FRIENDS OF ANAHUAC REFUGE
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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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)
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.
For more stories like this, visit
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.
For more stories like this, visit
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