Ding Society instrumental in advocating for popular refuge, bringing support revenue
Things are looking good at the Ding.
Statistics and the narrative to supporters in the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society annual report show an upbeat finish for the last year, with strong donor support and a continued push to help in funding the vast refuge. The Ding brings more than 800,000 visitors to the 6,000-acre refuge named in honor of the early conservation pioneer, Jay Norwood Darling.
“Once again,” Society president John McCabe wrote in the annual report’s overview, “the ‘Ding’ Darling Wildlife Society has had a banner year supporting the ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge in its mission of environmental conservation, research, community outreach and education. We owe our success to those who, like us, treasure wild places and wild creatures.”
The Society is largely a band of volunteers whose mission is to support the Ding’s many programs in outreach, research and monitoring the health of the refuge. Its role has become more critical as federal funding, particularly for rangers, services and equipment, has diminished in recent years. Society donations, gift-shop revenue and fees, grants and other sources to the group in 2013-2014 accounted for some $781,000 in expenditures at the Ding, according to the annual report. Nearly 85 percent of that went to funding special exhibits, paid for transportation to bring nearly 8,000 schoolkids to the Ding, for signage, walkways, construction, volunteer support, scholarships/internships, research and land purchases, report figures show. Administration fees covered the balance of revenue. The report showed a fund balance of $108,000. The report did not list the Ding’s annual budget, which is funded by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The original Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge was created by executive order in 1945. It was renamed after the Pulitzer artist in 1967.
The Society helps in funding to “fill in gaps” in Ding programs, said Birgie Miller, the Society’s executive director.
In the report, McCabe summed the Society’s impact: “Federal monies for wildlife refuges are very limited,” he wrote. “With help from organizations (like the Society), the Refuge is able to do what it does best: manage its lands and water, protect its wildlife and habitatwe at the Society are proud to be part of this American treasure.”