FRIENDS OF ANAHUAC REFUGE
Refuge Rangers Fight Myths about Creepy Crawlies and Other Wildlife
It’s not just snakes. Other wild creatures inspire exaggerated fears, too: bats; spiders; birds; fish – yes, fish.
In the course of greeting tens of thousands of visitors a year, rangers on national wildlife refuges bump up against many such bugbears. They know which natural–world denizens invariably make some people flinch or go ewww.
One thing they’ve noticed: Whether it’s because today’s visitors tend to live more indoor lives than past generations or watch too many TV survival shows, fears of nature are flourishing -- in all ages.
“We’re seeing more kids sheltered and afraid,” says Ashley Inslee, a biologist at Bosque del Apache Refuge in New Mexico. “Even college kids interested in conservation haven’t been out hunting, fishing, hiking. They’ve seen TV shows or National Geographic and think being outdoors is cool, but it can be uncomfortable at first.”
Different tactics are called for at Florida’s J.N. “Ding” Darling Refuge, where gators are star attractions. “There should be a natural fear we have of them, and they of us; it’s a good thing to be fearful of a large predator like an alligator,” says supervisory refuge ranger Toni Westland. But she puts visitors’ fears in perspective. “We tell them we’re not going to have alligators jumping out of bushes. It’s safe. But it’s only safe because we respect wild animals and don’t feed them.”
Some visitors want to beat back old fears. Mary Stumpp signed on this winter as a volunteer at crane-filled Bosque del Apache Refuge undefined an odd choice for someone with a lifelong fear of birds. Her task: using a tractor to mow corn for feeding sandhill cranes. Slowly, she grew accustomed to seeing flocks overhead. Writes Stumpp, “I began to see the cranes not as a threat but as beautiful creatures. To my surprise, I began to care about them…”
To help anxious visitors, refuge staffers share some proven tactics:
Admit fears of their own. Visitors may be surprised to hear refuge staffers aren’t all fearless. Bosque del Apache Refuge’s deputy manager Aaron Mize owns up to a fear of heights and snakes.
Find out what they know. At Patuxent Refuge, staff meets students on familiar turf before a refuge visit, and throws softball questions: “Do you spend any time outside? What’s your favorite animal?” Staff also invites students to confide fears in writing so they are not embarrassed in front of classmates.
Don’t dissemble. To a child nervous about snakes, you might try: ‘There are snakes here, but we almost never see any. That’s because they’re shy, and they can feel the ground tremble, and they go and hide when they hear people coming.’
Educate about feeding a wild animal. Remind people that wildlife loses their fear of humans if regularly fed by visitors. And tell them never to challenge wildlife.
Let kids adjust at their own pace. Let young people decide if they want to touch a live frog or snake. Respect youngsters’ rights to say “no”. Some refuge staff appoint an anxious young visitor to become their assistant for a day.
Show enthusiasm. Students see that you’re not afraid and they respond. When a youngster sees salamanders and turtles and responds, ‘Oh gross,’ that’s your chance to say, ‘No, they’re so cool,” and explain why.
These kids at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, AZ, are none too sure that they want to get near that snake, harmless as it is. Photo by Andrea Brophy.
For more stories like this, visit: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/friends/newswire/
By Jim Kurth
Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System
I sometimes wonder how many professions can claim to have friends like we do.
I doubt there are “Friends of the IRS” or “Friends of Podiatrists.” Not that those aren’t noble enterprises, but I doubt that they would draw a loyal following.
What is it about our profession that draws people to volunteer their time and offer money to help? Honestly, it really isn’t about us. People care about the wildlife they find at national wildlife refuges. There is a special sense of place that refuges evoke. People experience more than mere “fun” at refuges. They find deeply personal meanings that are essential to self-identity.
You will hear people talk about “the swamp” or “the beach” or “the marsh” as if there were no others. They talk about my refuge with a reverence and a sense of stewardship. Our Friends and volunteers have a personal relationship with these special places and the wild creatures that live here.
I remember a volunteer who was the first treasurer of the Seney Natural History Association, the Friends organization at Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Harold Peters was an 86-year-old retired game warden. He came in every day to count the money from the bookstore and deposit it in the local bank. He would recount stories about his career – stories a lot older than I was.
He told me about the time he was on patrol during the second week of deer season when a big snowstorm blew in and his Model A Ford was stuck in the backwoods all winter. He went back in the spring to discover that porcupines had eaten the wooden spokes off of all the wheels.
His stories were the stories of his connection to the place, and he wanted to share those connections with me.
Refuges draw people from local communities together for a common cause. Many times local communities have rich histories with places that are now called national wildlife refuges. The culture of communities is often anchored in a long-standing relationship with the land. Friends groups are special communities that share a strong connection to their refuge and its wildlife.
These two characteristics – a sense of place and a sense of community – are the essential keys to effective stewardship. Conservation is like politics: All effective conservation is local.
Our Friends and volunteers are the essential core of support for effective conservation. Their collective efforts make a huge difference for the National Wildlife Refuge System. And they know how to have fun. They have my thanks and admiration.
For more stories like this, visit: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/friends/newswire/index.html
I&M Plans: Useful Game Changers
Last spring, at Little River National Wildlife Refuge headquarters in a strip mall in Broken Bow, OK, eight U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees pored over every known survey conducted at the refuge. It’s a scene that will be repeated at hundreds of refuges and wetland management districts over the next five years.
Little River Refuge was one of five refuges in five regions that agreed to pilot the development of individual refuge inventory and monitoring (I&M) plans. The others were Muscatatuck Refuge, IN; Rachel Carson Refuge, ME; Kodiak Refuge, AK; and Anaho Island Refuge, NV. Morris Wetland Management District in Minnesota recently became the first WMD to hold a similar workshop.
They were doing so because Refuge Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) Policy signed in January requires each station to write an I&M plan that identifies surveys to be conducted in the next 10-15 years. The plans will look beyond refuge boundaries to examine landscape-scale conservation potential. The plans also will enable current and future refuge staff members to understand which surveys were conducted and why.
Survey protocols will be reviewed for scientific rigor, and the policy includes a peer-reviewed handbook, How to Develop Survey Protocols.
The policy also adds an important practical aspect to monitoring.
“It’s not just the monitoring that we have always done, but monitoring intended to inform and influence management decisions – that’s the game changer. To do that, the data must get analyzed, and the results must get written up,” said Mark Chase, director of the Natural Resource Program Center in Fort Collins, CO, where the I&M program is based.
The Little River Refuge team spent a day putting each survey through a prioritization tool. The group looked hard at which surveys were critical to refuge operations and which were helpful but not vital. Turkey surveys scored low. Surveys for threatened American burying beetles ranked high because of an Endangered Species Act Section 7 requirement; they were selected for the I&M plan.
Paige Schmidt, an Oklahoma-based I&M zone biologist, described her approach to developing the Little River Refuge plan.
“I prepared by consulting with the policy to find what the requirements were, and then I assembled a team,” she said. “We wanted someone from the national office to answer policy questions, the Southwest Region I&M coordinator to help ensure consistency across the region, and other local colleagues who could both lend experience on the subject matter and learn from the experience of Little River.”
Bill Pyle, supervisory biologist at Kodiak Refuge, said the refuge’s 2007 comprehensive conservation plan and recent science review “provided a framework that really expedited development of the I&M plan. We just modified objectives to consider new factors like climate change.”
The Midwest Region starts with habitat monitoring plans and takes I&M plans a step further. “We do a cost-benefit analysis, and ask the refuge staff to estimate the amount of time they have to do surveys,” said zone biologist Sean Blomquist. The region develops sets of survey combinations, and the refuge selects the surveys that best meet high priority information needs and can be accomplished with available staff.
Anaho Island Refuge, with I&M team assistance, used the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation to ensure surveys were aligned with refuge objectives.
Little River Refuge manager David Weaver was pleased with the process, recognizing that it’s important to have a clear and concise plan for current and future staff members.
“You have a document that is going to be usable,” he said. “I can read through this is an hour or two, and it’s easy to follow and understand.”
As Climate Changes, So Do Fire StrategiesAs warmer temperatures and drier conditions in much of the United States have led to earlier and longer-lasting fires, some wildland fire managers have modified firefighting tactics, taken steps to reduce public health hazards and adjusted the timing of seasonal hiring.
“In the words of hockey player Wayne Gretzky, we skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been,” said Refuge System fire ecologist Lou Ballard. “In addition to planning for climate change, even when managing an ongoing fire, we must anticipate what the weather and [vegetation] fuel loading will allow us to do and where those points of control or protection exist.”
In the Southeast, firefighters on forested wetlands have faced several large wildfires in recent years – including two each at Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and Georgia’s Okefenokee Refuge, and one each at Pocosin Lakes Refuge and Alligator River Refuge in North Carolina. These fires produced sustained smoke and embers smoldering as deep as eight feet into organic peat soils.
To address the challenges, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fire specialists Sue Wilder and Kelley Van Druten gathered 50 experts for a 2½-day symposium at the Coastal North Carolina National Wildlife Refuges Gateway Visitor Center in Manteo late last year.
The symposium covered priority wildlife needs, hydrology and sea-level rise resiliency projects, fire danger rating for organic soils, mineral cycling/subsidence and accretion as well as management concerns, challenges and best management practices related to fire.
A key symposium finding was the need to continue work with partners and neighbors to install more water control structures at refuges. Such devices allow refuges to reduce saltwater intrusion into wetlands, specifically at Alligator River Refuge, and move in fresh water during drought conditions. That keeps peat from drying out and becoming flammable at refuges like Pocosin Lakes and Great Dismal Swamp.
Additionally, as sea-level rise increases salinity in soil, forested wetlands are dying and being replaced by salt-tolerant shrubs and then marsh. During this transition, standing or fallen dead trees increase fuel for wildfires. Land managers are experimenting with ways to decrease saltwater intrusion and slow these changes, including planting salt-tolerant tree species and installing special water control structures.
Furthermore, managers are focused on soil subsidence and accretion studies to help identify the right frequency and extent to use prescribed fire to stimulate plant productivity and biomass accumulation in peat soils. The resultant soils may help combat rising sea level. However, if burns are conducted too frequently or burn too hot, then biomass will not accumulate. Because peat soils are major source of carbon sequestration, if prescribed burns go too deeply into the soils, carbon is released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.
“Alligator River was established to protect forested wetlands, so we want to hold onto them as long as we can,” said Van Druten, a wildlife refuge specialist for North Carolina Coastal Plain Refuge Complex. “We are really struggling to find that balance between burning for either [reduced] fuels or habitat management, without adding that additional stressor that is going to tip the scales and push the habitat irreversibly towards shrub and then marsh.”
CAPTION The 2011 Pains Bay fire at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina is one of several fires in the Southeast in recent years that have produced sustained smoke and embers smoldering as deep as eight feet into organic peat soils. (USFWS)
For more stories like this, visit http://www.fws.gov/refuges/friends/newswire/
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Friends of Anahuac Refuge are proud to announce the opening of the registration period for kids, 6 years old to 12 years old, to participate in the Jr. Ranger Summer Day Camp at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge (Anahuac NWR). Registration will begin on May 16th, 2014.
The Summer Camp is July 14th – 18th, 2014 and will be from 9am – 3pm, with early drop-off and late pick-up available (for $5.00 extra/day). During this 5 day Summer Camp, the following topics will be covered:
Cost for the camp is $90.00 per week, or $20.00 per day. Discounts are available for siblings and Friends members. Enrollment is open until July 7th, 2014. Registration forms can be picked up at the Anahuac NWR Office & Visitor Center at 4017 FM 563, Anahuac, TX 77514.
--Official press release from USFWS--
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat Restoration Programs, Create Jobs, Pump Millions into Local Economies
A peer-reviewed analysis finds that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s habitat restoration programs are extraordinary engines for the U.S. economy.
The report, Restoration Returns: The Contribution of Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and Coastal Program Projects to Local U.S. Economies, finds that by working with partners Service programs created more than 3,900 jobs in Fiscal Year 2011 and generated a total economic stimulus of $327.6 million.
Each year, the Service completes more than 3,500 public-private partnership habitat restoration projects under the two programs, which leverage government dollars to generate private sector investment that is channeled into local communities.
The Partners for Fish and Wildlife program works with willing landowners to improve wildlife habitat. Landowners agree to maintain the projects for at least 10 years, but otherwise retain full control of their land. In Fiscal Year 2011:
The Service’s Coastal Program works with communities and partners to undertake projects that protect and restore vital wildlife habitat. Projects include removing invasive species, replanting salt marsh and sea grasses, and installing living shorelines to prevent erosion. In Fiscal Year 2011:
To see the entire report at: www.fws.gov/home/restoration_returns.html
Partners for Fish and Wildlife staff meets with private landowners in Michigan to review habitat restoration project. (Photo by USFWS)
For more stories like this visit: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/friends/newswire/
Wilderness at 50: A Remarkable Concept
Conservationists around the world are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964. The law represents a half-century-long struggle that began with people like John Muir and culminated with people like Olaus Murie and Howard Zahniser.
Zahniser wrote the first draft in 1956. The journey of the Wilderness Act covers nine years, 65 rewrites and 18 public hearings before being signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Sept. 3, 1964. The Wilderness Act established the National Wilderness Preservation System, which today includes 757 Congressionally-designated wilderness areas comprising about 109.5 million acres in 44 states and Puerto Rico.
“That a society would decide to set aside lands and waters and not actively manage them was a remarkable concept for a country founded on western socioeconomic traditions,” says National Wildlife Refuge System wilderness coordinator Nancy Roeper.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages more than 20 million acres of wilderness in the Refuge System – about one-fifth of all the designated wilderness areas in the nation. There are 75 wilderness areas on 63 refuges in 25 states. The Service is one of four federal agencies with stewardship responsibilities; the others are the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service.
“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain,” the Wilderness Act states. “An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions …”
Managing designated wilderness requires a light touch and special care. “One of the toughest balancing acts of wilderness management is figuring out how to balance wilderness preservation with other refuge management activities. What action (or non-action) is best for the wilderness resource? This is a question that I, and refuge managers, struggled with at every single wilderness that I visited,” says Molly McCarter, a 26-year-old 2011-13 Refuge System wilderness fellow. “The idea of wilderness is an inherent part of American culture – wild spaces, existing in their own right, are what make the United States unique among countries. Wilderness preservation is cultural preservation.”
For more about Refuge System wilderness, including a map, fact sheet, blog and short video essay, go to http://www.fws.gov/refuges/whm/wilderness.html
CAPTION: Monomoy, MA common tern and chick (USFWS)]:
Common tern tends a chick in the wilderness at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts. (USFWS)
For more stories like this, visit: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/friends/newswire/
Date: March 25, 2014
Contact: Stephanie Martinez, Outdoor Recreation Planner, 409-267-3337
New Visitor Information Station on Anahuac Refuge Opens
Photo by USFWS
The Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge’s new Visitor Information Station (VIS) opened Wednesday, March 19th. The new VIS will be open on weekends from 8am to 4pm with increased hours of operation during the spring, peak visitation.
The new VIS replaces the previous one destroyed during Hurricane Ike. It is accessible and built specifically to sustain hurricane conditions. The VIS is designed to provide wildlife watchers an elevated view of the moist soil units and wetlands, including nearby Shoveler Pond. Future environmental education tours will be conducted from the site and the public will be able to purchase nature-related items from the Friends in the store portion of the VIS.
This Saturday the Friends of Anahuac Refuge, the operators of the VIS’s nature store, will be on hand to provide tours of the VIS. Refreshments will be provided by the Friends.
The VIS is located on the main unit of the Anahuac NWR off of FM 1985.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service.
For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfws, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwshq, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq.
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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.
P.O. Box 1348
Anahuac, TX 77514
Refuge Office Address:
4017 FM 563, Anahuac, TX 77514