least for those birds migrating to the waters and woodlands of Brazoria, TX, the Friends of Brazoria Wildlife Refuges provides clean, safe, bountiful space for nesting, breeding and shelter.

Safety for Wildlife Since ’66

With over 44, 414 acres of pristine forest, marshland and open space to enjoy, the Refuge, having recently turned fifty-two years old, is stronger and more magnificent than ever before. “Friends of Brazoria Wildlife Refuge was formed in 1966 when a group of local people saw the need to have a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit organization that could be a part of and support the Texas Midcoast National Wildlife Refuge Complex” says Lisa Meyers, Friends VP and Communications chair.

Primarily known as a refuge for over three hundred species of migratory birds, Friends also boasts an impressive variety of local Texan flora and fauna, showcasing and protecting the natural habitat for all wishing to get to know it firsthand. From hiking expansive wooded and prairie trails, to hunting and fishing, or simply watching nature at work, the Friends of Brazoria Wildlife Refuge truly offers something for everyone.

Returning Humans to Their Roots

“At Friends, we try to bring people to nature and nature to the people”, Meyers says of the Refuge’s primary focus. With the rise in advanced social connection technology, from social media to video games and beyond, significantly less people of all ages are venturing into the great outdoors than ever before.

Another deciding factor in outdoor exploration and enjoyment is location, with large cities and climate directly influencing just how much access a nature lover, or potential nature love has to the natural world. Meyers, along with the rest of the staff and volunteers at Friends of Brazoria Wildlife Refuge, wish to make it well known that little to no travel is required for the residents of Brazoria county to experience Texas’ truly fantastic fauna and flora.

“A lot of people are not aware of the wealth of nature that surrounds them, and its benefits” says Meyers. “Friends is very much into helping with the conservation and restoration of animals and their habitats, as well as advocating for their public use. A lot of that is just making (local) people aware of what is right here in their backyard.”

Raptors for Real Education

One of the easiest ways to get individuals from all walks of life into the great outdoors, as Friends knows, is to host exciting events starring local creatures. “One of the projects that we run is the Birds of Prey program.” Costing the conservancy just over twenty thousand dollars a year, funding is primarily gained through grants made to the organization via corporate donors, with all of the organizational side handled by Friends themselves.

“It is an environmental education program which has been around since 2005. The individuals who run the program perform outreach to schools, mainly located in Matagorda and Brazoria counties.” Since the program’s inception, those driving it forward have made a point of reaching out to less affluent schools in order to spread the joy of nature to those who would otherwise be left out. “In 2018 alone, over 63 programs impacting over 21, 400 people.

Overall, 168,000 people have gotten to experience the Birds of Prey program.” The point of the program, aside from showing off majestic birds of prey to wide-eyed schoolchildren, is to bring environmental education further into mainstream consciousness, relating to just to the raptors, but to the overall ecosystem itself.

Celebrate Good Times (And Animals)

Since it is primarily known as a safe-haven for migratory birds of all shapes and sizes, a celebration of the act of migration makes perfect sense for the Refuge to hold. “The Migration Celebration is an annual program hosted by the Texas Mid-coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex, geared toward education and awareness of the refuges” says Meyers, of the annual event.

Having taken place every third weekend in April since 2005, the Migration Celebration attracts around two thousand people to the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge, making it one of the larger annual events the conservancy hosts. “Even with over 180 volunteer slots, there are so many events to attend to in just two days.

The celebration went from being bird/ nature focused to being more of a family oriented event, with photo contests, a kick-off dinner” in addition to numerous other events. Usually a self-sustaining event, the Migration Celebration plays a crucial part in generating interest in the area and the Refuge, and keeps visitors returning for years to come.

Instilling A DEEP Knowledge of Nature

Education of young people is by far and away one of the most important areas that an organization focused on future preservation can invest in. At Friends of Brazoria Wildlife Refuge, education in environmental excellence has always been at the forefront of volunteer efforts. “An ongoing program here at Friends is Discovery Environmental Education Program, or DEEP for short.

At it’s core, it’s field-trips for fourth to seventh graders, in the broader area.” Volunteers try to reach out to all schools, but make a special point in targeting less wealthy institutions, where in many cases, the children there have had minimal exposure to the great outdoors.

“The program is completely free. It started in 1994, and attracts about two thousand students each year. We teach students about reptiles, water quality, estuaries and more. We host a bus tour of the Refuge, where students engage in birding and looking at nature.

They learn about invertebrates in the laboratory, as well as what insects are around at that time of year.” So far, the program has been a massive hit with area children, who see it far more as a pleasure than a lesson.

The Friends of Brazoria Wildlife Refuge https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Brazoria/ are located at 24907 FM 2004 Angleton, Texas 77515. They can be contacted via phone at 979-922-1037, or email at barrios@refugefriends.org

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