FRIENDS OF ANAHUAC REFUGE
The Next Generation to Care for Wildlife
Juan “Tony” Elizondo, a high school teacher in Houston, and Corrin Omowunmi, a Student Conservation Association coordinator at a Philadelphia-area national wildlife refuge, share a passion for environmental awareness, wildlife conservation and connecting young people with nature.
Their work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is helping to nurture a new generation of conservationists.
In Houston, Elizondo is working with students in the Woodsy Owl Conservation Corps Green Ambassador program and the Green Amigos Latino Legacy at Furr High School. The school is piloting a habitat conservation program that allows people and nature to flourish together in the city’s industrial East End.
Under the guidance of Elizondo and fellow teacher David Salazar, the Green Ambassadors are raising community awareness and improving the land by planting gardens and orchards, helping to monitor air and water quality, and encouraging outdoor fitness. Their work is part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Houston Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, one of 21 such urban partnerships that bring together community organizations, conservation nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies to help young people make a special connection to nature. The partnerships are part of the Service’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program.
The fact that Latino students are spreading the conservation message in a mostly Latino neighborhood matters a lot to Elizondo. “If we don’t outreach to our communities that aren’t English-language speakers,” he says, “how do we expect to conserve Texas or the rest of the nation?”
In Philadelphia, Omowunmi, an African-American, has introduced hundreds of Student Conservation Association (SCA) has helped instill a sense of environmental responsibility in hundreds of young interns. Based at John Heinz at National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum since 2009, Omowunmi coordinates SCA interns as they restore trails, clean up marshes, remove invasive plants and build community garden beds at the refuge, in the surrounding Eastwick neighborhood and in the city. Their work is part of the Philadelphia Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership.
“It opens up a whole new world for them that they didn’t even know existed,” Omowunmi says. “People say, ‘I never even knew this [refuge] was here.’ They’ve lived in Philadelphia their entire life – been back and forth to the airport, rode past [the refuge] on the highway – and they just don’t even know it’s here. But when they get here, they see how beautiful it is.”
Here are three of the young people Elizondo and Omowunmi are working with:
Jainny Leos is a senior at Furr High School in Houston. A Green Ambassador for three years, she and other Green Ambassadors are helping Texas A&M University urban design professionals collect data regarding air and water quality in neighborhoods near oil refineries along the Houston Ship Channel. Leos is also helping to plant fruit trees and pollinator gardens.
“It’s been a really good experience,” she says, “because people from the neighborhood come and say, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ and we explain."
Leos and other ambassadors are learning about wildlife conservation work at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge south of Houston and Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge west of Houston. “I couldn’t stop looking at the Attwater’s chickens doing their [courtship] dance because it kind of reminded me of us [humans]. They were kind of doing their dance and competing against each other,” she says. “I think it’s amazing how [males] do it to impress [females], and [males] are really the colorful ones.”
Kevin Tran, a southwest Philadelphia resident, is a freshman at Temple University. A Student Conservation Association intern since 2014, he was a Career Discovery Internship Program intern last summer at John Heinz Refuge, helping to educate visitors and nearby residents about the value of conservation.
Tran sees the refuge’s marsh and woodland habitat as an urban oasis of sorts. “I can get here [from home] in less than 30 minutes and experience a whole different atmosphere,” he says. “Thirty minutes away, I don’t see red foxes. I don’t see river otters or bald eagles. It’s such a nice place to be.” You can hear Tran talking about John Heinz Refuge in this video.
Lucia Portillo, who lives in northeast Philadelphia and is a sophomore at Millersville University, has done a lot of trail work at John Heinz Refuge as a SCA intern. What she especially enjoys is the solitude of the refuge, listening to the wind blow through the trees or birds sing. “Since I live in a busy part of the city, I don’t get to hear that as much,” she says. “So when I come here it’s just the best.” Portillo is majoring in biology with a concentration in animal behavior.
“I’m thankful for partners like the Fish and Wildlife Service and Forest Service because a lot of positive things have come out of it,” Elizondo says. “Like our students now; they probably would have dropped out of school. I’ve seen them change, and it makes me so happy.”
For more stories like this, visit: https://www.fws.gov/refuges/friends/newswire/
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Nurture Nature Festival, Baytown- April 8
Spring Outdoor Celebration, Mont Belvieu- April 22
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R/V Tiglax: Alaska Maritime Refuge's Vehicle for Research
By Andrea Medeiros, Public Affairs Specialist, Alaska Regional Office, Anchorage, AK
Imagine working on a ship that takes you 15,000 miles through remote islands, from the Gulf of Alaska to the Bering Sea, in support of conservation. Six U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service jobs provide this opportunity, all operating out of Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge aboard the R/V Tiglax.
“Sometimes you don’t see another ship for days at a time,” says Captain Billy Pepper, who has worked on the Tiglax for more than 20 years and is responsible for the ship as well as hiring and managing the crew. Combined, the captain, first mate, two deckhands, a cook and an engineer have 60-plus-years’ experience sailing the refuge.
Constantly on the move during the six-month field season that starts in April, the crew works 12 hours a day, seven days a week and is always on call. The Tiglax is at sea for extended periods of time without Internet or cell service. Beyond the hours and the isolation, weather, mechanical problems, medical issues and even natural disasters can challenge the crew.
The challenges of working on the Tiglax are counterbalanced by being among rocky islands with spectacular scenery, abundant wildlife and distinctive cultural histories. Every summer more than 40 million seabirds nest on Alaska Maritime Refuge. One of the islands, Buldir, boasts more nesting seabirds than anywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere. The Tiglax also encounters whales, porpoises, seals, sea lions and other marine mammals.
Built in 1987, the 120-foot-long Tiglax plays a critical role in meeting Alaska Maritime Refuge’s research purpose by supporting scientists from the Service, universities, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and elsewhere.
Umnak and Samalga islands in the eastern Aleutians have been part of the refuge since 1913. Last summer, thanks to the Tiglax, refuge biologists were able to survey the islands’ coastlines for the first time. They discovered tens of thousands of shorebirds in the intertidal zone of Samalga Island, potentially a globally significant resting area for shorebirds on their summer migration.
In 2015, the Tiglax also supported a regular survey of sea otters in the western Aleutians and a second, rare survey on the hard-to-access Pacific Ocean side of Amchitka Island. Both will help biologists better understand sea otters.
What other new discoveries are out there on Alaska Maritime Refuge? The possibility of being part of making a new one keeps the crew of the Tiglax coming back.
CAPTION: The R/V Tiglax cruising off Bogoslof Island. Built in 1987, the Tiglax, which means eagle in Aleut, is 120 feet long and has a range of 14,500 miles before refueling is needed. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service vessel supports scientific research at Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. More photos: http://bit.ly/1MGt2KZ (Paul Wade)
For more stories like this, visit http://www.fws.gov/refuges/friends/newswire/
By Cynthia Martinez, Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System
Some 380 of the nation’s 1,591 endangered and threatened species find a home on national wildlife refuges. The reason is straightforward: Home is where the habitat is.
So it makes sense that restoring habitat and implementing the best science and management techniques are the roads to recovery for species. Sounds simple. It’s not.
National wildlife refuges and other parts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have long faced competing demands that can change and tug and pull in different directions. Multi-year projects can be tough to fund from one year to the next. That’s why the Cooperative Recovery Initiative (CRI) is making a difference.
The Service Director some years ago recognized that we needed a focused program that puts combined resources and partnership muscle on refuges and in areas with a close nexus to them if we are to maintain and expand high quality habitat for trust resources. So was born the CRI, a competitive program with specific criteria that gives funding to collaborative projects.
CRI absolutely stresses collaboration – both among Service programs that sometimes operate in silos and with private landowners, who can make all the difference for the health of fish, wildlife and plant species.
The competition for funding has been intense – and beneficial. First there’s the regional selection process. Then the top regional projects are submitted to a national review team that represents all Service programs. A second round of reviews at the Service’s Headquarters has ensured that funding goes to the projects most likely to succeed.
In fact, the need to show results quickly has set CRI apart from other initiatives. CRI not only requires that each project have a monitoring protocol, but it also decides on funding for up to three additional years by considering data that demonstrate a project is making discernible progress.
At the same time, the CRI process incorporates all elements of Strategic Habitat Conservation. Service staff members employ biological planning and design to develop project proposals. Selected proposals are then implemented – the “conservation delivery” step – and results are monitored. The outcomes then feed back into biological planning and adaptive management.
A prime example of CRI success is the Oregon chub, the first fish ever removed from the federal Endangered Species list. The Oregon chub is found only in the Willamette River Basin. Just eight populations and fewer than 1,000 fish were known to exist when it was listed as endangered in 1993. While the minnow’s recovery was thanks to the work of many dedicated Service partners, the CRI invigorated the recovery program and led to the chub’s delisting years earlier than might otherwise have happened.
Collaboration is the key to so much conservation success. It is the centerpiece of the Cooperative Recovery Initiative. Working across program lines and with partners, the Service can recover species listed as threatened and endangered and create a conservation legacy for the next generation.
To read some CRI success stories, go to the January-February issue of Refuge Update: http://1.usa.gov/1OxDXuB
Brown Pelican at Anahuac NWR photo by Norman Welsh
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