FRIENDS OF ANAHUAC REFUGE
After crossing the bridge over the little man-made pond, the trail curves back around a corner in an enticing sort of way. This time of year is wonderful because the grass is lush, the trees are budding out with almost translucent green leaves and the wildflower blooms dot the edges of the path with purple and yellow.
I had, as I generally do, spent too much time in the visitor center and gift shop, where I eventually shelled out enough on books to get a free travel mug. (All proceeds go to the Friends of the Anahuac Refuge.) But it was good. Not only had I brushed up on my knowledge of local wildlife through the great exhibits, but I also had a nice chat with volunteer, Dorothy Anderson. She told me what folks had spotted lately on the trail so I would know a few things to look for.
I set out hoping most to see the bald eagles but would have been happy to see a wood duck or two at the nesting boxes, even though I don’t consider myself much of a birder. (A good birder friend of mine once referred to me as a “starry-eyed generalist.” Guilty as charged.) This was my first time on the quarter-mile trail, and I was so pleased with it already. The woods around me rustled with wildlife, probably small birds and lizards picking at the dried leaves. The trail dropped down until it actually cut into the earth exposing white spots of clam shell from another time when Karankawa may have sat on the banks of Turtle Bay for a clambake of sorts.
If the whole trail would have continued on this way, I would have called it beautiful and worth the walk, but then I took another curve and there was the boardwalk opening up over the edge of Lake Anahuac. That’s when things got kind of magical. I couldn’t see the open lake yet because I was still among the cypress trees. The sounds changed, – still the rustle of bird feathers, but now the slosh of large fish that surfaced only fast enough to turn your head and see the ripple it left on the water’s surface. I did once peek over the edge of the boardwalk to see a dark shadow about a foot-and-a-half long cross under me, an unidentified fish.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught the movement of a dark water snake over the surface of the water. I stopped to watch him. I knew he was not a water moccasin but what exactly he was, I didn’t know. Good thing I had just bought a snake field guide in the gift shop. I pulled out my phone to snap a picture of him when I realize he was stalking a little frog. (Again, I couldn’t ID the frog, but there was actually a frog field guide back in the gift shop!) I switched the phone to video mode and waited.
The creepy fellow eased closer to the poor little frog that still didn’t move. It took a couple of minutes for the snake to slowly cross the span of only a few feet, but then just as it was about to strike, the frog sensed the danger and jumped away. The snake lunged forward and sped after the little guy, but it was too late. As fast as the snake was, the frog still covered more ground in two or three jumps and disappeared under the murky water. I realized I was holding my breath through this Discovery Channel moment.
I pointed the snake out to a couple who walked up behind me. In a beautiful Scandinavian accent, the woman said, “Lucky froggie.” Indeed.
I walked on to the end of the boardwalk at the edge of the trees where the water opened up in the expanse of Lake Anahuac. I hadn’t seen the bald eagles or the wood ducks. But it was ok. The trail was still the highlight of my day.
The Visitor Center is a good stop to include in any trip to Chambers County, but is what I would consider a Must Do if you are headed the Refuge. Not only is it a nice place to make a potty stop and stretch your legs after exiting the interstate, but you can pick up field guides, get an overview of flora and fauna from the excellent exhibits, and tap the most important resource offered, the volunteers. Find out what has been spotted recently in the area, what is expected, and if any activities, such as yellow rail walks, are taking place that day. Please remember to sign in!
The Visitor Center is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a half-hour lunch break from 12 to 12:30. Budget at least an hour of your time for this stop. If you have more time, you have a good chance of seeing more wild activity if you quietly sit at one of the benches along the trail and wait.
For more stories like, visit http://chamberswild.com/
Significant investment in landscape conservation and wildlife priorities
WASHINGTON, D.C.-NWRA applauds President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget for including important conservation priorities including the National Wildlife Refuge System and Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The President’s request includes $499 million for the National Wildlife Refuge System’s Operations and Maintenance (O&M) accounts; a level that importantly restores the cuts from sequestration and would ensure hunting, fishing and bird and wildlife watching opportunities are not lost to the public. An investment in the nation’s Refuge System is an excellent investment in the American economy. The System and its 45 million annual visitors contribute over $4 billion in economic output and provide more than $32 billion in ecosystem services.
The budget also outlines a path to full and dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, one of the nation’s most powerful land acquisition tools. This is in line with the priorities American’s want – clean air, clean water, places to recreate and keeping working lands working.
“President Obama has provided a budget proposal that keeps the American value of wildlife conservation at its core,” said David Houghton, President of NWRA. “We are particularly heartened by the use of mandatory funds for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the inclusion of the Everglades Headwaters in the request.”
The President’s strong support for collaborative conservation programs through the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative is an integral component of funding for future conservation successes. The NWRA-led Northern Everglades initiative, which includes the Everglades Headwaters NWR and Conservation Area, has become a national example of landscape conservation. The budget request includes $5M for the Everglades Headwaters, which will provide funds to jumpstart the effort to ensure clean water for South Florida, sustain critical wildlife corridors, and continue a traditional ranching way of life.
NWRA also commended the President on the funding request for two other NWRA priorities, the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas and Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge encompassing the entire Connecticut River Watershed in New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, with requested amounts of $5M and $4.6M respectively for continued collaborative conservation work. These refuges are also the first two designated National Blueways and highlight the Administration’s dedication to protect our nation’s vital waterways and watersheds.
NWRA urges Congress to support the President’s funding request for the Refuge System, Land and Water Conservation Fund and wildlife conservation programs. Congress is expected to take up the President’s budget in May and pass a final appropriations bill by September 30.
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.
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Washington, D.C.--The National Wildlife Refuge Association today expressed its strong support for Sally Jewell as the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior following the Senate’s confirmation of her nomination last night. Jewell’s appreciation for the outdoors and wildlife as well as her extensive knowledge of the economic benefits of our natural resources will bring a unique perspective in the President’s cabinet.
"We are extremely pleased by the Senate’s confirmation of Sally Jewell to be the 51st Secretary of the Interior and look forward to working closely with her to grow our nation’s commitment to wildlife conservation at a landscape level, in places such as the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area in Florida, the Silvio Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in the Connecticut River watershed and Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas.” said David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “She will undoubtedly be an excellent spokesperson for the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative and will continue to bring attention to our nation’s great public lands.”
Jewell has earned national recognition for her management skills of the nearly $2 billion outdoor equipment company, REI. This expertise makes her uniquely qualified to lead an agency with hundreds of millions of acres of lands where Americans go to enjoy outdoor recreation.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The sun literally never sets on its 150 million acres spanning 560 units from Guam to Puerto Rico. Over 40 million annual visitors contribute over $4.2 billion in economic output and over 34,000 jobs from recreation-related spending. National wildlife refuges and their recreational opportunities is part of a growing industry in the United States. Jewell’s leadership at the helm of the Department of Interior comes at a crucial time.
“Sally Jewell has been a leader in the outdoor recreation industry using innovative strategies to protect and restore wildlife habitat throughout the Pacific Northwest and across the country; as Secretary of the Interior, she will have an opportunity to articulate and implement a larger conservation vision for the nation.” said Houghton. “We look forward to working with her to further the goals and mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Wildlife Refuge System.”
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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.”
The Strategic Growth team, as part of the Conserving the Future implementation, has worked on recommendations to sharpen the Refuge System’s focus so lands are added effectively and strategically. After a public review process in coming months, the team’s recommendations are expected to become Refuge System policy.
The team is outlining the Refuge System’s most important conservation objectives, ensuring that lands and waters are acquired to help achieve priority objectives, such as recovering threatened or endangered species, implementing the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, or conserving migratory birds with declining populations.
The need to identify priorities has never been clearer. The Refuge System’s recently completed “rapid assessment” of land protection projects showed that more than five million acres could still be purchased within the acquisition boundaries of existing wildlife refuges. “That would take 100 years to complete at current funding levels,” says Eric Alvarez, chief of the Refuge System Division of Realty.
Refuge Friends groups often play a significant role in helping refuges expand their boundaries. In some cases, community organizations that subsequently became Friends groups were instrumental in establishing new refuges.
“We need Friends talking in their communities about the importance of land to protect wildlife and meet the mission of the Refuge System,” says Alvarez.
All land acquisition proposals must identify priority conservation objectives and the surrogate species that represent them. The recently establishment Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area in Florida, for example, provides habitat for both endangered species and migratory birds.
Planning for Refuge System growth will be enhanced by the scientific capacity of the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs). The Service will look to its partners to work within the LCC framework to help it identify new lands for the Refuge System.
Additional information about the work of the Conserving the Future implementation teams can be found at http://americaswildlife.org/.
Photo: Strategic Growth
Friends of Hackmatack was essential to the establishment of Hackmatack Refuge (WI/IL) the nation’s 561st national wildlife refuge.
Credit: Tina Shaw
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Bringing The Vision To Your Community
Conserving the Future concepts are getting real.
As spring and fall dates for some finalized plans draw near, many implementation teams are drafting strategies that are available for public discourse.
Reading the draft plans makes one fact stand out, says Conserving the Future implementation coordinator Anna Harris: The National Wildlife Refuge System will operate differently in the coming decade than it has in the past. “We have long talked about reaching people who live in cities, younger people and those from varied ethnic backgrounds. These plans will transform talk into action.”
The Communications implementation team has put forth a five-year strategic plan that seeks first to reach key audiences where they live; then increase online and in-person visits to wildlife refuges; and ultimately build the next generation of Refuge System supporters. The plan details a host of tactics – from marketing partnerships with non-traditional partners to greater use of online communications to traveling Refuge Live! activity centers.
Recognizing that there are eight times more annual volunteers than Refuge System employees, the Community Partnership implementation team is putting on the fast track creation of a “one-stop shopping” Web portal for staff and volunteers. That team also is working with the Interpretation and Environmental Education (I&EE) team to establish an ambassador program that will train employees to provide excellent customer service and strengthen community relations.
The I&EE team recognizes that “education programs are quickly evolving to ‘anytime, anywhere’ platforms.” The team’s draft strategy calls for development of a “rapid self-assessment tool” by June 2013 so wildlife refuges can evaluate their EE programs.
The strategy also proposes establishment of EE “centers of excellence” and an online clearinghouse that highlights professional development opportunities. Other elements of the draft strategies:
The Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative is evaluating more than two dozen proposals to create an urban presence in 10 geographically diverse areas across the country.
To keep up-to-date on Conserving the Future developments, go online at: http://americaswildlife.org/
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It was blasted cold for southeast Texas this past Saturday morning undefined 22 degrees according to the truck's thermometer undefined and ice coated the surface of ditches bracketing the gravel road carved through the marsh on the north side of East Galveston Bay.
My mind wandered as I watched a handful of ducks bore low over the flat, winter-browned landscape, looking for some patch of unfrozen water into which they could pitch and settle. I imagined the swarms of waterfowl I'd have seen had I been at this spot 115 years ago.
The year 1895 was on my mind as I drove toward the edge of East Galveston Bay on this coldest morning in more than a decade. It was, in fact, the reason for my destination.
The unusual cold snap was severe enough to raise concerns of a die-off of fish in the bays undefined such severe freezes can decimate populations of coastal fish whose physiology can't handle water temperatures much below 45 degrees.
I decided to spend that frigid Saturday morning checking to see if, indeed, fish were dying from the cold and shooting photos documenting the icy conditions and any deceased fish that showed.
I knew the perfect spot: Frozen Point.
Frozen Point juts from the north side of East Galveston Bay nearly directly opposite of Rollover Bay on Bolivar Peninsula. Since it's toward the back of the bay and adjacent to shallow water, any freeze-killed fish are likely to show up there.
Many anglers know of Frozen Point; it's on all the maps and is a popular access spot for wade-fishers and kayakers.
But few of those folks know its history .
Here in the wake of the recent frozen weather, Frozen Point's story seems worth telling. It is, I believe, a fascinating tale that involves one of the most extreme cold-weather events documented to have hit the Texas coast and illustrates the challenges our ancestors faced.
Frozen Point didn't have a name before February 1895. The angular protrusion into East Galveston Bay was just a part of the sprawling Jackson Ranch.
Also called the JHK Ranch, it was one of the original cattle-ranching operations in Chambers County. Started in the mid-1800s by patriarch James Jackson, the ranch included thousands of acres of prairie and marsh on the north side of East Galveston Bay.
On Feb. 13, 1895, a severe cold front hit the upper Texas coast. Snow began falling on the prairie and marsh and on the 6,000 head of cattle on the JHK Ranch. By the next day, more than 20 inches of snow had fallen on Houston, Galveston and the surrounding region undefined the most ever recorded.
And that blizzard, with its record snow, blistering north wind and the below-freezing temperatures, set the stage for events that gave Frozen Point its name.
Ralph Semmes Jackson, grandson of James Jackson, recounted what happened in his book, Home on the Double Bayou undefined Memories of an East Texas Ranch.
“During the winter of 1895 a severe blizzard swept across Texas to the Gulf of Mexico, leaving misery and destruction in its wake. When the storm was over snow stood three feet deep on the prairies at Double Bayou.
“As the storm struck, the some six thousand head of cattle that were pastured on the Jackson Ranch turned tail to the driving snow and started drifting south with the wind.
“When they reached the shores of East Bay they walked off into the warmer waters of the Bay and were drowned by the thousands.
“Of the six thousand head of cattle, only a fraction of this number escaped the disaster, leaving a pitifully small herd with which to start over again.
“After the storm abated, the men of the family saddled their horses and rode toward the Bay shore, fearful of what they would find.
“Reaching East Bay, they saw dead cattle lying so thick in the shallow waters along the shore that a man could walk for several hundred yards out into the Bay on the bodies of the dead cattle.
“There was a point of land extending out into the Bay where most of the cattle made their last stand before stepping off into the water to their death.
“From that day forward this point of land was known as Frozen Point.”
The parking area at Frozen Point was empty that morning two Saturdays ago. I walked the shoreline shooting photos of the frozen puddles on the bay bottom exposed by a strong north wind, a great blue heron trying to choke down a freeze-killed sand trout and clumps of pelicans and gulls feasting on the scattering of cold-killed mullet .
Standing on an icy tuft of cordgrass just short of the tip of Frozen Point, I squinted my eyes and imagined that Valentine's Day 115 years ago. I tried to conjure the cold and the snow and the rafts of dead livestock.
Nearby, a handful of cattle looked chilled and miserable.
If they only knew the history of the ground upon which they walked ...
Kroger Supports Texas and Louisiana
Community Groups with $1 Million Donation
Grocer’s Annual Neighbor to Neighbor Program Helps FOAR Press Forward with Initiatives
The Kroger Neighbor to Neighbor program presents 501(c) (3) non-profits, churches and schools (K-12) the opportunity to receive a percentage of the $1 million that the grocer awards annually to local groups in Texas and Louisiana.
Fundraising is essential to FOAR because it allows us the ability to continue supporting the refuge. More than 1,885 organizations received a percentage of the payout for the 2011-2012 program year.
Kroger will be accepting new applicants for the 2013-2014 program year starting June 1. Every year groups must enroll to be an active participant, including those who have participated previously. Additionally, supporting customers need to re-link their Kroger Plus card to their charity of choice each year. This year, organizations enrolled by December 31, 2012 are eligible to accrue money. Registered groups will have the opportunity to accumulate funds through April 30, 2013.
Shoppers can link their Kroger Plus card to FOAR by presenting our program flyer to the cashier the next time they check out. The cashier will scan their Kroger Plus card and then the barcode to link to our organization. Once the process is complete, the customer will be enrolled as a supporter for the remainder of the current program year. Every time the customer shops, a portion of their sale will be contributed to the Neighbor to Neighbor fund. Participating charities are awarded a percentage of the $1 million payout that reflects the number of qualifying purchases made during the program year.
To learn more about the Neighbor to Neighbor program and how to get involved, visit www.krogerneighbortoneighbor.com.
The Kroger Southwest Division operates 207 stores, 198 pharmacies and 106 fuel centers in Texas and Louisiana and is part of one of the nation’s largest retail grocery chains serving customers in 31 states. For more than 125 years, Kroger has emphasized a customer-first approach to providing quality products, value pricing, outstanding service and an exceptional shopping experience. Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, the supermarket retailer is dedicated to making a difference in the communities it serves by supporting hunger relief, education, health and wellness, and diversity programs. Resulting from the retailer’s philanthropic commitment, Forbes Magazine lists Kroger as the most generous company in America. For more information about Kroger, please visit www.kroger.com.
Photo by Pelican Island Preservation Society
On March 14, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt signed an executive order establishing Pelican Island as the first federal bird reservation – the forerunner of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Bicyclist Mike Beck is celebrating the 110th birthday of Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, FL, with a 14-day Awareness Ride, beginning March 2 in Washington, D.C., with plans to ride into Sebastian Riverview Park near the refuge in time for a Wildlife Festival on March 16
Cyclists are encouraged to join Beck for any leg of the journey as he builds awareness of Pelican Island Refuge and the Refuge System. For more details, click here. The ride is being organized by the refuge Friends group, the Pelican Island Preservation Society.
The refuge mission still involves protecting the historic rookery, as well as enhancing and restoring marsh and lagoon habitat for migratory birds. Pelican Island is a National Historic Landmark, National Wilderness Area, Wetland of International Importance and State Aquatic Reserve.
More than 30 species of birds use Pelican Island as a rookery, roost, feeding ground or loafing area. Sixteen species nest on the island, including egrets, herons, ibis, oyster catchers and, of course, the brown pelican. Local boat, kayak and canoe tour vendors offer rentals and trips to view Pelican Island wildlife. Fishing is permitted in the open waters of the refuge.
For more stories like this, visit http://www.fws.gov/refuges/
The Friends of Anahuac Refuge was established in 1997 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in Anahuac, TX.
For questions, call the refuge office at 409-267-3337.
P.O. Box 1348
Anahuac, TX 77514
Refuge Office Address:
4017 FM 563, Anahuac, TX 77514