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National Wildlife Refuge Association

Elliott in front of the White House

Elliott in front of the White House

When I began my internship at the National Wildlife Refuge Association, I knew very little about the world of conservation. However, I was excited to channel my passion for the environment toward the wildlife which call our public lands and waters their home. As the Conservation Policy Stanback Intern, I have had the opportunity to support policy efforts, write blogs, create social media content, participate in meetings, conduct research, and attend events on Capitol Hill.

While this summer has been a difficult one for environmental advocates in Washington D.C., I’m fortunate to have been on the front lines fighting for what I believe in. Here are the primary issues I’ve worked on:

  • Protecting the “crown jewel” of the Refuge System, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, from attempts to authorize oil drilling
  • Preventing a road from being constructed through the pristine wilderness of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge
  • Defending 700 million acres of public waters in our nation’s Marine National Monuments currently under review by Executive Order
  • Raising awareness of the threat posed by the proposed border wall beginning construction in Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge
  • Supporting funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System and affiliated conservation programs in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget
Elliott & Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO)

Elliott & Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO)

Elliott & Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)

Elliott & Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)















To evaluate my success, I’ve decided to look back to the goals I set forth at the beginning of my internship:

  • Develop an understanding of how to enact and defend conservation policies
    1. I can now identify and discuss key conservation legislation, ranging from the Refuge System Improvement Act to the Antiquities Act. I have learned about how to defend important conservation programs, while developing an understanding of how budget reconciliation and executive orders can be used to undermine the Refuge System.
  • Make a meaningful contribution to the National Wildlife Refuge System, its habitats, and its inhabitants through the political system
    1. Despite this Administration and Congress’ attacks on the Arctic, Izembek, and Santa Ana Refuges, as well as marine monuments, I’ve raised awareness for each issue and mobilized people to take action.
  • Learn about, interact with, and forge relationships with influential conservation advocates and policymakers
    1. By attending many hearings and briefings on Capitol Hill, I got to meet Senators Michael Bennet, Ben Cardin, and James Inhofe, as well as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. I heard dozens of elected officials speak, ranging from Senators Lisa Murkowski and Maria Cantwell to Representatives Rob Bishop and Raul Grijalva. I developed strong relationships with many Refuge Association staff and leaders of other environmental organizations.
  • Become a more effective advocate through advancing my communication and organizing skills
    1. Throughout the internship, I created content and engaged with followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I have learned to make these posts and messages more concise and impactful. The blog posts I drafted required less revisions as time went on, and event summaries have better conveyed the highlights and takeaway messages. Additionally, I have developed better organizational systems to keep track of my work.
Refuge Association Staff Team

Refuge Association Staff Team

After spending 11 weeks at the Refuge Association, I see environmental lobbying at a non-profit organization in Washington D.C. as a potential career path. I have also developed interest in exploring environmental start-ups, corporate social responsibility offices, and sustainability advocacy outside of the beltway.

Returning to Duke University for my Sophomore Year, I plan to continue majoring in Environmental Science and Policy and pursuing a Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, but focus more on how my work can positively impact animals and their habitats. As the President of the Environmental Alliance, I will continue to appreciate the outdoors and spread this passion to my fellow Blue Devils.

I want to thank Fred and Alice Stanback for providing and generously funding this internship program through Duke University. I also want to thank my supervisor, Desiree Sorenson-Groves, and the entire Refuge Association staff for making me feel welcome, providing guidance, and helping me maximize this opportunity.

While I have learned and grown so much from my internship with the National Wildlife Refuge Association, my journey has just begun. I look forward to protecting the environment and its inhabitants for many years to come!


Elliott Davis
Conservation Policy Stanback Intern – Summer 2017