What Is Merritt Island Wildlife Association (MIWA)?
The Merritt Island Wildlife Association (MIWA) is a Florida nonprofit corporation organized under Section 501 (C) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Our mission is:
“To promote conservation, awareness, appreciation, and use of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (MINWR) and to support Refuge programs.”
We are a “Refuge Friends” group, one of over 200 such organizations supporting National Wildlife Refuges and other US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) facilities from Maine to Hawaii and Alaska to Florida. We operate under a Cooperative Agreement with the USFWS, and employ a small paid staff who manage our bookstore and gift shop in the MINWR Visitor Center, provide member services, and assist in welcoming Refuge visitors. MIWA is an affiliate of the Washington, DC–based National Wildlife Refuge Association, which advocates for the entire National Wildlife Refuge System and chairs a coalition of 22 national wildlife, conservation, and outdoor recreation organizations.
MIWA was formed in 1994 with 21 members and an annual budget of $16,000. We have grown to over 1,400 members with gross income of $178,772.51 in FY 2014. After all expenses for inventory, personnel, and other operating costs, MIWA provided $49,677.94 for Refuge projects and programs last year. The majority of our income is derived from our bookstore, membership dues and donations.
We annually fund a number of MINWR internships, volunteer and Visitor Center expenses, environmental education and community relations programs, refuge signage, and special events and projects.
In recent years MIWA’s major projects have included construction of the Sendler Education Outpost Pavilion and restroom now used by many student and visitors groups, construction of restroom facilities and wildlife observation decks on the popular and heavily travelled Black Point Wildlife Drive, and purchase of a 15-passenger bus used several times a week for Refuge tours.
Currently we are fundraising for the new refuge Visitor Center. MIWA will be providing funds for the new exhibits and other cost incurred in the process.
MIWA has also expanded to supporting Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge which is part of the Merritt Island National Wildlife complex. We help with support and donations for their annual Youth Fishing Derby and fund an internship.
MIWA is governed by a Board of Directors elected for staggered two-year terms at our annual meetings. Officers are elected by and from the Board. The annual meetings typically are attended by about 10% of our members, and feature presentations by MINWR staff, MIWA officers, and well-known keynote speakers. The Board is representative of the broad range of interests of our membership – wildlife observation, photography, hunting, fishing, boating, hiking, education, business, the space industry, and local government. Monthly Board meetings are attended by MINWR staff, with which we maintain an excellent relationship, and often by our NASA liaison for insight into Kennedy Space Center activities affecting the Refuge.
As federal budgets get smaller each year for resource agencies, organizations such as the Merritt Island Wildlife Association play an increasingly larger role in providing support for activities and programs that otherwise would not take place. To help support the MINWR please join us as a MIWA Member.
We would like to not only thank our MIWA members, MINWR refuge volunteers and supporters but all the friends groups, volunteers and everyone who is dedicated to the protection and conservation of precious places such as our refuge.
So wherever you are, we encourage you to get out to your local park, seashore or refuge and enjoy the wonders they hold and find out what you can do to help.
See you on the Refuge!