Today, H.R. 1300, Congressman Runyan's legislation to reauthorize the volunteer programs and community partnerships at National Wildlife Refuges was favorably reported, via unanimous consent, out of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and has been cleared for action on the floor of the House of Representatives. Runyan made the following statement:
"I am happy that my colleagues on the House Committee on Natural Resources unanimously supported H.R. 1300 today. Volunteers are the lifeblood of our National Wildlife Refuge system," stated Runyan. "In South Jersey the "Friends of Forsythe' volunteer group has been the model example of what good a well organized group of volunteers can do for our natural treasures."
Mary Harper, Board of Directors, of "Friends of Forsythe" testified at a previous hearing in support of this legislation. She made the following statement:
"On behalf of "Friends of Forsythe' and the National Wildlife Refuge Association representing nearly 300 Friends organizations nationally, I would like to extend our sincere appreciation to Rep. Runyan for his leadership and support for HR 1300," stated Harper. "Rep. Runyan's dedication to the conservation of our national natural heritage is exemplary and deeply appreciated by our volunteers and members."
The bill passed with one amendment. A manager's amendment, offered by Mr. Fleming of Louisiana, made a technical correction to change the bill from a five year reauthorization to a three year reauthorization. With the amendment, the legislation will extend the authorization of the program from the start of fiscal year 2015 through the conclusion of fiscal year 2017.
The National Wildlife Refuge System contains 148 million acres of federal lands dedicated to the conservation of fish and wildlife. There are 562 Refuges located throughout the United States. The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge located in Ocean and Atlantic Counties in New Jersey, was the benefactor of over 14,000 volunteer hours in 2012, equivalent to almost seven full time employees. The Forsythe Refuge is host to over 250,000 visitors a year.