FRIENDS OF ANAHUAC REFUGE
“Interpretation is an art, which combines with many arts,” said Freeman Tilden, author of Interpreting Our Heritage and a father of interpretation.
That philosophy is at the essence of the draft Strategic Plan for Interpretation, which has one overriding goal: to strengthen, formalize and institutionalize interpretation within the Refuge System.
The draft plan, having gone through a six-week public review process, is now back in the hands of the Conserving the Future Interpretation and Environmental Education implementation team. The plan is expected to be finalized later this year.
Among the plan’s approaches that have gotten solid support are:
The plan also recommends that by 2014, a “visitor services connect” online site be established to share, among other elements, innovative and successful interpretation-through-art examples. On the site, professionals also will be able to learn about the use of emerging technologies to convey complex biological information and the concept of a land ethic in a way that will encourage people to care about the natural resources that sustain them.
“A nature guide is an interpreter of geology, botany, zoology and natural history,” said Enos Mills, a protégé of John Muir and author of Adventures of a Nature Guide. The draft interpretation strategy – to be coupled with an environmental education proposed strategy, which is open for public comment thro9ugh June 28 – is a step toward ensuring that many more Refuge System staff and volunteers can be inspirational nature guides.
To keep pace with progress by the Conserving the Future Interpretation and Environmental Education implementation teams and other teams, go to http://AmericasWildlife.org/.
For more stories like this, visit http://www.fws.gov/refuges/friends/newswire/
By Jim Kurth, Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System
Many concepts of modern strategic habitat conservation have their roots in the past 50 years of work in the Prairie Pothole Region.
We identified our conservation target: waterfowl. We understood the challenge: habitat loss. We knew we had to work at a landscape scale to be successful. We recognized that working lands in private ownership were a key. Over the years, the Refuge System has purchased more than 700,000 acres of waterfowl production areas. They provide great duck nesting habitat and are places where people can enjoy hunting and other outdoor recreation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enlarged its conservation footprint by purchasing more than 2.7 million acres of easements.
In 1986, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan put our efforts into sharper focus. It laid out population objectives that we could step down into habitat protection strategies. Over time, our Habitat and Population Evaluation Team (HAPET) scientists have used emerging tools and technology, like geospatial data analysis and modeling, to pinpoint the best areas for waterfowl nesting. This helps us get the highest conservation return on investment.
Recently, threats to habitat in the Prairie Pothole Region have accelerated. High prices for agricultural commodities are resulting in large tracts of prairie being converted to row crops. Tile drainage is expanding into new areas. A boom in oil, gas and wind energy is further fragmenting the landscape. Service Director Dan Ashe responded to this crisis by directing 70 percent of the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to the Prairie Pothole Region and requiring science-based investment decisions. Our longstanding partner, Ducks Unlimited, is helping us accelerate land protection. We are in a race against time.
It’s hard to envision what the Prairie Pothole Region will look like a hundred years from now.
I remember how it looked when I made my first trip to the field after moving to headquarters in 1999. I visited Windom Wetland Management District in Minnesota with my long-time friend, now-retired refuge supervisor Don Hultman. The district manager then was Steve Kallin, whom I met in college at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 1974.
It was a beautiful spring day at Windom, full of songs of meadowlarks, bobolinks and red-winged blackbirds. As we walked across a waterfowl production area, a hen mallard flushed a few feet ahead of us. Steve gently pulled back some of the grasses, and there it was, a clutch of mallard eggs. I remember feeling incredibly happy. It was a simple moment of shared pride in generations of conservation work.
I am thankful for the visionaries who began this work and am proud of the generations of professionals who have continue to protect and manage our wetland management districts. I know today’s wetland managers, who are the best trained and best equipped ever, will carry on this great legacy.
Tundra swans at Hecla Waterfowl Production Area, part of Sand Lake Wetland Management District in South Dakota. (Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS)
Fore more stories like this, visit http://www.fws.gov/refuges/friends/newswire/
Progress comes in waves.
For Conserving the Future, this is high tide.
Working to meet deadlines for final products, Conserving the Future implementation teams are reviewing hundreds of comments as they finalize strategic plans on landscape conservation planning, national communications, community partnerships and other issues.
The Strategic Growth implementation team has completed a comprehensive assessment of the National Wildlife Refuge System’s land acquisitions. The assessment shows that more than five million acres could still be purchased within acquisition boundaries of existing wildlife refuges. By some estimates, such acquisitions could take 100 years to complete at current funding levels. Looking forward, the team suggests that Refuge System land protection goals should be directed at priority conservation targets, with positive impacts within and beyond refuge boundaries.
The team’s work has resulted in a draft strategic growth policy, which would sharpen the Refuge System’s focus so lands are added effectively and strategically. Among other recent actions:
At the same time, planning for training in urban issues is in high gear. About 150 invitations are expected to be extended for the training at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV, Sept. 23-25. Those attending will include Service staff working in or near urban areas and those who want to build stronger programs to reach this segment of the nation. The training will be a chance to hear about the work of the urban team, which has, among other things, developed standards of excellence for wildlife refuges working in urban areas and researched way to reach new audiences.
To keep abreast of Conserving the Future news, go to http://AmericasWildlife.org, where you can find quarterly progress reports and more information.
The President’s fiscal year 2014 budget request provides $1.6 billion for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an increase of $76.4 million over the 2012 enacted budget. Funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System is requested at $499.2 million, an increase of $12.7 million over the enacted level. The Congress must act on the proposed budget.
“The Service’s budget reflects the tough choices all federal agencies must make as we seek to shrink federal spending while continuing to meet our critical commitments and fund high priority programs,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “It focuses our resources on transforming the agency to meet the conservation challenges of the 21st century and remain relevant in a changing American society. By building science capacity and focusing on strategic, partnership-driven landscape conservation, this budget will enable us to be more effective and efficient with the funding we receive.”
The budget request for the Refuge System enables refuges to complete additional habitat improvement projects. It also includes $3.2 million for the Cooperative Recovery initiative to address threats to endangered species on and around wildlife refuges, and $3.8 million for the Challenge Cost Share program, which funds a variety of small-scale projects undertaken with partners.
The request for Refuge Inventory and Monitoring is $3 million above the FY 2012 enacted level and will be used to continue building the landscape scale, long-term inventory and monitoring network that the Service began in FY 2010.
An additional $2.7 million will be used for refuge law enforcement to respond to drug production and smuggling, wildlife poaching, illegal border activity, assaults, and a variety of natural resource violations.
The 2014 budget continues the Service’s commitment to ecosystem restoration on a landscape level by requesting $87.2 million for several priority ecosystems, which encompass many wildlife refuges. This funding supports restoration work in the Everglades ($16 million); California Bay-Delta ($4.9 million); Gulf Coast ($10.2 million); Chesapeake Bay ($10.3 million); and Great Lakes ($45.8 million).
For more information about the proposed budget for the Department of the Interior, go to: http://www.doi.gov/budget/index.cfm
For more stories like this, visit http://www.fws.gov/refuges/friends/newswire/
A strain of naturally occurring soil bacteria tested on national wildlife refuges and other western lands may soon offer rangeland managers a safe new way to manage cheatgrass, an aggressive plant pest.
Cheatgrass is a Eurasian invasive plant that is now found in the United States, Canada and Mexico. It covers hundreds of thousands of square miles, including the fragile sagebrush steppe habitat that is the home of the increasingly rare greater sage-grouse. In the Great Basin states of Nevada, Utah, Oregon and California, cheatgrass is spreading at the rate of thousands of acres per day. Wherever cheatgrass grows, unwanted wildfires burn hotter, more frequently and disrupt fragile ecosystems.
The native bacterium doesn’t have a catchy name; researchers refer to it simply as ACK55. But many hopes are riding on this strain of Pseudomonas fluorescens.
“I’m convinced it will work as long as the bacteria are applied in the fall to the soil so they can colonize emerging cheatgrass roots in the spring,” says Michael Gregg, a Land Management Research and Demonstration biologist at the Mid-Columbia River Refuges Complex in Washington state. Gregg is working to convince others that ACK55 belongs in the big leagues of land management. The message is getting through.
In addition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, government agencies expressing interest in the natural cheatgrass inhibitor include the National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.
“A biopesticide is much more cost-effective than an herbicide and less damaging to the environment and human health,” says Hilda Diaz-Soltero, senior invasive species coordinator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She hopes the inter-agency interest will speed further research designed to lead to the product’s approval as a commercial biopesticide.
Early test results have been impressive. In long-term field trials at Hanford Reach National Monument/ Saddle Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Washington, single applications of ACK55 dramatically reduced cheatgrass in three to five years while not hurting other plants or animals. Another field trial is in progress at Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge in Idaho. In December 2012, the Fish and Wildlife Service committed $200,000 to scale up ACK55 tests to meet Environmental Protection Agency biopesticide registration requirements.
ACK55 is not the only new cheatgrass management tool being studied. “There is a fungus, colorfully named Black Fingers of Death, being tested by other researchers,” says Fred Wetzel, the Service’s National Wildland Fire and Emergency Response advisor and ACK55’s project leader. In contrast to other controls, Wetzel likens ACK55 to using laser surgery to target and suppress the plant’s developing root cells. “This cheats the plant out of everything it needs to grow and reproduce,” he says.
The scientist who discovered ACK55 and devised a method to apply it is Ann C. Kennedy, a soil microbiologist with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. Kennedy stresses ACK55’s safety. She says the native soil bacteria inhibit just three grass species: cheatgrass, medusa head and jointed goat grass. All are invasive species of the sage steppe habitat. Wheat, native bunch grasses and broadleaf plants are unaffected. Another advantage of ACK55 is that applied bacteria don’t survive in the soil indefinitely; after three to five years, soil bacteria numbers return to pre-treatment levels.
Working with the EPA, the Fish and Wildlife Service and a team of resource scientists are moving toward federal registration of ACK55 as a biopesticide. Only then can a patented treatment be licensed for commercial sale and distribution.
Photo Caption:Firefighters battle a 2007 Nevada wildfire fueled in part by invasive cheatgrass. Credit: Sparks Tribune
Chambers County Recovery Team (CHART)
Truth be told, I’m an S.O.B. – spouse of a birder.
Don’t get me wrong, I like to be outside and enjoy nature, but my husband knows my life list better than I do and my threshold for discomfort in pursuit of birds is far below his.
So, when he suggested we drive 100 miles to the Skillern Tract at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge one Monday afternoon and stalk a wayward migratory sandpiper, I hesitated.
Under normal circumstances I might not have paused, but we had our toddler in tow and our last birding excursion with her didn’t go so well since such outings with my husband mean waiting and walking, walking and waiting, and waiting and walking some more. No food, no bathroom, no breaks until the bird is seen.
If the Ruff hadn’t been a lifer, I would have said no way. But it was. So I went.
The drive from Houston took my family and me just over an hour and was relatively traffic free. When we pulled into the entrance off FM 1985, we saw a woman packing up a scope into a car with Arizona license plates.
My husband told my daughter and me that she wasn’t going to drive off without telling us if she got a look at the Ruff, a medium-sized shorebird that breeds in marshes and wet meadows across northern Europe and Asia.
The woman, who had been attending the Feather Fest in nearby Galveston, was more than happy to tell us about her Ruff sighting and tried to help us get our own. But after about 15 minutes without a look at the bird she decided to take off and told us she thought the Ruff had done the same.
My husband and I held on to hope and kept looking. Our toddler, meanwhile, was getting antsy. The Yo Gabba Gabba DVD she was watching in the car was almost over and she wanted “DOWN!”
So, for the next 30 minutes or so, my husband and I took turns chasing her on the blacktop road and looking out into the 300 acres of managed wetlands that attract thousands of shorebirds, wading birds and waterfowl year round.
Just when we were ready to throw in the towel, my husband yelled, “I got it! Get over here!”
As usual, I didn’t get on the bird right away, which led to another short hunt. But finally, scanning the wetland grasses with my binocular, I saw the Ruff standing near a group of Long-Billed Dowitchers and Stilt Sandpipers.
It’s sandy-colored head, overall pale appearance and shorter bill made the bird stand out as much as a non-descript shorebird can.
“Yes!” I exclaimed. “Lifer.”
“Yay,” my daughter clapped and we were on our way back home.
If my husband and I had been alone, we would have explored the tract’s viewing platform near East Bay Bayou, a great spot for hummingbirds, warblers and more.The Skillern Tract is located next to the bayou and is seven miles east of the main refuge entrance on FM 1985.
If you visit soon, you too might catch a glimpse of the Ruff. It was still there earlier this week. If the Ruff has decided to move on, there is plenty of other wildlife to be seen.
Click here to view a short video of the Skillern Tract at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.
Click here for more information about birding in Southeast Texas as well as lodging in the area.
A map of favorite birding hotspots can be found here.
For more stories like this, visit: http://chamberswild.com
By: Keith Godwin
Spring is a perfect time to mix nature and the history of Texas in Chambers County. From the site of an old Spanish mission, to the site of an historic revolutionary Fort – all may be enjoyed in a short visit to the Wild side of Chambers County. Combine history with wildlife viewing, water sports or just relaxing – afforded at the parks and sites along a trail just off I-10 and Hwy 61 – and you have the makings of a great outdoor family or group excursion that beg to have you visit with a canoe, picnic basket, tackle box, camera and map of the County.
One begins at the Wallisville exit on I-10, just over the Trinity River Bridge going east from Houston – at the charming historic Wallisville Heritage Park, at the Wallisville Information Center. The Historical Markers here offer a fascinating insight to the early history of settlements in the area when early Pre-history indians lived nearby and the Spanish established a mission 1756.
Grab the information brochures on Chambers County and back on to I-10 for a short hop to exit Hwy 61 south to Anahuac. As soon as you turn right on 61 – you see entrance to Whites Park. As you drive the pine lined road in the Park – you will see the historic marker for the Turtle Bayou site, where the first cry for “resolution” in the Texas Revolution took place in 1832. This is a great place for outings due to the scenic picnic/camping areas, and Turtle Bayou offers canoeing excursions. Photography, bird and even gator watching – is also popular.
The last stop on this “historic” trail is Fort Anahuac Park in the city of Anahuac. Drive Hwy 61 to south and east into the historic downtown sites. Early Anahuac restorations make for a casual self-tour and history lesson. A short drive takes you on to the Anahuac Fort site – now a popular park and boating area overlooking the beautiful Channel entering from Trinity Bay. Large trees, kiddie playgrounds, picnic sites, and a large nature trail park add to the well-established boating ramps and special fishing sites. Deciding to stay overnight is easy – a variety of lodging is available here and other communities in Chambers.
There is so much nature, history and outdoor opportunities for fun in Chambers County communities – why not plan on making a weekend of it?! We encourage you to stop at one of the visitor centers in the area for further information.
For more stories like this, visit http://chamberswild.com
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