FRIENDS OF ANAHUAC REFUGE
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/
For more stories like this, visit http://www.fws.gov/refuges/friends/newswire/
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/
By National Wildlife Refuge Association
Beginning today, March 1st, the Federal government is set to enact severe budget cuts known as “Sequestration”. The whole idea of the sequester was that it would be so senseless, that Congress would find a way to reduce our deficits and cut spending in thoughtful ways that didn’t gut government programs that are doing wonderful things for the American people.
However, Congress has not come to any bi-partisan decisions and thus, across the board spending cuts will take effect. The cuts are indiscriminate so every budget line in the FWS is cut an equal amount.
The FWS is currently determining exactly what will occur and we will share information as we receive it but here’s what we do know. According to the Department of the Interior, Sequestration will force FWS to:
hese impacts alone will have serious impacts to our refuges nationwide. If a refuge depends on seasonal fire crews to reduce fuel loads or conduct seasonal burns, there is a good chance it will not occur. If a refuge depends on seasonal workers, such as biotechs, maintenance crews or environmental education specialists, for help during the summer they will likely not be hired.
In many places, refuges will halt the use of volunteers due to a lack of staff to oversee their work. There is a true chance that the 20% of work done by volunteers on our refuges will be ended or severely curtailed.
This – as bad as it seems – could just be the start. Should Congress also enact further budget cuts for their final FY 2013 budget (as proposed by the House) as well as their FY 2014 budget for next year, the cuts could reach 23% of current funding forcing the FWS to:
The National Wildlife Refuge Association agrees that our federal deficits should be dealt with, but this indiscriminate across the board cut unfairly hurts agencies like the U.S. FWS and its National Wildlife Refuge System. Refuges are economic engines in local communities returning $8 in economic activity for every $1 appropriated to run them. These cuts will cripple our communities at a time when we are just emerging from a severe recession.
For more articles from the National Wildlife Refuge Association, visit http://refugeassociation.org/2013/02/sequestration/
Photo credit FWS
“Be on the refuge at sunrise and you can hear the cackle and calling of thousands of geese and waterfowl with no horns or vehicles at all,” says Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge manager Jimmy Laurent.
Huge flocks of snow geese, 27 species of ducks, songbirds and alligators all make their way to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, along Galveston Bay on the Texas Gulf coast. Established in 1963, the refuge protects coastal marsh for migrating, wintering and breeding waterfowl, shorebirds and waterbirds. Anahuac Refuge also provides crucial nesting areas for neotropical songbirds migrating across the Gulf of Mexico.
Laurent says habitat and bird counts are just about recovered since the devastation caused by Hurricane Ike in 2008 and the subsequent drought. The marsh was cleaned of contaminants and debris left by the hurricane and then flushed with fresh water. There is a new underground irrigation system and stronger aluminum water control structures. Maintenance facilities and a new visitor center have been built on higher ground. The Anahuac Refuge Visitor Center even boasts a complete working air boat.
Located between the Mississippi River and the Central Flyway, the refuge is a fall out area for these migrating birds. Anahuac Refuge is the first land stop coming north and the last heading south, so exhausted birds literally “fall out of the sky” seeking food and rest. Anahuac Refuge hosts about 70,000 visitors each year – many of them spring birders and photographers.
A 50th Anniversary Celebration is planned on February 27, with a morning bird tour and presentation at the visitor center. For details, contact Tamara_Schutter@fws.gov (409-267- 3337) Throughout the year the Friends of Anahuac Refuge will be gathering material for a 50th Anniversary book of the refuge, covering wildlife, management tools, volunteers and habitat. The book is to be published in spring 2014. On November 16, a Wildlife Expo will conclude the anniversary year celebrations.
There are several trails on the refuge, as well as a two-and-a-half mile auto tour around Shoveler Pond. Between October and March, visitors are likely to see multiple species of ducks, including green-winged teal, gadwall, shoveler and northern pintail. Snow geese feed in rice fields. Throughout the year, there are roseate spoonbills, great and snowy egrets, white faced ibis and mottled ducks on the refuge. The mottled duck is an indicator species for coastal marsh and wetland health. The duck is a priority for refuge management because the population is small and has a limited range.
For more stories like this, http://www.fws.gov/refuges/
By Jim Kurth
Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System
Twitter employees can use their laptops on the new 20,000-square-foot ninth-story deck and succulent plant garden at the company’s San Francisco headquarters. Cool perk, you think, but Twitter’s one of those edgy, new media employers. On the other hand, New Jersey’s BASF chemical company is an old-line corporation. Its employees now can hold meetings and conference calls on plant-filled patios and quads. Executives at the venerable public relations firm Ogilvy & Mather in New York can break from their office cubicles to take in Hudson River views on the company deck.
In years past, employees with some of the most progressive corporations boasted about foosball tables and free snacks. Now, they are bragging about outdoor workspace.
Research shows people feel less stress and may even perform better with some fresh air. So companies are investing in open-air places for employees to meet, work or just clear their heads.
Some corporations insist on outdoor space because employees do better when they have a variety of settings in which to work – including the great outdoors.
If some of America’s biggest employers have found that the outdoors is a boon to productivity and progress, it’s all the more reason for the National Wildlife Refuge System to expand its reach and improve environmental education offerings. We’ve already taken the first step with “Sowing Seeds of Wonder,” a draft strategic plan for improving environmental education, developed by the Conserving the Future Interpretation and Environmental Education implementation team.
Among the proposals: more chances for the public to participate in citizen science with such partners as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Project BudBurst; development of a national visitor services “communications hub” to share educational resources, including lesson plans; more mobile learning platforms; and stewardship activities for local schools.
Wildlife conservation is the Refuge System’s fundamental mission. But we won’t succeed if we don’t inspire the American people – especially our children – to connect with their wildlife heritage and become stewards of their natural resources. Wildlife refuges, integral to their local communities, are great places to broaden the nation’s conservation constituency.
After all, if the managers at Iowa law firm Foss, Kuiken & Cochran installed SkyCeiling – a faux skylight printed with images of a blue, sunny sky – to invigorate the office’s windowless reception area, imagine how thrilled they would be if their children could visit a real outdoor space – a national wildlife refuge – where the sky is naturally blue.
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