FRIENDS OF ANAHUAC REFUGE
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
For more stories like this, visit http://www.fws.gov/refuges/friends/newswire/
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)
For more stories like this, visit: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/friends/newswire/
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 United States is losing wetlands in coastal watersheds at a significant rate, according to a new report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These wetlands are vital to the survival of diverse fish and wildlife species. Wetlands also help sustain the country’s multi-billion-dollar coastal fisheries and outdoor recreation industries, improve water quality and protect coastal communities from the effects of severe storms.
The report, “Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Conterminous United States 2004 to 2009,” tracked wetland loss on the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts, as well as the Great Lakes shorelines. It concludes that more than 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands are being lost on average each year, up from 60,000 acres lost per year.
“Wetlands are important to our nation’s heritage, economy and wildlife – especially when it comes to coastal communities,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “When a study shows that an area four times the size of Miami is disappearing every year, it underscores the importance of strengthening our collective efforts to improve wetlands management, to
reduce losses and to ensure coastal infrastructure and resources are protected.”
“Wetlands are essential to fish and shellfish, and are integral to the health of the nation’s multi-billion dollar commercial and recreational fishing industries,” said Mark Schaefer, NOAA Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management. “The three most valuable species that depend on habitats supported by our wetlandsundefinedcrab, shrimp, and lobsterundefinedhad a combined value of $1.6 billion in 2012. The disappearance of this habitat could be detrimental to our nation's seafood supply.”
Notable wetland losses were recorded along the Gulf Coast (257,150 acres) and accounted for 71 percent of the total estimated loss during the study period. The Atlantic Coast lost 111,960 acres and the Pacific Coast 5,220 acres. Although the losses along the Pacific Coast were small in comparison to the others, they represent an important component of coastal wetlands in this region, which has a predominantly high, rocky coastline. The watersheds of the Great Lakes region experienced a net gain in wetland area of an estimated 13,610 acres.
“In addition to the important economic and safety benefits they provide to people, coastal wetlands are also vitally important to native fish and wildlife species,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “While they comprise less than 10 percent of the nation’s land area, they support 75 percent of our migratory birds, nearly 80 percent of fish and shellfish, and almost half of our threatened and endangered species. We can’t sustain native wildlife for future generations without protecting and restoring the coastal wetlands that support them.”
The increase in the overall rate of wetland loss was attributed to losses of saltwater wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico due to coastal storms, in combination with freshwater wetland losses in both the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Large losses of freshwater, forested wetland areas were attributed to urban and rural development and some forestry practices.
In some coastal watersheds, rising ocean levels are encroaching into wetlands from the seaward side, while development from the landward side takes a further chunk out of the existing wetland area and prevents wetlands from being able to migrate inland. This dual threat squeezes wetlands into an ever smaller and more fragile coastal fringe.
The report is online athttp://www.fws.gov/wetlands/Documents/Status-and-Trends-of-Wetlands-In-the-Coastal-Watersheds-of-the-Conterminous-US-2004-to-2009.pdf.
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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy Establish
New National Agreement for More Controlled Burning
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy have a new partnership that will increase and better coordinate controlled burn activities -- also known as prescribed fire -- to enhance wildlife values. The agreement will encourage more efficient use of personnel and equipment while treating lands that otherwise might not get the benefit of controlled burning.
Over the past 11 years, working under less formal local agreements, the Service and the Conservancy have worked in 39 states with 1,150 community partners to advance collaborative conservation and train more than 2,400 fire workers. It is believed that this national partnership will expand the positive impact these two organizations have on conservation and the protection of our national treasures.
“The wildlife habitats we manage need more prescribed fire to survive and thrive, and we can get more done on the ground by working together,” said Jim Kurth, Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System.
Controlled burns are used by land managers to safely mimic the natural fire cycle and maintain fire-resilient landscapes. Planned, controlled burns are also a critical tool to help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, often termed mega-fires, which have become more common in the past decade.
Collectively, the Service and the Conservancy manage more than 78 million fire-adapted acres across the United States. Last year, the Conservancy led controlled burns on nearly 105,000 acres of land it owns. Annually, the organization assists the Service in burns on approximately 22,000 acres of the Refuge System.
Historically, natural fires were common in the United States. They cleared overgrowth, restored nutrients to the soil, and “rebooted” the cycle of life across a patchwork of habitats. All told, around two-thirds of America’s forests and grasslands evolved to need the restorative power of fire at least once every 30 years.
The Service manages a network of fire-adapted lands in all 50 states and every U.S. territory, and needs to use prescribed fire on 400,000-800,000 acres per year. Fire is a critical habitat management tool, along with mechanical thinning, herbicides and other methods.
The Nature Conservancy is a private, global, not-for-profit organization that works to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends. In the United States, the Conservancy leads the national Fire Learning Network, along with multiple federal partners, including the Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.
Things seem like they are getting back to normal after the 16-day government shutdown. I know that was a stressful time for all.
For U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees, I'm not sure who was more frustrated -- those few who worked or the majority who was told they couldn't. Volunteers and Friends weren't allowed to help. People couldn't visit and enjoy their national wildlife refuges. Hunting trips were missed. Wildlife festivals and special events, including National Wildlife Refuge Week, were cancelled. Lots of important work didn't get done.
Let's hope we never do that again.
Perhaps the only good thing was welcoming people back. Service Director Dan Ashe was at our Headquarters Office early that day, meeting employees at the door and thanking them for the work they do. I know that scene was repeated over and over throughout the Refuge System. As we get back to work, we are faced with uncertain and challenging times.
Just before the shutdown, I sent Director Ashe a memo highlighting the effects of the budget cuts we have endured over the past three years. It pained me to describe how we were doing far less prescribed burning, wetland restoration and invasive species work than we had in the past. Our volunteer hours dropped by 8 percent because of inability to support them. Visitation continues to increase, putting additional pressure on employees to provide services. It doesn't appear that budgets are going to improve anytime soon. So while we hope for the best, we make plans for additional cuts.
Friends of wildlife refuges have probably seen these changes on your own refuge: more visitors, more demand, less staff to do the work. You have probably stepped forward to carry more tasks, whether welcoming visitors, helping with wildlife surveys, or getting on a tractor. We can't do our work without you. Not only do you bring innovative ideas, but you bring a public voice for the Refuge System.
In my 34 years of working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I can hardly think of a time when Friends’ perspective and voices have been needed more. Thanks for all you do for the Refuge System.
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The Banking On Nature report released this week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that national wildlife refuges are a good investment for American taxpayers and a boost to local economies. It found that...
...for every $1 Congress provides in funding to run the National Wildlife Refuge System, almost $5 on average is returned to local communities.
Anahuac NWR was one of 92 refuges selected for the report that shows a remarkable trend of increased visitation to refuges and increased economic contribution to local communities. Not only is it great that visitation has increased, but the increase occurred during the height of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. From 2006 to 2011, refuge visitation across the country increased by 30 percent and overall economic output from refuges increased by 22 percent, resulting in an annual $2.4 billion returned to local economies every year.
Anahuac NWR is a just a portion of the economic benefits created by the National Wildlife Refuge System. In addition to the $2.4 billion the refuge system generates, refuges brought in over 46 million visitors in 2011, a 30% increase from 2006. They create 35,000 jobs annually and produce nearly $800 million in job income for local communities.
FWS anticipates the upward trend in refuge visits and local economic stimulus will continue. However, the National Wildlife Refuge Association and over 230 refuge Friends groups are concerned that with recent budget cuts and more on the horizon, visitation will decrease as refuges close to visitors due to lack of staff and resources.
450 staff positions across the country are at risk to be cut by the end of next year with further budget reductions. Hunting and wildlife watching programs could end and volunteer efforts will be limited due to lack of staff to provide oversight. Nearly 20 refuges may lose their staff completely.
Anahuac NWR is a substantial economic driver that is at risk of losing it capability to provide benefits to the area. This is where being a Friends member makes a difference. We are a voice for the refuges and you are needed to make us heard. The Visitor Center, the almost completed Visitor Information Station, hunting, fishing, volunteer work days, and events like Fishing Day and the upcoming Expo are all at risk for being eliminated in the future with further budget cuts. Contact your representatives and share this report with them.
Information above gathered from the Banking on Nature report and the National Wildlife Refuge Association
You might be wondering how a government shut down will impact our 561 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts. To begin with – they will all be closed to the public. This includes hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, school trips – anything. Employees or refuge volunteers may NOT volunteer their services. If you are a Friends member or refuge volunteer, if you have anything you might need from the refuge itself, you should get it today. You will not be allowed on the refuge until the government opens again. If you have an upcoming celebration for Refuge Week (October 13-19) and it occurs on a refuge, it will be contingent on the government opening back up – you should make plans with refuge staff on what to do in case the government stays closed for several days, a week or longer. And, should the refuge open in time for your festival, know what your plans are to go forward. Some FWS staff are “essential” and will be working and available via e-mail and phone – but the vast majority of staff are not essential and will NOT answer e-mails or phone calls; they could be fired if they do.
FWS overall estimates that it will take a half day to shut down most operations; they anticipate that they will need another 100 employees from across FWS that will stay up to 8 hours, and in some cases more, to assure property is secured. Of the approximately 3500 Refuge System staff, about 310 are considered “essential”. Throughout the entire FWS, essential staff include animal caretakers, who must feed and care for live animals; refuge management personnel who are expected to protect federal property and public safety; essential infrastructure personnel who are essential to providing support services, such as information technology and building security to other excepted employees; and law enforcement officers, including refuge law enforcement and special agents. FWS will not retain staff at every refuge, but will have a Refuge Manager or Federal Wildlife Officer at every station with on-site staff, including major refuge complexes.
For more information, read the FWS Shut Down plan and Fact Sheet which includes not only refuges but endangered species, fisheries, fire programs and others:
Fact Sheet: http://www.doi.gov/shutdown/fy2014/upload/FWS-Fact-Sheet.pdf
Original story posted here: http://refugeassociation.org/2013/09/government-shut-down-and-national-wildlife-refuge-system-what-happens/
A Look Back … Harold Benson
Harold Benson and his wife, Betty, had just bought a house near Washington, DC, when Harold said, “we’re going to North Dakota.”
“There’s no trees out there, are there?” she asked.
“No, this is an opportunity for a new employee to go out and see if he can do anything,” he replied.
And so, in 1958, Benson began building the Small Wetlands Acquisition Program, which uses Duck Stamp proceeds and conservation easements to protect migratory bird and waterfowl habitat, mainly in the Prairie Pothole Region.
“Back in those early years,” recalled Benson in an oral history interview at the National Conservation Training Center, “we spent all the money we could spend, and I know, myself, I had taken almost 200 agreements the first year.”
Benson was born in Minneapolis in 1929. He graduated with a degree in forestry from the University of Minnesota before serving in the Korean War and beginning a 30-year career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1958.
He was an early leader in two other major conservation efforts – the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the North American Waterfowl Management Plan of 1986. He became the first assistant regional director for federal aid and endangered species, writing the first biological opinion on the Everglade kite. Later, as chief of refuges in the Southeast Region, Benson worked on the joint ventures that were critical to the success of the North American Plan. Charles Baxter, the first joint venture coordinator for the Lower Mississippi Valley, says Benson “had a personal interest in the success of the plan. And his management style was such that he came to basically every meeting … so I always had a supervisor that understood what I was doing.”
Benson received the Department of the Interior Distinguished Service Award in 1995. His pioneering leadership in the Small Wetlands Acquisition Program (SWAP) was recognized in 2008 when the Harold W. Benson Memorial Waterfowl Production Area was re-named in his honor at Chase Lake Wetland Management District in North Dakota.
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