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History of the Friends of Woodlands and Waters

Established in 2000, The Friends of Woodlands and Waters (previously named the Friends of the Assabet River, Oxbow, and Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuges) is a non-profit organization of dedicated and conservation-minded volunteers who work with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex to protect and enhance the refuges’ flora and fauna. Through stewardship activities, education and outreach programs, Friends work to ensure these valuable resources are available for the enjoyment and education of present and future generations.

The Friends were started to protect the land which is now the Assabet River NWR. This land has seen multiple uses, from its use by Native Americans, 17th through 20th Century farming to its use as a military reservation beginning with World War II. The military transferred ownership to the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2000. Following the military use of the area and prior to its opening to the public, Friends’ work focused on making the area safe for public use. Work to improve the refuge continues now that the refuge is open: Friends promote educational, outreach, and volunteer programs related to its continued maintenance. Programs include everything from trail maintenance, invasive species remediation and species reintroduction, to talks on the natural history of the area and art programs for children and adults. Since the Visitor Center opened on the refuge, Friends's volunteers have operated a Nature Store at the center. The Friends’ goal is to work with the US Fish and Wildlife staff to engage community and other stake-holders to promote maximum use and enjoyment of the refuge for the surrounding communities while balancing those benefits with the primary goal of protecting its natural resources.

In 2022, the Friends of the Assabet River NWR expanded their scope to include the Oxbow and Great Meadows NWRs. The Friends now support three of the eight Refuges that make up the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The Friends group merger ties together support and advocacy for important habitats that meet the needs of a wide variety of migratory birds, mammal, plants, reptile and amphibians.

We invite you to visit the refuge, get involved, support and take advantage of the many diverse programs which Friends of the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge sponsors.

The Friends are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.