FRIENDS OF ANAHUAC REFUGE
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.
- http://www.southwest.fws.gov -
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More Money, More Conservation
By Jim Kurth
Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System
Congress funded the Refuge System at more than $472 million for this fiscal year, 4 percent more than we received last year. And I can’t help but think that’s due in large measure to the support refuge Friends show year-in and year-out.
In the current fiscal climate, a 4 percent budget increase is a huge vote of confidence in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which welcomes more than 47 million visitors to wildlife refuges each year. We are able to welcome those visitors -- who make a measurable economic contribution to communities across the country -- because the nation’s Refuge Friends help us at every turn.
In short, we can’t do our work without their support.
While our current budget is short of fiscal 2010, it restored some of the cuts that came with the across-the-board sequestration, and it means that we won’t have to cut about 400 jobs. Indeed, we think this year’s budget will allow us to do some of the conservation work we’ve had to delay.
For example, we hope to expand effective programs like the Cooperative Recovery Initiative so we can address threats to wildlife species on and around wildlife refuges. We expect to expand the inventory and monitoring initiative that gives us critical information so we can deliver better conservation.
While the budget does not include money for any new visitor centers, we did get funding for a limited number of construction projects on nine refuges. We also got funding for land acquisition projects on such key ecosystems as the Crown of the Continent in Montana, Dakota Grasslands in North and South Dakota, Everglades Headwaters in Florida, and longleaf pine forests in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
This year’s budget hardly puts the Refuge System in a position of significant growth. But every budget is more than dollars and cents; it represents a commitment to a shared vision -- of healthy landscapes and abundant wildlife for those who support the National Wildlife Refuge System.
For more than a century, the Refuge System has been the hidden jewel among public lands. This year’s budget may well signal that national wildlife refuges are coming into the spotlight in the public’s consciousness – and that’s thanks to the work Friends do.
The Refuge System received funding for acquiring land in such key ecosystems as longleaf pine forests like this one at Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, SC.
Credit: Jack Culpepper/USFWS
Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge and the National Wildlife Refuge System’s Southwest Region Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) initiative are using a relatively new technology to aid in protection and restoration of endangered bird species habitat- specifically the golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireos.
To continue reading this story, visit the full article on the National Wildlife Refuge Association's website: http://refugeassociation.org/2014/01/using-lidar-to-protect-and-restore-endangered-bird-species-habitat/
Since the days more than a century ago when first refuge manager/game warden Paul Kroegel was patrolling the waters surrounding what is now Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, law enforcement has been fundamental to conservation in the United States.
Over the decades, refuge law enforcement officers have had different titles, have moved away from dual-function roles, have endured staffing shortages and have reported to different agencies within what is now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But their mission has remained essentially the same: To keep national wildlife refuges safe for wildlife that inhabit them and the people who visit them.
The current title, since a 2012 overhaul, is federal wildlife officer. And it’s “the coolest job you can have,” says Jim Hall, chief of the Division of Refuge Law Enforcement since 2010. “From tagging grizzly bears on the Alaska tundra to checking deer hunters in Mississippi to checking duck hunters in Louisiana; up in the early morning with the beautiful sunrises and marvelous sunsets that you see by being out there every day. It is absolutely the coolest job anyone can ever hold.”
In recent years, the division can point to many accomplishments. It has spearheaded the establishment of the Service Honor Guard, updated the Refuge System law enforcement badge, reclassified of the federal wildlife officer title and position description; clarified numerous policies, including one on taser use; and revised federal wildlife officer vehicle standards and design.
Still, inadequate staffing remains a prime concern.
“We need to add full-time officers,” Hall says. “We’re at the lowest staffing level for law enforcement that we’ve been at in decades. We’ve lost a considerable amount of our dual-function officers to retirement and relinquishment of their credentials, and we critically need to add full-time positions to replace those.”
In the mid-1990s, Hall says, the Refuge System had 685 dual-function officers – officers who served simultaneously as a refuge manager or biologist. In 2002, a Department of the Interior secretarial directive mandated reduced dependency on dual-function officers. So today there are 111 dual-function officers and 281 full-time officer positions (34 of which are vacant or have an officer in rigorous training, which takes almost a year). That’s a total of 392 federal wildlife officers.
By way of comparison, Hall says, the state of Florida alone has about 600 conservation officers. Wisconsin has the lowest annual conservation officer-to-hunter/angler ratio among the 50 states: 1 to about 12,000. The Refuge System is doubly lower than that: 1 officer for about 24,000 hunters/anglers.
In 2004, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) figured the Refuge System should have 845 full-time officers based on visitation, miles of road and trails, known crime on refuges, endangered species enforcement, and more. The IACP is using updated statistics to develop a new risk-based deployment model for every unit of the Refuge System. It expected to be completed soon.
Photo caption: Federal wildlife officer Jon Beyer talks to an angler at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming. Beyer, now at Audubon Refuge and Wetland Management District in North Dakota, is one of 111 dual-function officers. (Photo by Keith Penner)
Home Values Higher near National Wildlife Refuges, New Study Finds
A peer-reviewed national study, released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, shows that in urban areas across three regions of the country owning a home near a national wildlife refuge increases home value and helps support the surrounding community’s tax base.
According to the study, conducted for the Service by economic researchers at North Carolina State University, homes located within half a mile of a refuge and within eight miles of an urban center were found to have higher home values of roughly:
Researchers based their findings on 2000 U.S. Census Bureau micro-level data. The report is the first national study to analyze national wildlife refuges’ impact on land values.
“National wildlife refuges are public treasures that protect imperiled wildlife and delight visitors,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “These findings remind us that refuges also boost community health, sometimes in unexpected ways,” the director continued. “National wildlife refuges enrich local communities ─ even in a lean economy – and generate revenue.”
Besides providing habitat for plants and animals, many wildlife refuges offer scenic vistas, wildlife watching, cultural and educational events, and recreation such as fishing and hiking. Last year, 45 million people visited a national wildlife refuge.
Calculated in 2000 dollars, the 14 refuges in the Southeast examined in the study added $122 million to local property values. The 11 refuges studied in the Northeast added $95 million. The 11 refuges studied in California/Nevada added $83 million.
The researchers surmised that refuges boost property values in the selected regions because refuges protect against future development while preserving scenic vistas and other “natural amenity benefits associated with open spaces.”
Researchers did not include data from the Midwest, Southwest, Central Mountains and Northwest, where refuges tend to be located further from urban centers than in the Northeast, Southeast and California/Nevada region. Most refuges in the Central Mountains and South Central portions of the country either failed to meet study criteria or were affected by factors that make assessing their impact difficult, such as their location in a river flood plain or near the border with Mexico.
“Our wildlife refuges are strong economic engines that generate and support jobs in communities across the country,” said Refuge System Chief Jim Kurth. “When President Obama signed an Executive Order earlier this year to promote travel and tourism in the United States he was affirming that investing in our refuges and promoting them to visitors undefined from here and around the world – can contribute to both an improved National Wildlife Refuge System and economic growth for local communities.”
The lead researcher on the new report, titled “Amenity Values of Proximity to National Wildlife Refuges,” was Laura O. Taylor with North Carolina State University. The report is available online here.
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