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  • 17 Jun 2013 9:35 PM | Anonymous

    Waterfowl Habitat Grows

    More than 9,000 acres of waterfowl habitat in the National Wildlife Refuge System were among the proposals approved by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, which okayed $28 million in funding to conserve, restore and enhance vital wetlands.  

    “Conserving wetlands is one of most important things we can do to ensure our land and wildlife remain healthy,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who attended her first meeting in her role as chair of the commission.

    The commission approved close to $4 million in projects for land purchases and leases on three refuges with funds raised largely through the sale of Federal Duck Stamps.  In addition, the panel approved $23.7 million in grants through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act to protect, restore or enhance nearly 89,000 acres of habitat for migratory birds in the United States and Canada, leveraging $28.5 million in matching funds. 

    The three refuge projects are:

    •  Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.  Approval to acquire 81 fee acres of quality waterfowl habitat in the river floodplain for $44,700.  These bottomland hardwoods and associated wetlands benefit a wide variety of waterfowl, including mallard, wood and mottled ducks.

    •  Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Montana. Price approval and approval for a boundary addition on 489 lease acres for $1,750.The commission also supported a price re-approval of $22,350 on leased land that it previously approved in September 2012.  Since then, the state of Montana reassessed the lease value, which increased by 102 percent.  The new price is now locked in for five years. The refuge and the wider land area support high breeding densities of lesser scaup and trumpeter swans.

    •  Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana. Approval to acquire more than 3,200 acres in fee title for $3.76 million will almost complete the current footprint of this refuge.  The refuge provides high quality habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl.

    The commission had previously approved funding for the 2013 U.S. Small Grants Program.  Forty-six grants were selected under the program, totaling $3 million and leveraging $7.6 million to conserve 52,145 acres of wetland and associated habitats in 29 states from coast to coast.

    Among the projects funded through the U.S. Small Grants Program was Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District, MN, which will restore and enhance 24,748 acres to increase nesting cover for migratory waterfowl. 

    For more stories like this, visit:

  • 17 Jun 2013 8:30 PM | Anonymous

    Special Delivery: Wildlife

    Caution: Saving a species may require heavy lifting – literally picking up wild animals and moving them long distances. Big animals. Small animals. Skittish, furtive or aggressive animals. Regardless, the same biological rules apply: To better the odds of survival, rare species need more than one population base and the widest gene pool possible.

    This spring, Northwesterners got a glimpse of the challenges involved when U. S, Fish and Wildlife Service staff netted, sedated and trucked 49 endangered Columbian white-tailed deer from Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-Tailed Deer to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, 60 miles southeast in Washington state. The deer were moved to protect them from the threat posed by an eroding dike between the Columbia River and Hansen Refuge: If the dike failed, flooding might otherwise wipe out the species. A few deer were even flown a short distance by helicopter, suspended by slings. 

    Because national wildlife refuges protect hundreds of rare species, they often find themselves in the animal moving business. They’ve been in it at least since 1907 when the Service transported 15 native Plains bison by rail from the New York Zoological Society to Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. The animals “were the seed stock for the bison we manage here today,” says refuge manager Tony Booth.  

    Wildlife conservationists don’t move animals casually. “Anytime you capture an animal and move it, there’s a risk,” says Kate O’Brien, a wildlife biologist at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine, part of a coalition working to relocate and captive-breed the increasingly rare New England cottontail. “You have to consider: Does the benefit outweigh the risk? You need a pretty good reason to move a wild mammal.”

    Refuge biologists have lots of good reasons. They “translocate” wild animals to breed them; reintroduce them to historic habitats; try to keep them off the “endangered” list; minimize unfriendly run-ins with humans; rescue them from disease, drought or development; introduce them to areas where climate warming is creating new habitat. “The first choice is always to protect existing habitat,” says O’Brien, “but that can’t always be done.”

    You think relocating deer is tricky? Try moving 800-pound Alaska brown bears (with a bad habit of raiding campgrounds) or 600-pound caribou (flown 300 miles from Nelchina to Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on the Kenai Peninsula, where they’d previously been wiped out). In cases involving these and other large carnivores such as panthers and wolves, the first trick is catching them while minimizing risk to wildlife and operations staff.

    Smaller mammals − prairie dogs, rabbits, squirrels, pronghorn – are easier to capture, but high-strung and must be released quickly to avoid stress injuries. Timing matters. Rabbits are “easiest to trap in winter, when food is limited and you can see their trails in the snow,” says O’Brien. Also, “you want to “trap them before breeding season. You don’t want disturb them if they’re pregnant or have young.”

    When endangered species are involved, operational hurdles include the preparation, publication and review of detailed project proposals. It took three years of such effort before staff could move 24 endangered Sonoran pronghorn 90 miles from Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge to Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona in 2011 and 2012. The final rule, says Jim Atkinson, a wildlife biologist at Cabeza Prieta Refuge, “spells out what we can do and where, and how it will affect all stakeholders.” The project goal: to augment the existing pronghorn population through captive breeding and establish new populations in the animals’ historic breeding range. “We don’t want to have all our eggs in one basket,” says Atkinson. “It’s a hedge against bad years for drought or climate change in any one area. Having more than one population means a greater hedge against extinction.”

    Tagging lets biologists track the health and movement of animals after their return to the wild. Once pronghorn are caught and sedated, for example, biologists attach an ear-tag and radio collar.


    Where tagging is too costly or labor-intensive – as it is with prairie dogs – scientists find other ways to follow transplants. Staff at Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Montana have relocated more than 2,600 prairie dogs. In 2007, they moved 800 to repopulate colonies after an outbreak of plague – a recurrent prairie dog threat. Leaving them where they were would have doomed the colony, says senior refuge wildlife biologist Randy Matchett. It also would have hurt other species that depend on prairie dogs, such as endangered black-footed ferrets. (When you’re a predator, you’re only as healthy as your prey.)


    Captured prairie dogs were dusted for plague-carrying fleas, then trucked to a new site, pre-dug with underground burrows. There, cages protected them for three or four days while they acclimated. Then they were released in groups of 100 or more. “Because they are social animals and communicate with each other, we’ve learned they do better in large numbers,” says Matchett. “Their whole life revolves around not being eaten.”

    Will the new colony succeed? Measurements will provide an answer. “We can map the colony by walking around the perimeter of all the burrows,” Matchett says. A year from now, a healthy colony will occupy more space. But there’s a caveat: Even if the colony thrives, Matchett knows it’s just a matter of time before plague reappears and he must rescue the animals again.

    That’s the age-old challenge for wildlife conservationists: staying ahead of threats, when possible. And knowing when it’s not. Alaska brown bears offer a lesson in the latter. Brown bears that raid campgrounds are being moved less these days, says John Morton, supervisory fish and wildlife biologist in Alaska. “We realize that even when we move them a long ways away, they will still come back.”


    U. S, Fish and Wildlife Service staff netted, sedated and trucked endangered Columbian white-tailed deer from Julie Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-Tailed Deer to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, WA, to protect them from the threat posed by an eroding dike between the Columbia River and Hansen Refuge. Some were translocated by helicopter. Photo by Julian Hansen

    For more stories like this, visit

  • 17 Jun 2013 6:00 PM | Anonymous

    Service Proposes to Return Management and Protection of Gray Wolves to State Wildlife Professionals Following Successful Recovery Efforts
    Mexican wolves in Southwest would continue to be protected as endangered subspecies


    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to remove the gray wolf (Canis lupus) from the list of threatened and endangered species. The proposal comes after a comprehensive review confirmed successful recovery after management actions undertaken by federal, state and local partners following the wolf’s listing under the Endangered Species Act more than three decades ago. 


    The Service is also proposing to maintain protection and expand recovery efforts for the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) in the Southwest, where it remains endangered.


    Under the proposal, state wildlife management agency professionals would resume responsibility for management and protection of gray wolves in states with wolves. The proposed rule is based on the best science available and incorporates new information about the gray wolf’s current and historical distribution in the contiguous United States and Mexico. It focuses the protection on the Mexican wolf, the only remaining entity that warrants protection under the Act, by designating the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies.


    In the Western Great Lakes and Northern Rocky Mountains, the gray wolf has rebounded from the brink of extinction to exceed population targets by as much as 300 percent. Gray wolf populations in the Northern Rocky Mountain Distinct and Western Great Lakes Population Segments were removed from the federal list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in 2011 and 2012.


    “From the moment a species requires the protection of the Endangered Species Act, our goal is to work with our partners to address the threats it faces and ensure its recovery,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “An exhaustive review of the latest scientific and taxonomic information shows that we have accomplished that goal with the gray wolf, allowing us to focus our work under the ESA on recovery of the Mexican wolf subspecies in the Southwest.”


    The Service will open a 90-day comment period on both proposals, seeking additional scientific, commercial and technical information from all interested parties. Relevant information received during this comment period will be reviewed and addressed in the Service’s final determination on these proposals, which will be made in 2014.


    The Service must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, within 45 days of the publication in the Federal Register. Information on how to provide comments will be made available in the Federal Register notices and on the Service’s wolf information page at

    The Service’s proposal is supported by governors and state wildlife agency leadership in each of the states with current wolf populations, as well as those that will assume responsibility for managing wolves dispersing into their states, such as Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Utah and North Dakota.

    The Service’s comprehensive review determined that the current listing for gray wolf, which was developed 35 years ago, erroneously included large geographical areas outside the species’ historical range. In addition, the review found that the current gray wolf listing did not reasonably represent the range of the only remaining of the Mexican wolf population in the Southwest.  


    Gray wolves were extirpated from most of the Lower 48 states by the middle of the 20th century, with the exception of northern Minnesota and Isle Royale in Michigan. Subsequently, wolves from Canada occasionally dispersed south and began recolonizing northwest Montana in 1986. In 1995 and 1996, 66 wolves from southwestern Canada were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho.


    In 2002 the Northern Rocky Mountain population exceeded the minimum recovery goals of 300 wolves for a third straight year, and they were delisted in the Northern Rocky Mountains in 2012 and Western Great Lakes in 2011. Today, there are at least 6,100 gray wolves in the contiguous United States, with a current estimate of 1,674 in the Northern Rocky Mountains and 4,432 in the Western Great Lakes.


    The number of Mexican wolves continues to increase within the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area. During the 2012 annual year-end survey, the Mexican wolf Interagency Field Team counted a minimum of 75 Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico, an increase over the 2011 minimum population count of 58 wolves known to exist in the wild.


    In addition to listing the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies, the Service proposes to modify existing regulations governing the nonessential experimental population to allow captive raised wolves to be released throughout the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in the Apache and Gila National Forests east central Arizona and west central New Mexico, and to disperse into the Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area in the areas of Arizona and New Mexico located between I-40 and I-10.


    Read what supporters of the Service proposal are saying at

    For more information on gray and Mexican wolves, including the proposed rules, visit

    For more stories like this, visit

  • 07 Jun 2013 2:00 PM | Anonymous

    By: Kim Vetter of CHART

    The Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center on FM 563.

    The Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center on FM 563 in Wallisville.

    Touch an alligator hide. Learn about the mystery of migration. And, take a ride through the Southeast Texas marsh on an airboat used to during the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.

    You can do all of this and more at the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center on Farm To Market Road 563 in Wallisville. My 2-year-old daughter and I recently spent a couple of hours at the center and had a blast.

    Before going inside, we – OK, mainly I – learned a lot about the refuge and its surroundings from several colorful outdoor displays. My daughter, meanwhile, joyfully pointed to the ground and shouted, “OCEAN,” since the concrete beneath her feet was painted blue to resemble the nearby Gulf of Mexico.

    Outdoor displays at the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.

    Outdoor displays at the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.

    After about 10 minutes of exploring and a potty break (the public restrooms at the center are very clean), we decided to go inside and check out what the visitor center had to offer, which is a lot.

    The center’s main room is full of wildlife exhibits and environmental education kiosks.

    A Red-Tailed Hawk hangs above a kiosk about chenier woodlots while a Great Egret sneaks behind a patch of cordgrass mounted on a display about saltwater marsh.

    Nearby, various songbirds perch on a cartoon-like tree that’s part of an exhibit about migration. The exhibit includes a small wetland packed with ducks and shorebirds.

    Two prominently displayed exhibits cover tools for a healthy habitat, how humans continually reshape the landscape around them, and the unintended consequences of non-native species.

    My daughter’s favorite spread, however, was tucked neatly in a corner and was about the American alligator.

    Called the Alligator Incubator, the camouflage hut has two alligator hides hanging from one of its walls, an alligator skull on another, and several educational displays describing the reptile’s life cycle.

    Visitors can take with them a brochure chock full of fun alligator facts such as the longest documented alligator was taken in 1890 from Louisiana and measured 19 feet 2 inches long and weighed nearly 2,000 pounds.

    One of several exhibits at the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.

    One of several exhibits at the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.

    In an adjoining room next to the Alligator Incubator, is where visitors can experience a simulated airboat ride through the refuge’s fresh and saltwater marshes.

    The eight-minute ride wasn’t working when my daughter and I were there but the volunteer on duty described the ride as both action-packed and tranquil.

    The first half of the ride is fast and weaves in and out of various parts of the marsh, highlighting its wildlife, the volunteer said. The second half is slower and showcases the marsh’s habitat.

    Both sound fun and are something I hope to do with my daughter during another trip to the visitor center.

    As for the rest of our recent trip, we spent it at the center’s gift shop. My daughter flipped through books and played with stuffed animals while I chatted with the volunteer.

    During my conversation with her and after some suggested subsequent reading, I learned the visitor center replaced one that was destroyed in 2008 by Hurricane Ike.

    The center opened in May 2011 and was built with $4million of Recovery Act money. Sitting on 16 acres about 30 miles outside of Houston, the visitors center is part of a larger complex that houses employees from the Texas Chenier Plain National Wildlife Refuge Complex as well as the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.

    The complex is LEED Silver Certified, meaning its construction rating on a points system by the U.S. Green Building Council, exceeds mandated guidelines for efficient and energy saving design, construction and post-construction commission.

    The landscape surrounding the complex is in pristine condition as well and is welcoming to visitors who want to explore it.

    Just behind the outdoor displays near the visitor center’s entrance is a quarter-mile trail that snakes through the Cypress swamp that hugs Lake Anahuac. For more information about the trail go to

    For more information about the visitor center – which 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 – call (409) 267-3337.

    For more stories like this, visit

  • 09 May 2013 10:11 PM | Anonymous

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


    I recently came across an article my dad wrote for The Nature Conservancy Magazine in 1974, when he headed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Albuquerque Regional Office Division of Realty. I was a high school senior.

    The article, Genesis of a National Wildlife Refuge, tells about the work that went into establishing New Mexico’s Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, at 220,000 acres still the largest land donation in Service history.

    My father calls Sevilleta Refuge “fascinating in its physiographic diversity, at least to this native easterner.” He describes it as “a vast land of mountains, alluvial fans, piedmont bajadas, terraces, canyons, washes, arroyos, hills and ridges, sand dunes, and bosque lands.”

    He tells how overgrazing had hurt the lands and how they will “need help to recover their former productiveness.” He also talks about the partnership and “common objectives” with The Nature Conservancy, the Campbell Family Foundation and the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust that resulted in the refuge.

    I know Dad is intensely proud of Sevilleta Refuge, which these days attracts mule deer, pronghorns, black bear, lizards and many species of birds.

    The article shows the Service and many conservation partners, like TNC, at their best as they negotiated – even on Christmas day – to complete the donation. Land with an estimated value of $6 million to $12 million was sold for $500,000 to TNC, which conveyed it to the Service.

    The article reminded me of our people in the Mountain-Prairie Region who recently worked with Louis Bacon on the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area in Colorado. Mr. Bacon’s donation of an easement on about 170,000 acres constitutes the largest single conservation easement donation in Service history.


    Closer to Sevilleta Refuge, Valle de Oro Refuge near Albuquerque and Rio Mora Refuge and Conservation Area in northern New Mexico were established last September. And early last year, our folks in Florida worked all out to get up and running Everglades Headwaters Refuge and Conservation Area. In 2012, we also established Swan Valley Conservation Area in Montana and Hackmatack Refuge outside Chicago.


    Some of these new refuge units share a key difference from Sevilleta: The Service does not own the land. We are increasingly partnering with private landowners, who are excellent stewards of the land. We are developing conservation easements that provide important wildlife habitat while enabling these stewards to continue working the land as they have done for generations.

    And we’re trying to connect these privately-owned lands to our great public estate of national parks, national forests and national wildlife refuges, and state and local conservation areas. 

    We are making clear that conservation is not just the responsibility of the Service. We all have a stake in it, public and private sector alike.

    Dad, of course, knew this when establishing Sevilleta. He ends the article: More than anything else, to my thinking, the genesis of the Sevilleta Refuge is an example of what can be achieved when the private and public sectors work together.

    My father’s work lives on at places like Sevilleta Refuge. And he’s far from the only retiree – or current employee – who can say that. That’s what’s so great about working for the Service. We all contribute to the conservation of wildlife and wild places for generations to come.

    Our work matters. Our values endure. I’m proud of the work my father did, at places like Sevilleta; I’m proud of the work we are doing today, at places like the Dakota Grasslands; I’m proud of the foundations we are laying for those who will come after us. Our legacy is writ large on the landscape.

    For more stories like this, visit

  • 09 May 2013 9:00 PM | Anonymous

    Migratory birds throughout the Western Hemisphere received a boost in May when U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe approved $3.5 million in grants for 27 collaborative conservation projects across the Americas. These Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act grants will leverage a 3.5-to-1 return for conservation, matching the Service’s investment with about $12.5 million in private funds.  


    The projects will conserve more than 250,000 acres of migratory bird habitat, stimulate critical research into declining bird populations, and fund outreach programs to raise local awareness of conservation issues and solutions.


    More than 350 species of Neotropical migratory birds migrate to and from the United States each year, including warblers, plovers, sandpipers, terns, hawks, flycatchers and sparrows. The populations of many of these birds are in decline, and several species are currently considered endangered or threatened as a result of habitat loss, pollution or climate change.


    “Birds provide millions of Americans with enjoyment and a real connection to nature. They also pollinate our crops and protect them from pests, and generate $11 billion in local, state and federal tax revenues each year through the birdwatching industry,” said Ashe.  “But while we may think of them as ‘our’ birds, they actually only spend part of each year in the U.S., and so to conserve them, we must work internationally with partners to protect their habitats and reduce threats across the Americas. This is what makes the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act so unique, important and effective; it funds collaborative conservation projects throughout these birds’ breeding and winter ranges.”


    Grants and matching funds received through the Act will support public-private partnerships to conserve Neotropical migratory birds and their habitats throughout their migratory ranges, from their breeding sites in Canada and the United States, to their wintering sites in Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. This year’s grants will benefit hundreds of species in 15 countries.  Project highlights include:


    ·                  Bay of Panama: Located near the mouth of the Panama Canal beside the narrow isthmus between North and South America, the Bay of Panama is a critical migration and wintering site for more than 33 species of North American breeding shorebirds, including more than 30% of the U.S. population of the Western Sandpiper. The habitats these birds rely upon are highly threatened by development pressure from Panama City. In collaboration with 30 local organizations, grantee National Audubon Society will strengthen communications to local people about the importance of the Bay of Panama to the economy, to Neotropical shorebirds, and to environmental and human health.


    ·                  Asunción Bay: A total of 32 species of Neotropical migratory birds have been recorded in Asunción Bay, located along the northern outskirts of the capital of Paraguay. It is globally significant as a stopover site for the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. The development of a coastal road has reconnected the urban population of Asunción with its natural heritage, but destroyed about 70% of the shorebird habitat in the bay. Local and national government agencies will work with NGO Guyra Paraguay to restore and manage 60 acres of priority habitats within Asunción Bay. Guyra Paraguay will hire reserve guards and train local people to be ecotourism guides, and engage with media to raise awareness for bay conservation.


    Seven projects are funded under a pilot program started in 2012 and designed to focus resources on a group of particularly threatened birds. By making a long-term investment in priority species and monitoring population improvements, these projects will allow the Service to learn, adapt and be strategic in how to manage conservation funding.  A pilot program highlight from this round:

    ·        The Endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler breeds in central Texas, and relies on pine-oak forests in Central America for its wintering grounds. Grantee Fundación Defensores de la Naturaleza is partnering with an alliance of organizations in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua to increase the amount of Golden-cheeked Warbler wintering habitat under legal protection or being managed through sustainable agroforestry.  It will also establish a monitoring system for the species to develop measurable population objectives for a 5-10 year conservation plan.

    “The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act conserves Neotropical migrants for the benefit of people throughout the Americas,” said Jerome Ford, Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Director for Migratory Birds. “By investing in priority species, key habitats, and successful conservation actions, we achieve the highest impact for each grant dollar invested and make a real difference for birds.”

    The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 2000 established the matching grants program to fund projects to conserve Neotropical migratory birds in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. Funds may be used to protect, research, monitor and manage bird populations and habitat, as well as to conduct law enforcement and community outreach and education. The Act requires a partner-to-grant dollar match of 3-to-1, but has achieved a ratio closer to 4-to-1.  For more information on funded projects for 2013 and previous years, visit

    For more stories like this, visit

  • 09 May 2013 7:00 PM | Anonymous

    “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:

    • A Refuge Ambassador Program that will train employees in providing excellent customer service. While the specifics on how to provide sustainable training are still being finalized, the broad concept that refuges need to strengthen community relations reflects the Conserving the Future philosophy.
    • Ensure that every refuge has interpretive support, whether at the refuge or from a regional office or other centers of excellence.
    • Establish by January 2015 a minimum interpretation standard for welcoming and orienting visitors, including a means to welcome people to refuges that are closed for public visitation.
    • Use a blended approach for interpretation delivery that includes kiosks and self-guided components on wildlife refuges with Web-based and mobile platforms that can reach multiple audiences.

    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

    For more stories like this, visit

  • 01 May 2013 2:36 PM | Anonymous

    By Jim Kurth, Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System


    Many concepts of modern strategic habitat conservation have their roots in the past 50 years of work in the Prairie Pothole Region.


    We identified our conservation target: waterfowl. We understood the challenge: habitat loss. We knew we had to work at a landscape scale to be successful. We recognized that working lands in private ownership were a key. Over the years, the Refuge System has purchased more than 700,000 acres of waterfowl production areas. They provide great duck nesting habitat and are places where people can enjoy hunting and other outdoor recreation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enlarged its conservation footprint by purchasing more than 2.7 million acres of easements.


    In 1986, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan put our efforts into sharper focus. It laid out population objectives that we could step down into habitat protection strategies. Over time, our Habitat and Population Evaluation Team (HAPET) scientists have used emerging tools and technology, like geospatial data analysis and modeling, to pinpoint the best areas for waterfowl nesting. This helps us get the highest conservation return on investment.


    Recently, threats to habitat in the Prairie Pothole Region have accelerated. High prices for agricultural commodities are resulting in large tracts of prairie being converted to row crops. Tile drainage is expanding into new areas. A boom in oil, gas and wind energy is further fragmenting the landscape. Service Director Dan Ashe responded to this crisis by directing 70 percent of the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to the Prairie Pothole Region and requiring science-based investment decisions. Our longstanding partner, Ducks Unlimited, is helping us accelerate land protection. We are in a race against time.


    It’s hard to envision what the Prairie Pothole Region will look like a hundred years from now.

    I remember how it looked when I made my first trip to the field after moving to headquarters in 1999.  I visited Windom Wetland Management District in Minnesota with my long-time friend, now-retired refuge supervisor Don Hultman. The district manager then was Steve Kallin, whom I met in college at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 1974.


    It was a beautiful spring day at Windom, full of songs of meadowlarks, bobolinks and red-winged blackbirds. As we walked across a waterfowl production area, a hen mallard flushed a few feet ahead of us. Steve gently pulled back some of the grasses, and there it was, a clutch of mallard eggs. I remember feeling incredibly happy. It was a simple moment of shared pride in generations of conservation work.


    I am thankful for the visionaries who began this work and am proud of the generations of professionals who have continue to protect and manage our wetland management districts. I know today’s wetland managers, who are the best trained and best equipped ever, will carry on this great legacy.


    Photo Caption

    Tundra swans at Hecla Waterfowl Production Area, part of Sand Lake Wetland Management District in South Dakota. (Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS)


    Fore more stories like this, visit

  • 01 May 2013 2:00 PM | Anonymous

    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: 

    • Conserving the Future has brought forth the first major rethinking of the Friends Mentoring program in the program’s 15-year history. 
    • The Communications implementation team expects a revised version of the draft strategic plan will be available in late spring for more public comment.
    • The Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative implementation team has received scores of Service proposals for creating an urban presence in 10 diverse communities that don’t now have a nearby wildlife refuge. “From a first reading of the proposals, we can see that people were innovative, they were thinking outside the box, striving to reach people who hadn’t been introduced to wildlife refuges early in their lives,” said team co-chair Marcia Pradines. 

    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, where you can find quarterly progress reports and more information.


    Fore more stories like this, visit

  • 01 May 2013 1:00 PM | Anonymous

    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:


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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.


Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 1348

Anahuac, TX 77514

Refuge Office Address:

4017 FM 563, Anahuac, TX 77514

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