News Archive 2013
New Report Reveals Continuing Coastal Wetlands Losses in U.S.
The United States is losing wetlands in coastal watersheds at a significant rate, according to a new report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These wetlands are vital to the survival of diverse fish and wildlife species. Wetlands also help sustain the country’s multi-billion-dollar coastal fisheries and outdoor recreation industries, improve water quality and protect coastal communities from the effects of severe storms.
The report, “Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Conterminous United States 2004 to 2009,” tracked wetland loss on the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts, as well as the Great Lakes shorelines. It concludes that more than 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands are being lost on average each year, up from 60,000 acres lost per year.
“Wetlands are important to our nation’s heritage, economy and wildlife – especially when it comes to coastal communities,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “When a study shows that an area four times the size of Miami is disappearing every year, it underscores the importance of strengthening our collective efforts to improve wetlands management, to reduce losses and to ensure coastal infrastructure and resources are protected.”
“Wetlands are essential to fish and shellfish, and are integral to the health of the nation’s multi-billion dollar commercial and recreational fishing industries,” said Mark Schaefer, NOAA Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management. “The three most valuable species that depend on habitats supported by our wetlands—crab, shrimp, and lobster—had a combined value of $1.6 billion in 2012. The disappearance of this habitat could be detrimental to our nation's seafood supply.” otable wetland losses were recorded along the Gulf Coast (257,150 acres) and accounted for 71 percent of the total estimated loss during the study period. The Atlantic Coast lost 111,960 acres and the Pacific Coast 5,220 acres. Although the losses along the Pacific Coast were small in comparison to the others, they represent an important component of coastal wetlands in this region, which has a predominantly high, rocky coastline. The watersheds of the Great Lakes region experienced a net gain in wetland area of an estimated 13,610 acres.
“In addition to the important economic and safety benefits they provide to people, coastal wetlands are also vitally important to native fish and wildlife species,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “While they comprise less than 10 percent of the nation’s land area, they support 75 percent of our migratory birds, nearly 80 percent of fish and shellfish, and almost half of our threatened and endangered species. We can’t sustain native wildlife for future generations without protecting and restoring the coastal wetlands that support them.”
The increase in the overall rate of wetland loss was attributed to losses of saltwater wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico due to coastal storms, in combination with freshwater wetland losses in both the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Large losses of freshwater, forested wetland areas were attributed to urban and rural development and some forestry practices.
In some coastal watersheds, rising ocean levels are encroaching into wetlands from the seaward side, while development from the landward side takes a further chunk out of the existing wetland area and prevents wetlands from being able to migrate inland. This dual threat squeezes wetlands into an ever smaller and more fragile coastal fringe.
The report is online at http://www.fws.gov/wetlands/Documents/Status-and-Trends-of-Wetlands-In-the-Coastal-Watersheds-of-the-Conterminous-US-2004-to-2009.pdf.
A study published in the journal Science and co-authored by Necedah National Wildlife Refuge biologist Richard Urbanek found that young whooping cranes learn their migration route from older cranes, and get better at it with age. (Joe Duff/Copyright Operation Migration USA Inc.)
Whooping Crane Study
A study titled “Social Learning of Migratory Performance,” published in the journal Science in late August, found evidence that young whooping cranes learn their migration route from older cranes, and get better at it with age. The study analyzed data from the eastern flock of whooping cranes.
Most of those cranes were hatched at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland, trained to migrate south in the fall by following ultralight aircraft, and then returned north in the spring on their own. The flock generally migrates between Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, Horicon Refuge or other sites in Wisconsin and Florida’s Chassahowitzka Refuge or other sites in the Southeast.
Necedah Refuge biologist Richard Urbanek was one of the study’s four co-authors. Urbanek, who has researched cranes for three decades, says that the study confirmed that breeding whooping cranes in captivity, rearing them via interaction with costumed biologists, reintroducing them into the wild, and training them to migrate via ultralight aircraft works.
“First, the results indicate that the reintroduction techniques used were successful,” he says. “Second, the findings indicate that the developing population is adapting for most efficient use of the migration route and seasonal distribution.”
The population of the captive-bred flock is about 100 birds. The continent’s last wild flock of whooping cranes, which winters at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas and breeds at Wood Buffalo National Park in northern Canada, numbers more than 250 birds.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy Establish
New National Agreement for More Controlled Burning
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy have a new partnership that will increase and better coordinate controlled burn activities -- also known as prescribed fire -- to enhance wildlife values. The agreement will encourage more efficient use of personnel and equipment while treating lands that otherwise might not get the benefit of controlled burning.
Over the past 11 years, working under less formal local agreements, the Service and the Conservancy have worked in 39 states with 1,150 community partners to advance collaborative conservation and train more than 2,400 fire workers. It is believed that this national partnership will expand the positive impact these two organizations have on conservation and the protection of our national treasures.
“The wildlife habitats we manage need more prescribed fire to survive and thrive, and we can get more done on the ground by working together,” said Jim Kurth, Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System.
Controlled burns are used by land managers to safely mimic the natural fire cycle and maintain fire-resilient landscapes. Planned, controlled burns are also a critical tool to help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, often termed mega-fires, which have become more common in the past decade.
Collectively, the Service and the Conservancy manage more than 78 million fire-adapted acres across the United States. Last year, the Conservancy led controlled burns on nearly 105,000 acres of land it owns. Annually, the organization assists the Service in burns on approximately 22,000 acres of the Refuge System.
Historically, natural fires were common in the United States. They cleared overgrowth, restored nutrients to the soil, and “rebooted” the cycle of life across a patchwork of habitats. All told, around two-thirds of America’s forests and grasslands evolved to need the restorative power of fire at least once every 30 years.
The Service manages a network of fire-adapted lands in all 50 states and every U.S. territory, and needs to use prescribed fire on 400,000-800,000 acres per year. Fire is a critical habitat management tool, along with mechanical thinning, herbicides and other methods.
The Nature Conservancy is a private, global, not-for-profit organization that works to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends. In the United States, the Conservancy leads the national Fire Learning Network, along with multiple federal partners, including the Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.
The Annual Meeting of the Members was held November 18, 2013. The meeting began with a pot luck supper at 6:00pm. After dinner Vicki Muller presented a slide show about the past year at the Erie National Wildlife Refuge and talked a little about her hopes for the future.
Sheldon then talked about the Friends Group and conducted the election of board members. Members Linda Anderson, Richard Eakin, Kathleen Palmer and William Trout were all up for reelection. Added to the ballot this year were Lisa Helmbreck and Michael Vargo. After the ballots were counted all six were elected to serve on the board for the next two years. Officers of the Board for 2014 will be elected at the January meeting.
Names were drawn for door prizes throughout the meeting. The centerpieces on the tables as well as two of the photos from the nature photo contest were awarded.
Friends of ENWR stickers had been designed and printed. These were available for those attending the meeting. The rest will be included with membership renewals throughout the year.
A project for printing calendars using the nature photo contest entries was started. The night of the meeting a committee was picked to work on it. In this way we hope that the calendars would be available in January.
There will be no meetings held in December as we take a holiday break.
Listening for Bats on a Landscape Scale
With a plague sweeping through North America’s bats, biologists at more than 40 national wildlife refuges in the Southeast have been cruising back roads and forest trails to map bat populations and assess the malady’s impact.
Bats aren’t easy to study. They emerge at night. Even if you are lucky enough to glimpse them silhouetted against the night sky, they’re tough to identify. And their chitter-chatter is too high for the human ear to hear.
How can you count animals you can’t hear and can barely see? David Richardson says the key is a bat detector – called an Anabat SD2 – that records the ultra-high frequency clicks and squeaks that bats use to navigate.
Richardson is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service terrestrial ecologist in Grenada, MS. He is the field coordinator for the mobile acoustical bat monitoring project, which is being managed National Wildlife Refuge System’s Southeast Region Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) Network.
The project involves biologists mounting an Anabat, a box not much bigger than a paperback, on a vehicle roof before starting a 10- to 30-mile census run. As the Anabat records, a synchronized global positioning system (GPS) plots the location of every call. After downloading the digital recordings into a computer, special software programs make it possible to count and, in most cases, identify the bats species.
Janet Ertel, deputy chief of the Southeast Region I&M Network, says this long-term monitoring effort has two goals. One is to discover what bats are out there using refuge habitat.
The second is to track the impact of deadly white-nose syndrome as it moves into the Southeast. The fungal infection, which typically appears as white fuzz on the face and wings of bats, spread to the United States from Europe. It was found first in New York in 2006, but it has proliferated rapidly since, killing more than 5.7 million North American bats. Experts consider it one of the most devastating threats to wildlife in eastern North America. In the Southeast, biologists are especially concerned about the gray, Indiana, small-footed, little brown, Northern long-eared, hoary, silver-haired and Eastern red bats as well as the Eastern pipistrelle.
The disease has crept as far south as Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge, in northern Alabama, and as far west as northwest Arkansas. The fungus weakens bats and travels quickly through communal winter roosts. Some species, Richardson says, are in danger of becoming regionally extinct. So far, there’s no cure.
The picture is just coming into focus, according to Richardson and Nick Wirwa, a wildlife biologist who surveys bats at St. Catherine Creek, Cat Island and Bayou Cocodrie Refuges in Mississippi and Louisiana. Preliminary data show that some forests have a lot more bats than others.
For example, surveys near Fern Cave Refuge detected a dozen bats per mile, while those at other refuges found only two or three per mile. And bats appear to prefer forest edges and openings. The surveys – done in the first half of summer – also detected more bats in July than in June, probably because young of the year are on the wing.
Mobile acoustical bat monitoring project researchers hope they’ll end up with a clearer picture of how landscape-level factors such as habitat change, forest condition, climate change, wind farms and agriculture affect bats. They are also gaining a better understanding of bats on each refuge.
Ertel, who spent years studying bears, notes that bats are important predators, too. They may be small, she says, but they’re “a critical piece of our web of life.”
Note: This story appeared in the Refuge System’s bimonthly newsletter, Refuge Update. If you would like to be on the mailing list, send your address to Martha Nudel, Martha_Nudel@fws.gov.
National Wildlife Refuges Support Over 35,000 Jobs
Pump $2.4 Billion into Local Communities
America’s national wildlife refuges continue to be strong economic engines for local communities across the country, pumping $2.4 billion into the economy. Wildlife-related recreation fuels much of this economic contribution, according to the Banking on Nature study. Photo by Larry Jennigan
America’s national wildlife refuges continue to be strong economic engines for local communities across the country, pumping $2.4 billion into the economy and supporting more than 35,000 jobs, according to a new national report released by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.
“Our National Wildlife Refuge System is the world’s greatest network of lands dedicated to wildlife conservation, but it is also a powerful economic engine for local communities across the country, attracting more than 46 million visitors from around the world who support local restaurants, hotels, and other businesses,” said Jewell. “In addition to conserving and protecting public lands for future generations, the report shows that every dollar we invest in our Refuge System generates huge economic dividends for our country.”
The peer reviewed report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Banking on Nature, finds refuges contributed an average $4.87 in total economic output for every $1 appropriated in Fiscal Year 2011.
“This study shows that national wildlife refuges repay us in dollars and cents even as they enrich our lives by protecting America’s natural heritage and providing great recreation,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “That’s inspiring and important news, especially as our economy continues to gain strength.”
The National Wildlife Refuge System is the largest network of lands in the nation set aside for wildlife, with 561 national wildlife refuges – at least one refuge in every state – covering more than 150 million acres.
Wildlife-related recreation fuels much of this economic contribution. The National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, which informs the Banking on Nature report and is published every five years by the Service, found that more than 90 million Americans, or 41 percent of the United States’ population age 16 and older, pursued wildlife-related outdoor recreation in 2011, and spent nearly $145 billion.
Among other key findings from the Banking on Nature report:
Refuges showing standout economic returns or jobs include:
- Spending by refuge visitors generated nearly $343 million in local, county, state and federal tax revenue;
- National wildlife refuges are seen widely as travel-worthy destinations: 77% of refuge spending was done by visitors from outside the local area; and
- The combined economic contribution to communities nationwide is almost five times the $492 million appropriated to the Refuge System in FY 2011.
The Southeastern region of the U.S.– with the most refuges and many popular attractions, such as Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (GA), J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge (FL), and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge (NC) – had the most visitors of any region – more than 12.4 million in FY 2011. The Southeastern region also generated the most combined jobs of any region: 9,455.
- Laguna Atacosa National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, where recreational visitors produced nearly $30 million in economic effects on a budget of $801,000 – roughly $37 for every $1 in budget expenditure;
- Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, where recreational visitors support 1,053 jobs and produced $174 million in economic effects on a budget of $3.9 million – about $44 for every $1 in budget expenditure;
- Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, spanning Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois, where recreational visitors generated $226 million in economic effects on a budget of $4.9 million - about $46 for every $1 in budget expenditure. The refuge also supports the greatest number of jobs of all sampled refuges at 1,394 jobs; and
- Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, where recreational visitors supported an estimated 907 jobs and produced $106 million in economic effects on a budget of $3.9 million – about $27 for every $1 in budget expenditure.
The Banking on Nature report used 92 national wildlife refuges for its economic sampling. Daily per-person spending data were drawn from the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation and the Service’s Refuge Annual Performance Plan (RAPP) for FY 2011.
Researchers examined visitor spending in four areas - food, lodging, transportation and other expenses (such as guide fees, land-use fees and equipment rental). Local economies were defined as those within 50 miles of each of the 92 refuges studied. The national estimate was reached by extrapolating results for these 92 refuges to the Refuge System as a whole.
To read the full report, go online: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/about/RefugeReports/
Landmark Study Reveals Low Rate of Frog Abnormalities on Wildlife Refuges
Identifies regional hotspot clusters
An unprecedented 10-year-study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows encouraging results for frogs and toads on national wildlife refuges.
The study, published November 18 in the peer-reviewed online journal PLOS ONE, finds that on average, less than 2 percent of frogs and toads sampled on 152 refuges had physical abnormalities involving the skeleton and eyes – a lower rate than many experts feared based on earlier reports. This indicates that the severe malformations such as missing or extra limbs repeatedly reported in the media during the mid-1990s were actually very rare on national wildlife refuges.
“Frogs and toads are strong indicators of wetland and environmental quality. What affects them affects a broad range of other species,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “This research significantly advances our understanding of amphibian abnormalities while amassing one of the world’s largest datasets on the issue.”
The study also highlights areas of the country with more abnormal frogs than expected. These areas, termed “hotspot clusters”, warrant further research to determine their causes.
Concern about amphibian abnormalities became widespread in 1995 when middle school students discovered frogs with misshapen, extra or missing limbs at a Minnesota wetland. Since then, scientists have continued to report frogs and toads with severe abnormalities and documented global amphibian population declines, disease outbreaks and an increased rate of species extinctions.
In 2000, Congress asked agencies within the Department of the Interior, including the Service and U.S. Geological Survey, to address growing concerns about the health of amphibians in the United States. In response, the Service launched a 10-year study, the largest ever of its kind, to determine the distribution and severity of amphibian abnormalities within the National Wildlife Refuge System. The research effort – called the National Abnormal Amphibian Program – sampled more than 68,000 frogs on 152 refuges, and in the process, compiled one of the world’s largest databases on amphibian abnormalities.
On average, only 2 percent of the frogs and toads were classified as having skeletal or eye abnormalities, the types of abnormalities most commonly studied. The expected background range of zero to 2 percent skeletal/eye abnormalities was found at many refuges. Extra limbs were exceedingly rare: just 0.025 percent of all frogs sampled.
However, consistent with other, prior studies, the Service’s study detected areas where sites with higher rates of abnormalities tend to cluster together geographically. Within these regional hotspot clusters, which were found in the Mississippi River Valley (northeast Missouri, Arkansas and northern Louisiana), in the Central Valley of California, and in south-central and eastern Alaska, abnormality frequency often exceeded the national average of 2 percent, affecting up to 40 percent of emerging amphibians in some individual samples.
Analysis of the data showed that the location where the amphibians were collected was a better predictor of whether or not they would be abnormal than was their species or the year they were sampled. There was virtually no evidence that some species were more likely to be abnormal than others or that more abnormal frogs were found in some years than in others.
Although this study was not designed to investigate the reasons behind amphibian abnormalities, the results strongly implicate localized causes. This is consistent with other research, some of which has identified contamination, predators, parasites or the interaction of these as potential factors.
To view the journal article, please visit http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0077467.
Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, NJ, was one of the 152 national wildlife refuges included in the 10-year study that found on average, less than 2 percent of frogs and toads sampled had physical abnormalities involving the skeleton and eyes – a lower rate than many experts feared. Photo by Fred Pinkney, USFWS
Michele Rundquist-Franz, Pres. of PIAS, Kathy Palmer, Sec. and Ron Leberman, V. Pres. of the Friends of ENWR announce the winners of the contest.
ENWR Nature Photo Contest Winners Announced
Sunday, October 20th, the judges for the ENWR Nature Photo Contest took on the difficult task of choosing 11 winners and 10 honorable mentions from the 151 photos entered in the ENWR's Nature Photo Contest. We would like to thank Nancy Apple and Mike Saletra of the Meadville Council of the Arts and Tim Kirk of Meadville Fine Arts for agreeing to judge the contest this year.
Later that afternoon at a reception in their honor the winners were announced as below.
1st: Alex Lenhart
2nd: Nancy Hunt
3rd: Alex Lenhart
Honorable Mention: Kendra Taylor, Terry Werneth, Patricia Wigham
Plant Life Catagory:
1st: Tim Lyons
2nd: Elisabeth Miller
3rd: Mary Mulligan-Haine
Honorable Mention: Jamie Stroup, Mary Thall, Ron Oswald
1st: Ron Oswald
2nd: Larry Slomski
3rd: Char Oswald
Honorable Mention: Ricardo Gilson, Mary Thall, Mary Ray
Best Photo taken on the ENWR: Ron Oswald
Best Student Photo: Arnold Johnson the 5th
Honorable Mention: Alex Lenhart
The Friends of Erie NWR and the Presque Isle Audubon Society jointly sponsored this contest, the 14th of it's kind. The ENWR Nature Photo Contest is held biennially or every other year. The next one won't be held until 2015 and we hope that it will as successful as this year's.
Government Shutdown Closes Erie NWR
You might be wondering how a government shut down will impact our 561 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts. They will all be closed to the public including the Erie National Wildlife Refuge. This includes hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, school trips - anything.
Annual Meeting of the Members
Monday, November 18th is the date set for the Annual Meeting of the Members. The evening will start with a Pot Luck Supper at 6:30pm. Following dinner the Erie NWR staff will present a Review of the Year to update us on what has been happening on the Refuge during 2013. We'll also review the Friends Group's accomplishments during the past year. The final event of the evening will be the election of your Board of Directors.
All members and their families are invited to this meeting. It would be an enjoyable evening of fellowship and a chance to learn more about our Refuge.
Owl Prowls Scheduled for November 9th & 16th
The Friends of the Erie National Wildlife Refuge will be hosting Owl Prowls on two Saturdays in November. On the 9th and 16th we will be meeting at 6:30pm at the Refuge Headquarters Building near Guys Mills for an educational program on owls and then we will venture out into the woods. Judy Acker from Audubon Pennsylvania will once again join us for a program on owls found in Pennsylvania. As we prowl the woods on the Refuge we will be using recordings of owl calls to try to get a response from these nocturnal birds. If we are lucky we may hear from a Great Horned or Barred Owl, the most common species of owls known to nest on the Erie National Wildlife Refuge.
The size of the group will be limited so pre-registration is a must. Call the Refuge at 814-789-3585 to reserve your spot on the Owl Prowl. This is a "Rain or Shine" event and if the weather is bad enough we will be offering the indoor program only. However, please dress for the weather, wear suitable footwear for hiking in the woods and bring a flashlight.
French Creek Cleanup Update
We had a small group participate in The French Creek Valley Conservancy's French Creek Cleanup on Saturday, September 7th. Members Becky Pineo and her small son, Peg Price, Bill Trout and Kathy Palmer had a beautiful day to walk in the woods and along the creeks of the Erie NWR to pick up trash. They also were treated to a nice picnic lunch and live music at the Sprague Farm and Brew Works.
The group didn't find much trash that day however, which can be seen as a testament to the good job that visitors, volunteers and staff are doing to keep our Refuge clean. The French Creek Cleanup as a whole had a very successful day and you can read more about it on the FCVC's web site at http://frenchcreekconservancy.org/french-creek-cleanup.aspx.
The Friends of Erie NWR received a check from NEEF and Toyota on August 26th. Pictured from left to right: Linda Anderson, Vicki Muller, Rich Eakin, Doug Copeland, Kathleen Palmer, Ron Leberman, Anna Wadhams, and Allison Palmiero Brady.
The Friends Receive A Check From NEEF And Toyota
August 26th the Erie National Wildlife Refuge was the site of a check presentation from the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) and Toyota Motor Sales USA. The Friends of ENWR had received the actual check for $1,437.00 in the mail at the beginning of June as a result of being awarded an Every Day Event Grant. The grant funds are to be used to cover expenses for Summer Fest, the Trash to Treasure Contest and the Nature Photo Contest.
With support from Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc., NEEF offers Every Day Event Grants to public land organizations, or Friends Groups, to engage their community on a public land site. Twenty-six organizations were awarded funding to host events that are educational, recreational and/or volunteer-based stewardship projects.
Anna Wadhams, Manager of the Public Lands Program of the National Environmental Education Foundation came from Washington, DC to present the check along with Allison Palmiero Brady, President and General Manager of Palmeriero Toyota Scion in Meadville, PA.
As we stated in our grant application: "In general, our community is interested and involved in outdoor pursuits and eager to participate in new opportunities to learn about and interact with wildlife and nature. Grant monies will be used to fund events that will give these people new opportunities to learn first hand about specific wildlife themes in a hands on environment. These events will provide a place for participants to meet and network with other nature lovers. All of these activities will bring new guests on site to the ENWR and introduce them to the recreational opportunities there. We anticipate our events will increase appropriate recreational use of the refuge lands and facilities."
We want to thank NEEF and Toyota for giving us this opportunity.
Annual French Creek Cleanup
The Friends of Erie National Wildlife Refuge would once again like to form a group to participate in the French Creek Valley Conservancy's Annual French Creek Cleanup on Saturday, September 7th. Our group cleans along creeks on Refuge property which are in the French Creek watershed. We will be meeting at the ENWR headquarters at 9:00am. A weigh-in and picnic reception will be held at the Sprague Farm and Brew Works in Venango from Noon-6:00 p.m. All items must be brought in and weighed by 4:00 p.m. The picnic will feature live music, food, drinks, and fun.
If you are interested in joining us this year, please let us know as soon as possible. We will need your name, T-shirt size and whether or not you plan to attend the picnic to complete the reservation form. Contact us at email@example.com.
Almost 24,000 tons of trash were collected all together at this cleanup last year. Help us do our part on the Erie NWR!
Buy your Duck Stamp at the Pymatuning Waterfowl & Outdoor Expo
The Erie National Wildlife Refuge will be at the 32nd Annual Ducks Unlimited Pymatuning Waterfowl & Outdoor Expo selling Duck Stamps. The Expo is located at the Conneaut Area Senior High School (formerly Linesville High School), 302 W. School Drive in Linesville, PA on September 21 - 22, 2013. The hours are 9:00am - 5:00pm on Saturday and 9:00am - 2:00pm on Sunday. For more information on the Expo visit their web site at http://www.pymatuningexpo.com/.
You need a Federal Duck Stamp if you are over the age of 16 and you want to hunt migratory waterfowl but that is only the beginning of the uses of Duck Stamps.
A $15.00 Federal Duck Stamp will gain birders and other visitors free admission to refuges.
Conservationists know that sales of Federal Duck Stamps have generated more than $800 million since 1934. This money has been used to purchase or lease over 6 million acres of wetland habitat in the United States. $5.00 Junior Duck Stamps help support conservation education programs.
Collectors also buy Federal and Junior Duck Stamps because of their beauty and as an investment that will gain value over the years.
Anyway you look at it, Duck Stamps are an important part of America's outdoor culture. To learn more about Federal Duck Stamps visit http://www.fws.gov/duckstamps/info/stamps/stampinfo.htm.
Teaching a New Generation
The times, they are a-changin’. In fact, the times have already changed in the U.S.
Today, 80 percent of residents live in big and little cities, far removed from the rural communities that brought close connections to wildlife. Caucasian Americans are projected to be 47 percent of the population in 2050, compared to 85 percent in 1960. Hispanic Americans will make up nearly 30 percent of the population in 2050, up from just 3.5 percent in 1960.
The Conserving the Future Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative is one way the Refuge System is working within the context of change. The initiative is assembling strategies to help the Refuge System build sustainable support among a new conservation constituency.
“How do we teach a new generation to love the land when pavement is what they usually meet?” asked Marcia Pradines, co-chair of the Urban Initiative implementation team. “How do we help children find inspiration in nature when they spend so much time indoors and plugged in? Those are just the questions the Urban Initiative is designed to answer.”
bUrban Academy: Measuring Up to Standards of Excellence/b
The Urban Academy, Sept. 23-25 at the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia, is one element of the Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative. There, more than 20 Friends will join about 150 participants to learn not only how to understand cultural diversity, but also how to overcome barriers, create partnerships and to understand and engage new audiences.
Central to the Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative are the Standards of Excellence to help refuges better serve urbanized communities. The Standards will be open for public comment through most of September on http://americaswildlife.org/.
Equally central to the Wildlife Refuge Urban Initiative is establishment of seven Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships this year and three more by 2015. The partnerships enable the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to work with key community organizations to expand the nation’s conservation constituency. The seven partnerships are:
- Creating Urban Oasis in New Haven (CT) Harbor Watershed
- Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Chicago
- Houston Wilderness
- Providence Diversity of Wildlife, Lands and Communities Project
- Masonville Cove Urban Wildlife Refuge, Baltimore, MD
- Lake Sammamish Kokanee Salmon Partnership, Seattle. WA
- Los Angeles River Rover
One of seven new Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships will bring a conservation message to Masonville Cove, a poor neighborhood in Baltimore. Here, children fish at the cove, an inlet of Chesapeake Bay. (Courtesy of National Aquarium)
Welcome, Secretary Jewell
By Dan Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The past few years have been a time of immense change for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as we have begun to transform our organization to meet the enormous conservation challenges of the 21st century.
We are proud of our heritage – more than 150 years of “Conserving the Nature of America,” led by visionaries such as “Ding” Darling and Rachel Carson, and driven by the work of thousands of past and present conservation professionals.
But we have to be more efficient and effective to sustain and expand our successes in the face of increasing habitat fragmentation and degradation, a changing climate and other growing global conservation challenges. That’s why we’ve put so much effort into developing our surrogate species approach to strategic habitat conservation and into implementing Conserving the Future for the Refuge System.
I know our new Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, will help us achieve our conservation mission despite obstacles in front of us.
She will surely carry on the great legacy of former Secretary Ken Salazar. Secretary Salazar was, and is, a friend not only to me but to the entire Service. He was at our side in Madison in July 2011 when we set our course for the Refuge System. Under his leadership, we established 10 national wildlife refuges. He energized President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative and spearheaded the National Blueways System.
History will regard him as a conservation hero, and he leaves an outstanding legacy to Secretary Jewell.
Importantly, Secretary Jewell recognizes the work of public servants and understands the vital role of public service in our nation’s life. I was happy and proud that in her first town hall with Interior folks she talked about the importance of diversity and noted the strides the Service has made.
To echo Secretary Jewell, we must ensure that public lands and their stories are relevant “to all Americans, not just a subset of Americans, and it begins right here and doing the job here at Interior and setting the right example.”
The Secretary began her career as a petroleum engineer. She later worked in exploration and production and moved on to the world of commercial banking, serving as an energy and natural resources expert. She then shifted her focus again, leading outdoor retailer REI.
She understands the importance of the connection between Americans and our natural resources – and the need to balance energy development with strong wildlife and habitat protection. I’m looking forward to her ideas for managing energy development on refuges and public lands while reconnecting Americans with their natural heritage.
And Secretary Jewell is an avid sportswoman with a love for the outdoors. I was at Nationals Park watching a baseball game recently and the beer man actually echoed one of Secretary Jewell’s most important ideas. He told me: “If you can’t have fun at work, go home!” Too often, we become wrapped up in process and lose sight of the joy of conservation and the outdoors. The Secretary has challenged us to have fun at work. She knows that we work on important issues but understands the need to avoid taking ourselves too seriously.
I am excited to work with Secretary Jewell and know she will bring a great, fresh and fun perspective to the Interior Department and conservation in America.
Fighting White Nose Syndrome
To combat mortality rates of little brown bats, biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state agencies have investigated the potential for using decommissioned military bunkers on national wildlife refuges as artificial hibernacula for imperiled bats affected by white-nose syndrome. The disease is responsible for 75 to 90 percent declines in the species population since 2007.
In December 2012, 30 hibernating little brown bats were collected from two hibernacula in New York and Vermont and placed in a bunker for hibernation at Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge in northern Maine. In March 2013, biologists found that, although there was mortality among the bats, abandoned military bunkers can create suitable habitat and may provide a useful strategy to conserve bats affected by white-nose syndrome.
Close up of little brown bat with white-nose fungus, found in New York in 2008.
Photo courtesy of Microbe World
New Manager at Erie NWR
Meet Meet Vicki Muller, the new refuge manager at Erie National Wildlife Refuge. She answers questions in this blog at http://usfwsnortheast.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/new-manager-at-erie-refuge-in-pennsylvania/.
Also the Meadvill Tribune printed an interview on August 13, 2013. You can read it here:
Toyota Motor Sales Check Presentation
Recently the Friends of Erie National Wildlife Refuge received a grant from the National Environmental Education Foundation and the Toyota Corporation as part of their Public Lands Every Day Program. The grant money is to be used to sponsor three events at the ENWR during the summer. Two of those events, Summer Fest and the Trash to Treasure have already taken place. The third event, the Nature Photo Contest is taking place right now. A Toyota Motor Sales Check Presentation has been set up for Monday, August 26th at 5:30pm at the Refuge Headquarters. Anyone who wishes to attend is invited to do so. Hope to see you there.
It's Fair Time!
Visit the ENWR at the Crawford County Fair, August 17th - August 24th 2013 located in Meadville PA?. The interactive display changes each year and this year there will be information about bats. The refuge likes to have someone staff the fair booth for part of the afternoons and evenings that week. If you would like to volunteer call the refuge at 814-789-3585. Either way we hope to see you there!
Study Finds Steep Decline In Amphibians
A new U.S. Geological Survey study, using data collected at national wildlife refuges and other sites, found a steep drop in the numbers of frogs, toads and salamanders across the country. The study shows widespread species declines even in protected areas such as refuges.
On average, amphibian populations studied vanished from habitats at a rate of 3.7 percent each year. At that rate, these species would disappear from half of their current habitats in about 20 years. More threatened species disappeared from their studied habitats at a rate of 11.6 percent each year. At that rate, these species would disappear from half of their current habitats in about six years.
Scientists with the USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative analyzed nine years of data from 34 sites - including 10 national wildlife refuges – and covering 48 species. The refuges were: Buenos Aires, AZ; Coldwater River, MS; Great Bay, WI; Neal Smith, IA; Rachel Carson, ME; Upper Mississippi River, MN, WI, IL, IA; William L. Finley, OR; Eastern Massachusetts; Canaan Valley, WV; and Klamath Marsh, OR.
“Amphibians have been a constant presence in our planet’s ponds, streams, lakes and rivers for 350 million years or so, surviving countless changes that caused many other groups of animals to go extinct,” said USGS Director Suzette Kimball. “This is why the findings of this study are so noteworthy; they demonstrate that the pressures amphibians now face exceed the ability of many of these survivors to cope.”
The study found declines even in species presumed to be relatively stable and widespread. Declines were documented nationwide, from the swamps in Louisiana and Florida to the high mountains of the Sierras and the Rockies.
“Even though these declines seem small on the surface, they are not,” said USGS ecologist Michael Adams, the lead author of the study. “Small numbers build up to dramatic declines with time. We knew there was a big problem with amphibians, but these numbers are both surprising and of significant concern.”
The study did not evaluate causes of decline, but researchers speculated disease and climate warming were among contributing factors. The decline in amphibian numbers affects humans because amphibians control pests, provide medicines, feed other animals and help make ecosystems work.
The study – reportedly the first to measure the rate at which amphibians are disappearing – was published in the journal PLOS ONE: http://bit.ly/13LZcRu
A recent U.S. Geological Survey study found a rapid decline in the population of amphibians nationwide. This spring peeper frog is sitting on a leaf at West Virginia’s Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, one of 10 refuges involved in the study. (Ken Sturm/USFWS)
Seabirds Warn of Ocean Change
By Susan Morse
What have 30 years of research and monitoring on Maine seabirds taught us? That the marine environment is changing fast. That ocean birds may be failing to adapt. That few threats – from ocean warming and offshore energy development to competition from commercial fisheries - could have been foreseen when Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge staff began the work in the early 1980s.
For the work, the refuge received a 2012 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Rachel Carson Award for Scientific Excellence.
The refuge, which comprises more than 50 islands, is using the research and monitoring data to manage seabird colonies and, it hopes, stem the birds’ decline.
Consider the Arctic tern. Its 36,000-plus-mile annual migration from Antarctica wintering grounds to Maine breeding grounds is the world’s longest; the bird makes the equivalent of two round trips to the moon in its 30-year lifetime.
Small light-sensing units called geolocators have documented the distance flown. But in recent years, counts of Arctic terns have dropped by 42 percent, from 4,224 pairs in 2008 to 2,467 pairs in 2012. “There are fewer pairs of Arctic terns breeding in the Gulf of Maine, and those terns that do breed are producing fewer chicks,” says refuge biologist Linda Welch.” They’re doing very poorly.”
Some researchers suspect climate change is disrupting the birds’ food chain. “So it might be the birds can’t find enough food to rebuild their body stores and regain the energy they need to fly from Antarctica all the way back to the coast of Maine in good enough shape to start breeding again,” says Welch.
Or take the great shearwaters that summer in the Gulf of Maine. Satellite tags show the large birds forage across the entire gulf – not just near the coast, says Welch. She hopes developers will consider that when deciding where to place proposed offshore wind farms.
Tracking devices may help researchers determine why some Maine seabirds can’t find enough fish to feed their chicks. Arctic terns forage for herring and other small fish at the water surface; unlike puffins and razorbills, they can’t dive. The refuge’s Machias Seal Island once hosted the largest tern colony in the gulf. But in 2007, a fish shortage led 3,500 tern pairs to abandon their nests. “They haven’t raised any chicks since,” says Welch.
Other Maine colonies are having similar trouble. While the problem appears worst for Arctic and roseate terns, puffins and razorbills are affected. Puffins are generally still able to produce chicks, but often those chicks are smaller, says Welch.
Marine productivity levels, currents and water temperature all influence fish distribution. Increased Arctic ice melt could also affect water chemistry and fish location. “It’s not an easy problem,” says Welch.
New tracking technology is making seabird research easier. But interpretation of movement patterns, population changes and productivity rates relies heavily on visual data painstakingly collected over the past 30 years. It’s not glamorous work. Each summer, seasonal technicians live on the colonies and monitor the seabirds. They document how many pairs return to the colony, how many eggs are laid, how many of those eggs hatch, how often chicks are fed, and which species of fish are brought to the chicks. Researchers compare notes with U.S. and Canadian conservation partners also monitoring the gulf.
“Having a long-term monitoring effort has been critical to our understanding of changes in productivity and seabird diet,” says Welch. “For example, with the Arctic terns, we had 25 years of population growth. Now we have five years of population decline. Our management actions haven’t changed. Our predator control actions haven’t changed. So we know something else has changed.”
Arctic tern counts have dropped sharply in recent years at Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge, which received a 2012 Rachel Carson Award for Scientific Excellence for its seabird research and monitoring. The tern’s 36,000-plus-mile annual migration from its Antarctica wintering grounds to its Maine breeding grounds is the world’s longest. (USFWS)
Our Vision Is Focused
By Jim Kurth
Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System
I can hardly believe it has been more than two years since we held the Conserving the Future conference in Madison, WI. I think back on that event when I need inspiration. There were so many powerful speeches, so much enthusiasm and so much hope for the future. It was a lot of work, too.
It was a stressful week for me personally. My mother called Wednesday morning to tell me Dad had been moved to hospice. I thought I was going to have to leave that day. He rallied a little bit, so I stayed. I was with him the following Thursday when he died.
Life gives us all moments that are inspirational and precious, others that are difficult and defining. But we always have to move forward.
We have done a great job of capturing the spirit of Madison in our vision document, Conserving the Future. More important, we have made great progress in implementing that vision. Our Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative is taking shape; our strategic growth policy is under Directorate review; a new communications strategy has been drafted; our inventory and monitoring program is growing. The list of accomplishments is impressive. You can find out more at Conserving the Future Progress web site.
Much remains to be done. Yet, the fiscal challenges we face are daunting. We are going to have fewer people and fewer dollars over the next couple of years. We spent two years crafting a vision for the future of the National Wildlife Refuge System that aspires to do more, not less. But we also spent those years defining what is important.
We laid out a vision of how refuges fit into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s science-based, landscape-scale conservation framework. We reflected on how we must remain relevant in a changing America and build a connected conservation constituency. We described the leadership it would take. Our vision for conserving the future is focused. We can go as fast or as slow as circumstances allow. But we are moving forward; there is no looking back. So stay focused and positive – because our work is incredibly important.
Trash to Treasure Contest Update
We received 21 total entries for this years Trash to Treasure Contest. It is always very interesting to see the creativeness that goes into these masterpieces.
The winners in the age 8 & under category were for 1st Place Grace Colwell - mittens and cowl neck scarf , 2nd Place Cailey Metter - the Cailey mobile, and Honorable Mention Nathan Colwell- rattle snake.
In the Age 9-12 category were 1st Place Robert Lipnichan - Junkzilla, 2nd Place Vincent Nagotte - sun garden ornament, and Honorable Mention Fairview/Fairmont Outreach - flower and bug garden.
In the Age 13-16 1st Place Summer Mattocks - Paper Cranes, 2nd Place Summer Mattocks - Doll House Garden, and Honorable Mention Summer Mattocks - Basket of Hot Air Balloons.
Finally in the 17+ Category 1st Place went to Michelle Knoch - Pop Tab Purse, 2nd Place Doug Stanton - Foot Board Mirror, and Honorable Mention Doug Stanton - End Table Mirror.
Summer Fest 2013
Rainy weather affected the number of visitors to the Erie National Wildlife Refuge's 2013 Summer Fest but still 256 came out and participated in the activities on June 29th. There were also 45 staff, volunteers, and partners who worked hard to make the event a success.
Friends members planed and conducted games, crafts, and guided bird and wildflower walks. We also manned the information booths and ran the Silent Auction. Our partners, local conservation groups including Pitt Ecolab, French Creek Valley Conservancy, Western PA Conservancy, and Audubon Pennsylvania, presented educational and fun displays. Live birds of prey presentations put on by the Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation Center were popular as always.
Display/Activity about bat echolocation.
A new twist on a trivia game.
Kids invented new species of fish at the craft table.
Learning all about waterfowl.
Soldiers, Cowboys, and Pilots: Report Finds that National Wildlife Refuges Deliver Surprising Benefits to People
Coalition Warns that Slashing Funds Will Be Rude Awakening for Americans
Washington, DC – As Congress wrestles with next year’s budget, the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) warns that proposed funding cuts to the nation’s federal conservation lands will have big impacts for more than just wildlife. While the National Wildlife Refuge System is charged with conserving wildlife and providing recreational opportunities to the public, a report released by CARE today describes some of the unlikely benefits that the nation’s 561 wildlife refuges add to the health, safety, and economic well-being of the American people. The broad coalition is urging Congress to provide the Refuge System with sufficient funds to allow these benefits to continue.
Among the most surprising benefits described in America’s Wildlife Refuges 2013: Delivering the Unexpected:
According to the report, the National Wildlife Refuge System needs at least $900 million annually to carry out its conservation mission, but at its highest funding level in FY 2010, it received only $503 million. Since then, Congress has not only failed to provide the $8 million annual increase needed to cover rising costs, but has steadily cut the Refuge System’s budget. With Congress poised to slash federal spending, the System could see its funding drop to $389 million in FY 2014 – a 23% cut from FY 2010 that would leave an average of only $2.59 to manage each of its 150 million acres.
- Eighty percent of the nation’s 561 wildlife refuges provide natural buffers against urbanization and other development pressures, thereby preserving undeveloped lands and airspace that enable military units to execute their vital training missions.
- Conservation easements on nearly 3.5 million acres of refuge lands allow many private landowners to keep their ranches and farms in production.
- Henderson Airfield on the remote Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, one of only a handful of emergency landing sites available for transpacific flights, has been estimated to save commercial airlines at least $28 million annually and, in 2012 alone, was used by nearly 50 private and military flights for emergency or refueling purposes.
- Wildlife refuges generate more than $32.3 billion each year in natural goods and services, such as buffering coastal communities from storm surges, filtering pollutants from municipal water supplies, and pollinating food crops.
- Refuge employees often double as first responders to natural disasters and other emergencies in their local communities.
- The more than 47 million hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers, and other recreationists who visit wildlife refuges generate between $2.1 and $4.2 billion in sales to local communities each year.
“The National Wildlife Refuge System continues to remind us that conserving nature is essential to our own well-being,” said David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and chair of the CARE coalition. “If we ignore those reminders and fail to invest in our national wildlife refuges, everyone loses.”
The report calls on Congress to provide at least $499 million for the System’s operations and maintenance accounts to prevent wildlife refuges from reaching a tipping point that would not only eliminate many of the benefits they provide to the public, but also prevent them from carrying out even the most basic functions central to their conservation mission. CARE is also urging lawmakers to pass legislation authorizing the U.S. Postal Service to issue a special “semipostal” stamp, which would offer the public a voluntary way to support national wildlife refuges. Offered at a slightly higher rate than first-class stamps, proceeds from the semipostal stamp would be used to complete refuge projects that have been backlogged due to chronic funding shortfalls.
For CARE’s full report and additional information, please visit www.FundRefuges.org.
Quotes from CARE’s member organizations are available at www.FundRefuges.org/care/2013-CARE-Member-Quotes.pdf.
The Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) is a national coalition of 22 wildlife, sporting, conservation, and scientific organizations representing a constituency numbering more than 16 million Americans. CARE has been working since 1995 to educate Congress, the Administration, and the public about America’s magnificent National Wildlife Refuge.
Service Proposes to Return Management and Protection of Gray Wolves to State Wildlife Professionals Following Successful Recovery Efforts
Mexican wolves in Southwest would continue to be protected as endangered subspecies
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to remove the gray wolf (Canis lupus) from the list of threatened and endangered species. The proposal comes after a comprehensive review confirmed successful recovery after management actions undertaken by federal, state and local partners following the wolf’s listing under the Endangered Species Act more than three decades ago.
The Service is also proposing to maintain protection and expand recovery efforts for the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) in the Southwest, where it remains endangered.
Under the proposal, state wildlife management agency professionals would resume responsibility for management and protection of gray wolves in states with wolves. The proposed rule is based on the best science available and incorporates new information about the gray wolf’s current and historical distribution in the contiguous United States and Mexico. It focuses the protection on the Mexican wolf, the only remaining entity that warrants protection under the Act, by designating the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies.
In the Western Great Lakes and Northern Rocky Mountains, the gray wolf has rebounded from the brink of extinction to exceed population targets by as much as 300 percent. Gray wolf populations in the Northern Rocky Mountain Distinct and Western Great Lakes Population Segments were removed from the federal list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in 2011 and 2012.
“From the moment a species requires the protection of the Endangered Species Act, our goal is to work with our partners to address the threats it faces and ensure its recovery,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “An exhaustive review of the latest scientific and taxonomic information shows that we have accomplished that goal with the gray wolf, allowing us to focus our work under the ESA on recovery of the Mexican wolf subspecies in the Southwest.”
The Service will open a 90-day comment period on both proposals, seeking additional scientific, commercial and technical information from all interested parties. Relevant information received during this comment period will be reviewed and addressed in the Service’s final determination on these proposals, which will be made in 2014.
The Service must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, within 45 days of the publication in the Federal Register. Information on how to provide comments will be made available in the Federal Register notices and on the Service’s wolf information page at www.fws.gov/graywolfrecovery062013.html.
The Service’s proposal is supported by governors and state wildlife agency leadership in each of the states with current wolf populations, as well as those that will assume responsibility for managing wolves dispersing into their states, such as Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Utah and North Dakota.
The Service’s comprehensive review determined that the current listing for gray wolf, which was developed 35 years ago, erroneously included large geographical areas outside the species’ historical range. In addition, the review found that the current gray wolf listing did not reasonably represent the range of the only remaining of the Mexican wolf population in the Southwest.
Gray wolves were extirpated from most of the Lower 48 states by the middle of the 20th century, with the exception of northern Minnesota and Isle Royale in Michigan. Subsequently, wolves from Canada occasionally dispersed south and began recolonizing northwest Montana in 1986. In 1995 and 1996, 66 wolves from southwestern Canada were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho.
In 2002 the Northern Rocky Mountain population exceeded the minimum recovery goals of 300 wolves for a third straight year, and they were delisted in the Northern Rocky Mountains in 2012 and Western Great Lakes in 2011. Today, there are at least 6,100 gray wolves in the contiguous United States, with a current estimate of 1,674 in the Northern Rocky Mountains and 4,432 in the Western Great Lakes.
The number of Mexican wolves continues to increase within the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. During the 2012 annual year-end survey, the Mexican wolf Interagency Field Team counted a minimum of 75 Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico, an increase over the 2011 minimum population count of 58 wolves known to exist in the wild.
In addition to listing the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies, the Service proposes to modify existing regulations governing the nonessential experimental population to allow captive raised wolves to be released throughout the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in the Apache and Gila National Forests east central Arizona and west central New Mexico, and to disperse into the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area in the areas of Arizona and New Mexico located between I-40 and I-10.
Read what supporters of the Service proposal are saying at www.fws.gov/whatpeoplearesaying062013.html
For more information on gray and Mexican wolves, including the proposed rules, visit www.fws.gov/graywolfrecovery062013.html.
U. S, Fish and Wildlife Service staff netted, sedated and trucked endangered Columbian white-tailed deer from Julie Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-Tailed Deer to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, WA, to protect them from the threat posed by an eroding dike between the Columbia River and Hansen Refuge. Some were translocated by helicopter. Photo by Julian Hansen
Special Delivery: Wildlife
Caution: Saving a species may require heavy lifting – literally picking up wild animals and moving them long distances. Big animals. Small animals. Skittish, furtive or aggressive animals. Regardless, the same biological rules apply: To better the odds of survival, rare species need more than one population base and the widest gene pool possible.
This spring, Northwesterners got a glimpse of the challenges involved when U. S, Fish and Wildlife Service staff netted, sedated and trucked 49 endangered Columbian white-tailed deer from Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-Tailed Deer to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, 60 miles southeast in Washington state. The deer were moved to protect them from the threat posed by an eroding dike between the Columbia River and Hansen Refuge: If the dike failed, flooding might otherwise wipe out the species. A few deer were even flown a short distance by helicopter, suspended by slings.
Because national wildlife refuges protect hundreds of rare species, they often find themselves in the animal moving business. They’ve been in it at least since 1907 when the Service transported 15 native Plains bison by rail from the New York Zoological Society to Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. The animals “were the seed stock for the bison we manage here today,” says refuge manager Tony Booth.
Wildlife conservationists don’t move animals casually. “Anytime you capture an animal and move it, there’s a risk,” says Kate O’Brien, a wildlife biologist at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine, part of a coalition working to relocate and captive-breed the increasingly rare New England cottontail. “You have to consider: Does the benefit outweigh the risk? You need a pretty good reason to move a wild mammal.”
Refuge biologists have lots of good reasons. They “translocate” wild animals to breed them; reintroduce them to historic habitats; try to keep them off the “endangered” list; minimize unfriendly run-ins with humans; rescue them from disease, drought or development; introduce them to areas where climate warming is creating new habitat. “The first choice is always to protect existing habitat,” says O’Brien, “but that can’t always be done.”
You think relocating deer is tricky? Try moving 800-pound Alaska brown bears (with a bad habit of raiding campgrounds) or 600-pound caribou (flown 300 miles from Nelchina to Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on the Kenai Peninsula, where they’d previously been wiped out). In cases involving these and other large carnivores such as panthers and wolves, the first trick is catching them while minimizing risk to wildlife and operations staff.
Smaller mammals - prairie dogs, rabbits, squirrels, pronghorn – are easier to capture, but high-strung and must be released quickly to avoid stress injuries. Timing matters. Rabbits are “easiest to trap in winter, when food is limited and you can see their trails in the snow,” says O’Brien. Also, “you want to “trap them before breeding season. You don’t want disturb them if they’re pregnant or have young.”
When endangered species are involved, operational hurdles include the preparation, publication and review of detailed project proposals. It took three years of such effort before staff could move 24 endangered Sonoran pronghorn 90 miles from Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge to Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona in 2011 and 2012. The final rule, says Jim Atkinson, a wildlife biologist at Cabeza Prieta Refuge, “spells out what we can do and where, and how it will affect all stakeholders.” The project goal: to augment the existing pronghorn population through captive breeding and establish new populations in the animals’ historic breeding range. “We don’t want to have all our eggs in one basket,” says Atkinson. “It’s a hedge against bad years for drought or climate change in any one area. Having more than one population means a greater hedge against extinction.”
Tagging lets biologists track the health and movement of animals after their return to the wild. Once pronghorn are caught and sedated, for example, biologists attach an ear-tag and radio collar.
Where tagging is too costly or labor-intensive – as it is with prairie dogs – scientists find other ways to follow transplants. Staff at Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Montana have relocated more than 2,600 prairie dogs. In 2007, they moved 800 to repopulate colonies after an outbreak of plague – a recurrent prairie dog threat. Leaving them where they were would have doomed the colony, says senior refuge wildlife biologist Randy Matchett. It also would have hurt other species that depend on prairie dogs, such as endangered black-footed ferrets. (When you’re a predator, you’re only as healthy as your prey.)
Captured prairie dogs were dusted for plague-carrying fleas, then trucked to a new site, pre-dug with underground burrows. There, cages protected them for three or four days while they acclimated. Then they were released in groups of 100 or more. “Because they are social animals and communicate with each other, we’ve learned they do better in large numbers,” says Matchett. “Their whole life revolves around not being eaten.”
Will the new colony succeed? Measurements will provide an answer. “We can map the colony by walking around the perimeter of all the burrows,” Matchett says. A year from now, a healthy colony will occupy more space. But there’s a caveat: Even if the colony thrives, Matchett knows it’s just a matter of time before plague reappears and he must rescue the animals again.
That’s the age-old challenge for wildlife conservationists: staying ahead of threats, when possible. And knowing when it’s not. Alaska brown bears offer a lesson in the latter. Brown bears that raid campgrounds are being moved less these days, says John Morton, supervisory fish and wildlife biologist in Alaska. “We realize that even when we move them a long ways away, they will still come back.”
Waterfowl Habitat Grows
More than 9,000 acres of waterfowl habitat in the National Wildlife Refuge System were among the proposals approved by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, which okayed $28 million in funding to conserve, restore and enhance vital wetlands.
“Conserving wetlands is one of most important things we can do to ensure our land and wildlife remain healthy,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who attended her first meeting in her role as chair of the commission.
The commission approved close to $4 million in projects for land purchases and leases on three refuges with funds raised largely through the sale of Federal Duck Stamps. In addition, the panel approved $23.7 million in grants through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act to protect, restore or enhance nearly 89,000 acres of habitat for migratory birds in the United States and Canada, leveraging $28.5 million in matching funds.
The three refuge projects are:
Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Approval to acquire 81 fee acres of quality waterfowl habitat in the river floodplain for $44,700. These bottomland hardwoods and associated wetlands benefit a wide variety of waterfowl, including mallard, wood and mottled ducks.
Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Montana. Price approval and approval for a boundary addition on 489 lease acres for $1,750.The commission also supported a price re-approval of $22,350 on leased land that it previously approved in September 2012. Since then, the state of Montana reassessed the lease value, which increased by 102 percent. The new price is now locked in for five years. The refuge and the wider land area support high breeding densities of lesser scaup and trumpeter swans.
Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana. Approval to acquire more than 3,200 acres in fee title for $3.76 million will almost complete the current footprint of this refuge. The refuge provides high quality habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl.
The commission had previously approved funding for the 2013 U.S. Small Grants Program. Forty-six grants were selected under the program, totaling $3 million and leveraging $7.6 million to conserve 52,145 acres of wetland and associated habitats in 29 states from coast to coast.
Among the projects funded through the U.S. Small Grants Program was Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District, MN, which will restore and enhance 24,748 acres to increase nesting cover for migratory waterfowl.
Giving Nature a Hand
By Jim Kurth
Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System
Mother Nature is pretty good at taking care of herself.
Ecosystems are full of forces that provide for renewal. Some occur annually, like flooding in bottomland hardwoods. Others are periodic, like fire in longleaf pine forests. There are infrequent, catastrophic events – major hurricanes, stand-replacing wildfires, tornadoes and derechoes – that reset the clock on natural succession of the landscape.
As our population continues to grow and more wild life habitat is converted to human uses, the fragmented landscape often prevents the ecosystem from functioning naturally. These fragmented lands, which include most of our national wildlife refuges, require management that mimics the ways natural landscapes function.
Over the years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has developed a wide variety of management practices to assure refuge lands provide healthy and vibrant habitat.
We have studied the ways that natural disturbances – like the ones described in a recent focus section of the Refuge Update newsletter – help shape ecosystems. We have continued to learn and adapt our land and water management practices to accommodate such disturbances. No one manages land for wild life better than the Service staff working on national wildlife refuges.
At Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, where I started my refuge career in 1979, the coastal savannas the cranes depend on were so degraded that the birds were on the verge of extinction. We found only two nests in 1981. Timber companies had tried to drain the land, convert it to pine plantations and keep fire out.
Over the past 30-plus years, the refuge has worked hard to return fire to the landscape, restore natural hydrology and remove the pine plantations. The landscape has returned to its more natural state, and the birds have responded.
I saw on Facebook that the refuge had already found 15 crane nests by mid-April, and there’s plenty of time for more to be found. When bad budgets and big bureaucracy start to wear us down, it helps to remember stories like this can be found throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Ira Gabrielson told us in 1941 that “the conservation battle cannot be a short, sharp engagement, but must be grim, tenacious warfare – the sort that makes single gains and then consolidates these gains until renewed strength and a good opportunity makes another advance possible.”
Keep up the good fight.
The Friends Receive An Every Day Event Grant!
The Friends of Erie National Wildlife Refuge recieved an Every Day Event Grant from the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) in the amount of $1,437.00! Almost 150 applications were submitted and two separate review processes were held to narrow down the finalists. In the end, our proposed events, the Trash to Treasure Contest, Summer Fest, and the Nature Photo Contest, were selected. 25 Friends Groups in all were selected to receive grants to help promote and put on their events.
NEEF offered these Every Day Event Grants to public land organizations, or Friends Groups, to engage their community on a public land site by holding a minimum of three events. The events could be educational, recreational and/or volunteering-based. "By increasing the number of visitors who have good experiences on public lands, Friends Groups are the spark that continues to engage our communities on treasured lands."
The grant is made possible through generous support from Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc.
Salmon Run Data May Change Management
Three national wildlife refuges, the University of Washington and seven other research institutions collaborated on a study that reveals cycles in salmon abundance on a scale not previously imagined. The study looked at cyclical changes in sockeye salmon runs over the past 500 years. The results were reported in the January 2013 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Salmon managers have long understood that run size is variable, changing from year-to-year and often showing cyclic change that persists for decades. However, this study documents cycles lasting up to 200 years. The implication to salmon management is that high variation in abundance and cyclicity of short-to-extremely-long duration must be recognized, and harvest regimes must be designed with flexibility to scale up or down.
Given that the global salmon industry is valued at more than $3 billion annually, and given the ecological/social importance of salmon, this is important not just for Alaska refuge managers but for salmon managers everywhere.
The study took place on 25 lakes throughout southwestern Alaska, 14 of which are on Togiak Refuge, Alaska Peninsula/Becharof Refuge or Kodiak Refuge. More than four million sockeye salmon annually return to their natal waters on these refuges. But more than 10 million salmon destined for these spawning areas annually are intercepted by the commercial fishery. A significant conservation concern is whether this level of harvest is sustainable.
FWS Invests $3.5 Million to Conserve Declining Warblers, Sandpipers and other Migratory Birds
Migratory birds throughout the Western Hemisphere received a boost in May when U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe approved $3.5 million in grants for 27 collaborative conservation projects across the Americas. These Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act grants will leverage a 3.5-to-1 return for conservation, matching the Service’s investment with about $12.5 million in private funds.
The projects will conserve more than 250,000 acres of migratory bird habitat, stimulate critical research into declining bird populations, and fund outreach programs to raise local awareness of conservation issues and solutions.
More than 350 species of Neotropical migratory birds migrate to and from the United States each year, including warblers, plovers, sandpipers, terns, hawks, flycatchers and sparrows. The populations of many of these birds are in decline, and several species are currently considered endangered or threatened as a result of habitat loss, pollution or climate change.
“Birds provide millions of Americans with enjoyment and a real connection to nature. They also pollinate our crops and protect them from pests, and generate $11 billion in local, state and federal tax revenues each year through the birdwatching industry,” said Ashe. “But while we may think of them as ‘our’ birds, they actually only spend part of each year in the U.S., and so to conserve them, we must work internationally with partners to protect their habitats and reduce threats across the Americas. This is what makes the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act so unique, important and effective; it funds collaborative conservation projects throughout these birds’ breeding and winter ranges.”
Grants and matching funds received through the Act will support public-private partnerships to conserve Neotropical migratory birds and their habitats throughout their migratory ranges, from their breeding sites in Canada and the United States, to their wintering sites in Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. This year’s grants will benefit hundreds of species in 15 countries. Project highlights include:
Bay of Panama: Located near the mouth of the Panama Canal beside the narrow isthmus between North and South America, the Bay of Panama is a critical migration and wintering site for more than 33 species of North American breeding shorebirds, including more than 30% of the U.S. population of the Western Sandpiper. The habitats these birds rely upon are highly threatened by development pressure from Panama City. In collaboration with 30 local organizations, grantee National Audubon Society will strengthen communications to local people about the importance of the Bay of Panama to the economy, to Neotropical shorebirds, and to environmental and human health.
Asunción Bay: A total of 32 species of Neotropical migratory birds have been recorded in Asunción Bay, located along the northern outskirts of the capital of Paraguay. It is globally significant as a stopover site for the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. The development of a coastal road has reconnected the urban population of Asunción with its natural heritage, but destroyed about 70% of the shorebird habitat in the bay. Local and national government agencies will work with NGO Guyra Paraguay to restore and manage 60 acres of priority habitats within Asunción Bay. Guyra Paraguay will hire reserve guards and train local people to be ecotourism guides, and engage with media to raise awareness for bay conservation.
Seven projects are funded under a pilot program started in 2012 and designed to focus resources on a group of particularly threatened birds. By making a long-term investment in priority species and monitoring population improvements, these projects will allow the Service to learn, adapt and be strategic in how to manage conservation funding. A pilot program highlight from this round:
The Endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler breeds in central Texas, and relies on pine-oak forests in Central America for its wintering grounds. Grantee Fundación Defensores de la Naturaleza is partnering with an alliance of organizations in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua to increase the amount of Golden-cheeked Warbler wintering habitat under legal protection or being managed through sustainable agroforestry. It will also establish a monitoring system for the species to develop measurable population objectives for a 5-10 year conservation plan.
“The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act conserves Neotropical migrants for the benefit of people throughout the Americas,” said Jerome Ford, Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Director for Migratory Birds. “By investing in priority species, key habitats, and successful conservation actions, we achieve the highest impact for each grant dollar invested and make a real difference for birds.”
The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 2000 established the matching grants program to fund projects to conserve Neotropical migratory birds in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. Funds may be used to protect, research, monitor and manage bird populations and habitat, as well as to conduct law enforcement and community outreach and education. The Act requires a partner-to-grant dollar match of 3-to-1, but has achieved a ratio closer to 4-to-1. For more information on funded projects for 2013 and previous years, visit http://www.fws.gov/birdhabitat/Grants/NMBCA/
A Lasting Legacy
By Dan Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
I recently came across an article my dad wrote for The Nature Conservancy Magazine in 1974, when he headed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Albuquerque Regional Office Division of Realty. I was a high school senior.
The article, Genesis of a National Wildlife Refuge, tells about the work that went into establishing New Mexico’s Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, at 220,000 acres still the largest land donation in Service history.
My father calls Sevilleta Refuge “fascinating in its physiographic diversity, at least to this native easterner.” He describes it as “a vast land of mountains, alluvial fans, piedmont bajadas, terraces, canyons, washes, arroyos, hills and ridges, sand dunes, and bosque lands.”
He tells how overgrazing had hurt the lands and how they will “need help to recover their former productiveness.” He also talks about the partnership and “common objectives” with The Nature Conservancy, the Campbell Family Foundation and the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust that resulted in the refuge.
I know Dad is intensely proud of Sevilleta Refuge, which these days attracts mule deer, pronghorns, black bear, lizards and many species of birds.
The article shows the Service and many conservation partners, like TNC, at their best as they negotiated – even on Christmas day – to complete the donation. Land with an estimated value of $6 million to $12 million was sold for $500,000 to TNC, which conveyed it to the Service.
The article reminded me of our people in the Mountain-Prairie Region who recently worked with Louis Bacon on the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area in Colorado. Mr. Bacon’s donation of an easement on about 170,000 acres constitutes the largest single conservation easement donation in Service history.
Closer to Sevilleta Refuge, Valle de Oro Refuge near Albuquerque and Rio Mora Refuge and Conservation Area in northern New Mexico were established last September. And early last year, our folks in Florida worked all out to get up and running Everglades Headwaters Refuge and Conservation Area. In 2012, we also established Swan Valley Conservation Area in Montana and Hackmatack Refuge outside Chicago.
Some of these new refuge units share a key difference from Sevilleta: The Service does not own the land. We are increasingly partnering with private landowners, who are excellent stewards of the land. We are developing conservation easements that provide important wildlife habitat while enabling these stewards to continue working the land as they have done for generations.
And we’re trying to connect these privately-owned lands to our great public estate of national parks, national forests and national wildlife refuges, and state and local conservation areas.
We are making clear that conservation is not just the responsibility of the Service. We all have a stake in it, public and private sector alike.
Dad, of course, knew this when establishing Sevilleta. He ends the article: More than anything else, to my thinking, the genesis of the Sevilleta Refuge is an example of what can be achieved when the private and public sectors work together.
My father’s work lives on at places like Sevilleta Refuge. And he’s far from the only retiree – or current employee – who can say that. That’s what’s so great about working for the Service. We all contribute to the conservation of wildlife and wild places for generations to come.
Our work matters. Our values endure. I’m proud of the work my father did, at places like Sevilleta; I’m proud of the work we are doing today, at places like the Dakota Grasslands; I’m proud of the foundations we are laying for those who will come after us. Our legacy is writ large on the landscape.
Department of the Interior Announces Start of 2013 “Share the Experience” Photo Contest
Amateur shutterbugs invited to compete for prizes for best photographs taken on nation’s public lands
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of the Interior today announced the start of the 2013 “Share the Experience” contest, giving amateur photographers the chance to join the ranks of Ansel Adams, Thomas Moran, and others who have found recognition for their photographs of the nation's public lands.
The “Share the Experience” photo contest showcases our nation’s public lands, including national parks, wildlife refuges, forests and recreation areas - and draws entries from all across the United States. It is the largest national park and public land photo contest for amateur photographers.
“Photography has the power to make the great outdoors accessible so that we all can see some of the most beautiful places in the world through the eyes of people like Ansel Adams,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “This is a fun competition that helps strengthen the connection between Americans and their public lands, and I look forward to seeing the submissions from across the country.”
This year, a new Let’s Move Outside! photo category will encourage families to explore the outdoors and lead active lifestyles. Let’s Move Outside! is part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to raise a healthier generation of kids.
The winning photograph will appear on the 2015 America the Beautiful pass for entrance to 2,000 federal recreation sites, including national parks, national wildlife refuges, and national forests. All entries have the chance to be featured on the Interior Department’s popular Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts.
Prizes provided by the National Park Foundation, Active Network, Air Wick and Historic Hotels of America include a $15,000 cash prize, a Columbia backpack, a pass to the national parks and other federal lands, and other items for the grand prize winner. Second and third place winners, as well as 7 Honorable Mention winners, will also receive prizes.
The “Share the Experience” begins May 10, 2013 and runs through December 31, 2013. Amateur photographers can participate by uploading photos on www.sharetheexperience.org.
“Share the Experience” is sponsored by Active Network, Air Wick, Historic Hotels of America and the National Park Foundation in partnership with the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.
To view the 2012 contest winners as wells as the contest rules and a complete list of prizes, please see www.sharetheexperience.org.
Proposed FY 2014 Budget
The President’s fiscal year 2014 budget request provides $1.6 billion for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an increase of $76.4 million over the 2012 enacted budget. Funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System is requested at $499.2 million, an increase of $12.7 million over the enacted level. The Congress must act on the proposed budget.
“The Service’s budget reflects the tough choices all federal agencies must make as we seek to shrink federal spending while continuing to meet our critical commitments and fund high priority programs,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “It focuses our resources on transforming the agency to meet the conservation challenges of the 21st century and remain relevant in a changing American society. By building science capacity and focusing on strategic, partnership-driven landscape conservation, this budget will enable us to be more effective and efficient with the funding we receive.”
The budget request for the Refuge System enables refuges to complete additional habitat improvement projects. It also includes $3.2 million for the Cooperative Recovery initiative to address threats to endangered species on and around wildlife refuges, and $3.8 million for the Challenge Cost Share program, which funds a variety of small-scale projects undertaken with partners.
The request for Refuge Inventory and Monitoring is $3 million above the FY 2012 enacted level and will be used to continue building the landscape scale, long-term inventory and monitoring network that the Service began in FY 2010.
An additional $2.7 million will be used for refuge law enforcement to respond to drug production and smuggling, wildlife poaching, illegal border activity, assaults, and a variety of natural resource violations.
The 2014 budget continues the Service’s commitment to ecosystem restoration on a landscape level by requesting $87.2 million for several priority ecosystems, which encompass many wildlife refuges. This funding supports restoration work in the Everglades ($16 million); California Bay-Delta ($4.9 million); Gulf Coast ($10.2 million); Chesapeake Bay ($10.3 million); and Great Lakes ($45.8 million).
For more information about the proposed budget for the Department of the Interior, go to: http://www.doi.gov/budget/index.cfm
Erie National Wildlife Refuge Nature 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 fourteenth 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. Entrants must be amateur photographers (make less than half of their living from photography).
Entries must be in by Friday, September 30, 2013. Judging will occur on Sunday, October 20th. 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.
Three Pickup Loads of Trash Collected!
The Spring Clean Up Day held Sunday, April 7th was a great success! Ten members showed up to collect three pickup truck loads of trash along the roads and parking areas of the Erie National Wildlife Refuge. Some of the areas cleaned where Hanks Road, the section of Route 27 that runs through the ENWR, part of Route 198 near the Headquarters Building, and a small section of Guys Mills Road. On the following Tuesday a couple of the volunteers returned to clean up Boland Road. A few hours of work made a big difference in the appearance of the Refuge!
A Race Against Time
By Jim Kurth, Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System
Many concepts of modern strategic habitat conservation have their roots in the past 50 years of work in the Prairie Pothole Region.
We identified our conservation target: waterfowl. We understood the challenge: habitat loss. We knew we had to work at a landscape scale to be successful. We recognized that working lands in private ownership were a key. Over the years, the Refuge System has purchased more than 700,000 acres of waterfowl production areas. They provide great duck nesting habitat and are places where people can enjoy hunting and other outdoor recreation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enlarged its conservation footprint by purchasing more than 2.7 million acres of easements.
In 1986, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan put our efforts into sharper focus. It laid out population objectives that we could step down into habitat protection strategies. Over time, our Habitat and Population Evaluation Team (HAPET) scientists have used emerging tools and technology, like geospatial data analysis and modeling, to pinpoint the best areas for waterfowl nesting. This helps us get the highest conservation return on investment.
Recently, threats to habitat in the Prairie Pothole Region have accelerated. High prices for agricultural commodities are resulting in large tracts of prairie being converted to row crops. Tile drainage is expanding into new areas. A boom in oil, gas and wind energy is further fragmenting the landscape. Service Director Dan Ashe responded to this crisis by directing 70 percent of the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to the Prairie Pothole Region and requiring science-based investment decisions. Our longstanding partner, Ducks Unlimited, is helping us accelerate land protection. We are in a race against time.
It’s hard to envision what the Prairie Pothole Region will look like a hundred years from now.
I remember how it looked when I made my first trip to the field after moving to headquarters in 1999. I visited Windom Wetland Management District in Minnesota with my long-time friend, now-retired refuge supervisor Don Hultman. The district manager then was Steve Kallin, whom I met in college at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 1974.
It was a beautiful spring day at Windom, full of songs of meadowlarks, bobolinks and red-winged blackbirds. As we walked across a waterfowl production area, a hen mallard flushed a few feet ahead of us. Steve gently pulled back some of the grasses, and there it was, a clutch of mallard eggs. I remember feeling incredibly happy. It was a simple moment of shared pride in generations of conservation work.
I am thankful for the visionaries who began this work and am proud of the generations of professionals who have continue to protect and manage our wetland management districts. I know today’s wetland managers, who are the best trained and best equipped ever, will carry on this great legacy.
Photo Caption: Tundra swans at Hecla Waterfowl Production Area, part of Sand Lake Wetland Management District in South Dakota. (Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS)
A New Biological Management Option against Cheatgrass
A strain of naturally occurring soil bacteria tested on national wildlife refuges and other western lands may soon offer rangeland managers a safe new way to manage cheatgrass, an aggressive plant pest.
Cheatgrass is a Eurasian invasive plant that is now found in the United States, Canada and Mexico. It covers hundreds of thousands of square miles, including the fragile sagebrush steppe habitat that is the home of the increasingly rare greater sage-grouse. In the Great Basin states of Nevada, Utah, Oregon and California, cheatgrass is spreading at the rate of thousands of acres per day. Wherever cheatgrass grows, unwanted wildfires burn hotter, more frequently and disrupt fragile ecosystems.
The native bacterium doesn’t have a catchy name; researchers refer to it simply as ACK55. But many hopes are riding on this strain of Pseudomonas fluorescens.
“I’m convinced it will work as long as the bacteria are applied in the fall to the soil so they can colonize emerging cheatgrass roots in the spring,” says Michael Gregg, a Land Management Research and Demonstration biologist at the Mid-Columbia River Refuges Complex in Washington state. Gregg is working to convince others that ACK55 belongs in the big leagues of land management. The message is getting through.
In addition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, government agencies expressing interest in the natural cheatgrass inhibitor include the National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.
“A biopesticide is much more cost-effective than an herbicide and less damaging to the environment and human health,” says Hilda Diaz-Soltero, senior invasive species coordinator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She hopes the inter-agency interest will speed further research designed to lead to the product’s approval as a commercial biopesticide.
Early test results have been impressive. In long-term field trials at Hanford Reach National Monument/ Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Washington, single applications of ACK55 dramatically reduced cheatgrass in three to five years while not hurting other plants or animals. Another field trial is in progress at Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge in Idaho. In December 2012, the Fish and Wildlife Service committed $200,000 to scale up ACK55 tests to meet Environmental Protection Agency biopesticide registration requirements.
ACK55 is not the only new cheatgrass management tool being studied. “There is a fungus, colorfully named Black Fingers of Death, being tested by other researchers,” says Fred Wetzel, the Service’s National Wildland Fire and Emergency Response advisor and ACK55’s project leader. In contrast to other controls, Wetzel likens ACK55 to using laser surgery to target and suppress the plant’s developing root cells. “This cheats the plant out of everything it needs to grow and reproduce,” he says.
The scientist who discovered ACK55 and devised a method to apply it is Ann C. Kennedy, a soil microbiologist with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. Kennedy stresses ACK55’s safety. She says the native soil bacteria inhibit just three grass species: cheatgrass, medusa head and jointed goat grass. All are invasive species of the sage steppe habitat. Wheat, native bunch grasses and broadleaf plants are unaffected. Another advantage of ACK55 is that applied bacteria don’t survive in the soil indefinitely; after three to five years, soil bacteria numbers return to pre-treatment levels.
Working with the EPA, the Fish and Wildlife Service and a team of resource scientists are moving toward federal registration of ACK55 as a biopesticide. Only then can a patented treatment be licensed for commercial sale and distribution.
Photo Caption: Firefighters battle a 2007 Nevada wildfire fueled in part by invasive cheatgrass. Credit: Sparks Tribune
BIRDING 101 and Bird Walks offered by Audubon Pennsylvania
Audubon Pennsylvania will be offering “BIRDING 101”--a class for beginning birders or those wishing to sharpen their skills. The class will be held over a four week period on Wednesday evenings at the office at 301 Chestnut Street on April 3rd, 10th,17th and 24th from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Pre-registration is required as well as a $10.00 registration/materials fee.
Expert birder and ornithologist, Sarah Sargent of Audubon PA will teach the basics of birding including using field guides, common birds, bird songs, identification tips, where to look for birds, habitats, binocular use, etc.
Audubon Pennsylvania will also hold Bird Walks at Erie National Wildlife Refuge grounds near the administration and education building in Guys Mills on April 27, May 4, May 18 and May 25. Expert guest birders will lead the walks on the trails at the Refuge from 8:30 am to 10:30 am each morning. The Bird Walks at ENWR are open to the public.
For more information or to register, please call Judy Acker at Audubon Pennsylvania at 814-333-1170.
Trash to Treasure Contest 2013
Originally created as part of a Summer Fest with a "Recycle" theme, this contest was so popular that we made it an annual event. This contest is for "kids" of all ages. There are award categories for 8 & Under, Ages 9-12, Ages 13-16, and 17+.
Entrants are encouraged to "Rescue some trash from the recycling bin or the garbage and make it into something pretty or useful. Bring it to the refuge to display and maybe win a cash prize." The rules stipulate that the major component of each entry should be something previously used that would normally be thrown away or recycled after they are used.
Each year we receive more entries and they are amazing in their diversity and imagination. Entries must be delivered to the Erie National Wildlife Refuge's headquarters building and they will be displayed there and at Summer Fest.
Entries must be in by June 14th. For more information click here.
Owl Prowl April 27th
What is an Owl Prowl? You prowl the woods after dark hoping to hear the call of an owl of course!
The Friends of the Erie National Wildlife Refuge will be hosting an Owl Prowl on Saturday, April 27th at 6:30pm. We will be meeting at Refuge Headquarters Building near Guys Mills for an educational program on owls and then we will venture out into the woods. Judy Acker from Audubon Pennsylvania will once again join us for a program on owls found in Pennsylvania. As we prowl the woods on the Refuge we will be using recordings of owl calls to try to get a response from these nocturnal birds. If we are lucky we may hear from a Great Horned or Barred Owl, the most common species of owls known to nest on the Erie National Wildlife Refuge.
The size of the group will be limited so pre-registration is a must. Call the Refuge at 814-789-3585 to reserve your spot on the Owl Prowl. Please dress for the weather, wear suitable footwear for hiking in the woods and bring a flashlight.
Photo Credit: Mark Musselman/USFWS
ENWR Spring Clean Up Day
Spring is here and it's time to think about spring cleaning. Spring Clean Up Day on the Erie National Wildlife Refuge that is! The Clean Up date is scheduled for Sunday, April 7, 2013. Celebrate Earth Day early this year by cleaning up the Refuge! We will be meeting at 1:00pm at the ENWR Headquarters building in Guys Mills.
This event is open to adults and families alike! Hope to see you there!
Summer Fest Update
Plans are nearing completion for this year’s Summer Fest to be held June 29, 2013. Members of the board have stepped up to plan and lead activities and contact outside organizations to put on presentations that day. Summer Fest 2013 should be as at least as big as last year.
As well as games and crafts, guided bird and wildflower walks led by some of our members will get people out on the nearest hiking trail. Live birds of prey presentations will be put on by the Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Other educational and fun displays to be presented by local conservation groups such as itt Ecolab, French Creek Valley Conservancy, Western PA Conservancy, and Audubon Pennsylvania.
The Trash to Treasure Contest is being advertised and the entries will be on display the day of the Fest. Items for the Silent Auction are coming in. This annual event is the only fundraiser we have planned for the year. If you have any new items you would like to donate please contact the office at 814-789-3585. We will need the value amount of the donation. Remember we are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and your donations are tax deductible.
You can also call the office if you would like to volunteer to help at Summer Fest. Either way we hope to see you there!
When It Comes to Birds, Refuges Count in a Big Way
Last holiday season, as they have since 1900, citizen scientists fanned out across America to count birds. The results from the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) demonstrate the importance of national wildlife refuges to birds. At least 70 bird species have their country- or continent-wide high counts conducted at least partially on refuges. For example, nowhere else in North, South or Central America can a person find more snow geese than the 490,000 counted during the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge CBC in western Missouri. The same is true for the 37,000 tundra swans at Mattamuskeet Refuge in coastal North Carolina; the 30,000 sandhill cranes at Muleshoe Refuge in west Texas; and the 3,600 red-throated loons at Back Bay Refuge along Virginia’s southeastern coast.
Refuges in more than a dozen states and in every region host country-wide high counts for particular bird species.
“I have fond memories of visiting Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge every winter while I was growing up and marveling at the sight and sounds of 100,000 snow geese picking up off the water at once,” says National Audubon Society chief scientist Gary Langham. “The Christmas Bird Count data clearly show that refuges host enormous numbers of birds across the country.”
During the Christmas Bird Counts, volunteers nationwide follow routes within a 15-mile diameter circle and count all the individuals of all the bird species they see or hear. Some people count birds at their backyard feeders, while diehards are traipsing the backcountry well before dawn.
The CBC numbers are proof positive that the National Wildlife Refuge System, established in large part for migratory birds, is making a meaningful difference. Many waterfowl species have their high counts on CBCs encompassing refuges, such as the 22,000 Ross’s geese at Merced Refuge in central California or the nearly 1,400 wood ducks at Pee Dee Refuge in the Piedmont of North Carolina. But refuges also host national high counts for a variety of other bird types, including falcons, hawks, cranes, galliformes, loons, petrels, albatross, shearwaters, boobies, tropicbirds, terns, plovers, sandpipers, dowitchers, rails, blackbirds, jays and flycatchers.
Merritt Island Refuge in Florida has the high count for federally threatened Florida scrub jays, Harris Neck Refuge in Georgia for clapper rails and Sabine Refuge in Louisiana for Forster’s tern. Even the ubiquitous red-winged blackbird has its continent-wide high count on a refuge-centered CBC: a staggering 3.2 million at Squaw Creek Refuge.
“National wildlife refuges provide quality habitat in strategic areas for migratory birds,” says Doug Brewer, manager at Virginia’s Back Bay Refuge. “The CBC high counts for red-throated loons and king rails here show the importance of this refuge at a critical time of year.”
Photo Caption: Ross's Goose Ross’s geese over California. The continent-wide high tally of 22,000 individuals of the species was found during a 2011-12 Christmas Bird Count conducted at least partially on Merced National Wildlife Refuge in central California. (Steve Emmons/USFWS)
New Ways to Combat Invasives
What happens to a river invaded by non-native zebra mussels? Why were gypsy moths introduced into the United States? How do you know if you are pulling up a mile-a-minute vine or good native ground cover?
An updated environmental education curriculum and a new app for smartphones provide some answers.
Wild Things: Investigating Invasive Species offers basic information and activities for grades 6-8. The booklet explains the harm caused by non-native and invasive plants and animals, provides fact sheets on several widespread invasives (leafy spurge, melaleuca, round goby, zebra mussel, brown tree snake) and gives detailed instructions for several activities, including ways young people can help. The information and activities may be incorporated into field trips or class visits or distributed to local middle schools. Find Wild Things online at fws.gov/invasives/nwrs.html (under “What’s New”).
Zapped with an App
A new smartphone application designed for several New England refuges enables users to identify plants, and photograph and map them. The National Wildlife Refuge Early Detection Network for New England can be downloaded free on an iPhone, iPad or Android device. Staff and volunteers from six refuges received training on the app last summer.
The app can increase opportunities for “early detection rapid response” (EDRR). The app “narrows which species are most important to find early, so that we can recognize species as they arrive,” when it’s much easier to control them, explains Cynthia Boettner, coordinator for the invasive plant control initiative at Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge in New England. The mile-a-minute vine, for example, is already in Massachusetts but not yet in New Hampshire.
The app was developed by the University of Georgia EDDMaps (Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System). For anyone without a smartphone, there is also a Web site (www.eddmaps.org/) with printable fact sheets and full-color flashcards for many invasive species.
Find the “Jessicas” in Your Town
“Never tell a young person that anything cannot be done. God may have been waiting centuries for someone ignorant enough of the impossible to do that very thing,” said the poet John Holmes.
For sure, don’t tell 16-year-old volunteer Jessica Flory.
She’s been calling attention to the growing problem of marine debris by wearing a dress she made from 87 balloons that Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge staff collected from a coastal island where turtles mistake the mylar scraps for food and choke on them.
Yes, she’s been getting stares. But she believes that wearing the dress in just the right places will get people to understand that their birthday balloons just don’t disappear into the sky – that their actions have consequences.
Let’s not just hail Jessica. Let’s imbue a million youngsters with the same understanding and get-it-done spirit.
Let me make three suggestions:
Make the personal connection. Invite the kids up the street or the second grade teacher you know to experience a wildlife refuge. Follow up that initial contact with a conversation about what they want to get out of their encounter with the natural world. And how the Refuge System might fulfill their personal or organizational goals. The first step is extending a personal invitation.
Talk their language: Young people use Facebook and Twitter. Are we using these media as well and as often as we might? Are we using language that resonates with the audiences we want to reach? Do we insist on using messages that we like rather than listening to the messages our target audiences value?
Go places where we usually don’t travel. If we want to introduce the world of conservation to people who don’t usually connect with the outdoors, then we have to travel their road. Reach out to organizations outside of your typical sphere. For example, sororities and fraternities are major civic organizations among African Americans during and even after they graduate college. Is there a chapter in your community, and do they know you? Perhaps you partner with Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Do you know the Big Brother or Big Sister organization in your community?
There are scores of Jessicas – motivated, intelligent young people – in your community. Introduce more of them to your local wildlife refuge.
Photo Credit: Jessica Flory (right) made a dress of balloon scraps to dramatize the impact of marine debris on wildlife. Becky Flory
Celebrate the Endangered Species Act with Photos
After 40 years of conserving the nation's most imperiled species, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 is credited with saving 99 percent of species listed under federal protection from extinction. Hundreds of wildlife refuges are home to endangered species, including Mississippi Sandhill Crane Refuge; Driftless Area Refuge in Iowa for the Iowa pleistocene snail; and Key Cave Refuge in Alabama for gray bats, Indiana bats and cave crayfish.
To help celebrate the Refuge System’s critical role in conserving threatened and endangered species, photographers of all ages and ability levels are invited to take photos of such species on refuges.
Email your photos to http://digitalmedia.fws.gov/cdm/
Better yet, post your photos to your Facebook page and tag “USFWSEndangeredSpecies” in your post and the Service’s Endangered Species Program will share them.
Partners, Vision and the Endangered Species Act
By Dan Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Recognizing that every extinction threatens the web of life that supports us all, Congress in 1973 passed one of the world’s most important pieces of conservation legislation – the Endangered Species Act.
In the 40 years since, the ESA has provided a vital safety net for America’s native fish, wildlife and plants. The act’s protections have enabled us to work with our partners to recover dozens of species, including the bald eagle, grizzly bear and American alligator.
But the number of species that have recovered is by no means a complete measure of the ESA’s success. The act has also succeeded in preventing the extinction of hundreds of species, stabilizing populations and fostering voluntary conservation efforts for many others.
National wildlife refuges are an important part of the ESA’s success. Fifty-eight refuges were specifically established to protect listed species; 248 refuges are home to more than 280 endangered or threatened species. To cite just two examples, Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Iowa is home to the Iowa pleistocene snail; and Key Cave Refuge in northern Alabama provides habitat for gray bats, Indiana bats and cave crayfish.
As a child, I accompanied my father on trips to National Key Deer Refuge, “Ding” Darling Refuge, Blackbeard Island Refuge and others serving endangered and threatened species.
Without the National Wildlife Refuge System, many endangered species would not be making the recoveries they are. The dramatic comeback of the California condor could not have happened without Hopper Mountain Refuge Complex. Archie Carr Refuge continues to provide crucial habitat for nesting sea turtles.
But we can’t achieve our conservation mission by providing habitat for threatened and endangered species exclusively within our refuge boundaries. Hundreds of imperiled species depend on private lands for the majority of their habitat.
The Conserving the Future document acknowledges this reality, establishing a vision of the Refuge System as the centerpiece of broader landscape-scale conservation efforts. By working with our partners using the latest science, we can expand our conservation efforts beyond the boundaries of the system; using the system to link a network of protected lands and provide greater benefits to additional species.
The vision calls on us to prioritize future land acquisition and protection efforts, tying them to rigorous biological planning and conservation objectives developed in cooperation with state fish and wildlife agencies and implemented through effective partnerships. In this way, we can provide the greatest conservation benefits in the right places, regardless of whether we own and manage those places.
Threatened and endangered species are a prime beneficiary of this vision.
For example, the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area ultimately will protect, restore and conserve more than 100,000 acres of habitat on public and private lands to benefit hundreds of rare species, including the Florida panther, Florida black bear, Florida scrub-jay, Everglades snail kite and Eastern indigo snake. These efforts will provide important linkages for migratory birds and several species of concern while enabling working families to stay on the land and continue their own land stewardship.
The Refuge System will play a key role as we seek to accelerate species recovery and foster innovative conservation approaches. That’s worth working for.
Photo Caption: Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Iowa is home to the endangered Iowa Pleistocene snail. Fifty-eight refuges were established to protect endangered or threatened species. (USFWS)
Annual Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest
Elementary, middle and high school teachers can have their students participate in the annual Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest to celebrate national Endangered Species Day on May 17. This year also commemorates the 40th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act.
The Youth Art Contest gives students the opportunity to learn about threatened and endangered species and express their knowledge and support through artwork. Young artists who are homeschooled and participate in youth groups are also eligible to submit their art. All entries must be postmarked by March 15.
Winners will be chosen in four categories: K-grade 2, grades 3-5, grades 6-8 and grades 9-12, and will receive plaques and art supply gift packs. In addition, one grand prize winner will be honored with their name engraved on a special trophy and receive a round-trip flight to Washington, D.C. with one guardian to attend a reception in May.
The Youth Art Contest is organized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Endangered Species Coalition, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the International Child Art Foundation. For more information, including judging criteria and an entry form, visit http://www.endangeredspeciesday.org/.
For more information on how you can find an Endangered Species Day event near you, visit http://www.fws.gov/endangered/ESDay/index.html.
To learn more about the Service’s Endangered Species program, go to http://www.fws.gov/endangered/ where you can download podcasts and find links to Twitter and Facebook.
Owl Prowl Program a Success
The Owl Prowl that had to be cancelled because of bad weather back in October finally happened Saturday, January 19th. The evening was considered a success even though no owls were actually heard during the walks participants took on the trails or fields of the ENWR. We didn't need to advertise the new date because most of the 30plus people that registered for the original date had asked to be notified when it was rescheduled.
The delay actually allowed us to present a much more extensive program. Judy Acker from Audubon Pennsylvania came and put on a power point program on owls complete with recordings of the calls of the owls found in Pennsylvania. After that we dissected owl pellets to study what the owls had been eating. Children and adults alike seemed to be really getting into that activity.
The indoor portion of the evening ended with Lelaina Marin, Wildlife Biologist at ENWR, showing a video of an owl hunting a lemming under the snow by using their fantastic hearing to pinpoint the location of the animal.
Most blamed the wind that night for the fact that no owls were heard on the prowls but all seemed to enjoy the evening in spite of that. We hope to sponsor more Owl Prowls in 2013 so be sure to watch for them to be announced.
This is the year for the 14th Biennial ENWR Nature Photo Contest
Details will be announced later in the year but now is the time to dust off your camera and take a walk on the wild side. Remember your photo of plant life, wildlife or landscape doesn’t have to be taken on the Erie National Wildlife Refuge but there is usually a special prize for those that are.
Officers Elected At The January Board Meeting
At the January Board of Directors Meeting held on the 14th the officers for 2013 were elected. All positions will remain the same for another one year term. Your Friends of ENWR Board are:
- Linda Anderson
- Douglas Copeland
- Richard Eakin
- Sheldon Kauffman, President
- Ronald Leberman, Vice-President
- Kathleen Palmer, Secretary
- William Trout
- Ann Zurasky, Treasurer
NWRA Thanks Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for Outstanding Contribution to Wildlife and the American People
Washington, DC – Responding to the announcement of his departure at the end of March, NWRA today praised Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Ken Salazar, for his tremendous leadership and steadfast support in protecting America’s wildlife and natural resources. His implementation of expansive conservation programs that protect large landscapes and wildlife, keep working lands working, and engage diverse stakeholders has helped usher in a 21st century vision for conservation.
“Secretary Salazar is a true conservation hero with a 10-gallon hat legacy,” said David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “By working with landowners, sportsmen, Friends and partners in rural and urban communities, he has chartered a new path forward for American conservation.”
A hallmark of Secretary Salazar’s approach has been partnerships with states, localities and landowners to protect working landscapes, improve water quality and restore wetlands. These collaborative efforts have also spurred new wildlife corridors, refuges, andmonuments.
Under Salazar’s leadership, the Department of the Interior has expanded efforts with farmers, ranchers and community partners such as refuge Friends to protect critical landscapes as well as make historic investments in places like Montana and the Florida Everglades. And his work with states, industry, and conservation groups has forged a strong consensus around renewable energy on public lands that ensures we don’t have to choose between our natural heritage and a more sustainable future.
“Secretary Salazar understands more than any of us that we have a moral obligation to future generations to protect our nation’s diverse natural world,” said Houghton. “NWRA and our 200 Affiliate “Friends” organizations wish Secretary Salazar the best in his future endeavors and we look forward to visiting a Colorado national wildlife refuge with him in the near future.”
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.
Friends Help the Erie NWR in Many Ways - Big & Small
If you read our newsletter, "Duck Tales", or follow our website, friendsofenwr.org, you know that the Friends of ENWR help the Refuge in many ways. We sponsor contests, man booths, sponsor events, and supply man power for Summer Fest to name a few.
But have you visited the activities room at the Refuge Headquarters lately?
A Friends' purchase of two comfortable armchairs has turned the nature book library from just a bookcase into a comfy reading nook.
The purchase of a projection TV and the supplies to go with it will mean that the former large TV and stand will no longer be taking up valuable space in the room.
We hope to make more improvements to the activities room and also help with any other purchases that may come up that don't fit into the ENWR's budget in the future. Rest assured that your membership fees and funds generated by our fundraisers are being put to good use. We thank you for your support both now and in the future.
Best Bird Fests 2013
A Calendar of Festivals on or near National Wildlife Refuges
For a jaw-dropping natural spectacle, it’s hard to beat a bird festival. National wildlife refuges make great bird festival locales because they’re bird magnets; many protect important bird habitat along the country’s major fly routes. To see great masses of birds, look for festivals that coincide with spring or fall migration. Here are some major refuge-centered festivals scheduled for 2013, in the order they will occur: Bird Fests 2013