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December 2011

Let’s Make Conserving the Future Vision a Reality
By Dan Ashe
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Renowned Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Kanter once defined a vision as “not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.”

That’s why I’m so proud of the Conserving the Future document, which Secretary Ken Salazar and I signed in October 20111 at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees, Friends and partners who worked on this vision outlined a comprehensive vision for a National Wildlife Refuge System that is relevant to the American people, science-driven and working at a landscape scale to produce biological outcomes.

This vision is truly a call to action for all of us who care about the future of the Refuge System, while also setting the standard for the Service as a whole. Like the Refuge System, we must work across programs and regions to increase our relevancy to the public, our commitment to science and our efforts to deliver partnership-driven conservation at a landscape scale.

I’m incredibly pleased that Jim Kurth will be leading the effort to make the vision a reality. As the new chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, Jim brings a wealth of experience, leadership and unbridled passion to this process.

The vision calls on us to prioritize future land acquisition and protection efforts, linking them to rigorous biological planning and conservation objectives developed in cooperation with state fish and wildlife agencies and implemented through effective partnerships. It will also accelerate development of a scientific research agenda to support and guide our management decisions.

In addition, I’m excited about a new vision for urban wildlife refuges and its potential to make our work visible to and relevant for new audiences in an increasingly urban society.

The Secretary’s vision for America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) lines up strongly with ours. Projects such as the Dakota Grassland Conservation Area, the Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area and the proposed Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area are the centerpieces of that AGO vision, and they embody our vision for future refuge conservation efforts.

Secretary Salazar is challenging us to breathe new life into river and watershed conservation. He understands that conservation must have a big perspective (a landscape scale) but also appreciates that conservation is done at the site scale (on the ground) and by working with individual partners and landowners. The Secretary understands, as do we, that our best work often occurs where the Service is the catalyst for conservation work on a broader scale than we could accomplish working individually.

Despite the many uncertainties and challenges we will face in implementing the vision, I’m optimistic about the future of the Refuge System.

I can’t help but feel optimistic when I see the work of our dedicated employees, partners, volunteers and Friends groups – and feel the passion they demonstrate every day. I hope you’ll join us as we work to make this vision a reality.

Snowy Owls Fly South

In a once-in-every-five-year-or-so event, snowy owls of the Arctic have been winging into the Lower 48 and turning heads. The nearly two-foot-tall, predominantly white owls —Harry Potter’s Hedwig was a snowy — are hard to miss. Most snowy owls normally live year-round in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other sites north of Alaska's Brooks Range; a few overwinter in the Northern Plains and New England. But last fall they were spreading across the U.S in great numbers.

Sharp-eyed folks at the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex report sightings there. Other sightings come from as far east Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts and as far south as Kansas. Snowies also were spotted in Connecticut, New York, Maine, Vermont, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington state.

Why do snowy owls sometimes fly south en masse? Snowy owls’ favorite prey are small rodents called lemmings, which are notorious for boom and bust population cycles. Biologists think the owls’ “irruptions” south from the Arctic occur when lemmings are in short supply. Sightings of snowy owlers in the Lower 48 ere compiled on a map from reports on eBird and state bird listservs.

Unlike many other owls, snowies are active in the daytime. They tend to perch at high points overlooking open sites such as beaches and airports. Exhausted from their long flights, some starve if prey is scarce.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has more information on snowy owls.

Photo: Pat Gaines, Creative Commons

Novenber 2011

Annual Meeting

At the Annual Meeting held November 14th four members of the Board of Directors, Rich Eakin, Kathleen Palmer, William Trout and Bertie Tullis, were reelected for another two year term.

The evening started with a great pot luck supper. Then President William Trout talked about our accomplishments in the past year and we discussed ideas for the coming year.

There are no meetings scheduled in December because of the Holidays. See you all in the New Year!

Now Is Not the Time to Retreat on Conservation
By Dan Ashe
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Like all duck hunters, I know that, oftentimes, the worse the weather, the better the hunting. I look at our current conservation climate in much the same way.

Although our nation is going through some rough economic weather right now, we can’t lose sight of the fact that there are still enormous needs – and opportunities - for fish and wildlife conservation.

I understand and respect hunters, anglers and shooters who believe that in the current budget climate, conservation programs should share in any cuts. This community has always put what is right ahead of what is easy, and I believe the reluctant support some may give for budget reductions comes from genuine patriotism.

But we should recognize that America has always found a way to enrich her conservation legacy despite difficult times. During the Civil War, President Lincoln inked a land deal for what later became Yosemite National Park. In the 1930s, during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl era, hunters supported landmark legislation that created the federal Duck Stamp and the Wildlife Restoration Act, contributing to the establishment of 142 wildlife refuges across the nation in that decade alone.

Now, the legacy of a century of conservation – indeed the future of the North American model of wildlife conservation – is threatened by the prospect of draconian cuts to conservation programs. These programs, though only a sliver of a percentage of the federal budget and largely inconsequential for deficit reduction, have been disproportionately singled out by some in Congress and their supporters.

This is not deficit reduction. These are policy and political objectives dressed-up as deficit reduction by those who seek to get those pesky fish and wildlife agencies – federal and state – out of the way of development. Never mind that America’s outdoor recreation economy generates 8.4 million, non-exportable U.S. jobs, most in rural areas, generating over $100 billion annually in federal, state and local taxes.

We recognize that we are stewards of taxpayer dollars, but I believe your state and federal conservation agencies have a demonstrated record of getting the most out of every dollar we do receive.

I urge everyone who cares about wildlife conservation and the future of hunting and fishing in America to stand up for our way of life. Demand that we live up to the courage and vision of our predecessors by holding the line on conservation funding. Participate in Ducks Unlimited’s “Double Down for Ducks” campaign and purchase two federal Ducks Stamps instead of one. Most of all, get out on the landscape with your kids and grandkids, and think about the kind of world we should leave to them. It takes investment, and now is not the time to cut back on conservation spending.

Conservation Pays

A new report commissioned for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), reveals that investments in natural resource conservation have a real impact on local jobs and economies.

The first phase of the report, titled “The Economics Associated with Outdoor Recreation, Natural Resources Conservation and Historic Preservation in the United States,” http://www.fws.gov/refuges/news/pdfs/TheEconomicValueofOutdoorRecreation[1].pdf, completed in September 2011, found that the economic value of all U.S. natural resource conservation, outdoor recreation and historic preservation came to $1.06 trillion.

The report said, “The total value of ecosystem services provided by the acres of natural habitats in national wildlife refuges totaled $32.3 billion per year.” In addition, it noted, “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contributed about $4.2 billion in economic activity and supported more than 32,000 jobs through its management of refuges and thousands of smaller natural areas.” 

The researchers further determined that homeowners near parks and protected areas are repeatedly seen to have property values more than 20 percent higher than similar properties elsewhere.

The report also concludes that the loss of nearly 10 million acres of wetlands in the United States since the 1950s has resulted in an economic loss of more than $81 billion in all wetlands-related ecosystem services. Ecosystem services include all the functions performed by nature that provide benefits to humans, such as waste treatment, water supply, carbon sequestration, and other aspects of nature that help modulate and regular climate. Saltwater wetlands, freshwater wetlands, temperate and tropical forests, grasslands, lakes, etc. all provide different levels of these environmental services.

Jim Kurth Becomes National Wildlife Refuge System Chief

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe announced the selection of James (Jim) Kurth as the agency’s Chief for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Kurth, a 32-year veteran of the Refuge System, has served as the Service’s deputy chief for the Refuge System since 1999. As Chief, Kurth will lead the management of the world's premier system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife and plants. The 108-year-old Refuge System comprises more than 150 million acres and 555 units. There is a national wildlife refuge in every state and U.S. territories.

"Jim is the ideal person for this position," said Service Director Dan Ashe. "His depth of experience with the National Wildlife Refuge System and demonstrated strong leadership are just what the Fish and Wildlife Service needs as we begin implementation of Conserving the Future, our renewed vision for the growth and management of the Refuge System.”

Kurth previously managed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alaska – the largest wildlife refuge in the United States, spanning nearly 20 million acres. He began his Refuge System career in 1979 and has held posts at Mississippi SandhiIl Crane National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana, Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge in Rhode Island.

Kurth earned a degree in wildlife management from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

October 2011


All the photos submitted for the thirteenth biennial contest were judged and the winners presented with awards on Sunday, October 16, 2011 at the Erie NWR Headquarters building in Guys Mills.

In the Wildlife Category, winners were: Chuck Gehringer, First Place (Waterford, PA); Ricardo Gilson, Second Place (Meadville, PA); Alex Lenhart, Third Place.

Plant Category winners included: Ricardo Gilson, First Place; Ron Oswald, Second Place; Ricardo Gilson, Third Place.

Landscape Category winners were: Serenity Ruddell, First Place (Erie, PA); Mary Thall, Second Place (Jamestown, PA); and Alex Lenhart, Third Place.

The prize for the Best Photo Taken on the Refuge went to Ron Oswald of Cochranton, PA. Best Student Photo went to Alex Lenhart from Rocky River, Ohio. Brooke Jackowski won an Honorable Mention.

Judges for the contest included: John McGolrick , President of Greenville Photography, Lee Ann Reiners, member of Presque Isle Audubon Society; and Suzanne Winterburger, professor of photography at Edinboro University. Presque Isle Audubon and the Friends of ENWR sponsored the contest.

Conserving the Future Vision Online

The renewed vision for the growth and management of the National Wildlife Refuge System, entitled Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation, is now available online at www.americaswildlife.org. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s vision was developed with extensive input from stakeholders through a transparent public process over the past 18 months.

“For more than 100 years, the National Wildlife Refuge System has conserved America’s great wildlife heritage and working lands for current and future generations, and this blueprint will ensure that a new era of conservation – one rooted in strong partnerships with the community – remains vibrant for the next 100 years,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “I applaud the Fish and Wildlife Service for its commitment to increasing the public’s access to open spaces and to inspiring a new generation to enjoy America’s great outdoors and get involved in conserving our nation’s wild things and wild places.”

Conserving the Future underscores the importance of building and expanding partnerships – working with other federal agencies, states, tribes, conservation organizations and citizens.

“The conservation challenges of the 21st century demand that the Service renews its commitment to our important relationship with state fish and wildlife agencies and with traditional partners such as anglers and hunters,” said Dan Ashe, Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. “At the same time, we need to be creative and bold in forging new partnerships.”

Among the Conserving the Future’s recommendations, the Refuge System will:

  1. launch an urban refuge initiative to increase the American people’s connection with their natural heritage, including wildlife refuges;
  2. work with state fish and wildlife agencies to prepare a strategy for increasing quality hunting and fishing opportunities – especially for youth and people with disabilities – on wildlife refuges;
  3. collaborate more with private and regional groups to conserve wildlife habitat;
  4. undertake an inventory and monitoring of the Refuge System’s land and water resources to better protect against future threats;
  5. develop a plan to guide refuges in assessing potential climate change impacts to refuge habitats and species; and
  6. plan for strategic growth by prioritizing potential acquisition sites and assessing the status of current habitat protection efforts.
In describing the Refuge System’s role in addressing America’s conservation challenges, the vision document states: “Human demands on the environment combined with environmental stressors are creating an urgent need for conservation choices. The scale of issues and challenges we face is unprecedented and impacts us all; no single entity has the resources necessary to address these challenges on its own.

“Conserving the Future acknowledges that strategic, collaborative, science-based landscape conservation -- along with effective public outreach, education and environmental awareness -- is the only path forward to conserve America's wildlife and wild places.”

New National Wildlife Refuge Approved in Albuquerque, NM

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has announced that a proposed 570-acre national wildlife refuge on a former dairy farm just a few miles south of New Mexico’s largest metropolitan area has been approved.

“With the support of Bernalillo County, the Trust for Public Land, New Mexico’s Congressional delegation and many partners, New Mexico will gain its first urban national wildlife refuge,” Salazar said. “Once complete, this refuge, which is within a half-hour drive of nearly half of New Mexico’s population, will be a place for people to connect with and learn about the natural world and will provide valuable habitat for wildlife, including the endangered the southwestern willow flycatcher.” Joined by Senator Jeff Bingaman, Congressman Martin Heinrich and Bernalillo County Commissioner Art De La Cruz, Salazar said a refuge in this location would fulfill the goals of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative to work with community partners to establish a 21st century conservation ethic and reconnect people, especially young people, to the natural world.

An urban refuge will also help generate economic growth and support jobs by attracting visitors, Salazar said. Recreation in refuges, national parks and other public lands led to nearly $55 billion in economic contribution and 440,000 jobs in 2009. National wildlife refuges alone currently support an estimated 35,234 jobs. “Establishment of a refuge not only will improve the quality of life of the citizens of Albuquerque but also help create new jobs by attracting visitors,” he said. “One in 20 U.S. jobs are in the recreation economy – more than there are doctors, lawyers, or teachers -- and places like this new refuge could help support more than 3 million new jobs across the nation in the next decade.”

“At 570 acres, this former dairy is one of the largest remaining farms in the Middle Rio Grande Valley and is the largest agricultural property within the Albuquerque metro region. There are very few opportunities like this one that allow us protect open space in highly urban areas,” said Senator Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bernalillo County have long explored the possibility of establishing an urban refuge on the former Price’s Dairy Farm. After completing the necessary studies and planning documents, the Service is now authorized to acquire land and establish the refuge. By policy, the Service acquires lands for refuges only from willing sellers. Condemnation is not used. The current owners of the 570-acre site are interested in selling the land. The Bernalillo County Commission has set aside $5 million to assist with land acquisition.

“Years from now people will say how glad they are that we had enough foresight, determination and love that we preserved this place forever, and for them” said Bernalillo County Commissioner Art De La Cruz.

The Service intends to work with its partners to establish environmental education programs at the refuge and provide demonstration areas for sustainable agriculture. Once fully restored, visitors to the Refuge will likely be able to see waterfowl, small mammals, and neotropical migrant birds, including the flycatcher. Additional funding for purchase of the land will likely come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Congress established the fund in 1964 to use revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling to support the conservation of America's lands and waters.

Urban wildlife refuges offer unique environmental education and recreation opportunities in populous area while promoting the mission of the Refuge System to protect wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

Washington, DC—The U.S. Senate has passed a resolution designating the week of October 9-15 as National Wildlife Refuge Week. National Wildlife Refuge Week is celebrated every year on the second full week of October and was commemorated by the Senate for the first time in a historic resolution last year. First initiated under President Bill Clinton, Refuge Week is a celebration of our national wildlife refuges and America’s majestic wildlife heritage. The resolution (S.R. 288) passed last night by unanimous consent and recognizes the importance of America’s 553 National Wildlife Refuges and 38 Wetland Management Districts to wildlife and habitat conservation, recreation, and the economy, and affirms the Senate’s intent to manage refuges and the wildlife they protect for future generations. The Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE), a coalition of conservation, sporting and scientific organizations that advocates for the National Wildlife Refuge System, praised the Senate action and the bill’s sponsors.

“At a time when the Refuge System faces serious funding and staffing shortfalls, we’re grateful to Senators Coons, Sessions and Cardin for leading a bipartisan group of colleagues to call attention to the importance of America’s National Wildlife Refuges,” said Evan Hirsche, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and Chair of the CARE coalition. “America’s refuges are the world’s premier system of lands and waters protected to conserve wildlife and habitat, but they are also a sound taxpayer investment, returning an average of four dollars to local economies for every dollar spent in economic activity.”

Refuges also provide vital “ecosystem services” to local economies, helping clean our air and waters, providing game for food and serving as important buffers from storms. Studies estimate that refuges return over $875 for every $1 appropriated. In addition, our Refuge System provides incomparable recreation opportunities for millions of visitors each year, including more than 2.5 million hunters, 7 million anglers, and 28 million wildlife watchers as well as students and photographers.

The bill’s cosponsors are a bipartisan group. They include the original sponsors—Chris Coons (D-DE), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)—and 11 cosponsors: Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Scott Brown (R-MA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Thad Cochran (R-MS), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

The Senate resolution highlights:

  • The broad scope of the 150-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which includes 553 refuges and 38 wetland management districts, found in every state and territory of the U.S.;
  • The economic contributions of refuges, whose 45 million annual visitors contribute nearly $1.7 billion to local economies and support tens of thousands of local jobs;
  • The ecological and wildlife diversity found in the Refuge System, which protects temperate, tropical, and boreal forests, wetlands, deserts, grasslands, arctic tundras, and remote islands, and provide habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 species of reptiles and amphibians, and more than 1,000 species of fish;
  • The importance of refuge volunteers and more than 220 refuge Friends groups, who contribute 1.4 million volunteer hours the equivalent of 665 full-time employees—to the Refuge System each year.

September 2011

New Board Members

Welcome new members and board members Linda and Breanna Anderson! This mother and daughter team has already been a big help to the group and will be a great addition to the board.

Clean Up crew and their "haul". Pictured: Dick Raup, Michelle Jackowski, Bill Trout and Kathy Palmer

Volunteers Clean Up 129 Lbs. Of Trash Off The ENWR September 10th

A big thank you goes out to the volunteers and staff that gave up their Saturday morning to "Clean Up the Creek". Bill Trout, Dick Raup, Jim Bock, Kathy Palmer, and Michelle Jackowski picked up 129 lbs. of trash on Erie National Wildlife Refuge property. The annual French Creek Clean Up is sponsored by the French Creek Valley Conservancy (FCVC). Our group concentrated on Lake Creek which is a tributary of French Creek.

FCVC's mission is "To promote the environmental integrity of the French Creek watershed and it's environs, and to advocate the protection of natural resources in the watershed to the aesthetic, ecological, recreational and economic benefit of the citizens of the area." In it's present form this was the 3rd Annual French Creek Clean Up. It's was also the biggest event to date. Altogether 603 volunteers cleaned up 23,500 lbs from the creek and tributaries.

The French Creek watershed with it's nine major tributaries covers 1,235 square miles, most of which are in Pennsylvania's Allegheny River watershed. French Creek is a historical waterway and was named in 1753 by young George Washington while traveling to Fort LeBoeuf (which was located in what is now Waterford, PA) to inform the French that they were intruding on British territory. French Creek provided early settlers with abundant natural resources, including a waterway for transportation.

The creek’s watershed is one of the last remaining, and for the most part intact, ecosystems in the Ohio River drainage. French Creek supports more species of fish (eighty, including fifteen on Pennsylvania’s list of endangered and threatened species) and twenty-six species of freshwater mussels (fifteen on Pennsylvania’s list), than any other creek in the state. Let's also not forget the hellbender, the mascot of French Creek. The hellbender is Pennsylvania's largest salamander growing up to 29 inches long. The hellbender is a shy (and not very pretty) creature found in the river feeding on crayfish.

You can read more about this year's clean up in the Meadville Tribune: http://meadvilletribune.com/local/x1095945014/Volunteers-clear-tons-of-junk-from-French-Creek

Near Lake Creek. Pictured: Jim Bock, Bill Trout, Kathy Palmer and Dick Raup.

August 2011

Erie Nation Wildlife Refuge To Be Featured On Local TV Program

The Erie Nation Wildlife Refuge will be featured on an upcoming episode of "Crawford County Outdoors". Duane Koller produces "Crawford County Outdoors" for Armstrong Cable's channel CTV-13 for local and Video on Demand programming. Episodes often focus on hunting and fishing and other outdoor activities but some have showcased places of interest in Crawford County such as French Creek and the Ernst Bike Trail.

Permission has been received for the filming to proceed on the Erie National Wildlife Refuge and it is scheduled for October 4th. Highlighted on the program will be the Refuge Headquarters' Building, the Observation Deck on Deer Run Trail and the Handicapped Fishing Pier at Pool K, all located on the Sugar Lake Division of the Refuge.

There is no information at this time on when this episode will air but if you have Armstrong Cable keep an eye on the "Crawford County Outdoors" listings.

From Vision to Implementation

Implementation of the National Wildlife Refuge System’s Conserving the Future vision is on a fast track.

Individual charters have been written for each of the three implementation teams established by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe during his call to action, which closed the Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation conference July 14 in Madison, WI.

Those teams will focus on strategically growing the Refuge System, fleshing out details of an urban wildlife refuge initiative and developing the next generation of Refuge System leaders.

Fast-track implementation was a consequence of the passion for progress evident during the four-day conference, which drew about 1,100 participants.

Attendees and an online audience heard from an array of speakers, including Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; oceanographer Sylvia Earle; renowned chimpanzee scientist Jane Goodall via taped message; and eco-entrepreneur Majora Carter, who founded Sustainable South Bronx.

Perhaps no one summarized the conference’s conservation passion better than historian and author Douglas Brinkley, who said: “If I wasn’t a professor, I would want to be like you because of the integrity of the Fish and Wildlife Service. You undertake this as a spiritual mission.”

Brinkley cited the importance of refuge Friends groups, urging them and refuge staff members to cultivate local journalists in the cause of conservation. “Call them up. Feed them stories. Invite them to photograph a sunset. Get your news on the Internet,” he said, recalling that CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite – whom polls found to be the most trusted man in America in the 1960s-70s – became a conservationist after covering the first Earth Day.

The conference pulsated with excitement. Scores of workshops, facilitated discussions and lectures offered participants opportunities to exchange ideas, call for vision document refinements and learn new ways to achieve conservation goals. A vibrant news desk produced stories, video interviews and a noontime newscast beamed across the country on www.AmericasWildlife.org.

Cutting-edge technology was everywhere, from the iPad that Ashe used to sign the Conserving the Future implementation charter to the two large screens that flashed Twitter feeds during the general sessions.

Now the Work Begins

Overall implementation of the vision will be the work of the Executive Implementation Council – chaired by the Refuge System chief and supported by the Refuge System Leadership Team and a full-time council coordinator.

Ashe mandated that a refined final vision document – which contains 24 specific recommendations – be published by National Wildlife Refuge Week in mid-October. The charter he signed calls for development of an overall implementation strategy within 90 days of the document’s publication and for the vision to be largely implemented within five years. The executive council expects that strategy to include six or seven implementation teams beyond the three established by Ashe.

In chartering the strategic growth team, Ashe said: “We need a rapid, top-to-bottom review of current land acquisition projects. We need clear priorities and biological objectives in order to decide how many new projects we can take on and how to select them.”

Calling the urban wildlife refuge initiative “exciting and innovative,” he said, “There are many important wildlife and habitat management challenges in our vision for conserving the future. We will not succeed in these endeavors unless we have strong support from a connected conservation constituency. People must be a key component in our conservation strategy.”

Service Director Dan Ashe signed the Conserving the Future implementation charter on an iPad as then-Refuge System Chief Greg Siekaniec looked on and Midwest Region public affairs specialist Tina Shaw assisted. (Nick Zukauskas)

Going Postal for International Species

The U.S. Postal Service is issuing a special stamp to benefit elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, great apes and marine turtles under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Without Borders Multinational Species Conservation Funds.

Only the fourth of its kind, the “semipostal stamp” will be available in the nation’s 37,000 post offices on September 30. It is scheduled to remain on sale for at least two years.

A semipostal stamp is a Postal Service stamp issued to raise money for a particular purpose and is sold at a premium over the postal value. The three previous stamps benefitted campaigns related to breast cancer, 9/11 and domestic violence.

Conserving the Future through New Technologies
By Dan Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Two themes from the Conserving the Future conference in mid-July resonated with me long after the conference closed: the tremendous capacity of young people to carry America’s conservation legacy forward, and the power of reaching out to those young people through new technologies. 

There were amazing moments at the conference. 

A fifth grader from the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center shared her experiences in the outdoors and “getting in the moment.” Nature taught her to sit quietly and observe, to “look closer.”

In a world where television, video games and online technology capture our children’s time and attention, hearing this bright young person talk about her observations and appreciation for the natural world was incredibly moving. 

There was another story.

While growing up as a teenager, Juan Martinez from the Children and Nature Network joined his high school’s eco-club.  The decision kept him out of a south-central Los Angeles gang and gave him the opportunity to earn a scholarship to the Teton Science School.

Juan recalled seeing the Tetons and the star-studded sky – for the first time in his life – as a spiritual, life-changing experience. Now, he’s paying it forward, working with young people to help them find their conservation spirit, just as he did.

We need more young people like Juan to fall in love with our natural world. The “millennium generation” has grown up with the Internet and the communication technology available.

They are demanding more access to online information about national wildlife refuges, wildlife resources and outdoor opportunities.  These young people tell us that we need to keep up with new technologies and find new ways to use technology to engage them in the natural world. 

New technologies like social media can help us connect with young people – our future leaders of conservation in America.  Communication moves so much faster today, we need to move at the same speed or we’ll be left behind. Conservation will be left behind.

By connecting nature to the online communities young people care about, we can help.  I hope you will check out the blogs, newsfeeds, tweets, videos and other virtual tools we used the Conserving the Future conference at Americaswildlife.org.  I hope you’ve also taken the time to look at all of the Service’s social media work.  In the last year, we’ve been able to build a network of more than 70,000 fans and followers. 

I challenge you to share your naturalist stories because, as another fifth grader from the Prairie Wetland Learning Center, said, “You can’t be a naturalist and keep it to yourself. You need to share it.”

Share your love for nature with others – and engage and inspire online.

July 2011

White-Syndrome in Bats:
A National Plan

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has developed a national management plan to address the threat posed by white-nose syndrome (WNS), which has killed more than a million hibernating bats in eastern North America since it was discovered near Albany, NY, in 2006.

“Having spread to 18 states and four Canadian provinces, white-nose syndrome threatens far-reaching ecological and economic impacts,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. This national plan provides a road map for federal, state, and tribal agencies and scientific researchers to follow and will facilitate sharing of resources and information to more efficiently address the threat.”

More than 100 state and federal agencies, tribes, organizations and individuals were involved in developing the national plan. Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey have identified a fungus, new to science, which is presumed to have caused WNS. There are also decontamination protocols to reduce the transmission of the fungus. National wildlife refuges have closed many caves throughout the country to help reduce the spread of WNS.

Additional information about white-nose syndrome in bats is available at www.fws.gov/WhiteNoseSyndrome/index.html.

Refuge System Chief Urges Conservation on a Grand Scale At Conserving the Future Conference

If ecological efforts are to truly succeed, professional and citizen conservationists must think at a grand scale beyond their own turf, expand their message to Americans of all ethnicities and locales, refine their use of sound science, and strengthen partnerships among federal, state, nongovernmental entities, volunteers and private landowners, National Wildlife Refuge System Chief Greg Siekaniec said July 21 as he opened the Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation conference in Madison, WI.

“We recognize ecological issues are of a planetary scale now. They are not local. The need to act is urgent,” Siekaniec told 1,100 attendees and a nationwide online audience.

“Conservation in the future will include the important role of working ranches, farms, and forests, as well as privately owned recreational properties in linking and buffering the key protected areas. We must recognize that collaborative efforts are essential in configuring a conservation landscape large enough to protect the natural world … the fish and wildlife we care so much about,” Siekaniec said.

The Conserving the Future conference was one of the year’s largest national gatherings of professional and citizen conservationists – including about 100 representatives of Refuge Friends groups. It was the culmination of a months-long process to create a reinvigorated vision to guide the National Wildlife Refuge System for the next decade. The vision was ratified at the conference and an implementation charter was signed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe.

“A burgeoning [U.S.] population that is more urban, and ethnically diverse, presents us the challenge of building and maintaining a strong conservation constituency,” Siekaniec told conference attendees. “If we want our conservation mission to remain relevant in a changing America, we must devise a means to grow a larger conservation constituency … We must tell our stories with the heart of a poet and the facts of a scientist as we engage Americans in the stewardship of our land.”

Siekaniec stressed the National Wildlife Refuge System’s commitment to the use of sound scientific data to guide land management decisions. “I’m pleased that we have reinvigorated our inventory and monitoring effort as a key building block for national wildlife refuges and wetland management districts. I am very excited by the progress we have made with our new Natural Resource Program Center in Fort Collins, Colorado,” he said. “In conservation science, as in so much of our vision, we will not succeed alone. We intend to be both strong leaders and strong partners.”

For more news about what occurred at the Conserving the Future conference, visit the news wire: http://americaswildlife.org/newswire/.

Sieckaniec Appointed Deputy Director

Gregory Siekaniec has been appointed Deputy Director for Policy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, leaving the position of Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, a position he held since 2009.

In his new capacity, Siekaniec will provide strategic program direction and develop policy and guidance to support and promote program development and fulfill the Service mission.

“Greg has done an outstanding job leading the Refuge System during challenging times, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to work with him as part of our leadership team. I know his more than two decades of field and Washington experience will continue to be an invaluable asset as we move forward with the Service's conservation agenda,” said Service Director Dan Ashe in announcing the appointment.

Sieckaniec has led efforts to prepare the Refuge System to meet the challenges of the 21st century. He oversaw a process to create a reinvigorated vision to guide the National Wildlife Refuge System for the next decade. Americans submitted more than 10,000 comments on the vision, which was ratified at the Conserving the Future conference July 11-14 in Madison, WI.

“We face a host of conservation challenges of a magnitude we have rarely seen,” said Siekaniec. “But the Refuge System has risen to equal challenges in decades past. With a new vision as its beacon, the Refuge System will again overcome challenges to add to America’s conservation legacy. I won’t be overseeing the Refuge System on a day-to-day basis, but rest assured, I will always have my eye on the Refuge System.”

Just before taking the helm of the Refuge System, Siekaniec spent eight years as the refuge manager of Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, one of the Refuge System’s most remote and far flung units. Alaska Maritime Refuge encompasses more than 2,500 islands and nearly five million acres.

Among his many achievements at Alaska Maritime Refuge, Siekaniec is credited with developing a host of partnerships with national conservation organizations to restore island biodiversity and ridding islands of destructive invasive species – foxes and rats – that had nearly eradicated native seabirds and other wildlife. Alaska Maritime Refuge provides nesting habitat for approximately 40 million seabirds, about 80 percent of Alaska's nesting seabird population.

Siekaniec started his career at J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge as a refuge clerk and moved up into management positions in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming in addition to Alaska. He served as deputy chief of the Refuge System before taking over leadership at Alaska Maritime Refuge in 2001.

Siekaniec earned a bachelor's degree in wildlife biology from the University of Montana. He completed the Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program in 2008, the same year that he completed the Senior Executive Fellows Program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

French Creek Clean Up

Once again the Friends are getting a group together to participate in the Annual French Creek Clean Up sponsored by the French Creek Valley Conservancy. Our group stays on Refuge property (mostly) cleaning along some of the tributaries that feed into French Creek. This year's event will be held Saturday, September 10th. More information about the Clean Up will be available later but we must register our group soon.

This year's weigh-in and picnic will be held at Sprague Farm and Brew Works near Venango and the music is once again by Unkle John's Band. Don't worry this is still a family friendly picnic. Each person that is pre-registered ahead of time will receive a free T-Shirt which is also your ticket for the picnic.

The information we need from you to pre-register our group is your name, t-shirt size, and whether you are planning to attend the picnic. Kathy Palmer is coordinating this event and you can get your information to her by emailing info@friendsofenwr.org

Summer Fest and Trash to Treasure Update

The weather turned bad for the 2011 Summer Fest but still about 267 people showed up to enjoy the day. The activities all were a big hit with young and old alike! One of the best surprises was the success of the silent auction which brought in $1060.00 for the Friends. The winners of the Trash to Treasure contest were also announced that day snd can be seen below.

Thank you to everyone who helped with the contest and the Summer Fest. We couldn't have done it without you and we hope to see you all again next year!

Trash to Treasure winners:
Under 12 (Decorative) Levi Butryn (church made of bottles and cardboard)
Under 12 Useful: Summer mattocks (candle jar penny bank)
12-14 Decorative Lydia Gillette (pop can flower decoration)
15-18 Decorative Simone Sarsfield (jewelry made from recycled calendar pages)
15-18 Useful Cole Finton (old window made into end table)
18+ Decorative Bill Wagner (turkey made from recycled parts)
18+ Useful Venango /Forest Counties Animal Response Team (tote bags from feed/seed bags)


June 2011

2011-2012 Federal Duck Stamp On Sale Now

The 2011-2012 Federal Duck Stamp is now on sale and anyone who enjoys wildlife and natural landscapes should purchase a stamp. Ninety-eight percent of the proceeds from the $15 Duck Stamp support the acquisition of wetlands for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Since 1934, Duck Stamp receipts of over $750 million have protected over 5.3 million acres of habitat for wildlife and for future generations of Americans.

Wetlands provide vital habitat for bird breeding, nesting, and rearing young. Since 1780, the amount of wetlands in the conterminous United States has declined from 11 percent to just 5 percent in 1980.

Supporters of the Refuge System need to buy Duck Stamps NOW! We are in a time where the impacts of climate change and tighter Federal budgets require flexibility and planning. Contributing to this fund increases the capacity of the Refuge System to acquire and protect sensitive wetlands.

Duck Stamps provide refuge visitors with free admission to refuges and are required of all migratory waterfowl hunters.

Where's the money:

On June 15th Secretary Salazar's announced the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission approved the purchase of wetland habitat that will be added to the National Wildlife Refuge System to secure breeding, resting and feeding habitat. These acquisitions, valued at more than $3 million will protect an estimated 1,600 acres of waterfowl habitat on 3 units on the Refuge System. The acquisitions include:

  • Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge, in Oregon
  • San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, in Texas
  • Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, in West Virginia.
To see how Duck Stamp dollars are working to conserve habitat go to http://www.fws.gov/duckstamps/Conservation/conservation.htm.

How to Purchase a Stamp:
  • The Stamp costs only $15 and it can be purchased at nearly all Post Offices, call your local post office to check on Duck Stamp availability.
  • Amplex Corporation (the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service distributor) Phone: 1-800-852-4897 Online: www.duckstamp.com.
This is an extremely cost effective program - 98 cents out of every dollar goes directly to acquire land for the Refuge System. Remember one third of America's threatened species make their home in wetlands.

Headquarters Spruce Up

The activities room at the Erie National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters building is a great place for meetings and programs and it's displays and children's activities even turn it into a nature "classroom". The room however is starting to look a little old and tired. The Friends of ENWR would like to help the Refuge "spruce up" this space. We are holding a special meeting July 11th at 6:30PM to discuss this project. Any member who is interested in helping or who has ideas for the renovation is welcome to join us that night. The question to ask yourself if you plan to attend is: "What is the most important thing we want visitors to know about the ENWR?" Hope to see you there!

Erie National Wildlife Refuge Photo Contest

The Erie National Wildlife Refuge, in cooperation with the Friends of Erie National Wildlife Refuge and the Presque Isle Audubon Society, announces the thirteenth biennial nature photo contest to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week.

Competition will be held in three major categories: Plant Life, Wildlife and Landscape. The first and second place winners in each category will be awarded cash prizes and the third place winners will receive ribbons. Cash awards will also be given to the winners of two special categories: Best Photo taken on the Erie NWR and Best Student photo.

Judging will occur on Sunday, October 16, 2011. An open reception at the Refuge will be held to present awards at 1:30 PM that day. Refreshments will be served. The photographs will remain on display at the Refuge until the end of October. Entries may be picked up after then. For complete rules click here.

May 2011

State of the Birds Report

The 2011 State of the Birds Report, the nation’s first assessment of birds on lands and waters owned by the American people, indicate tremendous potential for bird conservation. Publicly-owned habitats support at least half of the entire U.S. distributions of more than 300 bird species.

The report concludes that America’s public lands and waters, ranging from national wildlife refuges to national parks to national forests, offer significant opportunities to halt or reverse the decline of many species. More than 1,000 bird species inhabit the U.S., 251 of which are federally threatened, endangered, or of conservation concern. The report provides a scientific tool to help public agencies identify the most significant conservation opportunities in each habitat.

“The State of the Birds Report is a measurable indicator of how well we are fulfilling our shared role as stewards of our nation’s public lands and waters,” Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. “Although we have made enormous progress in conserving habitat on public lands, we clearly have much more work to do. The good news is that because birds so extensively use public lands and waters as habitat, effective management and conservation efforts can make a significant difference in whether these species recover or slide towards extinction.”

The report assessed the distribution of birds on nearly 850 million acres of public land and 3.5 million square miles of ocean. It relied on high-performance computing techniques to generate detailed bird distribution maps based on citizen-science data reported to eBird and information from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Protected Areas Database of the United States.

The report highlighted the wide variety of bird habitats on public lands. These include:

Aridlands: More than half of U.S. aridlands are publicly owned. Thirty-nine percent of aridland bird species are of conservation concern and more than 75 percent of species are declining.

Oceans and Coasts: All U.S. marine waters are publicly owned and are home to 86 ocean bird species and 173 coastal species. At least 39 percent of U.S. bird species restricted to ocean habitats are declining and almost half are of conservation concern, indicating severe stress in these ecosystems.

Forests: Public lands include some of the largest unfragmented blocks of forest, which are crucial for the long-term health of many bird species, including the endangered Kirtland’s warbler, which has 97 percent of its U.S. distribution on public lands.

Arctic and Alpine: Ninety percent of boreal forest, alpine, and arctic breeding bird species in Alaska rely on public lands for habitat, including 34 breeding shorebird species of high conservation concern. There are more public lands in Alaska than in the rest of the U.S. combined, offering huge potential to manage lands for conservation.

Islands: More birds are in danger of extinction in Hawaii than anywhere else in the U.S. Public lands in Hawaii support 73 percent of the distribution of declining forest birds. Among declining Hawaiian forest birds on Kauai, about 78 percent rely on state land. Four endangered species in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands are entirely dependent on federal lands.

Wetlands: Wetlands protection has provided the “gold standard” for bird conservation. On the whole, 39 species of hunted waterfowl have increased by more than 100 percent during the past 40 years as nearly 30 million acres of wetlands have been acquired and management practices have restored bird populations.

Grasslands: Grassland birds are among our nation’s fastest declining species, yet only a small amount – 13 percent -- of grassland is publicly owned and managed primarily for conservation. Forty-eight percent of grassland-breeding bird species are of conservation concern, including four with endangered populations.

The 2011 State of the Birds report is a collaborative effort as part of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative, involving federal and state wildlife agencies, and scientific and conservation organizations. These include the American Bird Conservancy, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Bureau of Land Management, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Department of Defense, the National Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, the National Park Service, the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey. The full report is available at www.stateofthebirds.org.

For a Legacy to Endure
By Greg Siekaniec, Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System

By managing more than 671 million acres – roughly one-third of the lands in the United States – the federal government is the nation’s biggest land caretaker. How well the National Wildlife Refuge System manages the 150 million acres we steward – including natural, cultural and historic resources – is critical to the physical and social well-being of the nation.

That’s why the Refuge System has worked so hard for the better part of a year to solicit Americans’ opinions about our future direction and management.

That’s also why the America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) Initiative spent months last year conducting 51 public listening sessions across the country. More than 10,000 people participated live; more than 105,000 comments were submitted. The national conversation that President Obama started through AGO will reinvigorate America’s enjoyment, conservation and stewardship of the nation’s outdoors.

The Refuge System’s Conserving the Future conversation has done much the same thing for lands and waters that are visited annually by more than 44 million people and create tens of thousands of private sector jobs.

The land we steward belongs to the American people. That principle is at the heart of the Refuge System’s Conserving the Future vision and the AGO Initiative action plan, which is available at http://americasgreatoutdoors.gov.

Apparent in both the Refuge System vision and the AGO Initiative action plan is the concept that the federal government must be a better partner and supporter of local conservation. We have to maximize the conservation benefits of every taxpayer dollar, bring private landowners and a broad range of conservation partners into the picture and, ultimately, engage a new generation of Americans.

Americans are seeking a 21st-century approach to conservation. The Refuge System stands ready to deliver. In today’s economic climate, the Refuge System and other government agencies must be wise in how we spend taxpayer dollars. But the nation must also be wise enough to understand that investment in natural resources protection is an investment in the future.

Those who have commented via the Conserving the Future Web site, http://americaswildlife.org/, clearly understood that. Government working in partnership with state agencies, private landowners, sportsmen and interested citizens can ensure that future generations will have the benefits of the conservation legacy we inherited. That is the most important message we heard from both the Conserving the Future process and the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.

Trash to Treasure

As part of the 2011 Refuge Summer Fest, the Friends of Erie National Wildlife Refuge are sponsoring a "Trash to Treasure" contest. The competition involves reworking items that would normally be recycled or discarded into either useful or artistic creations. Cash prizes will be awarded in both categories (useful and artistic); and four age groups (under 12 years; 12-14; 15-18; and those over 18). The entry deadline is June 13; winners will be announced at the Summer Fest on June 25. For more information and contest rules visit their web site or call 814-789-3585.

April 2011

Spring Clean Up Days a Success!

Thank You to everyone who participated in the Spring Clean Up Days on the Erie National Wildlife Refuge! On Sunday 16 adults and children came to clean the roads and parking areas and on Tuesday 5 people showed up to help complete the job. With their hard work and dedication we were able to clean three sites on the Refuge.

While this wasn't designed as a fundraiser, a load of scrap metal taken to Meadville Metal earned us $55.00 and there is another load ready to go.

Once again "Thank You" Annie, Christian, Brooke, Heidi, Holly, Hans, Bill T., Rich, Dick, Doug, Harry, Jay, Sheldon and Bill M. We hope to see you again next year!

Biennial Photo Contest Plans in the Works

While it may be hard to believe, it has been almost two years since the last Erie NWR Biennial Photo Contest. For the last couple of months the Friends have been in contact with the Presque Isle Audubon Society, our co-sponsor of the event, working out the details of this year's contest. Soon everything will be finalized and the rules and regulations will be publicized.

It is not too soon for you to be thinking about the contest now however. Get out there with your camera and shoot that winning photo! Remember, while any nature photo is eligible, there is a special category for photos taken on the Erie NWR.

Happy hunting!

A multi-media contest for youth ages 15-24

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Wildlife Refuge Association are asking young people - ages 15-24 - to be a part of the vision process, Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation. The Giving the Land a Voice muti-media contest will help ensure youth have a voice in informing a new, bold strategic vision for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Young people, ages 15-24, can use the art medium of their choice - whether a digital poster, video podcast or poetry - to convey what they hope as the future direction of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Entries are due May 27. Entries can be submitted in the following categories: - 18"x 24" digital poster, collage or other still art or display - three-minute audio or video podcast - 1,000-word or less essay, short story or poem First place winners will get a free trip to the Conserving the Future conference in Madison, WI, in mid-July, where a new vision will be ratified to guide the Refuge System for the next decade or so. Other prizes include gift cards to outdoor recreation stores and lavishly photographed books about the Refuge System.

For more information go here: http://americaswildlife.org/youth-contest/

March 2011

Spring Cleanup Days

Celebrate Spring/Earth Day by participating in a cleanup of the Erie National Wildlife Refuge. While many people enjoy the trails and nature blinds available on the Refuge a few seem to use our parking lots as trash dumps and litter collects along the roads during the long winter months. Help us beautify the Erie NWR once again.

The Friends have set two dates and times to give as many members as possible a chance to help. Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 1:00pm and Tuesday, April 12, 2011 at 8:00am. We will be meeting at the Erie NWR Headquarters' Building in Guys Mills. Once we see how many we have participating, workers will be divided into cleanup crews and assigned an area to cover. We will be focusing on the Sugar Lake Division but if enough help shows up we may be able to clean part of the Seneca Division as well.

The Refuge will supply gloves, safety vests and trash bags. Bring your own water bottles and anything else you might need and dress appropriately for the weather. Pickup trucks would also be welcomed. If you have any questions you can call the Refuge at 814-789-3585.

We hope to see you all there!

Welcome To Two New Members

At the recent March Board of Directors meeting we welcomed two new members to the Friends of ENWR. Sheldon Kauffman and Harry Zurasky both agreed to serve on the Board as well. We want to give both a big welcome!

Your current Board of Directors are:

Douglas Copeland
Richard Eakin
Sheldon Kauffman
Ronald Leberman (Vice President)
Kathleen Palmer (Secretary)
William Trout (President)
Bertie Tullis
Ann Zurasky (Treasurer)
Harry Zurasky

Third Annual "Funky Nests in Funky Places" Contest
Bird contest spotlights wacky avian real estate

Ithaca, NY—The Celebrate Urban Birds project at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is bringing back its "Funky Nests in Funky Places" environmental challenge for the third year--the most popular of its seasonal challenges. Participants have sent in hundreds of images over the past two years showing nests in wreaths, shoes, signs, farm equipment, traffic lights, and many other funky places. Celebrate Urban Birds is a free, year-round citizen-science project focused on birds in neighborhood settings.

For the 2011 Funky Nests in Funky Places challenge, participants may take photos, do a painting, write a story, or shoot a video showing a bird's nest built in some out-of-the-way or out-of-this-world place.

"We've had such fun with this challenge," says project leader Karen Purcell. "The theme really struck a chord with people. You wouldn't believe how many people showed us bird nests in barbecue grills, garages, garden tools, and signs. We've seen bird nests on statues, windchimes, a cannon, and even on bathroom fixtures. I can't wait to see this year's entries!"

Prizes include bird feeders, nest boxes, bird sound CDs, guides, posters, and books including Nests: Fifty Nests and the Birds That Built Them, by Sharon Beals. The first 50 entrants will receive a copy of the "Bird Silhouette" poster and selected images and videos will be posted on the Celebrate Urban Birds website. How to enter:

  1. Email entries to urbanbirds@cornell.edu. If you submit a video, post it on YouTube and send the link.
  2. Write "FunkyNest_yourfirstname yourlastname yourstate" in the subject line.
  3. Include both your mailing address and the location where you saw the bird in your email.
  4. Explain why you submitted your entry and what it shows. 
  5. One entry per person, please.
  6. Read the terms of agreement.
Deadline for entries is June 1, 2011

Visit the Celebrate Urban Birds website for more information.

Build a Bond with Birds
By Jason Martin, NestWatch

Whether in a shrub, a tree, or a nest box, bird nests are all around us. By monitoring a nearby nest you can help scientists study the biology of North America’s birds and how it might be changing over time. Every spring and summer, volunteers from across the country visit nests and report their findings to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch program. As a NestWatcher, you keep tabs on bird family life, following the progression from incubated eggs, to fuzzy chicks, to gawky youngsters ready to take their first fluttering flight. All the information you gather is submitted online to the NestWatch database.

“NestWatch helps people of all ages and backgrounds connect with nature,” says project leader Jason Martin. “The information that our dedicated citizen scientists collect allows us to understand the impact that various threats, such as environmental change and habitat destruction, have on breeding birds. Armed with this knowledge, we can take the necessary steps to help birds survive in this changing world.”

Instructions and all the materials you need to participate are available on the NestWatch website at www.nestwatch.org. You’ll also get directions on how to find and monitor nests without disturbing the birds. It’s fun, it’s easy, and it’s free.

The Cornell Lab's immensely popular NestCams are back too. Cameras broadcast live video over the web from the nests of Barn Owls, bluebirds, wrens, Wood Ducks, and many other species. Our newest camera is focused on a Great Horned Owl family in Houston, Minnesota. Check it out at www.nestcams.org.

And please join us for NestWatch this season—you’ll build a bond with birds and with nature in your own backyard.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Visit the Cornell Lab’s website at http://www.birds.cornell.edu.

Happy Birthday, National Wildlife Refuge System

Each year, as we celebrate the Refuge System’s anniversary on March 14, we have a chance to think once more about the twin driving forces behind wildlife refuges: a responsibility to save for future generations the wild treasures bequeathed to us; and the extraordinary people who work day-in and day-out to deliver our conservation mission. This year, we have one more element: The Conserving the Future process that will give us a renewed vision to guide the Refuge System for the next decade or so.

With Conserving the Future, we are building a new legacy for the future -- giving birth to bold ideas even as we attract new partners, young people and more supporters for the timeless ideals embodied in the Refuge System mission. If you have not yet given your bold ideas or commented on the draft vision, you have until April 22, Earth Day, to say what you think on the Web site, http://americaswildlife.org/. Giving your comments on the draft vision will be your birthday gift to the Refuge System.

The Refuge System has had quite a year. The Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded April 20, 2010, igniting the worst environment disaster in the nation’s history. National wildlife refuges were hit with oil, as were the brown pelicans, an iconic species, that formed the basis for the Refuge System’s beginning. The final chapter of that disaster has yet to be written, but one fact is certain: employees of the Refuge System and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service served with dispatch and distinction as we fought millions of gallons of oil hitting our shores and soiling our waters.

The disaster can’t dim our successes:

  • The 553rd refuge – Cherry Valley in northeastern Pennsylvania – was established on October 18. It is just 75 miles west of New York City, square in the midst of a growing metropolitan corridor where conservation of wild places is so challenging and so critical.
  • When First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled her Let’s Move Outside! Initiative, where did she go? To Desert Wildlife Refuge Complex in Nevada, where the thriving Southern Nevada Agency Partnership shows what federal agencies working with city, county and state officials can do on behalf of youngsters and wildlife.
  • After years of planning, the Refuge System launched its inventorying and monitoring program that will help garner much needed scientific data for making the best possible habitat management decisions.
And then there is what we do for wildlife, on refuge after refuge, year after year. Consider the Friends of Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, who, for the first time, staged a three-day songbird festival to show a new generation of conservationists the beauty of nature when habitat is conserved. Take Buffalo Lake Refuge in Texas, which has restored about 4,000 acres of shortgrass prairie that is essential to bison. And then there’s Assabet River Refuge in Massachusetts, which again enlisted Bristol County Agricultural High School in helping establish a population of Blanding’s turtles – benefitting the students right alongside the species, which is listed by the state as threatened.

Every wildlife refuge has played a central role in conserving wildlife habitat and species for a nation that is growing more urban, less connected to its natural resource foundations, and more in need of appreciating America’s great outdoors. Please join me as we celebrate our conservation legacy and most importantly, as we celebrate one another. Thank you for what you do each and every day.

Greg Siekaniec
National Wildlife Refuge System

NWRA and Orvis Partner to Protect Everglades Florida Panther Habitat

Washington, DC – The National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) is pleased to announce that The Orvis Company has awarded NWRA a 2011 Commitment to Protect Nature Grant to support the Everglades Headwaters Initiative.

Orvis annually selects a small group of conservation projects to share with their customers in matching grant campaigns. Orvis has awarded NWRA a grant of $30,000, with the additional goal of raising matching funds through customer donations to bring the total grant to at least $60,000. The grant will support NWRA’s Northern Everglades Conservation Initiative, a effort among federal, state and private partners to protect habitat and create wildlife corridors for threatened species such as Florida panther, gopher tortoise and crested cara cara, while also improving water quality and creating outdoor recreation opportunities for the public.

“We are thrilled to have Orvis’ support, a company unrivaled in the sporting and fly-fishing community for their long standing commitment to conserving the natural resources important to their active and concerned customer base” said Evan Hirsche, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “Orvis and the National Wildlife Refuge System are a natural match – blending species and habitat conservation with the perpetuation of traditional outdoor pursuits such as angling, hunting, and wildlife photography.”

“The Orvis Company believes that if we are to benefit from the use of our natural resources, we must commit to protecting them, The winners this year exemplify that commitment,” said Orvis CEO Perk Perkins. “We are pleased to endorse these projects to our customers.”

Highly threatened Florida panthers require unfragmented territory to hunt and raise their young. NWRA is working with diverse partners, including agriculture, ranching and sporting interests as well as public agencies to create a matrix of conserved land and create corridors that will allowing these endangered cats and other wildlife to move freely across large areas. A second component of the initiative involves wetlands restoration on both public and private lands for the dual purpose of wildlife habitat conservation and improving the quality and quantity of water flowing downstream through the Everglades and Florida Bay.

“Orvis’ generous support of our Northern Everglades and Florida Panther conservation programs will help give this majestic cat - the state animal of Florida - a fighting chance,” said Evan Hirsche. “Forging innovative partnerships with landowners will also help preserve the ranching way of life, while improving water quality and benefiting millions of South Floridians.”

The National Wildlife Refuge System is our nation’s network of wildlife reserves, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. America’s 554 national wildlife refuges are invaluable to wildlife ranging from pupfish to polar bears, and offer outstanding opportunities to experience and appreciate our natural world, including outdoor recreation such as hunting and fishing. There is at least one national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of nearly every major American metropolitan area.

Orvis donates 5% of pre-tax profits to conservation each year, awarding three matching grants annually for diverse conservation projects that benefit key species as well as protect aquatic resources. Please join Orvis’ challenge by visiting http://www.orvis.com/intro.aspx?subject=8564

The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge Association is to conserve America's wildlife heritage for future generations through strategic programs that protect, enhance, and expand the National Wildlife Refuge System and the landscapes beyond its boundaries that secure its ecological integrity.

Top 10 Things Congress Should Do To Protect Wildlife

Washington, DC – Then National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) has announced 10 actions Congress should take immediately to protect America's wildlife heritage in a new report, Top 10 for 2011: Priorities for Protecting America's Wildlife. Top priorities include maintaining funding for the nation's 553 national wildlife refuges which encompass 150 million acres and protect some of America's most unique wildlife habitats, from the Chesapeake Bay to the Everglades and the remote Pacific islands to the spectacular Arctic refuge in Alaska.

"We have a moral obligation to future generations to protect our nation's diverse natural world," said Evan Hirsche, President of the Refuge Association. "And when we protect our natural world, we improve the lives of people through clean water, clean air, wide-open spaces and stronger local economies that benefit from higher property values and a better quality of life."

In outlining the 10 actions Congress can take, NWRA highlights how supporting national wildlife refuges strengthens our local economies and leverages millions of dollars. For every $1 appropriated by Congress for refuge funding, and average of $4 is returned to local economies. And it's not just refuges, other programs under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service leverage millions more; the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program leverages between $4 and $10 for every $1 appropriated and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act delivers multiple benefits including improved water quality and carbon sequestration.

"Spending funds to support national wildlife refuges and wildlife conservation leverages a significantly higher investment of private dollars and volunteer commitment," said Hirsche. "For example, refuge volunteers and "Friends" groups deliver 20% of all the work on national wildlife refuges."

Other actions for Congress include:

  • Restore the Gulf of Mexico - implement the Presidential Oil Spill Commission recommendations;
  • Support full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund - where money from off shore oil leases go to protecting habitat in other areas;
  • Promote Farm, Ranchland and Forestland Conservation through Estate Tax Provisions;
  • Expand wetlands conservation by increasing the price of the Migratory Bird Hunting & Conservation Stamp;
  • Release promised funding from the Department of Homeland Security to the Department of Interior to mitigate for the border wall on the Mexico/U.S. border.
Download the report and see the full 10 actions: http://www.refugeassociation.org/new-pdf-files/2011Priorities.pdf

The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge Association is to conserve America's wildlife heritage for future generations through strategic programs that protect, enhance, and expand the National Wildlife Refuge System and the landscapes beyond its boundaries that secure its ecological integrity.

February 2011

Outstanding Conservation Leaders to Receive 2011 Refuge System Awards

Washington, DC – The National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2011 National Wildlife Refuge System Awards. These annual awards recognize refuge conservation professionals, volunteers, and Friends groups that exemplify outstanding dedication and passion for wildlife conservation in advancement of the mission and purposes of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

“Wildlife conservation doesn’t happen by itself,” said Evan Hirsche, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “The recipients of the Refuge System awards represent the most effective and creative individuals working and volunteering today in the service of America’s wildlife conservation legacy.”

Awards honoring the Refuge Manager, Refuge Employee, Volunteer and Friends Group of the Year will be presented on March 17 at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference. This year’s honorees include:

Kenneth Litzenberger has been chosen to receive the Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award for his extraordinary vision and leadership and his creative and innovative approach to solving problems. As Project Leader at the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Ken excels at managing diverse and urgently threatened habitats to produce outstanding conservation results. In response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the summer of 2010, Ken decisively deployed limited staff and critical resources at the most strategic places and times to accomplish mission critical work. Due to his early action, refuge lands were spared much of the impacts suffered by other areas.

Dave Mauser will receive the Employee of the Year Award. A wildlife biologist at Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Oregon, Dave has spearheaded innovative approaches to wetlands conservation that created more than 10,000 acres of new wetlands. His strategies helped convert 15,000 acres of conventional farmland to organic farmland and provide a model for successfully managing land for wildlife conservation while also benefiting rural agricultural economies.

Denis Mudderman has been chosen to receive the Volunteer of the Year Award for contributing more than 7,000 volunteer hours since 2005 at both Tamarac NWR in Minnesota and Brazoria NWR in Texas. Denis has played an integral role in designing, launching and maintaining the Friends of Tamarac’s website and has brought a wide range of talents to both refuges - including helping refuge staff install a web cam in an active beaver lodge that streams live video to the Tamarac NWR visitor center.

The Friends of Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge Complex will be recognized with the Friends Group of the Year Award for being exemplary community leaders and advocates for the Refuge System. The Friends collaborated with a variety of local, state and national partners during a multi-year effort to protect the important West Indian manatee habitat at Three Sisters Springs as part of Crystal River NWR.

Awards will be presented at the NFWF / USFWS Director’s Reception at the 76th annual North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Kansas City, Missouri on Thursday, March 17, 2011.

NWRA Applaud's President's Americas Great Outdoors Report

Washington, DC – NWRA today expressed its support for President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors: A Promise to Future Generations report, a blueprint for conservation, outdoor recreation and engaging the nation’s youth. Recognizing that the best way to ensure the conservation of wildlife is through large landscape cooperatives among federal, state and private partners, President Obama’s newly-released America’s Great Outdoors report reinforces the important role of national wildlife refuges and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in defining conservation priorities and implementing multi-partner conservation strategies.

“While our national wildlife refuges are America’s conservation strongholds, they also anchor large landscape conservation partnerships that bring together the tools and resources of states, private landowners and non-profit conservation organizations,” said Evan Hirsche, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “America’s Great Outdoors recognizes this crucial role and that of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in leveraging scarce federal dollars against state and private resources to maximize conservation results.”

At 150-million-acres spread among more than 550 units throughout the U.S, the National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, serves as America’s wildlife trust, while also offering more than 40 million visitors a year an opportunity to learn about, enjoy and appreciate our natural world.

America’s Great Outdoors emphasizes the need to connect the next generation to the natural world, and recognizes the crucial role urban protected areas can play in providing environmental education and outdoor recreation to a greater diversity of Americans. “National wildlife refuges offer the best opportunity to introduce young people to the wonders of wildlife and natural communities,” said Hirsche. “We’re gratified that America’s Great Outdoors recognizes this crucial role, and advocates giving greater attention to improving the potential of refuges in delivering environmental education and recreational opportunities.”

Also emphasized in the report, is the role of volunteers in helping to deliver conservation, recreation and environmental education on public lands. Refuges in particular, depend on refuge “Friends” groups and volunteers for more than 20% of the work completed annually in the System. At a time when federal budgets are on the chopping block, Friends groups and volunteers are more critical than ever in ensuring national wildlife refuges achieve their conservation and public engagement strategies. The report’s recommendation to make it even easier to volunteer on public lands is essential.

To achieve these goals, the report recommends, and NWRA strongly supports, strengthening the Land and Water Conservation (LWCF) by fully funding it at $900 million annually – as is proposed in the President’s budget. Strategically investing in land conservation is vital to protecting key habitats while providing opportunities for volunteers and young people to engage with nature, especially close to our urban centers.

The NWRA looks forward to working closely with the White House and Department of the Interior in implementing America’s Great Outdoors recommendations.

The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge Association is to conserve America’s wildlife heritage for future generations through strategic programs that protect, enhance, and expand the National Wildlife Refuge System and the landscapes beyond its boundaries that secure its ecological integrity.

Watch President Obama's speech.

In a Pinch, Alaska Wolves Eat Fish

When they can’t find enough fresh meat to eat, grey wolves on the Alaska Peninsula have a backup. Many supplement their diets with seafood. That’s a recent finding by biologist Dominique Watts at Alaska Peninsula and Becharof National Wildlife Refuges.

How does Watts know? From a preliminary lab analysis of wolf hair and whiskers from about 40 wolves — some of the more than 100 he’s captured, sampled and released over several years. Lab analysis reveals the chemical signature of substances the wolves ate while their hair and whiskers grew.

For now, the tests show only that fish and marine mammals constitute a substantial part of some wolves’ diet; a more in-depth dietary breakdown will come later. But the preliminary findings fit with Watts’s aerial observations of wolves feeding on salmon, walrus, beluga, grey whale and seal carcasses that he published last year in the journal Wildlife Biology.

Watts had suspected the scenes he witnessed might not be isolated events. The lab findings confirm his hunch. But even so, he says, the degree to which the analysis showed peninsula wolves are consuming salmon surprised him. “Some of these values were what you might expect if you ran this analysis on seal whiskers,” he says. “It made me think we might have a very unique wolf-prey system out here.”

Water survey Hamden Slough (USFWS)

Water Resources Survey Gets Underway

The first comprehensive national inventorying of the National Wildlife Refuge System’s lakes, rivers, wetlands and streams begins its first full year in 2011, as population growth and climate change increase competition for water resources.

The inventory of water resources is expected to take at least five years. By mid-2011, the Natural Resources Program Center hopes to start entering data on water quantity, quality, legal rights and infrastructure into a new national database. Survey data will also identify water-related needs, trends and threats for each of the 553 refuges.

“We will look at the quantity and quality of water available to wildlife habitats and species through the System,” says Mike Higgins, national water resources coordinator based at the new Natural Resources Program Center in Fort Collins, CO. “That will help us prioritize our efforts in a strategic way, so that if it looks like a refuge is not going to have enough water in 10 years to meets its conservation needs, we can explore what we can do to assure that refuge gets additional resources.”

Among the first refuges to provide data to the Water Resource Inventory and Assessment was Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota, which completed its inventory and draft report last November. The refuge, about 3,000 acres of prairie wetland used by migratory and nesting birds, lies within the Red River Basin, which has experienced increased flooding in recent decades. Wetland restorations completed by refuge staff for wildlife benefits are also reducing flood damage for people living nearby. At “full pool,” the refuge’s nine actively managed wetlands hold more than 800 acre feet of water, the new report shows. Acquiring the remaining 3,000 acres within the refuge boundary would permit additional restorations to benefit wildlife and further relieve downstream flooding.

Great Lakes/Big Rivers Regional hydrologist Josh Eash calls the inventory “extremely useful” both in culling available information and in highlighting data gaps. “Almost everything we do is tied to water. Without understanding what we know -- and what we don’t know -- about our water resources, as well as specific threats and needs, it’s often difficult to meet biological objectives.”

Quivira Refuge in Kansas, Shiawassee Refuge in Michigan, Alamosa Refuge in Colorado, Aransas Refuge in Texas and Cahaba River Refuge in Alabama are among the next in line for water inventories based on regional prioritization.

One challenge will be the immense scale of the project, Higgins says. “There’s no way we can inventory every small stream and wetland in Alaska’s millions of acres of refuge lands; we’ve accepted that,” he says. Seasonal variations present another challenge. Some wetlands, for example, hold water only three months of the year; others have been dried up for years by drought.

“How do we capture threats imposed by climate change,” asks Higgins. “One way we’ve chosen is to look at long-term trends, long-term data for stream flow, for example. Is it decreasing or increasing? Are water temperatures decreasing or increasing? In addition, where we have appropriate data from climate change models, we’ll incorporate those into our assessments.

“There’s a huge data gap there that needs to be filled,” he says.

Draft Vision Ready for Public Comment

Nearly 100 recommendations to guide the growth and management of the National Wildlife Refuge System for the next decade or so, the Conserving the Future draft vision covers the gamut of wildlife conservation issues. It is available at http://americaswildlife.org/ for public comment through Earth Day, April 22.

“The American public too often discounts wildlife conservation threats as being too far away, not relevant to their everyday lives and even temporal,” says the draft vision. “The finest minds, the strongest partnerships and the greatest innovation must be brought to the task of increasing society’s conservation literacy to fulfill the agency’s mission ‘for the continuing benefit of the American people.’”

Among its recommendations are:

  1. To work with tribes and other federal land management agencies to develop a National Conservation Strategy that works across landscapes with private landowners to increase the representation, size and connectivity of protected areas.
  2. To implement a plan to guide the Refuge System’s land conservation work and overhaul the Land Acquisition Prioritization System to help determine the importance of new and existing acquisition projects, including the establishment national wildlife refuges in urban areas.
  3. To encourage a Friends group for every staffed refuge; there are now about 230 Friends groups.
  4. To review the Appropriate Use Policy, so a wider variety of nature-based experiences may be possible. The draft notes that jogging, picnicking, sunbathing, bicycling and dog-walking often are considered outside of the wildlife-dependent recreation definition that guides strict interpretation of refuge appropriate use. “Refuge managers have become rightly cautious because they have seen what happens to wildlife resources when participation is too large and incompatible,” the draft says.
  5. To engage youth in an array of work and volunteer programs.
  6. Within the next 10 years, to more than double the number of minorities and people with disabilities who work for the Refuge System, in part by reaching high school and college youth from diverse communities and exposing them to Service conservation careers.
  7. To develop an environmental education strategy that not only inventories existing programs but also identifies priorities for investment of staff and funds and outlines basic standards for national wildlife refuges.
  8. To develop standards for credibility, efficiency and consistent application of science in planning and management.
  9. Working with state fish and wildlife agencies, to prepare a strategy to double youth participation in hunting and fishing by 2020, paying special attention to individuals of all ages with disabilities.
  10. To develop a five-year plan to “green” the Refuge System.
The draft also makes recommendations regarding climate change, law enforcement, fire management, marine ecosystems, invasive species, wilderness stewardship, and conservation science and research.

The draft vision is the work of 70 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees as well as the National Wildlife Refuge Association, a partner in the Conserving the Future process. A vision document is scheduled to be presented to the Service Director and top management in late May.

Fast-growing social networking site WeLoveBirds.org celebrates first year anniversary with birding story contest

New York—Founded one year ago, the social networking partnership between the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is celebrating its first anniversary with a birding story contest. New and returning site members are invited to share what they love most about birds at WeLoveBirds.org or its associated Facebook page from February 14 through 18. WeLoveBirds.org will provide prizes to a few randomly selected contest participants.

“WeLoveBirds.org has filled an important space in the birding community,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, NRDC international program director and one of the founders of the site. “We look forward to members sharing their stories on this anniversary about why they love birds or what the site has meant to them and their birding.”

Over its first year, WeLoveBirds.org has grown to a member base of nearly 4,000 bird enthusiasts. WeLoveBirds.org also reaches a wide community of bird lovers through its facebook pages and through its twitter feed (@weluvbirds).

“The WeLoveBirds community actively exchanges information through blogs, birding questions, photos, and videos,” said Miyoko Chu, director of Communications at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “It’s truly an expression of why people love birds, every day of the year.”

WeLoveBirds.org started in February 2010 as a free, interactive online community for bird enthusiasts, offering an open social network of people who are passionate about birds. The site features access to information on birds and birding from a leading ornithology lab; and the chance to make a positive difference for birds and their habitats.

For more information, or to join the community, go to: www.welovebirds.org

January 2011

The Friends Support Dan Ashe as Director

President Obama announced his nomination of Dan Ashe to be the next Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on December 3, 2010. Dan currently serves as the deputy director of FWS and previously served as science advisor and Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The Friends of ENWR joined the NWRA in urging the Senate to confirm Dan and allow him to get to work as quickly as possible. Below is a copy of the "sign-on" letter, which will be sent to members of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee who are scheduled to vote on his nomination the week of February 14th.

February 14, 2011

Chairwoman Barbara Boxer
Ranking Member James Inhofe
Members of the Environment and Public Works Committee
410& 456 Dirksen
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairwoman, Ranking Member and Members of the Committee,

The National Wildlife Refuge Association and the undersigned affiliated volunteer refuge support organizations, or "Friends," applaud President Obama's nomination of Mr. Dan Ashe to be the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and strongly urge you to support his confirmation.

Mr. Ashe brings over 28 years of public service to the post, most recently as Deputy Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and previously serving as FWS Science Advisor and Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS). Mr. Ashe has strong ties to the FWS and NWRS; he spent his childhood on refuges while his father was a career employee of the FWS.

Mr. Ashe is a visionary leader who combines passion for wildlife conservation with scientific integrity. As FWS works to help wildlife adapt to changing habitats caused by invasive species, human encroachment and other threats, Mr. Ashe understands the importance of working among diverse public and private partners to safeguard our national treasures.

Mr. Ashe's tenure in leadership positions with the FWS for the past 15 years has allowed him to be an integral part of FWS and NWRS milestones, including passage of the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act in 1997 when he was the Assistant Director for FWS External Affairs, and as Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System from 1998 to 2003.

Mr. Ashe has long advocated for a landscape approach to conservation and will utilize innovative strategies to protect and restore wildlife habitat, and he is a worthy successor to implement the stewardship ideals set forth by previous Director, Sam Hamilton.

Thank you for considering our views, and we hope that Mr. Ashe will be speedily confirmed as the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We know he will hit the ground running and we look forward to working with him.


News flash --- Erie National Wildlife Refuge Summer Fest will be held on Saturday, June 25, 2011. This refuge open house will feature live animals, hands-on activities, an interpretive trail hike, nature crafts, games, a habitat restoration project,, and a silent auction. All activities will be based on a "going green" theme. It promises to provide something for everyone. Save the date and spread the word!

Board Officers Elected

At the January Board of Directors meeting the election of officers was held. Your current Board of Directors are:

Douglas Copeland
Richard Eakin
Ronald Leberman (Vice President)
Kathleen Palmer (Secretary)
William Trout (President)
Bertie Tullis
Ann Zurasky (Treasurer)

Fish and Wildlife Service Hires More Youth

Tyler Hotten, 18, a high school senior in Underwood, North Dakota, got his wish this summer: a chance to work outdoors. After two months of mowing, weed trimming, goose banding and other labor at Audubon National Wildlife Refuge, he also came away with something more: an interest in a career in wildlife conservation. “If you like being outside, it’s the job for you,” he says.

That’s just what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service likes to hear.

The Service increased youth employment more than 50 percent in fiscal year 2010, exceeding the Department of the Interior’s goals. The Service hired 2,434 people ages 15 to 25 to work on national wildlife refuges and other sites — up from 1,535 in 2009 and 515 more than the 2010 target of 1,919 set by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s “Youth in the Great Outdoors” program.

New employees included 771 hired through the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC); 551 through the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) and Student Career Experience Program (SCEP); and 254 through permanent and temporary positions.

Partnerships with more than 70 organizations — such as the Student Conservation Association, The Corps Network and refuge Friends groups — brought 858 young people into the Service fold. To see highlights of Service-wide accomplishments, visit the 2010 Youth Employment Report, “More Than a Job.”

The jobs were varied and often physically demanding. At Baca National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado, YCC crews removed 13 miles of barbed wire fence. At Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico a youth crew improved access for visitors with disabilities. At William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, YCCers helped build a boardwalk, maintain trails, install landscaping and hand-pull invasive English ivy, tansy ragwort and oxeye daisy. “It’s very labor-intensive, bending over in the heat, pulling plants up by the root,” says refuge biologist Jock Beall. “The idea is not to dig or disturb the soil because that causes more seeds to germinate.”

Finley Refuge YCC crew member Lexxs Sutton, 17, of Monroe, Oregon, agreed the work was hard. But, she added, “I learned a lot of things, and it was probably the most fun job I will ever have.”

Read about youth hiring in the Northeast region.

  • See photos of YCC crews at work on refuges in the Northwest.
  • The Service hopes to maintain the same level of youth hiring in 2011. Learn more about youth job opportunities in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
  • Learn more about the Department of the Interior’s Youth in the Great Outdoors program.
  • See photos of some of the amazing young people at work on our national wildlife refuges.

Outdoor Classroom Projects Win Funding

Fifteen projects that promote the use of national wildlife refuges as outdoor classrooms will receive funding in 2011 from the Nature of Learning program, a federal-private consortium co-sponsored by the National Wildlife Refuge System. Winners will share about $130,000 in grants from the program, open to schools and nonprofit groups.

Among this year’s grant winners are:

  • Chula Vista Nature Center Foundation, for a plan to enhance K-6 climate change education at Sweetwater National Wildlife Refuge in California.
  • Friends of the Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District in Minnesota, for its plan to develop a wetland and grassland ecological laboratory at Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota.
  • Friends of the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum in Pennsylvania, for its plan to develop a kindergarten pollinator interpretive garden.
Along with the Refuge System, co-sponsors of the Nature of Learning program include the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Conservation Training Center and National Wildlife Refuge Association.

Under the grant program, new projects are eligible for start-up grants of up to $10,000. Existing programs can apply for follow-up grants of up to $5,000 a year.

Learn more about the Nature of Learning program. See the complete list of grant recipients.

We Are Waiting to Hear From You
By Greg Siekaniec, Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System

In 1998, just a year after Congress passed the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, the Refuge System forged a bold strategic direction contained in a document, Fulfilling the Promise, which set the stage for an energetic period of implementing our vision.

In the ensuing decade, numerous goals from Promises have been fulfilled.

The first three objectives under the category “wildlife and habitat” helped set the stage and define Strategic Habitat Conservation, now the guiding principle of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

We established numerous policy statements that help guide the administration of refuges, including wilderness stewardship, compatibility and comprehensive conservation planning.

Promises called for new alliances through citizen and community partnerships. Today, the Refuge System has about 230 Friends groups – roughly 80 more than in 1998. We have a host of other alliances, including a very productive partnership with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

We continue to make leadership development a priority across the Service through a variety of programs, and have recognized career pathways at many levels of our organization.

Promises was a huge success. The vision and recommendations then identified are still important and in many ways still valid. However, over the past 13 years, many new challenges have emerged upon the landscape of conservation.

Today, as never before, we must plan our conservation strategies through the lens of dramatic landscape change, including habitat fragmentation, changing climate and dramatic population shifts. Climate change is accelerating in ways we did not recognize only a few years ago. You can say the same for America’s demographics. The Hispanic population, for example, increased from about 35 million in 2000 to more than 48 million in 2010, and is expected to reach nearly 60 million in 2020, according to the Census Bureau. The bureau also predicts that ethnic minorities – African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans – will represent more than half of the U.S. population by 2040.

Development has encroached on refuges in numerous locations, and what were once viewed as relatively secure “buffers” of working landscapes have been subdivided into many forms of intensive development. In some areas, water is in critically short supply for conservation purposes and, because of a variety of threats, its quality is of concern.

Add one other fact: We expect a surge of retirements. Survey data tell us that nearly half of all positions in the Refuge System may become vacant in the next 10 years.

Our conclusion? While Promises propelled the Refuge System forward in countless meaningful ways, it’s time for us to address the myriad challenges we face with a new invigorated vision statement and implementation plan.

The result is a process we call Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation. This process already has garnered a lot of attention within the Service and among our partners. Now, we’re at the public stage of building a new strategic vision.

Whether you are a Service employee, a member of a Refuge Friends group or someone strongly interested in the Refuge System, we want to hear your ideas on the vision document by Earth Day, April 22. You have plenty of time to comment: Go online at http://americaswildlife.org/ and let us know what you think.

At this moment, in this decade, we have a singular opportunity to build a stronger Refuge System that honors our conservation legacy and looks to our future. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

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