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December 2015

2016 Erie National Wildlife Refuge Trash to Treasure Contest

This year you can get a head start on our Annual Trash to Treasure Contest. Associated with the ENWR's Summer Fest the contest is usually not advertised until Spring but we wanted to get the information out there early for the 2016 contest. We are hoping to receive more then ever entries this year so spread the word.

The details are basically the same as last year. 1st place in each division, Age 17+, Age 13 – 16, Age 9 – 12, and Age 8 & Under, wins a cash prize. Entries must be submitted by June 15, 2016 and the winners will be announced June 25th at Summer Fest.

The rules are fairly simple: The major component of each entry should be something previously used that would normally be thrown away or recycled after they are used. Entries must have been created within the dates: 06/16/2015 - 06/15/2016.

Judging criteria may include originality and creativity; durability, suitability to purpose, and quality of craftsmanship; artistic merit; and "How much did it save the planet?". Sorry the judges’ decision is final.

Entries will be on display at Summer Fest and then at the refuge until the week of July 4th.

Entries must be turned in to the Erie National Wildlife Refuge, 11296 Wood Duck Lane, Guys Mills, PA 16327. Call (814) 789-3585 if you have questions. For entry form go here.

Sponsored by Friends of ENWR

New App Helps Sort Millions of Trail Camera Images

Remote trail cameras capture millions of images of ocelots, bighorn sheep, elk, pronghorn, birds and other wildlife sparring, visiting water, foraging, marking territory and more within the Refuge System. For those images to be useful for scientific purposes, they must be sorted and labeled.

There’s an app for that.

It’s called Moniker, and it’s available free at the App Store for iPhone and iPad users.

At New Mexico’s Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge alone, 36 cameras amassed 2.7 million images in four years. Typically, sorting that mountain of imagery for scientific analysis means enlisting family, friends, volunteers and neighbors. Meanwhile, more cameras are positioned and the imagery backlog mushrooms.

The Moniker app allows anyone, anywhere to sort camera-trap imagery. The crowd-sourcing approach helps manage the imagery backlog, while the app helps generate public appreciation of America’s wildlife. In return, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service obtains sorted images useful for addressing management and conservation priorities.

The app operates by downloading 15 still (not video) images at a time to an iPhone or iPad. The app pulls up each image individually, and the user classifies the species by using a scrolling wheel. The user then identifies the number of individual animals. Because most images contain one or two individuals, the app has buttons for these. Otherwise, the number of individuals is keyed in. If, something, say blowing grass, triggers the camera without capturing a wildlife species, the code “ghost” is used. 

Ultimately, this process sorts the images and stores them on a remote server, where they are ready for project use. To ensure data quality, each image is sorted multiple times and majority opinion prevails. The final sort is subsampled and checked for accuracy before analysis.

To try the app, go to the App Store on your iPhone (model 4, OS version 8.4.1 or newer) and iPad (model 2 or newer) and search for “Moniker.” Moniker may not immediately pop up in the suggestions, so hit the Search tab again and it will. For more information on how the app can be used for scientific analyses, contact Gran Harris, chief of biological services for the Southwest Region, at Grant_Harris@fws.gov.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service remote trail cameras capture a steady stream of images of wildlife, such as this one of a coyote chasing pronghorn at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. A new crowd-sourcing app helps to sift through and label the images.

Marine National Monuments: Singular Achievements
By Cynthia Martinez
Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System

Soldierfish photographed at Baker Island National Wildlife Refuge, part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. (Jim Maragos-USFWS)

It’s mind boggling to think about the range of habitats and wildlife that the Refuge System protects – and how they are spread nearly around the globe. Maybe nothing illustrates that better than the Refuge System’s tropical islands – from 22 places in the Pacific Ocean to nine islands in the Caribbean Sea to four marine national monuments. The four marine national monuments -- all in the Pacific Ocean -- are: Marianas Trench, Pacific Remote Islands, Papahanaumokuakea and Rose Atoll.

Perhaps you think that the marine national monuments are so distant from the continental U.S. that their significance is limited. After all, the marine national monuments are dots in the vast Pacific Ocean. Wrong! In fact, they are some of the most important, intact, functioning marine ecosystems on Earth. The marine monuments are essential for the conservation of critical species as we work to conserve a natural world for future generations.

President Obama expanded the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in September 2014. That monument alone protects nearly 490,000 miles around the islands and atolls that are also protected as national wildlife refuges. That monument is one of the last havens for wildlife in the world -- home to one of the largest and most pristine collections of coral reef, seabird and shorebird protected areas on the planet. Millions of seabirds forage in the monument’s waters and raise their young on the islands and atolls.

Renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle, named by Time magazine in 1998 as its first Hero for the Planet, has called the ocean the “blue heart of the planet.” She has called the marine monuments “hope spots” – places that not only feed the world, but are also critical to the life and health of the Pacific Ocean.

And they are places that inspire us. The mystery of the Marianas Trench – the deepest part of the world's oceans, where darkness is punctuated by bioluminescent organisms -- is a wonder and no less iconic than the Grand Canyon or Mount Everest. 

  The Pacific Ocean may be our last great frontier, a place less understood than the moon. Because we have protected these marine national monuments, our chance to expand the world’s knowledge and to improve the quality of life is still intact. That’s always the benefit of conservation.

November 2015

Three New Members Elected to Board of Directors

At the Annual Meeting, held November 14, 2015, three new members were elected to the Friends of ENWR board of directors. Ken & Vicki Pratt and Eileen Copeland were all nominated and elected to serve a two year term on the board. We want to welcome all of them and we are looking forward to working with them in the coming year.

Current members Kathleen Palmer, Lisa Helmbreck, Michael Vargo, Richard Eakin, Linda Anderson, and Autumn White were all reelected to another term as well.

The evening's activities also included a ENWR walk, a pot luck dinner, door prizes and a very interesting and informative presentation by Vicki Muller, refuge manager at ENWR, about the projects and people of the refuge in 2015.

Besides the election, the business portion of the meeting reviewed some of our recent and ongoing projects including the photo contest, owl prowl, and the milkweed-pollinator garden. New business included the discussion of programs to be scheduled in 2016 and the theme of Summer Fest.

While we always take a break in December, for this year only, circumstances has us moving the January meeting to February 1. This meeting will take the place of both the January and February meetings. As always any member or interested person may attend the board meetings. Your input is always welcome.

New Deputy Chief of Refuge System

Shaun Sanchez brings rare experience from all three levels of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to his new position as deputy chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System. He assumed the position of second-in-command in October.  

Over his Service career, Sanchez has worked in four regions. Most recently, he was chief of the Refuge System Division of Budget, Performance, and Workforce. In that post, he helped set and manage annual Refuge System performance measures and direct a comprehensive evaluation of the Refuge System’s overall effectiveness in delivering its mission.

Earlier in his career, he has served as deputy assistant regional director in the Southeast regional office in Atlanta; manager at Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Nevada; deputy refuge manager at Yukon Delta Refuge in Alaska; and refuge manager at Anahuac Refuge in Texas.

Shaun began his Service career as a student trainee at two Southwestern refuges. He holds a biology degree from New Mexico Highlands University.  Sanchez is the son of Martin and Joyce Sanchez of Las Vegas, N.M. 

Helicopter Ride to the Future

A historic project more than 30 years in the making took place on Kauai’i’s north shore in Hawaii in early November when 10 endangered Hawaiian petrel chicks were flown by helicopter from their nesting area to a new colony protected by a predator-proof fence on Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge.

Hawaiian petrels – or ua’u – are one of two seabird species endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and re found nowhere else on Earth. The new colony will be the only fully protected colony of federally-listed seabirds anywhere in the Hawaiian Islands.

The bird’s numbers have declined dramatically due to a number of threats, including predation by introduced mammals such as cats, rats and pigs.

The translocation, which involved more than a dozen people, took place simultaneously in Kauai’i’s rugged mountain interior and along the coast. In the early morning, two teams were dropped by helicopter onto mountain peaks located in the Hono O Na Pali Natural Area Reserve within the Na Pali-Kona Forest Reserve, state lands managed by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife. Teams headed for 10 nests burrows that had been monitored throughout the breeding season.

Each burrow contained a healthy chick. The chicks were carefully removed by hand, placed into pet carriers and hiked up to the tops of peaks, where the helicopters picked them up.

“This translocation will establish a new, predator-free colony to help prevent the extirpation of the species from Kaua’i,” said Michael Mitchell, acting project leader of Kaua’i Refuge Complex. “Petrels, like many other native Hawaiian species, are facing tremendous challenges with shrinking habitat and the onslaught of invasive species. Translocating the birds ensures that this colony will be protected for our children and our children’s children.”

The refuge’s new nesting area is surrounded by a 6.5-foot, fine mesh, stainless steel fence. The 7.8-acre enclosure protects the birds from predators. The area inside the enclosure has recently been partially restored with native vegetation. Seabird-friendly nest boxes were specifically designed to mimic natural burrow.

October 2015

Nature Photo Contest Winners Announced!

The Erie National Wildlife Refuge, in cooperation with the Friends of Erie National Wildlife Refuge and the Presque Isle Audubon Society, announced the winners of their biannual Nature Photo Contest at a reception held October 18th. The winners are:

Plant Life: First - "White Champion" by Tim Lyons; Second - "Late Summer Bloom" by Patricia Wigham; Third - "Tiger Lily" by Erica Senyo
Wildlife: First - "Squirrel" by Erica Senyo; Second - "The Bread Winner" by Ricardo Gilson; Third - "Cooper's Hawk" by Tim Lyons
Landscape: First - "Autumn Waterfall" by Lisa Helmbreck; Second - "Trees" by Olivia Wyman; Third - "Memories" by B J Spitzig

This year both special awards were won by the same person. Erica Senyo won the "Best Photo Taken on the Erie National Wildlife Refuge" award with her photo "Wooded Pathway" and the "Best Student Photo" award with "Squirrel".

A special thank you goes out to the judges Mike Saletra, Tim Kirk and Heather Reichel.

Annual Meeting Plans Take Shape

The Friends of Erie National Wildlife Refuge's Annual Meeting of the Members is planned for Saturday, November 14th this year.

For those that would like to come a little earlier and spend time on the refuge there will be a walk on the Tsuga Trail starting at 4:00pm. A Pot Luck Supper will begin at 5:30pm followed with a review of the year for both the Erie NWR and the Friends group. Door prizes will also be given out throughout the evening.

The business part of the meeting is last on the agenda with the election of members of your board of directors. Kathleen Palmer, Lisa Helmbreck, Michael Vargo, Richard Eakin, Linda Anderson and Autumn White are all up for reelection this year. Nominations for new members will also be accepted that night.

Historic Conservation Campaign Protects Greater Sage-Grouse

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determines federal land management plans and partnerships with states, ranchers and NGOs avert ESA listing

An unprecedented, landscape-scale conservation effort across the western United States has significantly reduced threats to the greater sage-grouse across 90 percent of the species’ breeding habitat and enabled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conclude that the charismatic rangeland bird does not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  This collaborative, science-based greater sage-grouse strategy is the largest land conservation effort in U.S. history.

Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell made the announcement on September 22 on Twitter with a video that explains why the sage-grouse decision is historic and sets the groundwork for a 21st century approach to conservation.

The Service reached this determination after evaluating the bird’s population status, along with the collective efforts by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service, state agencies, private landowners and other partners to conserve its habitat. Despite long-term population declines, sage-grouse remain relatively abundant and well-distributed across the species’ 173-million-acre range.

After a thorough analysis of the best available scientific information and taking into account ongoing key conservation efforts and their projected benefits, the Service has determined the bird does not face the risk of extinction now or in the foreseeable future and therefore does not need protection under the ESA.

To read the entire announcement: http://1.usa.gov/1Q1T4La

Heavy-Duty Cooperation on Equipment Safety

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees who operate heavy equipment such as bulldozers, excavators and backhoes are the behind-the-scenes folks whom visitors to national wildlife refuges and other public spaces often take for granted.

In fact, their earth-moving work is fundamental to building and maintaining observation platforms, kiosks, fishing piers, trails and tour route roads. These operators also help on a range of habitat restoration projects that benefit wildlife on refuges.

Maneuvering those gigantic rigs properly is critical to operator and visitor safety.

Early in 2015, the National Park Service (NPS) paid a high compliment to national coordinator John Blitch and the regional coordinators who run the Service’s heavy equipment training program. The NPS asked four Service specialists to teach NPS instructors how to train NPS field employees in the safe operation of heavy equipment.

The train-the-trainer instruction took place at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, an NPS site east of Las Vegas. It happened because Sarah Polzin, training manager with the NPS Office of Learning and Development, adopted the Service training for NPS use. After hearing about what she considered to be the excellent Service training, she thought, “Why start again from the very beginning when they’re doing basically the same thing?”

Blitch, Midwest Region heavy equipment coordinator Dale Pittman, Mountain-Prairie Region coordinator Wade Briggs and Service safety instructor Michael McAllister of Kodiak, AK, worked with Polzin to train the NPS trainers at Lake Mead.

The instruction helps prepare heavy equipment operators for encounters with visitors. “We talk about how to interact with people who may want to stop them while working and ask questions,” says Blitch. “Many times visitors will walk up out of nowhere – even in closed areas – because they are curious. We teach the operators to always keep an eye out for this scenario. Safety to the public is a top priority that is taught in both the train-the-trainer course to the instructors and from instructor to employee.”

September 2015

See Condors Live From Your Computer

You don’t have to go to the top of a mountain to see a California condor nest.

A brand new web cam is focused on one of the most iconic and hard-to-observe species in North America: the California condor.

The cliffside nest cavity on camera in the Sespe Condor Sanctuary is home to a 5-month-old condor, who is the offspring of a 21-year-old female and a 6-year- old male.

The Condor Cam runs from dawn to dusk. You can watch the chick stretch its wings and feet in yoga-like poses and interact with its parents. The cam brings you more than condors; you can hear persistent calls from acorn woodpeckers, Stellar's jays and common ravens.

In 1982, only 22 California condors survived world-wide. By spring of 1987, all remaining wild condors had been placed in captivity, beginning an intensive recovery effort to save the California condor from extinction.

In 1992, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began reintroducing captive-bred condors into the wild. Today there are approximately 430 birds.  

Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, CA, provides roosting, breeding and foraging habitat for the California condor. This year, the California Condor Recovery Program celebrated a milestone with a record 19 wild condor nests in California. The Service began using cams in 2010 to monitor the nests. One of these cameras provides a live stream here.

Find Your Way Outdoors

Explore trip ideas. Build a trip. Find places to go and things to do on national wildlife refuges, national parks and other public lands in the largest inventory of federal land in America at recreation.gov.

Want to camp in the Okefenokee Wilderness at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, GA? It’s a spotlight destination in September at recreation.gov. You can read about the historic cabins at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, AK, and the rugged mountains of Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, OK.

The site includes information to help you find permit locations and wilderness areas as well as tours. Articles will help you search find a range of activities.

Include nectar plants and milkweed in your gardens to help reverse the loss of breeding habitat for monarch butterflies in the U.S. Photo by Giuseppina Croce

More Help for Monarchs
By Dan Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

I spent much of the morning on August 20 at beautiful Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge with Senator Amy Klobuchar working on monarch butterfly conservation. Life is good!

Senator Klobuchar is an exceptional advocate for monarchs in Congress, and it is stirring to hear the passion she has for them. As a bonus: We had plenty of kids with us, ready to become monarch scientists and add to our data on the butterfly.

By now, I think a lot of people know that time is running out to secure the future of the monarch butterfly, one of North America’s most recognizable wildlife species.

As recently as 1996, the estimated population of monarchs wintering in Mexico topped 1 billion. This year, the Mexican overwintering population numbered only about 56.5 million butterflies.

Some of the problem has been blamed on timber harvesting in Mexico, climate change and disease – and we must address those factors – but the accelerating conversion of native prairie habitat in Midwestern states to crop production and livestock grazing has hurt the monarch and other pollinators.

Working with partners – such as the Monarch Joint Venture, the National Wildlife Federation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – we’re seeking to restore and enhance more than 200,000 acres of habitat for monarchs on public and private lands this year, while also supporting more than 750 schoolyard habitat projects and pollinator gardens nationwide. We’re also reaching out to our counterparts in Canada and Mexico to work together to save this North American insect. But we can do more.

That’s why I’m proud to announce we have committed to spending $4 million starting in October to support partnership-driven, landscape-scale monarch conservation projects. This funding will enable us to focus with our partners on conserving breeding and migration habitat in priority areas.

These places include spring breeding areas in Texas and Oklahoma, summer breeding habitat in Minnesota and other Midwest Corn Belt states, and areas west of the Rockies important for the western monarch population.

We’ll also expand work with partners to increase the availability of seed for native milkweed and nectar plants; education and outreach programs; and other large-scale efforts across multiple geographies.

Why all the attention on monarchs? It’s not just because they’re beautiful, an integral part of North America’s wildlife, and representative of other pollinators.

The monarch is also the perfect species to introduce kids to conservation and help them develop a love for nature. Few other beloved, well-known species thrive in backyards like monarchs when the right habitat is created for them.

I’ve planted native milkweed with kids across the nation this year. To see the smiles on their faces as they dig in the dirt is incredibly uplifting.

Together, we can ensure that the monarch continues to be seen and enjoyed across the nation’s landscape. I’m optimistic we will succeed.

Blog from Office of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell
Every Kid in a Park

Thanks to President Obama’s visionary Every Kid in a Park program, all fourth graders and their families will be entitled to a free pass for a full year to visit federal lands and waters that belong to all of us.

At a time when youth spend more and more of their free time inside in sedentary activities on computers and smartphones and watching TV, this program will help close the gap between children and nature by introducing kids from all backgrounds to our nation’s great outdoors.

Fourth graders across the country can visit the Every Kid in a Park website to complete a short, educational activity to obtain their free pass to more than 2,000 federal sites, including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, marine sanctuaries and other federal lands and waters. The pass is valid for the 2015-2016 school year and grants free entry for fourth graders and three accompanying adults (or an entire car for drive-in parks). Educators can also access educational activities and print passes for their students.

And since we know a big reason why many kids don’t visit public lands and waters is that they can’t get there easily, the National Park Foundation (NPF) – the congressionally chartered foundation of the National Park Service – will award Every Kid in a Park transportation grants to participating federal agencies to help support travel for those kids with the most need.

The Every Kid in a Park program is designed to continue beyond just this year, so that every fourth grade child in America will have the opportunity to visit their public lands and waters for free, inspiring the next generation to be stewards of our nation’s shared natural, historical and cultural heritage.

Let’s get every kid in a park!

2020 Pounds Of Trash Collected For The French Creek Cleanup!

Thanks to Phi Gamma Delta for their participation! A good time was had by all....
Photo Credit: Michael Vargo

The weather cooperated for the 23rd Annual French Creek Cleanup which was a record-breaking one. Over all there were 806 participants collecting 42,975 pounds of trash from the French Creek watershed! Our group contributed 2020 pounds of that removed from the Erie National Wildlife Refuge. Just 80 pounds short of winning another trophy this year. We'll be back next year for sure!

August 2015

Owl Prowl at Erie National Wildlife Refuge

Come Prowl the woods of the Erie National Wildlife Refuge in the hope of hearing and maybe even spotting some owls! The Friends Group of ENWR will be sponsoring our Fall Owl Prowl on Saturday, October 31st at 6:30 PM rain or shine. We will be meeting at the Refuge Headquarters building, 11296 Wood Duck Lane, Guys Mills, PA 16327.

The night will begin with an educational and fun presentation about owls given by Judy Acker from Audubon PA. Then we will venture out into the woods and with any luck hear from a Great Horned or Barred Owl, the most common species of owls known to nest on the ENWR. This is a FREE family-friendly program, but space is limited so preregistration is a must. Reserve your spot by calling the Refuge at 814-789-3585. Please dress for the weather, wear suitable footwear for hiking and bring a flashlight. Owl see you there!

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are committed to providing access to this event for all participants. Please direct all requests for sign language interpreting services, close captioning, or other accommodation needs to Erie National Wildlife Refuge, 814-789-3585, FW5RW_ERNWR@FWS.gov, TTY 800-877-8339 with your request by close of business July 1st.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.


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. Awards in each category are as follows:

  • $50 first place and ribbon
  • $25 second place and ribbon
  • Third place ribbons
  • Honorable mention ribbons
  • $75 cash award given for the best photo taken on the Erie National Wildlife Refuge overall
  • $25 best student (under 18) photo overall
*Ribbons and cash prizes sponsored by Friends of ENWR

Rules of competition:
  • Entry deadline: Friday, September 25, 2015
  • Include completed Entry Form
  • May enter up to eight (8) photos
  • Entry fee $5.00 per photo – make check payable to Friends of Erie National Wildlife Refuge
  • Photos may be digital or film prints in color or black and white. No composite photos are permitted.
  • Photos can be from 8”x10” to 12”x12” and matted but unframed
  • Must be labeled on back as follows: name, address, telephone, age (if 18 or under), title of photo, entry category and specify if taken on the refuge. Official entry forms can be obtained by visiting http://friendsofenwr.org/ .
  • Must be amateur photographer (make less than half of their living from photography)
Judging will occur on Sunday, October 18, 2015. An open reception will be held to present awards at 1:30 p.m. that day. Light refreshments will be served. The photographs will remain on display at the refuge until the end of October. Entries may be picked up after that date. For more information, telephone 814-789-3585.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

It's time for the Annual French Creek Cleanup!

Last year the Friends of ENWR won the "Most Junk By Weight - Small Team" award. We are looking for a group to participate in the event again this year! You must be registered ahead of time to receive a t-shirt. For registration we will need your name and shirt size. Details on our cleanup will be given to the team later. Call Kathy at 814-789-4832 if you are interested. The following information is from the French Creek Valley Conservancy web site.

For the 23rd year, French Creek communities will come together to Clean Up French Creek! Always held the first Saturday after Labor Day, the cleanup this year is Saturday, September 12, 2015.

Any waterway in the French Creek Watershed is fair game - trash all flows downstream, after all! You can walk the banks or walk in shallow tributaries, or where appropriate, you can clean by kayak or canoe!

Start cleaning any time you want Saturday morning and bring your trash to the Cochranton Community Fairgrounds for the Weigh-In, where you will enjoy a free picnic with food provided by Malady's Meat Market in Meadville, and music to be announced!

The picnic starts at noon and weigh in by 4pm to be considered for prizes. Cash prizes will be awarded for different groups for the most trash brought in. Prizes will also be awarded for the most unusual trash collected, most trash brought in by size of team, and the Traveling Hellbender Trophy will once again go to the corporate team that brings in the most trash.

Lend a Helping Hand to Endangered Species

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has teamed up with FishBrain – the world’s largest free-to-use app and social network for anglers – to launch a new feature of the app that will help the American public identify and document threatened, endangered and candidate species.

The app enables FishBrain users to log sightings of up to 50 at-risk species during regular fishing trips, which will help conservationists and academics determine where the animals are, the habitat they need, the reasons for their decline, and how the public can help protect and conserve native wildlife.

“This is a unique opportunity to synthesize recreational anglers’ information and knowledge in local waterways and expand our understanding of various species,” said Gary Frazer, Assistant Director of the Service’s Ecological Services Program.

To determine the species that would be included in the app, the Service examined all of the occurrences of threatened and endangered species near major streams, rivers, lakes, creeks and other bodies of water. This yielded millions of results.

To the search, the team used a coarse filter approach to focus on larger bodies of water and limited results to species likely to be encountered by anglers, and those known to come into contact with the fishing community.

The final list of species provided to FishBrain includes animals across the United States that are protected as threatened and endangered under the Endangered Species Act, as well as candidates for federal protection and those protected as threatened or endangered by individual states. Among the animals included are the shortnose sturgeon, whooping crane, Kemp's ridley sea turtle, California red-legged frog and Columbia white-tailed deer. The full list of species with accompanying information and photographs is available at www.fishbrain.com.

To download the FishBrain app, visit: The App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/fishbrain-fishing-reports/id477967747?mt=8 or Google Play:https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fishbrain.app&hl=en.

Stop Invasive Species in Your Tracks

Everybody has a role to play in stopping the advance of invasive species – those plants, animals and microorganisms that are not native to a particular area and wreak havoc outside their normal range.

A new campaign called PlayCleanGo: Stop Invasive Species in Your Tracks is a clear call to action to people who are regularly outdoors, whether working or recreating. PlayCleanGo complements the ongoing Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers campaign.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a partner in PlayCleanGo, along with more than 160 conservation groups nationwide. Together they are calling on the public to:

  • Be informed, attentive and accountable for preventing the spread of terrestrial and aquatic invasive species.
  • Arrive to recreational sites with clean gear.
  • Burn and use local or certified firewood, mulch, decorative rocks and soil.
  • Use local or weed-free hay.
  • Stay on the trails.
  • Clean gear before leaving, including removing mud and seeds.
Homeowners are encouraged to learn about and use native plants in their yards. Workers are advised to burn wood waste that may harbor plant pests from another part of the country or world.

When you sign on as a partner, you receive a free welcome kit with educational materials and access to additional materials including signs, brochures and banners. Your organization’s logo can easily be added to materials, along with messaging to fit your local situation.  More information: www.playcleango.org.

Please Don't Release Your Balloons

Balloons are great at birthdays, weddings, graduations and more, but once they get loose, balloons can pose a threat to many animals.  

Birds, turtles and other animals commonly mistake balloons for food, which can harm or even kill them.

In addition, many animals can become entangled in balloon strings, which can strangle them or hurt their feet and hands.  For example, more than a hundred balloons were recently collected at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey at a cleanup, and that’s just the number that made it to one particular beach.

Some of the pictures are hard to look at, but they make clearer than any words why we all should find alternatives to letting a balloon go: http://balloonsblow.org/alternatives/

July 2015

The Conversation Yet To Be Had
By Cynthia Martinez
Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System

I became Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System on May 11. Just four years and three months earlier, I was the manager of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex, overseeing the four national wildlife refuges in Southern Nevada. Those four -- Desert, Ash Meadows, Pahranagat and Moapa Valley -- called me and are the reason that I am devoted to the National Wildlife Refuge System.

There are many “firsts” associated with my selection -- first woman, first Hispanic, first to have worked in Ecological Services. Heck, we could also say that I am the first from New Mexico, where we love our green chili! At the end of the day, it matters to a lot of people. It matters to my family, who is prouder than anyone might expect. As much as my family means to me -- and they mean the world -- it matters to a lot of people on the ground working on national wildlife refuges….and that matters to me.

On the topic of my appointment, Lynn Greenwalt, former Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, wrote, “A truly big-time ‘first’ for everyone and an event too long in coming. I do have to say, though, that I am delighted that it waited for you to come along and are the one to have broken the gender barrier for the Refuge System. (My wife) Judy is even more ecstatic, since she is a graduate of the era when women just did not stand a chance. As she has pointed out more than once, ‘I could not possibly become a refuge manager, so I married one.’ It was that difficult, once upon a time.”

My first act as Chief was to attend the Ambassadors Program team meeting at the National Conservation Training Center. There, we set the stage to develop the training that will offer folks the tools to engage our surrounding communities. As much as connecting to urban communities is a priority, we should not forget those rural communities within which we work and live.

The first national wildlife refuge I visited after being named Chief was J. Clark Salyer in North Dakota, a fitting choice, as it is the namesake of the first Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

At the end of the day, I’m grateful for your emails and good wishes. And rest assured that we have our vision set forth in Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation. As much as I look forward to seeing the majestic places that we are entrusted with managing, I most look forward to the conversations yet to be had with each of you who embrace the challenge of wildlife conservation.

Thank you for all that you do for wild places and wild creatures. I look forward to our next conversation.

Free Summer Programs at the Erie National Wildlife Refuge!

Design a Toad House!

Kids of all ages can design and decorate a toad house to place in your yard or garden. Toads are beneficial since they eat insects, slugs and snails. Toads are a natural alternative to harsh pesticides and you can turn a desirable place for a toad to live into a garden decoration by making a garden toad house. The program will be held Wednesday, July 22nd from 4:00pm until 5:30pm.

Nature Journal Craft Night

Wednesday, July 29th from 4:30pm until 6:30pm you can learn two notebook making techniques: Flower Pounding to personalize the cover of your journal and Japanese book binding to tie it all together! This program is for all ages.

Firefly Program

Who doesn't love watching, or catching, fireflys on a warm summer evening? But how much do you really know about these amazing insects? Whether you are a kid or just want to feel like one again join the group on August 5th from 7:30pm until 9:00pm. You can make a bug jar, learn some interesting firefly facts, and try your hand at catching them!

Butterfly Program

Some believe that monarch butterflies are the most beautiful of all butterflies and they are considered the “king” of the butterflies, hence the name “monarch”. There are lots of very cool things to learn about the monarch butterfly. During the Butterfly Program you will learn their migration and life-cycle, watch a puppet show, and make a butterfly craft. All ages are invited on Tuesday, August 11th from 4:00pm until 5:30pm for this informative and fun program!

All programs will be held at the Refuge Visitor's Center, 11296 Wood Duck Lane, Guys Mills, PA. While the there is no cost for these programs, you must call to register at (814) 789-3585 attn. Breanna Anderson. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00am until 4:00pm.

Terrible Weather Didn't Keep Visitors Away From Summer Fest

Yes the attendance was down this year because of an all day downpour, but 150 people braved the weather to participate in the 8th Annual Erie National Wildlife Refuge Summer Fest. Some said they come every year and the rain wasn't about to stop them.

What keeps so many coming back? It could be the education... This year's theme was "Nature Myths" and there was information on bats, reptiles, humming birds and hellbenders. Or maybe it is the fun, hands on activities for kids... Youngsters could get their face painted, practice casting with a fishing pole, or shoot an arrow into a target. Possibly it is the opportunity to make something with your own hands... A sun catcher or a nature notebook with a pounded flower cover.

Some just come to look. They check out the displays and the "Trash To Treasure" entries. Others like to bid on the "Silent Auction" items and possibly take home a treasure of their own. Whatever is your preference there is something for the whole family at Summer Fest.

June 2015

Building Community Through a Refuge
By Dan Ashe
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Albuquerque Business Journal in March named 30 women from a highly competitive pool of 435 nominees as this year’s Women of Influence in the state of New Mexico. The Journal was looking for women who are leaders, innovators, mentors and role models. It comes as no surprise that Jennifer Owen-White, manager of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, was an honoree.

Owen-White is pouring her heart and soul into Valle de Oro, the first urban refuge in the Southwest Region. And she is building the refuge with the people of Albuquerque. Valle de Oro is, “a refuge established, designed and built by the community for the community, and that is so exciting,” she says. That it is!

“I often tell people that it is not my job as the refuge manager to build this refuge; it is my job to help the community build its national wildlife refuge,” she says.

Throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System, our visitor services folks are engaging nearby communities and helping them build their connections to nature by answering their concerns and meeting their needs.

Unless we act, many of today’s children will have few opportunities to experience nature. We have become a more diverse, more urban nation, and many kids don’t get a chance, like I did, to wander fields breathing in pristine air, to turn over rocks in creeks and find out what was hiding out there, to watch a bird of prey swoop down on a river and grab a fish with its talons.

But visitor services folks are working tirelessly to find programs that do allow young people to connect with nature, even in the heart of a city like Albuquerque. At Valle de Oro Refuge, one project uses community gardens to help youth really get their hands dirty. Sometimes, geo-caching or other adventures that use the latest technology get people out into nature.

I know many refuges are holding fishing derbies for new anglers or wildflower walks or even “spring cleaning” events. That’s on top of the normal events that happen at refuges: teaching people about the amazing critters and beautiful places that we share the world with.

Since I took this job, I have emphasized that priorities are making the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service relevant in people’s lives and ensuring that all Americans really see that what we do matters in their lives. We can’t afford to allow millions of kids to continue growing up with little understanding of the personal stake they have in healthy wildlife and ecosystems. A world without a conservation ethic is not a world friendly to humanity.

20 Most-Visited Refuges

National wildlife refuges attracted almost 47 million visitors in fiscal year 2014. According to the Refuge Annual Performance Plan, here are the 20 most-visited refuges:

  1. Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon
  2. Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, California/Arizona
  3. Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois
  4. Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Oklahoma
  5. Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina
  6. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia
  7. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida
  8. Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska
  9. Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, Illinois
  10. J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida
  11. Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, Alabama
  12. Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, California
  13. National Elk National Wildlife Refuge, Wyoming
  14. Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon
  15. Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, Wisconsin
  16. Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Massachusetts
  17. Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, Hawaii
  18. Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, Hawaii
  19. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia
  20. Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge, Tennessee

May 2015

Erie National Wildlife Refuge Trash to Treasure Contest

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. 1st place in each division, Age 17+, Age 13 – 16, Age 9 – 12, and Age 8 & Under, wins a cash prize. Entries must be submitted by June 12th and the winners will be announced June 27th at Summer Fest.

The rules are fairly simple: The major component of each entry should be something previously used that would normally be thrown away or recycled after they are used. Entries must have been created within the dates: 06/13/2014 - 06/12/2015.

Judging criteria may include originality and creativity; durability, suitability to purpose, and quality of craftsmanship; artistic merit; and "How much did it save the planet?". Sorry the judges’ decision is final.

Entries will be on display at Summer Fest and then at the refuge until the week of July 13th.

Entries must be turned in to the Erie National Wildlife Refuge, 11296 Wood Duck Lane, Guys Mills, PA 16327. Call (814) 789-3585 if you have questions. For entry form go here.

Sponsored by Friends of ENWR

Erie National Wildlife Refuge Summer Fest 2015

We hope to see you at the this year's Summer Fest. The event features free admission, handicapped parking and access, and fun for everyone in the family. This year we are working on having a food vendor available but the details haven't been completely ironed out yet. We are also hoping to provide Hay Ride Tours of the ENWR.

The "Passport Program" will give kids a chance to earn a prize just for participating in all required activities. This year's prize is new and improved and will offer lasting enjoyment to young nature enthusiasts.

All activities will be based on a "Nature Myths" theme. Activities will include a Sun Catcher Craft, Face Painting, a Notebook Craft, Fishing Casting Practice, Archery, and as always bring your camera for the Photo Opportunity.

Many outside groups will be partnering with the ENWR to provide displays and activities all day as well, including Audubon PA, French Creek Valley Conservancy, Pitt Ecology Lab, Western PA Conservancy, Crawford County Conservancy, and the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. This year's live animal display will be provided by All God's Creatures Reptile Education and Rescue.

All entries to the "Trash to Treasure" Contest will be on display at Summer Fest as well. This a fun contest and the resulting entries are always interesting and imaginative!

A "Silent Auction" has been held at Summer Fest the last few years. This is an opportunity for you to help the Friends of ENWR support Summer Fest so please take the time to look at the items offered and maybe even place a bid.

Summer Fest is always held the last Saturday in June which is the 27th this year. The event is open from 10:00AM - 4:00PM at the Refuge's Activity Center on Wood Duck Lane in Guys Mills, PA. This is an "Rain or Shine" event and while most activities are under a tent or in a building please consider the weather when dressing for the event. Sponsored by the Friends of ENWR.

Strengthening our Conservation of North American Bats
By Dan Ashe
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

We share hundreds of species with Mexico and Canada, and coordinate conservation activities with these neighboring partners on many of them, including monarch butterflies, migratory birds, and many more. But until now, comprehensive coordination for one group of animals has fallen noticeably short: bats.

For the first time in history, with the signing of a Letter of Intent (http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2015/Bat-conservation-LOI.pdf) at the April Canada/Mexico/U.S. Trilateral Committee for Wildlife and Ecosystem Conservation and Management (http://www.trilat.org/), we have official coordination on the conservation of North America’s bats.

North American bats, many of which migrate across international boundaries, face many threats: Habitat destruction has limited bats’ food gathering and roosting sites throughout their range; Human-related disturbances, including wind turbines, can lead to bat deaths; and Perhaps the best-known bat-killer -- for now limited to bats in the United States and Canada -- is white-nose syndrome, a deadly invasive fungus. Since its discovery in New York less than 10 years ago, white-nose syndrome has spread to 26 states and five Canadian provinces and killed millions of bats.

Certainly, we already do coordinate with our neighbors on many bat conservation issues. We work closely with Canada to respond to white-nose syndrome and with Mexico to conserve endangered Mexican and lesser long-nosed bats. We also invest directly in partner-led bat conservation projects in Mexico through our Mexico Program, including environmental education activities, capacity development and community-based population monitoring and habitat conservation.

This Letter goes beyond all efforts to date, and tells everyone that the three countries will strengthen cooperation, coordination and information-sharing related to the conservation and management of all (more than 150!) bat species in Canada, the United States and Mexico.

Bats are hugely important. In addition to pollinating many plants, including some commercially valuable crops, bats also eat a lot of insect pests that disturb crops, forests and us! In the United States alone, bats are estimated to save us at least $3 billion per year in pest control services.

We -- Canada, Mexico and the United States -- are determined to keep it that way, and commit to doing what it takes to help them survive.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Polar Bears Featured on 2016 Federal Recreational Lands Pass

The 2016 America the Beautiful Pass, an annual pass for entrance to more than 2,000 national public recreation sites, will feature a touching photograph, taken by Gregory Teller, of a polar bear and her cub in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The 2016 image was selected from about 22,000 images submitted to the annual “Share the Experience” contest, sponsored by the National Park Foundation, Active Network and Celestron in partnership with the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service. The contest gives amateur photographers the chance to showcase their skills by capturing the beauty of the nation’s public lands.

The “Share the Experience” photo contest highlights our nation’s public lands – including national parks, wildlife refuges, forests and recreation areas – and draws entries from across the United States. As the grand prize winner, Gregory received $10,000, and his photograph will be featured on the 2016 America the Beautiful pass, an annual pass for entrance to more than 2,000 national public recreation sites. Each year, approximately 300,000 people purchase this pass, which pays for itself in as few as four visits to flagship national parks.

“Moments with mothers and their cubs were just perfect, especially this shot as the cub reached up to his mother,” said Gregory, who took the photograph while visiting Alaska for the first time on a six-person tour to see the Northern Lights and polar bears. Photography is a hobby for Gregory, who frequently visits public lands. “I feel in love with the area. We stayed a couple of days in a village near the refuge where polar bears frequent.”

Photographs for the 2015 “Share the Experience” contest must be taken between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2015. Contest entries are accepted from April 30, 2015, to December 31, 2015, and photographers can participate by uploading photos on www.sharetheexperience.org. Winners will be announced by May 1, 2016.

Prizes for winning entries include monetary awards, outdoor equipment, annual federal recreation passes and hotel packages courtesy of Historic Hotels of America. Prizes are offered for fan favorites and for one winner in each for the following six categories:

  • Adventure and Outdoor Recreation
  • Historical and Cultural 
  • Scenic, Seasons and Landscapes 
  • Every Kid in a Park (new category as part of President Obama’s initiative)
  • Wildlife 
  • Night Skies

Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge Established in NC

The new Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge in western North Carolina, formally established in April, is devoted to the conservation of southern Appalachian mountain bogs, one of the rarest and most imperiled habitats in the United States. 

Mountain Bogs Refuge is the nation’s 563rd national wildlife refuge. North Carolina is home to 11 refuges; Mountain Bogs Refuge is the first one west of Charlotte.

“The establishment of Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge marks a turning point in the efforts of a number of dedicated partners in preserving this unique and threatened habitat,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Jim Kurth. “It will provide a focal point for mountain bog conservation in the area, and highlights the importance of our National Wildlife Refuge System in preserving our nation’s spectacular biodiversity for future generations of Americans.” The Nature Conservancy donated an easement on a 39-acre parcel in Ashe County, which formally established the refuge.

Less than 20 percent of the mountain bogs that once existed still remain. They are typically small and widely scattered across the landscape, often isolated from other wetlands. Important to wildlife and plants, mountain bogs are home to five endangered species – bog turtles, green pitcher plant, mountain sweet pitcher plant, swamp pink (a lily) and bunched arrowhead. Bogs also are habitat for migratory birds and game animals, including mink, woodcock, ruffed grouse, turkey and wood duck. They also provide key benefits by their natural capacity for regulating water flow, holding floodwaters like giant sponges and slowly releasing water to nearby streams, decreasing the impacts of floods and droughts.

Bogs are breeding habitat for many species of amphibians, especially salamanders, of which the Southern Appalachians have the greatest diversity in the nation.

The refuge may eventually grow to 23,000 acres, depending on the willingness of landowners to sell and the availability of funds to purchase lands. To guide acquisition of land and conservation easements and bog conservation in general, the Service has identified 30 sites -- or Conservation Partnership Areas -- containing bogs and surrounding lands.

Funding to acquire land and easements would likely come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, funded by fees collected from the sale of publicly-owned offshore oil and gas drilling leases. For more information about Mountain Bogs Refuge, visit www.fws.gov/mountainbogs.

April 2015

2013 wildlife category winners.

Erie National Wildlife Refuge's
15th Biennial Nature Photo Contest

In 1987, the Presque Isle Audubon Society (PIAS) initiated a formal relationship with Erie National Wildlife Refuge (ENWR) under the National Audubon Society’s “Adopt A Refuge” program. It co-sponsored the first biennial nature photo contest with the refuge that year in an effort to keep the local community involved in the refuge.

Fast forward to 2007 and the ENWR is hosting the Eleventh Biennial Nature Photography Contest.  For the first time, the contest is co-sponsored by the Presque Isle Audubon Society and the newly formed Friends of Erie National Wildlife Refuge.

That year 132 photographs were entered.  Photos were judged in three major categories,  Plant Life, Wildlife, and Landscape.  In addition, a special award was presented for the best photo taken on the ENWR. Approximately 70 people attended the reception.  Guests viewed all the entered photos, watched the awards ceremony, and had the opportunity to talk to judges about nature photography tips and techniques.   An evaluation of the contest resulted in several suggestions for improving the contest itself, and nature photography opportunities on the refuge.

During the last contest held in 2013 the judges had the difficult task of choosing 11 winners and 10 honorable mentions from the 151 photos entered in the ENWR's Nature Photo Contest. The contest continues to award First, Second and Third place ribbons plus cash prizes for the top winners in the categories of Plant Life, Wildlife and Landscape. In addition ribbons and cash prizes are also awarded for the Best Photo Taken on the ENWR and for the Best Student (under 18) Photo.

The Friends of ENWR and PIAS continue to co-sponsor the Biennial Nature Photo Contest and we hope the 2015 edition will be just as successful as those in the past. For more information and entry form go here.

Spring Clean Up Part II

We are having another clean up! If you couldn't make the last one, you can help out at this one!

The Clean Up date is scheduled for Sunday, May 17, 2015. We will be meeting at 1:00pm at the ENWR Headquarters building in Guys Mills.

Conservation by Multiplication
By Dan Ashe
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

In the 20th century, led by icons including John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, Aldo Leopold and Ding Darling, America created the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the National Wildlife Refuge System and other federal and state public land protections. As a result, nearly 30 percent of the nation’s land is protected, in some form, and stands as a foundation for the future.

In the 21st century, we will strengthen that foundation. But if we want to meet this century’s conservation challenges, we must link the public estate to the more than 70 percent of the land that is privately owned. Many species entrusted to our care rely on private land to survive and thrive. If we’re going to conserve biological diversity, we must keep our public land foundations strong and build on them by engaging private landowners, most of whom are proud land stewards. That’s why we’ve focused on a vision for the Refuge System that sees refuges as hubs of networks of public and private lands. It’s why our field offices are engaging landowners across the country and developing voluntary conservation easements on hundreds of thousands of acres. These easements and other tools allow us to do conservation work through landowners, helping them achieve sustainable economic use of their lands while protecting and enhancing essential habitat for wildlife.

By linking habitat on these private lands to our public estate, we are doing conservation by multiplication rather than simple addition. And to deal with 21st-century challenges like changing climate, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s next generation will need to graduate to algebra, trigonometry and calculus, creating more complex connections and giving wildlife the means to move across the landscape in step with the seasons, increasing human presence and shifting sources of food and shelter. That’s why we are building next-generation capacities like Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) and Refuge System Inventory and Monitoring.

I recently read an article about Jude Smith, the manager of Buffalo Lake, Muleshoe and Grulla National Wildlife Refuges in Texas and New Mexico. He’s at least in Algebra II already.

“Whatever we are doing on the refuge complex,” he says, “I’m considering how we can take the benefits and knowledge we have gained to surrounding landowners on the larger landscape. This complex is too small to make the big difference for wildlife that we are after.”

Smith knows the formula for success. If you multiply your refuge lands by partnership with private landowners, the product is a landscape that makes the difference. This is happening as we work to conserve the greater sage-grouse. We have a strong public lands foundation, with 64 percent of the habitat under Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service management. We are strengthening that foundation but also working with and throughout the 11 range states to build strong state conservation programs and enlist private landowners in voluntary conservation. In the end, we are multiplying efforts and conserving a “sagebrush sea” that supports sage-grouse and hundreds of other species.

In Harney County, OR, our folks have signed up nearly 300,000 acres of private ranch lands in conservation agreements. Rancher Tod Strong put it best when he said, “What’s good for the bird is good for the herd.” Amen, Tod.

We can conserve the nature of America, if we think big, like Jude Smith, and reach out to good private land stewards like Tod Strong. Practice multiplication! Prepare for calculus! Think big!

March 2015

Summer Fest 2015 Trash to Treasure Contest

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. Divisions are Ages 17+, Ages 13 – 16, Ages 9 – 12, and Ages 8 & Under.

Submit your entries by June 12th and the winners will be announced June 27th at the ENWR's Summer Fest. All entries will be displayed that day and at the refuge until the week of July 13th. Entries must be picked up by July 17th or they will be come property of the Friends of ENWR.

For information and entry form go here.

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 12, 2015. 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 year we are working with the Great American Cleanup of PA, which is from March 1st to May 31st. As a registered event we can get free cleanup supplies such as bags, gloves and vests donated by PennDOT and Keep America Beautiful. If you can't join us on the ENWR on April 12th consider finding another event to participate in here.

This event is open to adults and families alike! Hope to see you there!

Campaign to Save Beleaguered Monarch Butterfly

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launched a major campaign aimed at saving the declining monarch butterfly.

The Service signed a cooperative agreement with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), announced a major new funding initiative with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and pledged $2 million in immediate funding for on-the-ground conservation projects around the country.

Introducing the new initiatives at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. were Service Director Dan Ashe, U.S. Senator from Minnesota Amy Klobuchar, NWF President and CEO Collin O’Mara, and NFWF representatives.

Monarchs are found across the United States. While they numbered some 1 billion in 1996, their numbers have declined by approximately 90 percent in recent years. The decline is the result of numerous threats, particularly loss of habitat due to agricultural practices, development and cropland conversion. Degradation of wintering habitat in Mexico and California has also had a negative impact on the species.

“We can save the monarch butterfly in North America, but only if we act quickly and together,” said Ashe. “And that is why we are excited to be working with the National Wildlife Federation and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to engage Americans everywhere, from schools and community groups to corporations and governments, in protecting and restoring habitat. Together we can create oases for monarchs in communities across the country.”

The memorandum of understanding between NWF and the Service will serve as a catalyst for national collaboration on monarch conservation, particularly in planting native milkweed and nectar plants, the primary food sources in breeding and migration habitats for the butterfly.

The new NFWF Monarch Conservation Fund was kick-started by an injection of $1.2 million from the Service that will be matched by private and public donors. The fund will provide the first dedicated source of funding for projects working to conserve monarchs.

From California to the Corn Belt, the Service will also fund numerous conservation projects totaling $2 million this year to restore and enhance more than 200,000 acres of habitat for monarchs while also supporting more than 750 schoolyard habitats and pollinator gardens. Many of the projects will focus on the I-35 corridor from Texas to Minnesota, areas that provide important spring and summer breeding habitats in the eastern population’s central flyway.

The monarch may be the best-known butterfly species in the United States. Every year they undertake one of the world’s most remarkable migrations, traveling thousands of miles over many generations from Mexico, across the United States, to Canada.

The monarch’s exclusive larval host plant and a critical food source is native milkweed, which has been eradicated or severely degraded in many areas across the U.S. The accelerated conversion of the continent’s native short and tallgrass prairie habitat to crop production has also had an adverse impact on the monarch.

The monarch serves as an indicator of the health of pollinators across the American landscape. Conserving and connecting habitat for monarchs will benefit other plants, animals and important insect and avian pollinators.

A new Web site -- http://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch -- provides information on how Americans can get involved with the campaign.

Celebrating a Milestone in Conservation – the Recovery of the Oregon Chub
By Dan Ashe, Director, U.S. fish and Wildlife Service

A winter storm grounded me in Washington on February 19, keeping me from traveling to Portland to mark the recovery of the Oregon chub. But no amount of snow can keep me from celebrating this milestone in conservation history.

As small as the 3-inch chub is, it will forever be known for a giant accomplishment – becoming the first fish ever removed from the federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.

In only about 20 years, the chub has gone from the brink of extinction to thriving across its historic range in the Willamette River Basin. In 1993, the species numbered fewer than 1,000 fish in eight small populations. Thanks to a phenomenal conservation effort by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other dedicated partners, the Oregon chub has expanded to more than 80 populations with an estimated 140,000 fish.

That’s truly remarkable. We simply don’t see many species recover in what is, in biological terms, the blink of an eye.

While the Oregon chub isn’t as iconic as other Pacific Northwest fish species like the salmon or steelhead, it’s a vital part of the freshwater floodplain ecosystem of the Willamette River Basin – the lifeblood of western Oregon. As a result, partnership-driven efforts to help the chub recover have also benefited other species and local communities. Partners have improved management of the entire river system – providing increased recreational opportunities, better flood control, improved water quality and a healthier ecosystem for both wildlife and people.

The Endangered Species Act was the last line of defense for the Oregon chub, just as it is for hundreds of other native species facing extinction. With every species that is lost, we leave a more impoverished planet to future generations, and deprive them of the benefits of healthy ecosystems with vibrant biological diversity.

The chub’s recovery shows how the ESA can and should work – bringing partners together to recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they, and we, depend. In the case of the chub, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife led the charge, conducting research and monitoring, promoting habitat protection and improvements, and conducting reintroductions of the fish into unoccupied habitats.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff worked closely with them to support recovery efforts. For example, the staff of the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex did an amazing job of enhancing chub habitat on the refuge. Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program staff worked tirelessly with local landowners who willingly agreed to put an endangered species on their land. And staff from our Columbia River Fisheries Program Office and Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office laid the groundwork for the delisting action.

A broad spectrum of organizations and individuals made other key contributions to the chub’s recovery, including the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and their Tribal Fish and Wildlife Program, which helped evaluate the impacts of stream management options on the chub. The Army Corps of Engineers played a vital role in implementing many of the stream management improvements vital to the chub’s recovery. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service protected 623 acres of chub habitat through Wetlands Reserve Program conservation easements. Professors and students from Oregon State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife completed some of the important underlying science to guide recovery efforts. And perhaps most crucially, dozens of private landowners in the Willamette River Basin stepped up and provided habitat on their land. It has truly been a collaborative effort.

By ensuring the recovery of the Oregon chub, we have taken a giant step toward honoring our commitment to future generations.

Refuge System Chief Jim Kurth Named Service Deputy Director

Jim Kurth, a major presence in National Wildlife Refuge System leadership for the past decade and a half, has been promoted to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deputy director for operations. Kurth was chief of the Refuge System from October 2011 until January 2015, when he was named to the deputy director position vacated by Rowan Gould. Gould retired in December 2014 after a distinguished 38-year career with the Service.

Before becoming chief, Kurth was deputy chief for 12 years. His 15-year tenure in refuge leadership marked unprecedented growth in which the Refuge System added more than 60 new units encompassing more than 50 million acres. Beginning in 2011, Kurth led development and implementation of Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation – a blueprint for the future growth and management of the Refuge System.

“Jim Kurth is a natural leader with proven ability to effectively manage far-flung operations and meet complex conservation challenges. He understands how to multiply resources, and inspire and engage people. Most importantly, Jim loves the Service, its employees and its partners,” Service Director Dan Ashe said in announcing Kurth’s promotion. “I’m excited to work with Jim to continue improving the agency and strengthening our landscape-level collaborations with state wildlife agencies and other key partners.”

As deputy director for operations, Kurth will promote and implement the Service’s mission and priorities throughout the United States and abroad by developing and strengthening partnerships with other federal agencies and foreign governments, states, tribes, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector. He will also assist Director Ashe in ensuring agency performance and accountability, customer service and consistent application of all Service resource management policies.

Kurth will be responsible for managing the day-to-day implementation of the Service’s field-based mission. This includes overseeing an appropriated budget of $2.5 billion, and nearly 9,000 employees working across the nation and in many foreign countries. These employees spearhead efforts to conserve the nation’s native fish, wildlife and plants on 562 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts encompassing more than 560 million acres in all 50 states and U.S. territories; operate 69 national fish hatcheries; and administer fish and wildlife programs, including endangered species recovery, from 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field offices nationwide.

Kurth is a 35-year Service veteran and a career federal employee. He began his Refuge System career in 1979 at Mississippi SandhiIl Crane National Wildlife Refuge. He then moved on to a series of positions with progressively greater responsibilities at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee Refuge in Florida, Bogue Chitto Refuge in Louisiana, Seney Refuge in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Ninigret Refuge in Rhode Island.

Beginning in 1994 until he became deputy chief, Kurth managed the 20-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alaska – the largest wildlife refuge in the United States. Arctic Refuge also contains the 8-million-acre Mollie Beattie Wilderness Area, the largest wilderness within the Refuge System. During his time there, Kurth proved adept at bringing competing interests together and navigating complex environmental challenges affecting one of the nation’s most prominent refuges.

Cynthia Martinez, who has been deputy chief of the Refuge System, will serve as acting chief until Kurth’s replacement is selected.

February 2015

!Because of the the weather "Audubon At Home" has been rescheduled for March 21st!

Audubon At Home

Wondering what it takes to attract birds to your garden? Let Audubon PA show you how to create your own backyard habitat for wildlife using six simple principles that lead to better ecological address and a greener "you. " Judith Acker will present the program "Audubon At Home" at the Erie National Wildlife Refuge Saturday, February 21st at 6:30PM. Call 814-789-3585 to register.

Trash to Treasure Contest 2015

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. More details coming soon.

ENWR’s Nature Photo Contest

2015 is the year for the Erie National Wildlife Refuge’s Biannual Nature Photo Contest, so all you amateur photographers out there should warm up your cameras and get ready. More information will be coming soon.

President Requests $1.6 Billion in Fiscal Year 2016 for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 discretionary budget request supports $1.6 billion in programs for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an increase of $135.7 million over the 2015 enacted level.

“Investing in the conservation of our wildlife and habitat resources results in myriad health and economic benefits to U.S. communities,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “Investing in the next American generation is also critical, so we are creating new ways to engage young audiences in outdoor experiences, both on wildlife refuges and partner lands. With 80 percent of the U.S. population currently residing in urban communities, helping urban dwellers to rediscover the outdoors is a priority for the Service.”

This budget invests in the science-based conservation and restoration of land, water and native species on a landscape scale, considering the impacts of a changing climate; expansion and improvement of recreational opportunities — such as hunting, fishing and wildlife watching — for all Americans, including urban populations; increased efforts to combat illegal wildlife trafficking, which is an international crisis; and the operation and maintenance of public lands.

America’s Great Outdoors – This initiative, a Service priority, seeks to empower all Americans to share the benefits of the outdoors, and leave a healthy, vibrant outdoor legacy for generations to come. In 2016, a total of $1.5 billion in current funding is proposed for the Service as part of the Administration’s initiative to reconnect Americans to the outdoors while developing a landscape level understanding of a changing climate. This includes $1.3 billion for Service operations, an increase of $119.2 million over the 2015 enacted level.

A critical component of America’s Great Outdoors is the National Wildlife Refuge System. Funding for the operation and maintenance of the Refuge System is requested at $508.2 million, an increase of $34 million above the 2015 enacted level. Included in that increase is an additional $5 million for the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program, which will extend opportunities to engage more urban youth and adults.

The budget also requests $108.3 million for grant programs administered by the Service that support America’s Great Outdoors goals. Programs such as the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants are an important source of funds for the conservation and improvement of a range of wildlife and the landscapes on which they depend.

Land Acquisition – The 2016 Federal Land Acquisition program builds on efforts started in 2011 to strategically invest in the highest priority conservation areas through better coordination among Department of the Interior agencies and the U.S. Forest Service. This budget includes $164.8 million for federal land acquisition, composed of $58.5 million in current funding and $106.3 million in proposed permanent funding. The budget provides an overall increase of $117.2 million above the 2015 enacted level. An emphasis on the use of these funds is to work with willing landowners to secure public access to places to recreate, hunt and fish.

Cooperative Recovery – Species recovery is another important Service priority addressed in this budget. For 2016, the President requests a total of $10.7 million, an increase of $4.8 million over the enacted level, for cooperative recovery. The focus will be on implementing recovery actions for species nearing delisting or reclassification from endangered to threatened, and actions that are urgently needed for critically endangered species.

Ecological Services – The budget includes $258.2 million to conserve, protect and enhance listed and at-risk wildlife and their habitats, an increase of $32.3 million compared with the 2015 enacted level. These increases include a $4 million program increase to support conservation of the sagebrush steppe ecosystem, which extends across 11 states in the intermountain West. Conservation of this vast area requires a collaborative effort unprecedented in geographic scope and magnitude. To achieve sustainable conservation success for this ecosystem, the Service has identified priority needs for basic scientific expertise, technical assistance for on-the-ground support, and internal and external coordination, and partnership building with western states, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and other partners.

Additionally, the budget request contains a $4 million increase to ensure appropriate design and quick approval of important restoration projects that will be occurring in the Gulf of Mexico region in the near future. The Gulf of Mexico Watershed spans 31 states and is critical to the health and vitality of our nation’s natural and economic resources. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill dramatically increased the urgency of the Service’s work in the Gulf and our leadership responsibilities. Over the course of the next decade, billions of dollars in settlement funds, Clean Water Act penalties and Natural Resource Damage Assessment restitution will be directed toward projects to study and restore wildlife habitat in the Gulf of Mexico region. The Service is in high demand to provide technical assistance and environmental clearances for these projects, and this funding will ensure that this demand can be met.

To learn more about the President’s FY 2016 budget request for the Department of the Interior, visit: www.doi.gov/budget.

Fostering a New Generation Of Outdoor Enthusiasts

The newest Conserving the Future implementation team – the Outdoor Recreation Team – is developing a strategy to expand outdoor recreation on national wildlife refuges to fulfill Recommendation 18 (http://1.usa.gov/1yftGMA). The goal is to create a Refuge System recreation program that is relevant and accessible to all Americans in order to create a connected conservation constituency.

The team is chaired by Marcia Pradines, chief of the Division of Visitor Services and Communications; Will Meeks, assistant regional director for refuges in the Mountain-Prairie Region; and Charlie Blair, assistant regional director for refuges in the Midwest Region.

“The Hunting, Fishing and Outdoor Recreation Team did a terrific job writing a strategic plan that will advance hunting and fishing on national wildlife refuges,” said Pradines. “This new team will focus on recreation that is both compatible to the wildlife conservation mission of refuges but also more accessible to ‘nature novices.’ This team is considering how to invite them to enjoy and care about wildlife, and help them become comfortable enjoying the great outdoors.”

The Outdoor Recreation Team is assembling four sub-teams, working to prepare draft products as early as July. The sub-teams are:

  • Recreation Access: The team will look at improving signs along highways and at other places that inform visitors and also research how transportation affects access. The team will consider how to streamline national guidance on accessibility, and calculate what it will cost in infrastructure investments to provide better access.

  • Appropriate Refuge Uses: The team will develop additional appropriate uses guidance to focus on activities that attract new and diverse audiences and encourage partnerships with communities. New guidance would not compromise the standard that all recreation must be compatible with a refuge’s conservation mission.

  • Wildlife Observation/Photography: In an era when so many people have great cameras in their smartphones, the team is seeking to establish a photography initiative. The team will expand online resources – and develop training and mentoring opportunities for refuge staff and volunteers – in an effort to provide the Refuge System’s photography offerings to a broader cross-section of the public.

  • Other Recreation: Going beyond the “Big Six” – hunting, fishing, wildlife photography, wildlife observation, interpretation and environmental education – the team will, among other tasks, assemble examples of the kind of expansive recreation offered on some wildlife refuges. It also will ensure that at least one outdoor skills center will be launched to help foster a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts.
The concept of outdoor skills centers came from the Conserving the Future Hunting, Fishing and Outdoor Recreation team, which last year issued its strategy (http://bit.ly/1vNt8dr). It called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to undertake steps to increase quality hunting and fishing opportunities. The team also recommended greater collaboration with state agencies in hunting and fishing programs; development of guidance for continuation of fish stocking programs and consideration of new stocking programs; and mentoring of a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts, among other steps.

The new Outdoor Recreation Team expects complete its work in about two years.

January 2015

Fish and Wildlife Service Requests Public Comment on Oil and Gas Rulemaking

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the opening of a 60-day comment period for public input on managing non-federal oil and gas development on National Wildlife Refuge System lands.

On many Service lands, including wildlife refuges, the federal government does not own the rights to subsurface minerals. Instead, mineral rights are owned by private individuals or other entities, which have the legal authority to develop their oil and gas resources.

Based on the Service’s best data, more than 200 refuges have oil and gas operations, including more than 5,000 wells, almost 1,600 actively producing oil and gas wells, and almost 1,300 miles of pipelines. 

The rulemaking effort is part of the Service’s ongoing commitment to avoid or minimize adverse effects on natural and cultural resources and wildlife-dependent recreation, ensure a consistent and effective regulatory environment for oil and gas operators, and protect public health and safety.

The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published in the Federal Register on February 24. Comments must be received on or before April 25. The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. The Service cannot accept email or faxes.

Written comments and information can be submitted by one of the following methods: Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWS–HQ–NWRS–2012–0086]; or U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS–HQ–NWRS–2012–0086]; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

“Throughout the process, the Service will work with the public, the oil and gas industry and conservation groups to ensure we are using the best management practices and other industry standards for the conservation of fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats,” said Director Dan Ashe.

Since this is a formal rulemaking process with subsequent National Environmental Policy Act support, the Service anticipates the effort will take at least three years to complete.

Comments and materials, as well as supporting documentation, will be available for public inspection at http://www.regulations.gov under the above docket number. In addition, more details on the kinds of information the Service is seeking is available in the notice and will be posted online at http://www.fws.gov/refuges/oil-and-gas/

It’s More than A Duck Stamp. It’s a Champion for Conservation
By Dan Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

It’s sometimes easy to lose hope these days, given the challenges our nation faces and the seemingly intractable political polarization of our society. But President Obama’s approval in December of bipartisan legislation raising the price of the federal Duck Stamp is a reminder that we’re still capable of great things as a nation.

The federal Duck Stamp program is one of the most successful conservation initiatives in history. Since the program’s creation in 1934, funding from Duck Stamp sales has been used to acquire and permanently protect more than 6 million acres of vital National Wildlife Refuge System habitat. Much of this wetland and grassland acreage – which supports hundreds of native species of migratory birds, animals and plants – would otherwise have been plowed under or paved over.

Rising land prices have steadily eroded our ability to protect other vulnerable habitat through acquisitions and the purchase of conservation easements on private land. Raising the price of the Duck Stamp from $15 to $25 will restore most of the purchasing power that has been lost since the price was last increased in 1991. With the additional funds generated by the increase, we anticipate being able to protect an estimated 17,000 additional acres of habitat every year.

This will also benefit Americans of all ages and backgrounds. All hunters 16 and older are required to possess a valid stamp, but anyone who cares about conservation can buy one. And what’s more, lands acquired and protected with Duck Stamp dollars are accessible to everyone – not just for hunting, but for wildlife watching, photography and other outdoor recreation. A valid Duck Stamp can also be used for free admission to scores of national wildlife refuges that charge admission fees.

Wetlands and associated uplands are as important for people as they are for wildlife. They provide natural protection against flooding and storm surges; filter pollutants from water used for drinking, cooking and sanitation; and support thousands of jobs and local businesses linked to outdoor recreation and tourism.

Perhaps most importantly, the Duck Stamp price increase represents an emphatic expression of optimism for the future. After all, the stamp itself was born out of far more desperate circumstances.

More than 80 years ago, at the height of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, our nation’s waterfowl and migratory birds faced devastation. Yet in the midst of ecological collapse, widespread poverty and unemployment, many Americans refused to give up. Led by hunters, they played an instrumental part in the passage of the Duck Stamp Act of 1934.

That success inspired passage of the Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, which created an excise tax on firearms and ammunition (later expanded to fishing rods, reels and equipment) that has raised more than $14 billion to support conservation at the state level. These historic conservation achievements laid the foundation for the return of healthy wildlife populations and habitat across the nation.

Hunting groups led efforts to raise the price of the stamp. Organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Refuge Association mobilized their members in support, and hunters across the nation contacted members of Congress to urge passage. That’s why this successful program continues to enjoy strong bipartisan support in Congress and the Executive Branch.

We face enormous conservation challenges in the coming decades and we must confront them as one nation, indivisible. The federal Duck Stamp shows us the way forward. Together, we can ensure that future of our native wildlife and wild places.

More Than 113,000 Acres Conserved Last Fiscal Year

Fiscal Year 2014, which ended on September 30, 2014, saw some growth in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The Refuge System established one new refuge -- Wapato Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon — in FY14 and added 113,403 acres, including 28,549 acres in fee title and 84,854 acres under easement or lease, at 78 national wildlife refuges and 26 wetland management districts, spanning 40 states. The total includes 74,435 acres conserved in the Prairie Pothole Region.

As of September 30, 2014, the Refuge System includes 562 national wildlife refuges, 209 waterfowl production area counties (managed by 38 wetland management districts), and 50 coordination areas, spanning more than 150 million acres. Refuge System staff also manage an additional 418 million acres of submerged lands and waters in four marine national monuments. The FY14 Statistical Data Tables for Lands Under Control of the Fish & Wildlife Service are available online at http://www.fws.gov/refuges/land/LandReport.html. 

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