About Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge

Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refugeis a non-profit organization devoted to supporting St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in the Florida Panhandle.

We are passionately committed to conservation with a mission to support the Refuge through fundraising, volunteering and advocacy. We work in many areas such as visitor engagement, public outreach, nature and historical tours, internship sponsorship and educational programs.

We also provide on-the-ground assistance for Refuge staff including conservation projects and operations support. Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge provides mission-critical funding assistance through memberships, donations, planned giving and our wonderful Nature Store. Please join us today!

Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge was established in 1987 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. In May 2015, the Association’s membership voted to adopt and legally register the name “Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge” and to do business under that name.

Refuge Visitors

Over 300,000 people visit the Refuge each year, from around the country and world, to bird watch, hike, bike, fish, paddle, see the Lighthouse, or just enjoy the peace and beauty of the Refuge’s diverse habitats.

The Refuge also provides environmental education programs to over 16,000 school children, families and adults. Programs include Tots on Trails, Families in Nature, Digital Nature Photography and summer programs for school age children. Annual festivals, special events and Second Sunday guest speakers also draw hundreds of visitors.

Volunteer Contributions

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Friends support is critical to operation of the Refuge’s projects and Programs. Volunteers from the Friends and others contribute over 20,000 hours each year. Activities include visitor engagement, leading tours and teaching, office operation and document production, assisting with conservation projects, maintaining property and equipment, Nature Store management and fundraising.

Volunteers have varied backgrounds and range in age from 18 to over 80 and include local high school and college students who come for a semester or just during Spring Break.

Financial Contributions

The Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge also provides substantial financial support for Refuge projects and activities. For example:

  • Friends raised more than $1,000,000 through private donations and public and private grants for preservation & protection of the St. Marks Lighthouse

  • $10,000 annually is given to the Refuge to support our conservation biology interns in their work.

And there are many more accomplishments and ways in which Friends supports the Refuge financially.

Funds are generated from membership dues, donations, special events and solicitations, bequests, occasional grants and other gifts, and profits from our Nature Store located in the Visitor Center.

Annual Reports

Governance

Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge is governed according to a set of Bylaws (adopted September 11, 2016). Its relationship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, parent agency for national wildlife refuges, is established through a Friends Partnership Agreement (which has two addenda).

The Friends group is led by an all-volunteer Board of Directors, which has no paid staff.

Board Meetings

Board meetings start at 5:30 pm and are held the second Thursday of each month. Please call (850) 925-6121 for meeting location. Board meetings are open to the public.