National Program Critical for Recreational Access

 

Cow Island

MISSOULA, Mont.—A funding mechanism with a long name provides long-lasting benefits for hunters, anglers, hikers and others seeking improved access to America’s wild landscapes.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recently partnered with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to leverage more than $1 million in appropriations from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Priority Recreation Access program to open or improve access to nearly 55,000 acres of public land across four states.

Congress recently boosted LWCF to $425 million—a $25 million increase over 2017 but it did not permanently reauthorize the program which is set to expire September 30.

“LWCF is absolutely vital if we want to continue to permanently protect and provide access to habitat for elk and other wildlife,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation calls on Congress to permanently reauthorize this crucial program.”

RMEF’s most recent LWCF project was the conveyance of a 93-acre tract of land, known as the Cow Island Trail project, to the BLM that improves access to more than 6,000 acres of adjacent public land in north-central Montana’s Missouri River Breaks region.

“Expanding access to public lands for hunting and fishing is one of the BLM’s top priorities,” said Brian Steed, BLM deputy director for policy and programs. “Partnering with RMEF allows us to utilize critical funding to secure access to parcels like the Cow Island Trail project, which in turn broadens access now and ensures it for the future.”

Below is a list of RMEF-BLM projects utilizing LWCF-Priority Recreation Access funding.

      RMEF Project                                LWCF Funding

  • Cache Creek, California                   $321,000
  • Cow Island Trail, Montana               $97,500
  • La Barge Creek, Wyoming                $192,000
  • Tex Creek IV, Idaho                         $400,000

LWCF helps conserve wild and undeveloped places, cultural heritage and benefits fish, wildlife and recreation. Its funding comes from royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf. The royalties bring in $900 million annually, most of which is diverted to other federal programs.

“It takes great partners like the BLM to provide improved access opportunities for sportsmen and women but it also takes funding. These LWCF-Priority Recreation Access funds are absolutely critical in both conserving prime wildlife habitat and opening or improving access to it,” added Henning.

If you have questions about the RMEF or are interested in receiving background materials or arranging interviews please contact:

RMEF Director of Communication, Phone: 1-800-225-5355, Ext. 481 or E-mail: publicrelations@rmef.org.  For specific news in a state, please contact one of our Regional Directors.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded over 30 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of more than 227,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 7.3 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at www.rmef.org, www.elknetwork.com or 800-CALL ELK.
Take action:
join and/or donate.

THE TREE…my Ancient Friend

Joe Forma Photo

  • Trees, People, Wildlife, Home and Air we Breath
  • Shade, Shelter, Habitat, Leaves and Natural Fertilizer
  • Fond Memories from Days Long Ago, some Thoughts for Days Ahead
  • Let’s ALL Learn More About Trees
These Great Horned Owl chicks are right at home with their mama in their nesting tree. Missouri Department of Conservation photo

By Larry Whiteley

I was on my way to our cabin when I saw it. I am sure I’ve seen it lots of other times. It was just a glimpse as I drove by. Why did it bother me so much then? It was just a bulldozer knocking over a tree. That happens all the time in today’s world. We have to have more convenience stores, banks and shopping centers, don’t we?

People have always cleared fields of trees. They did it to grow crops or raise cattle so they could feed their families. The trees were used for firewood to keep them warm. Now, they push over trees and just burn them to get rid of them. When the shopping centers are completed, people take their families there to feed them or shop.

What really amazes me is to see developers clear the land of trees for a new housing complex and then name the streets after them. Then, people that buy the houses go to the local home improvement store or nursery to spend hundreds of dollars on small trees to plant in their yards that will take years to grow as big as those that were once there.

As I kept driving, I tried to think about what I needed to get done when I got to my cabin surrounded by the woods of the Mark Twain National Forest. I tried to listen to what the guy on the radio was saying. It didn’t do any good. I kept seeing the bulldozer pushing over the tree. Why couldn’t I get it out of my mind? It was just a tree.

Maybe it bothered me so much this time because I’m getting older and wiser. Well, older anyway. My mind took me back to when I was a kid growing up on the farm. I would spend all day wandering around in the woods. The trees hid me from all the Indians that were after me. I dodged their arrows as I ran from tree to tree. My imagination entertained me back then. I didn’t need TV, video games or a smart phone.  Thank God my kids grew up enjoying the woods. Now my grandkids are discovering the wonder of the woods, climbing trees and carving initials.

Other days, I would climb up into the comforting arms of a tree and soak in the wonder of the woods or just daydream. I can still remember the odd shape, a weird knot, the feel of the bark on certain trees. I wonder if some of those trees are still there. I wonder if my initials are still carved in them.

As I got older, I would head to the woods with my dog Bo and my little single shot .22, bought with money I had earned. I still have that gun and the memories of knowing I only had one shot so I couldn’t miss when that squirrel ran out on a limb. We didn’t have a lot of extra money to be buying more .22 shells and that squirrel was supper.

I still enjoy hiking in the woods. I love the kaleidoscope of fall colors. I still climb trees, but now it’s to sit in a treestand waiting for a deer to walk by. My granddaughter poses for pictures on a grapevine swing. My grandson loves to hunt squirrels and deer now too. I smile as I watch them and I remember.

What was it that the guy on the radio just said? “And he created the heavens and the earth.” He created all the trees too didn’t he?

It shouldn’t be bothering me about seeing that tree pushed down. After all, I cut down trees too, don’t I? Their wood keeps our cabin warm during the cold of winter. They are also magically transformed into hiking sticks, candle holders, lamps, coat racks and lots of other things in my workshop.  

I am wise enough to know that if your home is shaded by trees, your air conditioner won’t run as much and you’ll save money on electricity. You might even be able to open your windows and enjoy a fresh breeze. Cleaning the gutter, picking up limbs and raking leaves is a small price to pay.

Even my 10-year old grandson can tell you that the more trees you cut down, the less oxygen you have. Oxygen – you know the stuff that helps you breathe. I read somewhere that a single tree is valued at over $13,000 during its lifetime for the oxygen it provides. Multiply that times the number of trees in your yard, if you have trees in your yard.

Trees are also important to the wildlife that use them. Birds and squirrels build nests, turkeys roost in their tops, deer rub their bark, woodpeckers peck. Wildlife feeds on the nuts, berries and insects they provide.

Fish and other aquatic species also rely on trees for shade along their watery homes. When they die and fall into the water they provide fish habitat and safety from predators.

I pull into my cabin and a song is playing on the radio. As I listen, I’m not upset anymore. The words roll over in my mind as I look around at all the trees. “He grew the tree that he knew would be used to make the old rugged cross.” You see, that was the most important tree of all.

New York DEC Announces 2018 I Bird NY Challenges

  • I Bird NY Engages New Yorkers of All Ages and Abilities in Beginning Birding
  • Connecting New Yorkers with Nature
Birds are everywhere in nature, but can be found in surprisingly public places too, like this sweet singing Mockingbird. Forrest Fisher Photo

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos recently announced the launch of two birding challenges for 2018 through the State’s “I BIRD NY” program.  I BIRD NY was launched by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in 2017 to build on the State’s efforts to increase access to New York’s vast natural resources and promote low-cost opportunities to explore the great outdoors and connect with nature.

DEC Commissioner Seggos said, “Birding can be enjoyed by New Yorkers of any age and ability, no matter where they live. I BIRD NY is making it easier than ever to get outside and enjoy birdwatching. I encourage residents and visitors alike to take a trip and experience some of New York’s prime bird watching areas. For competitive birders out there, I encourage you to participate in this year’s Birder Challenge.”

I BIRD NY encourages New Yorkers to engage in birding all year long. From Montauk to Buffalo, New York is home to a wide array of habitats that support more than 450 different bird species. There are also 59 Bird Conservation Areas across the state. Bird watching is one of the fastest growing outdoor recreational activities that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and experiences in any community.

To help encourage young people to get outdoors, DEC is hosting an I BIRD NY Beginners Birding Challenge (PDF, 892 KB) open to anyone 16 years of age and younger. All participants will receive a completion certificate, an official I BIRD NY bracelet, and be entered to win birding accessories, including binoculars and spotting scopes. To complete the Beginners Birding Challenge, participants must find 10 common New York bird species.

This year, DEC is introducing a new birding challenge open to adults. Current birders are encouraged to take birding to the next level by taking the I BIRD NY Experienced Birder Challenge. To complete the challenge, birders must find at least 10 of 50 listed bird species found across New York State. All participants in this challenge will receive a special certificate, bracelet, and be entered into a drawing for a spotting scope. All entries for the two challenges must be received by September 30, 2018.‎

This year makes an especially good time to engage all New Yorkers in the appreciation and protection of bird species. 2018 has been named the Year of the Bird by the National Audubon Society, National Geographic, BirdLife International, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

“Audubon New York applauds the DEC’s continued commitment to connect New Yorkers to nature through the joys of birdwatching, and we thank the Commissioner for embarking on this worthwhile and fun initiative”, said Ana Paula Tavares, Executive Director, Audubon New York. “We look forward to working with the DEC to provide opportunities for New Yorkers to engage in these challenges and to enjoy birding through our statewide network of nature centers, sanctuaries, and local Audubon chapter programs.”

The need for outdoor recreation has never been greater. According to the National Wildlife Federation, childhood obesity has doubled over the past 20 years and the average American child spends as few as 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen. Accessible state lands, parks, and facilities can promote physical activity, an important element of overall wellness. These assets provide low-cost opportunities to explore the great outdoors and to connect with nature.

Birding and wildlife watching also provide significant economic impacts to New York’s communities. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, wildlife watchers spent $4.2 billion on wildlife-watching activities in New York State in 2011.

Visit I Bird NY to find the two challenges, and for information on where and how to bird watch, upcoming bird walks and other events, a downloadable kids booklet, and additional resources.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to open brief opportunity for public to shape analysis of Pebble Mine plan

Anglers and fishing business owners urge comprehensive, thorough impact analysis and extended comment period.

ANCHORAGE, AK - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it will open a 30-day public comment period, beginning April 1, to collect input on the scope of its analysis of Pebble Limited Partnership’s mine plan. This is the first formal opportunity for the public to comment on the latest proposed mine plan, which was submitted to the Corps of Engineers last December.

“Limiting a comment period to just 30 days is not enough time for public input and participation, especially with inadequate application materials on the table. The Pebble Partnership is attempting to fool Alaskans by submitting an application that covers just the first phase of mine development,” said Nelli Williams, Alaska director of Trout Unlimited. “A giant mine proposal slated for the heart of salmon country demands a thorough process with ample opportunity for public input and that encompasses the full picture of Pebble’s impacts, not just what is convenient for Pebble to release right now.”

The current permit application is limited to the Pebble Partnership’s plan to develop the first 1.2 billion tons of the nearly 11-billion-ton deposit, despite the fact that the Partnership has clearly signaled to potential funders its intention to build a much larger mine.

“Even this initial application for the first phase of the mine makes clear that the Pebble Partnership cannot protect clean water and salmon in Bristol Bay, or the landscape conditions that attract anglers from around the globe, if the mine is developed,” said Williams. “Pebble Mine would fundamentally alter a world-class fishery upon which family businesses and 37,000 recreational fishermen rely, and rivers that are slated to bring 60 million wild salmon to the region this year.”

The Corps of Engineers is the lead federal agency for three on-going permitting processes – the Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline, the Nanashuk Project, and the Donlin Gold Project. For each of these projects, the initial comment periods ranged from 75 to 106 days.

Pebble is by far the largest mine ever proposed in Alaska and threatens catastrophic impacts to the headwaters of the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon fishery, yet the Corps of Engineers is offering a mere 30-day scoping period. This is the shortest of any active permitting process requiring an Environmental Impact Statement overseen by the Corps of Engineers in Alaska.

In December 2017, the Pebble Partnership filed a permit application to the Corps of Engineers with incomplete fisheries and water data and without proof of financial viability. The application contains plans to dredge and fill more than 4,000 acres of wetlands in the Bristol Bay region during initial development of the proposed Pebble mine. The mine and supporting facilities will run continuously for 20 years, according to the current plan.

Take Action: http://www.savebristolbay.org/take-action/.

Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization. In Alaska, we work with more than 100 angling businesses and thousands of individual sportsmen and women to ensure the state’s trout and salmon resources remain healthy through our local chapters and offices in Anchorage and Juneau. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter, and visit us online at tu.org and savebristolbay.org.

That’s No Coyote! St. Lawrence County, New York

Coyote hunter lied to fish and wildlife law enforcement officer when a deer was taken out of season in New York State.

On March 26, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Officer (ECO) Scott Atwood investigated a complaint of a deer being taken out of season in the town of Clifton.

When the officer arrived at a camp described in the complaint, he found fresh blood, drag marks, deer hair, and a pickup truck stuck in the snow at an adjacent camp. A search of the area determined the location of where the deer had been shot. Drag marks led to a small pond where the ECO found a fresh gut pile. ECO Atwood received a phone call from the truck’s owner.

Initially, the man attempted to use a bogus story as to how the deer was killed. ECO Atwood advised the man he had evidence to prove otherwise and gave the subject a second opportunity to tell the truth. The man stated that while he and a friend were coyote hunting, he saw an animal out in a field adjacent to his coyote caller.

Excited to kill his first coyote, the subject took aim using only the moonlight, believing the animal was a coyote. After walking out to the field to where the animal went down, the subject realized it was a doe deer.

Afraid of getting in trouble, the subject chose to gut the deer and keep it. The deer was hidden in the garage at the camp until his return. ECO Atwood charged the shooter with taking deer during the closed season, killing deer except as permitted by the Fish and Wildlife law and illegal possession of protected wildlife.

The man’s friend was issued a written warning for illegal possession of wildlife. The man’s gun and the deer were seized, and the deer was brought to a butcher shop where it was donated to the Helping Hands of Hannawa, which provides meals to the local community. 

About NYSDEC: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law, protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2017, the 301 ECOs across New York State responded to 26,400 calls and issued 22,150 tickets for violations and crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations. If you witness an environmental crime in New York or believe a violation of environmental law occurred, please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).

“From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling our state are the first line of defense in protecting New York’s environment and our natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers,” said NYSDEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes. Although they don’t receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC’s mission to protect and enhance our environment.

Help NESTING SEA TURTLES, Keep Beaches Dark and Free of Obstacles at Night

  • Bright Beachfront Lighting Can MISDIRECT Nesting Sea Turtles -Turn it Off
  • Loggerhead, Leatherback and Green SEA TURTLES are Nesting Right Now
  • Report Sick, Injured or Entangled Sea Turtles to FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline, 1-888-404-FWCC (3922)
Nesting loggerhead sea turtle. Photo by Loggerhead Marinelife Center

Keeping beaches dark at night and free of obstacles will help sea turtles during their nesting season, which begins in Florida on March 1 and lasts through the end of October.

Bright artificial lighting can misdirect and disturb nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings, so beachgoers should avoid using flashlights or cellphones at night. Turning out lights or closing curtains and shades in buildings along the beach after dark will ensure nesting turtles are not disturbed as they come ashore and hatchlings will not become disoriented when they emerge from their nests. Clearing away boats and beach furniture at the end of the day and filling in holes in the sand are also important because turtles can become trapped in furniture and get trapped in holes on the beach.

Florida’s beachfront residents and visitors taking these actions will help conserve the loggerhead, leatherback and green sea turtles that nest on the state’s coastlines.

“Keeping Florida’s beaches dark and uncluttered at night can help protect sea turtles that return to nest on our beaches,” said Dr. Robbin Trindell, who heads the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) sea turtle management program. “Many agency partners, such as nature centers, marine turtle permit holders and local governments, contribute greatly to sea turtle conservation. But caring beachgoers can also make a significant difference in helping nesting and hatchling sea turtles survive.”

Exactly when sea turtle nesting season starts depends on where you are in Florida. While it begins in March on the Atlantic coast from Brevard through Broward counties, it starts later in the spring, in late April or May, along the northeast Atlantic, the Keys and Gulf coasts.

Wherever you are, other ways to help sea turtles include properly disposing of fishing line to avoid entanglements, and reporting those that are sick, injured, entangled or dead to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone.

Purchasing a “Helping Sea Turtles Survive”  Florida license plate at Buyaplate.com  contributes to sea turtle research, rescue and conservation efforts. People also can donate $5 and receive an FWC sea turtle decal.

Go to MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle for more information on Florida’s sea turtles, then click on “Research,” then “Nesting” for more data on sea turtle nesting.

Photos are available on the FWC’s Flickr site: http://bit.ly/2bwCAj5.  Sea turtle nesting video B-roll available on FWC’s Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/257783160 

Icarus Update…the Story of an Injured Bald Eagle

  • Peace River Wildlife Center is a Rehabilitation Center for Injured Birds and Wildlife
  • Burned Feathers, Trauma, but No Broken Bones
  • Healing Process Details 

In early January 2018, Peace River Wildlife Center admitted a bald eagle that had been burned by a power pole discharge.  While it isn’t a common injury for us to treat, an electrical shock is not unheard of.  When we do have an incident like this, Florida Power & Light is extremely responsive.  They investigate and repair the pole (and numerous poles on either side of it) to make sure the poles are safe going forward, for both the wildlife and workers who may encounter it.

The word “electrocution” was first used in the late 1880’s in the United States to describe a new form of electrical execution via the electric chair, which was invented by a dentist, who apparently was no longer content to just torture patients in his dental chair.  (This will come as no surprise to anyone who was a patient of Dr. Goldy, the pediatric dentist I was sentenced to as a child.)

Originally it referred only to death by that method, but quickly caught on as a term to describe accidental death by shock since no word for that existed.  Electrocution is now also used to describe serious but non-fatal injuries due to electric shock, the results of which may vary depending on the strength of current and length of exposure.

Icarus getting feisty, recovery is in process.

When an electrical current passes through the body, it can cause immediate death by stopping the heart or respiration.  It can also cause more insidious damage when the current flows in one part of the body and out another.  Quite often those relatively minor-looking injuries will become life-threatening over the course of the next few days.  The tissues—nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and organs—between the entrance and exit wounds can become necrotic, leading to the eventual death of the victim.

Luckily for the eagle, we believe our patient had been burned rather than shocked.  (If you can consider being burned all over your body a stroke of luck.)  The bird had just landed atop the power pole with a fish he caught in a nearby canal.  According to one witness, a large spark arced from the line next to the eagle into the ground a few feet away.  Our patient was burned by the heat emanating from that arc.  He was blown or jumped into the canal, which seems like adding insult to injury, but may have helped save his life.  The intense heat on his feathers and skin was immediately quenched by the cool water.

When he got to PRWC, the eagle’s prognosis was guarded.  He could have inhaled the heat or water, causing damage to his lung tissue or pneumonia.  He could have broken bones in his wings or legs when he fell.  The delicate tissue of his eyes could have been destroyed.  A serious incident like this can have long-lasting repercussions.

                                           Many ways to donate, please click to view.

We dubbed the eagle Icarus, after the character in Greek mythology who flew too close to the sun and fell into the sea.  Whether it was hubris or hunger that initiated the event, our Icarus didn’t drown, and he is now recovering nicely from his injuries.  He suffered burns on most of the feathers all over his body, head, and wings.  The skin on his face and feet were singed.  But the sensitive tissues of his eyes and respiratory systems seem to have been spared.  He has no broken bones and with a recent development of his predilection to perch on top of a doorway, we have reason to believe he may be able to fly again someday.

The skin on his feet and face is healing well and his appetite is good.  He will be placed in our 100-foot flight cage soon while the rest of his feathers molt.  It can take up to three years for an eagle to molt every feather on his body, and Icarus had almost all his feathers affected.  With the damage that was done to his skin, we are cautiously optimistic that his body will go into overdrive and replace the seared feathers more quickly.

In the meantime, we will continue to care for this decrepit soul until he is once again the majestic bird he once was—and will be again, thanks to the community’s support.

So, I Wrote a Letter to Jeep

By Chris Wood

So, I wrote a letter to Jeep.

They ran an ad in the Super Bowl called “The Road,” that showed a Jeep running up the center of what looked like a stream. My eight year old son turned to me after it ran and said, “Dad, isn’t that really bad for the stream?”

A few days after sending the letter, I had a very constructive call with the head of communications for Fiat-Chrysler. He explained that the “creek” was actually a flooded county road, and said that Jeep would make that clear on the internet where the ad now lives. He understood my concerns and said he would try to arrange a meeting for me with Jeep, a brand that promotes getting people into the outdoors—something we at Trout Unlimited support, too.

Then the Associate Press picked up the story. I expected that TU members and supporters would back me up, and they did. What I did not expect was the backlash from some in the off-road vehicle community. I was accused of perpetuating the “over sensitivity that is ruining America today”; told that I am “part of what’s wrong with this world;” and cursed at.

I received a few calls, too. One retired veteran called around 9pm frustrated by my letter. He said he longed for a previous era where people weren’t so sensitive, and that he didn’t defend the country for 20 years for a bunch of snowflakes. By the end of the call, he wanted to help out with TU’s Veterans Service Partnership.

One heavy equipment contractor in California wrote me an unhappy note, and I called him the next day. He described how people who lived in the Sierra’s resented people from places such as San Francisco telling them how to use the lands they lived and loved. He is an off-roader, and a stream restoration specialist. I paid particular attention to what he said. 

Many people in America today, feel that they are losing control of their traditions, pasttimes, and passions to “urban elites” or “wealthy people from elsewhere.” The backlash against my letter to Jeep echoed and then magnified that sense of losing control. As anglers, we know this, too. How many places that we used to fish or hunt are now posted? The lack of access for fishing (and hunting) is the primary concern of sportsmen and women all around the country. In fact, TU has a group focused on gaining public access by working with land trusts and has invested countless hours fighting for access in state legislatures.

Then I spoke to Pam Harrington, who works for TU in Nevada and Idaho, and the light turned on. So much of our dialogue today is driven by the politics of division. The internet fuels the flames. Conversation and working together are out the window, and replaced by keyboard warriors.

But in the real world, people do work together. Pam sent me a video an off-roader driving up the center of Sinker Creek in Idaho. TU had worked for years with a variety of partners to restore the stream for Owyhee Redband trout, a rare trout species.

What happened next? Not one, but seven different local off-road vehicle clubs worked with Pam and others in Trout Unlimited to repair the damage and improve Sinker Creek. That is what America, and Trout Unlimited, are all about. Not angry rhetoric and flaming emails; we are defined by people coming together to protect and restore the places we live and love.

I look forward to meeting with the people at Jeep.

— Chris Wood

The Letter:

 

Trout Unlimited applauds initiatives recognizing IMPORTANCE of Fish and Wildlife Migration

Submitted by Brett Prettyman

Story by Paul Burnett

A native Bonneville cutthroat trout in Utah’s Weber River is released after being caught as part of an effort to track fish in the drainage. Paul Burnett/Trout Unlimited

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources recently rolled out a Wildlife Migration Initiative, focused on the migration needs of wildlife and native fish throughout the state.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke came to Utah last week and applauded state efforts while introducing Secretarial Order 3362, which directs the Department of the Interior to work with state, local governments and non-governmental organizations to improve coordination, project partnerships to advance our understanding of the migration needs of wildlife.

We applaud Secretary Zinke for recognizing the importance of improving priority habitats within important migration corridors.

However, we recommend the idea that the need to improve priority habitats and corridors should include a broad range of species in addition to big game animals specified in the order.

Utah biologists have collected impressive data, often in partnership with Trout Unlimited, illustrating how barriers impact migratory cutthroat trout. The state is also working to better understand the migration obstacles of endangered fish species.

A transmitter is placed in a migratory Bonneville cutthroat as part of efforts to track movements of native trout on the Weber River in Utah. Paul Burnett/Trout Unlimited

We hope the Department of Interior and all partners impacted by the order will indeed “Review and use the best available sceince to inform development of specific guidelines for the department’s lands and waters related to inform development of specific guidelines for the Department’s lands and waters related to planning and developing energy, tranmission, or other relevant projects to avoid or minimizing potential negative impacts on wildlife.”

This is something Trout Unlimited has long promoted, most recently with the Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development coalition in the report “Lessons Learned: A Blueprint for Securing our Energy Future While Preserving America’s Sporting Heritage”.

Trout Unlimited has been working with state and federal agencies for years through Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative, and through federal programs with BLM, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Fish Passage Program, and the U.S. Forest Service to protect and improve habitat connectivity in streams.

These recent initiatives further the commitment of land and wildlife agencies in their consideration for important migratory corridors for our fisheries and wildlife throughout the West.

Scientists have asserted in scientific journals for decades, that the long-term sustainability of important fisheries, like salmon and native inland trout, was greatly affected by impediments to movement (barriers) along stream systems. As we have done more research on the needs of trout and salmon, the fact that fish need to move has become more and more clear and an important priority in our restoration strategies throughout the West.

This graphic shows the barriers migratory Bonneville cutthroat face while trying to reach spawning grounds in the Weber River drainage in Utah. Paul Burnett/Trout Unlimited

Nearly two decades ago, TU’s own Warren Colyer discovered Bonneville cutthroat trout in Wyoming that he tagged in the Thomas Fork with radio tags, making large-scale migrations downstream into the Bear River, where they then swam upstream into another tributary, the Smiths Fork, and spawned in the headwaters. The migrations were up to 55 miles, traversing a wide range of habitats.

From a purely energetic perspective, it doesn’t make much sense for a fish to put so much energy into moving so far, which leads to the questions of why fish move – questions not as easily answered.

This is an animation developed by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources that illustrates movement of a single Bonneville cutthroat trout in the lower Weber River and the impacts of barriers to its movement. Barriers are indicated on the map with the markers. We are using this movement data to prioritize barrier removal, and in the interim of the movements of this specific fish, we constructed a fish ladder on the concrete culvert to allow it to migrate into spawning grounds that had been inaccessible for over 50 years.

This is an animation developed by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources that illustrates movement of a single Bonneville cutthroat trout in the lower Weber River and the impacts of barriers to its movement. Barriers are indicated on the map with the markers. We are using this movement data to prioritize barrier removal, and in the interim of the movements of this specific fish, we constructed a fish ladder on the concrete culvert to allow it to migrate into spawning grounds that had been inaccessible for over 50 years.

We have a few theories about why fish migrate long distances, ranging from long term spawning success in specific tributary systems that lack predators, to the idea that fish are moving around river systems to track suitable temperatures and food. The important point is that we know that trout and other native inland fish DO need to migrate and when they do, they interface with human infrastructure more frequently, often at their own peril.

As an example, fish migrating downstream are prone to being entrained (sucked into) irrigation systems with no way out. The longer the distance of migration, the higher the number of instream structures fish are likely to encounter.

When an animal’s habitat is chopped up into smaller pieces on the landscape that they cannot move between, it is a phenomenon known as habitat fragmentation. Fragmentation is an important threat to fish because the smaller pieces of habitat are more prone to being destroyed by natural events like fire or floods, or climate change. Fish populations living in fragmented rivers also lack the resiliency to bounce back after a portion of their habitat is disturbed or lost.

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When a dam is in the way, or a road crossing stops fish from moving upstream, the results can be extremely problematic. When irrigation diversions sweep the river, fish don’t have a choice, and often don’t know that they are entering irrigation systems. Fish don’t have any other way to get from Point A to Point B, but through the water. If they are blocked…they are blocked.

Sources of fragmentation are varied but can be categorized into four main types:
• Road crossings. Whenever a road crosses a stream, either a bridge, or more-commonly a culvert is constructed. Culverts and bridges are typically designed to be efficient in passing water and sediment. Too-often, the result is a steep culvert with fast water velocities or a vertical drop that fish cannot clear, or a combination of the two.
• Dams and diversions. Throughout the United States, thousands of streams have been dammed for many reasons, whether it is to generate hydropower, deliver irrigation water, store runoff, or power historic mills, the effect has been to block any and all fish species from moving upstream.
• Dewatered stream segments. If there is no water in a stream, then fish obviously cannot move through that reach. This is a well-known challenge throughout the West, and it is emerging as an increasingly important issue as well as the West continues to grow and develop.
• Water quality impaired reaches. As evidenced in streams with abandoned mines throughout Colorado, or excessive sedimentation caused by activities like uncontrolled grazing or timber harvest, the affects in headwaters compound and propagate downstream into tributaries and mainstem rivers, potentially rendering miles of stream habitat unsuitable for trout, and preventing fish from moving through those reaches.

A typical barrier to native fish migration on the Weber River in Utah, and across the country. Paul Burnett/Trout Unlimited

TU’s “Protect, Reconnect, Restore, and Sustain” model for restoration has been around for more than a decade. This framework recognized the need to apply different strategies at different locations within our river basins, ranging from policies like the 2015 Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS) that protect headwaters streams, conserving public lands, reconnection within tributary systems, and restoration within main stem rivers.

Key to this strategy is our effort to reconnect priority streams through collaborative actions, oftentimes with nontraditional partners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This 385-foot culvert on Strawberry Creek, a tributary to the Weber River, blocked migratory cutthroat from reaching historic grounds for more than 50 years. A fish ladder was constructed by TU and partners and fish used it the next spring. Paul Burnett/Trout Unlimited

TU has leveraged tens of millions of dollars to work with water users, landowners, federal land management agencies, and road departments to restore habitat connectivity, oftentimes through infrastructure modernization, such as reconstruction of irrigation diversions, or road crossings that benefit local communities. But we have also restored habitat connectivity through water leases.

A video showing the Strawberry Creek Project in the Weber River Drainage.

Complimentary to our on-the-ground actions is a strategy of sustaining our efforts by fostering collaborative initiatives with land management agencies and state wildlife agencies. We have been encouraged by recent proclamations and initiatives by the Department of Interior and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, respectively to recognize the importance of wildlife migrations to the sustainability of our fisheries and wildlife populations, but also to the idea that our modern economy can coexist with and benefit from robust fish and wildlife populations.

Many improvements to infrastructure and water policy can be made through collaborative, voluntary and non-regulatory actions.

Paul Burnett is the Utah Project Leader for Trout Unlimited’s Western Water and Habitat Program. He is based out of Ogden, Utah.

SAVING OCEANS, SAVING PEOPLE, SEEING the LIGHT

  • Vision Clarity, Eye Protection, Seeing All Things Better
  • About Sunglasses, Don’t Leave Home without These – Learn Why
  • My Old Eyes Have Been Opened! …By a Company that CARES.

By Larry Whiteley

The author in his camo Costas.

I have owned a lot of sunglasses in my lifetime.

Most of them were inexpensive, made in China sunglasses that didn’t protect my eyes from harmful UV rays and sure didn’t help me see any better.

That all changed last year when my grandson who fishes on the Kansas State University Bass Fishing Team won a certificate for a free pair of Costa sunglasses in a tournament.

He kept telling me, “PaPaw you can’t believe how comfortable and how much better they are when it comes to seeing fish.”

He was right!

I would have never believed that a pair of Costa sunglasses could make such a difference in not only my ability to see fish, but everything outdoors has a totally different perspective when I look through them.

I like them so much I even got a camouflage, non-reflective pair to wear when I go hunting.

Costa makes it simple and easy to find the right pair of sunglasses that match your outdoor activities, whether it’s fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, boating, driving or anything else. Each lens color has a different purpose to keep specific spectrums of light out of your eyes and focus on certain conditions that will enhance your clarity and visibility.  Made in both glass and polycarbonate, every lens is polarized and gives you 100% UVA, UVB, and UVC protection.

Best of all, they are made right here in the USA.

Fishermen love their Costas.

I could go on and on about Costa sunglasses, but instead I invite you to go to www.costadelmar.com.  Click on this link, then go learn all about the different styles and find a retailer near you to go try them out for yourself.

My Costa’s are much more than the best quality sunglasses I have ever owned.

Costa is not a company that just cares about their bottom line. They care about our world’s environment and they are actively involved in doing something about it.

Kick Plastic

Through their Kick Plastic campaign, Costa is working with organizations to reduce the impact of plastic on our environment. Even Costa frames are made of a bio-based resin rather than petroleum-based plastics. Almost all plastic that has ever been produced is still around. We use millions of tons of plastic just once and then throw it away.

The equivalent of a garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute.

By 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean (by weight).

Sadly, in today’s world, one in four ocean fish tested have plastic in them.

Costa is actively taking their Kick Plastic campaign across the country to educate people on what is happening to our environment. Costa is inviting all of us to challenge ourselves to Kick Plastic!

OCEARCH

Costa is proud to be a long-term supporter of OCEARCH, an At-Sea Lab led by explorers and researchers who generate critical data and put science on the side of sharks.

You may not live near an ocean, but you should be concerned that 190 sharks are killed every minute.

Sharks are the lifeblood of our oceans, and they’re disappearing.

If the oceans lose their top predator, the entire ocean ecosystem is in trouble.

The Costa+OCEARCH Collection features new sunglasses and gear, inspired by the sharks that keep our oceans balanced. Your purchase of these products helps fund future OCEARCH expeditions and their mission to protect sharks. You can also help spread the message at #DONTFEARTHEFIN.

Project Guyana

Arapaima are the world’s largest freshwater fish.

Costa sees sport fishing itself as conservation and is on a mission to protect the world’s waters by promoting sport fishing.

In the waters of the impoverished nation of Guyana’s unspoiled rain forest in South America, Costa found a place where sport fishing could preserve the country’s natural resources and culture.

Costa appreciated their efforts not to pillage their natural resources and was especially interested in the opportunity to bring in fly fishermen and give them a chance at catching the world’s largest freshwater fish, the Arapaima.

Arapaima grow up to ten feet long and can weigh over 800 pounds, they are known as living fossils.

Today fly fisherman all over the world are coming and helping tourism in Guyana to grow.

Because of this, schools are receiving more resources, the country’s infrastructure has improved and their natural resources have been protected.

Costa hopes this success will continue to grow throughout Guyana and spread to other countries.

Bluefin-on-the-Line

After many years of over-harvest, Costa is helping to bring back the tuna.

Commercial overharvesting and other factors have all but wiped out the Bluefin Tuna population from the waters around Bimini and Cat Cay islands to off the coast of Florida.

Now, Costa through their Bluefin-on-the-Line program, along with the legendary Merritt family, is on a quest to revive an island, a sport, and a legacy by bringing back the Bluefin Tuna.

There are getting to be more companies like Costa who are giving back for conservation and our environment.

We need these companies, we need more of them and we need to support them by buying their products.

 

 

Colorado Elk Habitat Protected, Hunting Access Improved

  •  
  • 2,677 Acres of Vital Elk Habitat is NOW PROTECTED
  • Colorado Habitat Stamp Funding and Great Outdoors Colorado supplied KEY FUNDING
  • Grateful Thanks to Rick Tingle for Easement on his Louisiana Purchase Ranch

MISSOULA, MT.— Thanks to a conservation-minded landowner and a key state funding program, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation joined Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to permanently protect 2,677 acres of vital elk habitat in northwest Colorado.

“We are grateful to Rick Tingle, a RMEF life member, for placing a conservation easement on his Louisiana Purchase Ranch,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “Additionally, this project highlights the critical need for the Colorado Wildlife Habitat Program (CWHP) and its Habitat Stamp which supplied important funding to help push things through to the finish line.”

“With a fast-growing human population, it is more important than ever before to ensure the state’s wildlife has the habitat it needs to survive in perpetuity,” said Bill de Vergie, CPW area wildlife manager. “Thanks to funds provided by Great Outdoors Colorado and CPW’s Habitat Stamp Program, a very valuable stretch of land is now protected through the CWHP. Some limited public hunting access will also be provided so the benefits of this easement will pay dividends well into the future.”

CWHP provides a means for CPW to work with private landowners, local governments, and conservation organizations to protect important fish and wildlife habitat and provide places for people to enjoy opportunities to hunt and fish.

Since the ranch is bordered on three sides by State Land Board and Bureau of Land Management land in a part of the state home to Colorado’s largest elk herds, it provides connectivity for elk and mule deer migration. Thousands of elk pass through the area during the spring and fall. The property also provides summer and winter range for both species and other wildlife.

“This truly is a special place,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO, who has visited the location. “We are grateful to the Tingle family for recognizing and helping us protect the wildlife values of this land.”

Access is improved to surrounding public lands because the landowner will provide perpetual unlimited permission to public hunters for a 25-day period each year with drive-through access. In addition, he signed off on a 10-year CPW agreement to provide access for six elk and/or deer hunters on lands off County Road 23 during a three-day window during Colorado’s third rifle season.

Since 1987, RMEF and its partners completed 726 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Colorado with a combined value of more than $165.2 million. These projects protected or enhanced 447,910 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 107,992 acres.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation: Founded over 30 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of more than 227,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 7.3 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at www.rmef.org, elknetwork.com or 800-CALL ELK.

 

 

 

 

Pebble Mine – SAVE Bristol Bay NEWS UPDATE

The world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery is home to Bristol Bay, Alaska.

Good News from EPA….but We still need your communication support.  CLICK BELOW.

  • Battle is Not Over
  • Help Us Protect the World’s Largest Sockeye Salmon Fishery
  • Contact Elected Officials With LINK BELOW

By Rachel James

During January (2018), we received some good news from the EPA about Pebble Mine, however there is still a long way to go to before Bristol Bay is protected.

The mine plan they filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers makes it clear that the Pebble Mine in phase one alone would dramatically impact the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery. And to be clear: the proposal they’ve put forth now is only the beginning.

Please take a moment to tell our elected officials to hold Pebble’s permit application to the highest standards of review possible.

We’ll likely see a national public comment period on Pebble’s proposed plan in March, 2018.

Until we do, let’s keep the pressure on our elected officials.

Thank you for contacting them about the proposed Pebble Mine today.

 

 

Red Tide MAROONS Bluebill Ducks

By Robin Jenkins, DVM

As of Dec. 28, 2017, Peace River Wildlife Center has had a tragic influx of patients in the past few weeks.  We have taken in over 40 lesser scaups (locally called bluebills by many people), mostly found in the Port Charlotte Beach and Bayshore Park areas.  Many of them died in transport or shortly after arrival, and more were found dead on site.  It is assumed that red tide is the culprit, and we are treating the surviving patients accordingly—with moderate success if they get into treatment early enough.

Thanks to some alert community members, more birds were brought to us while they still had a chance for recovery.  PRWC’s volunteer rescuers Barb and Tom Taylor were instrumental in getting many birds to us.  They patrolled the areas where most of the debilitated birds were found numerous times daily, at dawn and during tide changes. 

One boater pulled a white pelican out of the water near the mouth of the Myakka River. He then drove his boat to the El Jobean bridge where he met PRWC rescuers Lee and Charlotte Dewitt, who in turn drove the bird to PRWC.  

A lady hopped the sea wall, scratching up her legs in the process, to collect a scaup who was drowning on the shore of Charlotte Harbor.  A man pulled a scaup out of the water and into his kayak, and then paddled for close to two hours to get the distressed bird to us.  Another man jumped the fence at TT’s Tiki Bar to rescue a scaup from the rocks. 

The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Department Marine Unit patrolled the shores and kept us apprised of what they found.  Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) also patrolled the areas and helped us with rescues.  They also transported the birds that did not survive for necropsy. 

Lesser scaups are a medium-sized duck that nests in the boreal forests of Central Alaska and Manitoba.  They migrate in late fall, among the last to leave as ponds freeze over.  In the winter they can be found in the Gulf region, Mexico, Central America, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean.  Males and non-breeding females head out slightly earlier for southern locales.  Breeding females stay with their broods as long as possible before embarking on the chicks’ first journey. 

Since the lesser scaup is one of the last species to migrate back up north in the spring to begin breeding, their offspring are quite young during their first fall migration.  They are a precocial species, and chicks are hatched with their eyes open, covered in down, and able to move around on their own.  The youngsters leave the nest within hours of hatching and feed themselves immediately.  They can dive the day they are hatched, but are too buoyant to stay down long.  By five to seven weeks, they are capable of diving up to 60 feet and staying down for up to 25 seconds.

A rather distinctive diving duck, the lesser scaup is similar in appearance to the great scaup, which is only slightly larger, but rarely frequents Southwest Florida.  The male has a black domed head, neck, and mantle. His irises are a brilliant yellow and his bill is slate blue (hence the colloquial name).   The female is a greyish-brown, with olive-green irises and a dark bill with white feathers at the base.  Both sexes have white bellies and secondary wing feathers with a dark band at the edge, visible in flight.

The lesser scaup is carnivorous.  Its diet is primarily comprised of crustaceans, insects, and mollusks.  While it is one of the most widespread ducks in North America, it is not well studied, especially in the Southwest Florida region.

The one positive note of losing all these birds, is that FWC will be able to study the ducks that did not survive and learn more about this species, especially as it pertains to those migrating to and through this area.  While routinely a late migrator (September to November), the peak scaup migration usually occurs in mid- to late November.  This rather late migration, combined with a local red tide outbreak, may have been too much for the birds.  If there are any other factors involved, FWC will find out and notify us.  The results of those tests will be invaluable to us in treating the current birds as well as future patients.

PRWC wants to commend the local community members who went out of their way to help us with numerous rescues.  We are also grateful to those who donated toward care of these critically ill birds, which is quite labor-intensive and demands the use of a lot of expensive supplies.  Whether you concur with famed elder statesperson Clinton about the necessity of collaboration for childhood upbringing, it does indeed take a village to conserve wildlife, and we are grateful for the support of our village-community.

 

 

Swan Lake Construction Starts in 2018 – New Ducks Unlimited Project

  • Missouri Project WILL IMPROVE 1,890 acres of HABITAT

Ducks Unlimited will break ground this year on a large conservation project at Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge in north-central Missouri.

This project will improve 1,890 acres of habitat, including the restoration of 487 acres of wetlands, 293 acres of native grasslands and the enhancement of 1,110 acres of existing wetlands.

Swan Lake is the core component of a wetland complex in the Lower Grand River Watershed that includes more than 22,000 acres of state and federal lands and 16,000 acres of privately owned wetland reserve easements.

These wetlands and associated uplands represent some of the Midwest’s best habitat for migrating waterfowl, shorebirds and other wetland-dependent species. Habitat restoration efforts in this region showcase the strides that local, state and federal governmental and nongovernmental partners can make when they work together.

Enhanced and restored wetlands lead to greater habitat diversity, more desired wetland management capabilities, enhanced water quality and more public recreational opportunities including hunting, fishing, bird watching and wildlife photography.

DU partnered with private donors, the Missouri Department of Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to receive the $1 million North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant. Project partners committed approximately $2.14 million in matching funds.

By joining Ducks Unlimited, you are doing your part to ensure that duck populations will continue to rise and the future of waterfowl hunting is brighter for generations to come. For only $35, you’ll receive member benefits and, as an added bonus, we’ll also send you the DU Packable Quilted Jacket (click to view larger image) as our free gift to you!

After you submit the enrollment form below, you will receive an email with information on how to access the members-only area of the DU website to start enjoying your benefits today!

Already a DU Member? You may click above and complete the form, and your membership will be extended 12 months from the date of payment.

Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters

  • Protecting the Border Waters of Minnesota
  • Asking for Your Help to Prevent Toxic Mining; Understand the Threat
  • Defending a World Class Hunting and Fishing Destination

By Lukas Leaf

Who we are:

Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters is a coalition of hunters, anglers, businesses and conservation organizations that work to protect the Boundary Waters and surrounding wilderness for future generations.

Minnesota’s iconic public lands are being threatened by sulfide-ore copper mining. This toxic mining practice would harm productive habitats that support fish and game. Pollution from these sulfide-ore copper mines will flow directly into the Boundary Waters. A single mine in this watershed could pollute the areas where people fish or hunt for up to 500 years.

What we protect:

Sporting Heritage

Landscape along the Border Route Canoe Trail. Lukas Leaf Photo

The Boundary Waters is where generations of Minnesotans developed a lifelong love of hunting and fishing. Action is needed to ensure future generations can enjoy the clean water, world-renowned angling and incomparable scenery that so many have come to know and cherish.

A Thriving Economy

The Boundary Waters is the economic lifeblood of Northeastern Minnesota’s lucrative outdoor recreation and tourism industry. Tourism in Northeastern Minnesota generates $913 million per year in sales revenue and supports over 17,000 jobs. Minnesota also accounts for the 7th most spending on hunting and fishing of any state, supporting nearly 48,000 jobs and spending $3.17 billion annually.

Fish and Game Habitat

Casting for Smallmouth Bass in Rose Lake. Lee Latham Photo

The world class fisheries and the 1.1 million acres that make up the Boundary Waters provide critical habitat for wildlife, including moose, bear, whitetail deer, walleye, bass, trout, pike, grouse, waterfowl and more. All this habitat makes the Boundary Waters and Ely, Minnesota one of the top fishing destinations in the country, according to Field and Stream and Outdoor Life magazines, respectively.

What happened in 2017:

126,000 people weighed in during a U.S. Forest Service public input session saying NO to sulfide-ore copper mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA), a world-class hunting and angling destination and the nations most visited Wilderness.

There have been a few legislative attempts to derail the review that have been pushed forward in 2017.  Introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this July, H.R. Bill 3905 would immediately grant the mining company its expired mineral leases, exempt Minnesota from the Antiquities Act and amend bedrock conservation legislation that affects the Boundary Waters.  Unfortunately, the bill narrowly passed the House 216-204 with strong bipartisan opposition.

On December 22, 2017, the Friday before Christmas weekend, the Department of Interior announced a decision reversing President Obama’s previous decision denying renewal of mineral leases held by Twin Metals Minnesota. This reversal has major implications. First, it paves the way for the Interior Department and its Bureau of Land Management to grant federal mineral leases covering four sulfide-ore copper deposits on the edge of the most-visited and water-rich Wilderness Area in America. Second, if the leases are granted, then the Chilean mining company, Antofagasta, which owns Twin Metals, would have the right to build its mines, even if the Department of the Interior eventually puts the rest of federal lands in the Boundary Waters watershed off-limits to sulfide-ore copper mining.

Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters will continue to be the leading voice for hunters and anglers dedicated to protecting the Boundary Waters and Minnesota’s public lands.

Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters is joined in opposition to copper mining with many partners that include American Fly Fishing Trade Association AFTA, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, International Federation of Fly Fishers – Upper Midwest Council, Izaak Walton League of America, Minnesota Conservation Federation, National Wildlife Federation, Orion – the Hunter’s Institution, Pope and Young Club, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Wildlife Forever, the American Sportfishing Association, Bear Trust International and others.  Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters is also supporterd by many outdoor industry, hunting and angling businesses state wide and nationally.

Sulfide-ore mining on the edge of America’s most visited Wilderness threatens clean air and water, and the local economy of thousands of people.  As hunters, anglers and conservationists, it seems common sense and vital to take a stand to oppose the practice of mining that can alter the future and change undisturbed nature so much.  This is a national issue that requires congressional action.   Get educated and spread the word. Let your friends and family know about the issue, then please follow us on social media.

How can you help? Take Action Right Now.  

CLICK Below TO JOIN the petition and activities to protect this region.

For more information, please visit: https://www.sportsmenfortheboundarywaters.org/.

 

New Year 2018, Venue for Outdoor Review, Much Change and Much To Learn

  • Moms Take to the Woods and Streams with Their Kids
  • More Industry is heading to Preserves and Protected Areas
  • Global Warming, Invasive Species…More

By Forrest Fisher

A grandmother of six from New York State, Rose Barus says, “Alaska is beautiful, but if we talk with folks that have lived there for generations, they acknowledge that change is taking place. Let’s all work to understand much more.”  Forrest Fisher Photo

In the lives of sportsmen and sportswomen, the outdoors is about fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, boating, safe shooting, all that and more. Today we know that many things are subject to change and are scientifically measurable. One of the largest trends (change) is that there are many more ladies than ever before taking hunter safety training, learning to fish and becoming certified all across the country to carry a handgun. Modern moms want their kids to eat organic, untainted food, like venison from deer and to be safe. More moms in the woods will take their kids with them.  More kids in the outdoors, a very good change.

If we talk to folks in Alaska, they acknowledge things are changing. There are fewer halibut to catch, Chinook (king) salmon are part of a variable up and down population swing more often and there are plans for new copper mines (at Bristol Bay) that may contaminate a myriad of pure water rivers with their process discharge effluents.

Is our increasing population to blame for many of the changes we read and hear about? Is world industry to blame? Is our world receding? Global warming, is it for real?

Many college-oriented experts say so, despite certain science that appears to still be quite uncertain to measure long term trends. Some experts say we do have measurable evidence of shrinking ice caps.  We all might agree that our weather is certainly changing, that’s for sure, but is it a natural cycle or man-caused?

Birds are a serious part of the storyteller tale of evidence about our planet ecosystem. There are more than 10,000 bird species in the world, but in the last 100 years, about 200 of those species have gone extinct. Should we be concerned? Yes, of course, but we should work to understand why these birds have disappeared. Those reasons might include poaching, polluted waterways, contaminated air currents, inadequate garbage disposal and a long list of manageable people issues that until now, were not considered important.

Birds, fish, seals, beluga whales, walruses, polar bears, many other animals, arctic ice and people like you and me, all seem affected.  So, believe it, we are certainly in the process of change. To the untrained among us (like me), we accept that most people are not climate scientists, biologists or environmental science engineers, but we do need to rely on the science and studies, and understanding, of these experts who do know.

With communication e-networks on the increase, it you live your life at work and at home from your smartphone and laptop, like a majority of working people today, where do we draw the line on false facts and untruths that can seem to affect lives? We can only combat the fold between falsity and truth by asking questions and trying to get involved so we can all understand more about our changing environment and actual reality.

The fact about all that is, for the bulk of us, the outdoors is something we do for recreation. It’s not our life. Maybe we need to make the outdoors and understanding it a larger part of our lives. Ecosystems worldwide are changing. Ships, planes and global industry are a big part of the management issue for world eco-health. Invasive species have come to us from these sources and more.

We have killer bees in much of America, Burmese pythons in the two million acres of the Everglades, snakehead fish that can breathe air or water in the Potomac River, and many more invasive critters that most of us sportsmen have little or no concern about. We should. These invasives are changing things, many have NO predators. Get involved.

Overall, we read there are something like 50,000 invasive plants and animal species in America alone. In Lake Erie, there are 186 invasive species at last count. There are non-native fish and mussels in that mix, too. These things affect you and me, and us all.  America offers many great places to enjoy the outdoors in all its splendor, but yes, it is changing.

As sportsmen, let’s help our neighbors all around America by keeping an eye on things that can change our ecosystem. Let’s keep our national parks and monument trails intact. Let’s prevent industry from moving to capture minerals, oil and precious ore from areas that are now protected. They have been protected for a reason: to prevent change.

Many industries want to mine copper in the border waters of Minnesota, or drill for oil and mine in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the name of new energy development. I think these and many other areas should consider continued protection from industrial exploitation well into the future.

It’s important to let your legislators know how you feel about such change. Please join me in one resolution for the new year, to get more involved in these issues that affect our future.

It’s a Happy New Year for learning and sharing.

 

 

 

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: The Epitome of Remoteness

  • If you are opposed to drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, now is the time to speak up and let your senators and representatives know.

Posted by Don Carpenter | December, 2017; w/Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA)

As an avid elk hunter in Idaho and Wyoming, I often marvel at how elk country, even when very close to cars and civilization, can feel wild. Entering a tight, timbered canyon, especially when elk may be near, is awe inspiring, even when the trailhead is only a quarter mile away.

Click on picture for the Video Story of ANWR in the eyes of Don Carpenter.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge feels wild in a different way. The 19-million-acre refuge is the epitome of remoteness. The feeling of being immersed in such a large tract of land largely untouched by man is staggering. It is a truly intact ecosystem that stretches from the southern slopes of the Brooks Range over high, glaciated peaks and across the Coastal Plain to the Arctic Ocean. This place is unique and there is nothing else like it. We would never be able to create its equal. But you don’t need to take my word for, check it out for yourself here: 

I have had the opportunity to travel to the Refuge several times. Prior to my most recent trip last June, I had the chance to meet Dr. Bob Krear. Dr. Krear is a biologist and was part of the 1956 Sheenjek Expedition to the Brooks Range, which was organized by conservation legends Olaus and Mardy Murie. A biological survey and a film created by the team were used to convince Congress and President Eisenhower to designate the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in 1960.
Dr. Krear is also a World War II veteran. He fought in the mountains of Italy with the 10th Mountain Division. In his memoir, he writes that the 1956 Sheenjek Expedition and the small part he played in the formation of the Arctic Refuge were was among the proudest achievements of his life. Those are powerful words coming from a World War II veteran.
The Central Arctic around Barrow and Prudhoe Bay have been developed into the some of the largest oil fields in the country. The Western Arctic is designated as the National Petroleum Reserve. The Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the only remaining segment of our Arctic Ocean Coastline, is now being strongly considered for oil and gas development. This debate has gone on for decades, but now there is language in the recently passed Senate tax bill that would allow drilling in the Refuge. The Senate and House need to reconcile their bills that will go to the president.

If you are opposed to drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, now is the time to speak up and let your senators and representatives know.

These words from Mardy Murie are even more powerful for me today, as drilling in the Arctic Refuge becomes a real possibility, than when I first read them:

“Beauty is a resource in and of itself. Alaska must be allowed to be Alaska, that is her greatest economy. I hope that the United States of America is no so rich that she can afford to let these wildernesses pass by – or so poor that she cannot afford to keep them.”- Mardy Murie, Alaska Lands Bill testimony June 5, 1977, in Denver, Colorado.

 

 

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) is working National Policy issues that AFFECT ALL SPORTSMEN

Click the Picture to Take Action.

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) is working on national policy issues that affect all sportsmen, here is an update:

National Monuments 

BHA responded in force to the Trump administration’s unprecedented rollback of monument protections on more than 2 million acres of American public lands. Thanks to many of you who have spoken up, we’ve been sending a clear message that this decision undermines the longstanding bipartisan legacy of the Antiquities Act. We’ve responded to this historic attack with a series of ads, press releases and opinion articles. To make sure you have the facts needed to respond accordingly, we’ve compiled Frequently Asked Questions to help you better understand our stance.

Greater Sage Grouse

Our sagebrush ecosystems play a critical ecological role that not only supports the sage grouse, but mule deer, pronghorn, elk and a multitude of other species. For decades, habitat loss and degradation from development, invasive species and fire and have negatively impacted these iconic places. BHA has fought hard to see conservation plans implemented but a small faction in Congress and the current administration is intent on unraveling this historic collaborative conservation success. After BHA and our partners successfully averted attempts to scuttle conservation plans in defense spending legislation, the Interior Department issued a notice of intent to consider amending all, some or none of the 98 management plans. According to the DOI notice, this review is a result of one plan’s failure to prepare an environmental impact statement for its sagebrush focal areas. BHA and our chapters around the West have attended public meetings and submitted comments to the BLM. We’re remaining diligent and we will let you know as more comments and action are needed.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 

Despite widespread opposition from sportsmen and many others, the Senate passed a tax bill earlier this month that includes a provision to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to energy development. With House and Senate legislation now combined into a package that will likely be sent to President Trump for his signature before Christmas, the refuge, home to the largest migratory caribou heard in the world, is a backcountry treasure at risk Check out this video that features national board member J.R. Young, his wife Renee and Alaska volunteer extraordinaire Barry Whitehill. It’s not too late to let your members of Congress know where you stand.

Mountain Bikes in Wilderness 

Earlier this month the House Natural Resource Committee held a hearing on the latest version of a Trojan horse bill to allow mountain bikes and other forms of mechanized recreation in wilderness. Our position on maintaining traditional uses and intact habitat in wilderness area remains unchanged, and we’d welcome your help in making this position known by writing a letter to the editor, setting up meetings with your members of Congress or sharing your opinion on social media. If you can lend a hand, please let us know. Find a rundown of many of the issues that BHA is actively working on here.

Sabinoso Wilderness Grand Opening sabinoso.jpg

A huge shout-out to the New Mexico chapter for responding in true BHA fashion to the opening of the Sabinoso Wilderness for the first time. BHAer Brad Jones was the first citizen to go through the gates, which opened on Nov. 10. Brad authored a great opinion column giving thanks, and the chapter convened a celebratory hike on Dec. 9! Thanks go to New Mexico’s U.S. Senate delegation and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for their efforts to open the Sabinoso, pictured below:

Thanks to all of you for supporting Backcountry Hunters& Anglers. If you’re not yet a member of our organization and you’d like to get involved with your local BHA community, please join us here. 

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers http://www.backcountryhunters.org/

Bristol Bay, Alaska – BREAKING NEWS, Pebble has Applied for Mining Permits

  • Bristol Bay May Soon Be Endangered, Sign Up to Help

After over a decade of threats, today the Pebble Partnership announced it will apply for permits to build a massive mine in Bristol Bay. Thousands of you have been fighting with us since we first learned about this proposal. Without your help, Pebble would already be digging up Bristol Bay and destroying our wild salmon streams.

But they’re not, thanks to your help.
Today’s news means only one thing: it’s time to get even more serious about defeating Pebble Mine and protecting Bristol Bay. 
Pebble has a long road ahead of them before they can actually start mining. They’ll need dozens of permits, more investors, and billions of dollars. With your financial support, we will be there every step of the way to defend Bristol Bay’s thousands of jobs, local cultures and way of life. 
Thank you for sticking with us as this fight heats up.
Sincerely,
The Save Bristol Bay Campaign

Sportsmen Call on Interior Dept. to PROTECT FISH and WILDLIFE HABITAT on public lands

WASHINGTON – As the Interior Department focuses on streamlining energy leasing and permitting on publics lands, a national sportsmen’s coalition is urging the agency to use all its tools to safeguard fish and wildlife habitat as well as fishing and hunting opportunities.

The Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development coalition noted that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an order Sept. 15 that supports expanding hunting, fishing and recreation on public lands and enhancing conservation and wildlife management. The coalition, led by the National Wildlife Federation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited, has advocated using master leasing plans and other strategies to protect fish and wildlife habitat through upfront, comprehensive planning and more grassroots public involvement.

A new report by Interior aimed at what it sees as obstacles to energy development on public lands says master leasing plans and policies to mitigate the impacts of development are among the rules to be eliminated or overhauled to streamline approval of leases and permits.

“The secretarial order on expanding hunting, fishing on public lands and enhancing conservation directs all federal agencies to use the best available science to develop guidelines and avoid or minimize harmful impacts on wildlife. We urge Interior to support effective upfront planning and mitigation policies to fulfill that directive and the mandate of accommodating multiple uses of our public lands,” coalition members said Thursday.

A report released in August by 19 sportsmen’s organizations and businesses called for well-planned oil and gas drilling and production by featuring examples of where this has and has not been done. The report, “Lessons Learned: A Blueprint for Securing our Energy Future While Preserving America’s Sporting Heritage,” also highlighted areas wehre the potential remains to do things right, because of the involvement of sportsmen and other community members.

“We agree with Secretary Zinke’s recent statement that hunting and fishing make up a cornerstone of the American tradition and hunters and anglers are the backbone of land and wildlife conservation. To sustain our outdoor heritage, we need robust and sustainable fish and wildlife populations and that means healthy lands and waters that are balanced with development,” said Kate Zimmerman, public lands policy director for the National Wildlife Federation.

Click the logo above to sign up for the Trout Unlimited Newsletter, it’s FREE.

“Our coalition has always supported responsible development of our public-land resources, and though we could support some streamlining of processes, we cannot support revoking approaches that help avoid damage to critical habitats, improve mitigation, and hold developers accountable for their actions,” said Ed Arnett, senior scientist for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We look forward to continuing to work with DOI to improve balancing energy development with the needs of fish, wildlife, and recreational opportunities.”

“We can protect our rivers and streams and the incredible hunting and fishing opportunities on our public lands while allowing responsible energy development—but finding that balance takes careful planning,” said Andy Rasmussen, Utah sportsmen’s coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “We urge Interior to renew its commitment to commonsense, upfront planning and siting that involves all stakeholders and identifies where and how energy development can take place.”

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development is a coalition of more than 1500 businesses, organizations and individuals dedicated to conserving irreplaceable habitats so future generations can hunt and fish on public lands. The coalition is led by Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation.

Contacts: Judith Kohler, National Wildlife Federation, kohlerj@nwf.org, 720-315-0855; Randy Scholfield, Trout Unlimited, rscholfield@tu.org, 720-375-3961; Kristyn Brady, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, kbrady@trcp.org, 617-501-6352.

 

YOU ASKED for LESS ETHANOL With Your Gas; EPA ADDS MORE

Ethanol has been demonstrated to cause harm to marine engines.

ALEXANDRIA, Va., December 4, 2017 – This summer, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked the public how much ethanol it wanted to be added to the nation’s gasoline supply and recreational boaters, as well as many other owners of gasoline engines and vehicles, spoke up against increasing ethanol volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). On Friday, EPA set the 2018 RFS at 19.29 billion gallons, a 0.05 percent increase over the 2017 standard. Signed into law in 2005, the RFS requires an increasing amount of biofuels, such as corn ethanol, to be blended into the gasoline supply.

“In August, EPA originally proposed a slight lowering of the overall ethanol mandate. However, bowing to pressure from the ethanol backers, the agency actually notched the mandate higher,” said BoatUS Government Affairs Manager David Kennedy. “We think the EPA’s decision unfairly supports the ethanol industry over-protecting consumers, recreational boaters, and the environment. If ethanol is as good for America’s fuel supply as Big Ethanol would like you to believe, then why do we have a law that forces more ethanol each year into the market? The RFS no longer works for Americans.”

When it was written, RFS assumed that America’s use of gasoline would continue to grow. Since 2005, however, gasoline usage has not increased as forecasted, which today forces more ethanol into each gallon of gas. To keep up with the RFS mandate, in 2010, EPA granted a waiver to allow E15 (15 percent ethanol) into the marketplace. However, only fuels containing up to 10 percent ethanol (E10) are permitted for use in recreational boats. As higher blends enter the gas supply, the chance of misfueling increases.

“Ethanol has been demonstrated to cause harm to many gasoline engines at the present 10 percent ethanol level, especially legacy outboard motors, decreases fuel efficiency, increases fuel costs for consumers, and has questionable environmental benefits,” added Kennedy. “BoatUS will continue to fight on behalf of America’s recreational boaters to fix the RFS.”

Go to BoatUS.com/gov/rfs for more information on the Renewable Fuel Standard. BoatUS is a member of the Smarter Fuel Future coalition.

Backwoods Hunters & Anglers – It was a Thanksgiving Tuesday!

Thanks to all Public Land Owners who supported Backwoods Hunters & Anglers (BHA) on #GivingTuesday.  We raised $25,818, crushing our goal of $10,000!

Special thanks go to BHA Legacy Partners Ben Bailey, Blake Fischer, Paul Moseley and Adam Ratner for collectively matched the first $10,000 raised.  We’d also like to thank the team at Hunt-to-Eat for their generous contribution of $3500, which put us well over the $10,000 mark at 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday night (11/28/2017).

Welcome to new BHA Life Members Debra Gale, Charlie Noyes, John Soderquist and Tara Wertz, along with the other new members who joined BHA yesterday. Not a member yet or want to confirm your membership status? Learn more here.

A big backcountry high five goes to the following for their support of our public lands:

$1000+: Ben Bailey, Blake Fischer, Hunt-to-Eat, Paul Moseley, Jared Oakleaf, Adam Ratner, Thomas Squeri, J.R. Young

$100-$500: Reid Alexander, Karla Bird, Jason Burton, Jock Conyngham, Sean Carriere, Mike Doering, Javin Elliff, Thomas Filgo, Roger Furlong, Christopher Hagness, Tim Harris, Chris Hennessey, Nick Hoefer, Jonny Holton, Thom Jorgensen, Sam and Cheryl Kaywood, Tom Kuekes, Gregory Koch, Daniel Lichtenberg, Darren Limesand, Joshua McDonald, John Milam, Andrew Miller, Richard Pond, Jesse Riggleman, Scott Robinson, Mark Rupp, Matthew Sarchet, Jon Schwedler, John Sigler, Ben Tackett, John Tautin, Land Tawney, Tara Thomas, Matthew Thorburn, Scott Thorburn, Tom Tolliver, Kelly Tuerffs, Leo Walter IV, Bradley Young, Matthew Yost

Again, thanks to all who made this #GivingTuesday BHA’s most successful yet! Here’s to keeping public lands in public hands! Onward & upward– Land Tawney CEO/President, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers http://www.backcountryhunters.org/

Sportsmen Urge Senate to Reject Plan to Drill Arctic Refuge

  • Backcountry Hunters & Anglers – The Sportsmen’s Voice for Our Wild Public Lands, Waters and Wildlife

As Senate considers opening energy development in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,
hunting/fishing opportunities in America’s ‘last frontier’ showcased in new film from BHA

MISSOULA, Mont., Nov. 14, 2017 – As Senate members prepare to advance legislation that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas development, public lands sportsmen and women are amplifying calls to reject the measure.

On Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a markup of the bill, introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and touted as an economic booster. In a short film released today, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers members visit the Arctic Refuge for an epic, once-in-a-lifetime caribou hunt, fishing trip and exploration of the region’s awe-inspiring terrain. The film ends with a call to action: urging public lands advocates to contact their senators to oppose drilling the refuge.

“This is the crown jewel that every backcountry hunter and angler should have the opportunity to fulfill in their lifetime,” said BHA member Barry Whitehill, of Fairbanks, Alaska, who appears in the film and traveled to Washington, D.C., recently to meet with members of Congress in support of the region’s conservation. “It’s the dream for anybody that’s passionate about hunting and fishing.”

“You can’t be seen as a public lands champion if you’re on the wrong side of history,” said BHA Conservation Director John Gale. “Sportsmen and women are looking to our elected officials to take action at this crucial moment in support of this unique place, its irreplaceable fish and wildlife habitat and hunting and fishing opportunities it provides. Strong, sound Senate leadership is needed now more than ever to ensure that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge remains wild and free from energy development that belongs in more appropriate and productive places.”

BHA has emerged as a leading voice in support of conserving the Arctic Refuge. BHA supports responsible energy development in places where we can achieve balance and limit impacts to fish and wildlife, but polls commissioned over the summer in Arizona and Colorado show strong public opposition to energy development in the refuge. In Arizona, 61 percent of voters opposed the proposal, along with 58 percent of Colorado voters.

Established in 1960 by President Eisenhower “for the purpose of preserving unique wildlife, wilderness and recreational values,” the refuge’s 19.5 million acres, including 8 million acres of wilderness, provide habitat to iconic game species including grizzlies, Dall sheep and caribou.

Said Whitehill in the BHA video, “Last frontier…you know, you take this out of the equation we have no more frontier. I don’t know if that’s a world I’d want to spend much time in.”

The Senate last month rejected a budget amendment that would have prevented oil and gas development within the refuge.

Watch the BHA film on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – and take action.

What would Theodore Roosevelt do?

Contact: Katie McKalip, 406-240-9262, mckalip@backcountryhunters.org

 

WONDERS OF WILDLIFE NATIONAL MUSEUM & AQUARIUM

  • Major new destination in heart of the Missouri Ozarks is now open.
  • Imagine Understanding How Life on Earth Works for Animals, Birds and Fish…that’s what You Get Here.
  • This Museum is about Adventure and Exploration 
The aquarium allows visitors to feel like they are “in there” with the fish. An amazing adventure.

By Larry Whiteley

I was recently invited to attend a media event at the new, not-for-profit, 350,000 square foot, Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium located right next door to the giant Bass Pro Shops retail store in Springfield, Missouri.

I am not someone who is easily impressed, but this place is something you need to put at the top of your list of things to go see. Having been in several museums and aquariums across America, believe me, nothing comes even close to this. It is bigger than the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

Learn about Muskox and Wolves, and many more species.

There are over 35,000 live fish. There are mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds, along with thousands of state-of-the-art taxidermy mounts.
During the tour, it was kind of fun to watch the media members staring in amazement, which caused them to stumble into each other as we went from one exhibit to the next. I continually heard people saying “WOW,” which I thought was rather appropriate.
The Ocean Aquarium Adventure is just what it says – an adventure. There are over 1.5 million gallons of aquariums containing over 800 species of freshwater and saltwater fish. You walk through an aquatic trail system where you see fish in the habitat they live in and learn why we need to protect the system that makes them possible.

You can experience the ocean and the “feel of being there.’

The 300,000 gallon circular ocean habitat area simulates like you are underwater, as do the underwater tunnel. Some areas have bubbles in the aquarium wall that you stick your head in and it feels like you are right in the water with the fish.

In the Wildlife Galleries area we walked over a mile of trails and I was just amazed at the attention to detail. The 4D dioramas of big game and other mammals allowed us to see up close plus hear, smell and even feel the temperature of the environment where these animals live in the wild.

These are places around the world that most of us will never get to see in person. It was a whole lot better than anything I have ever seen on TV nature shows.
Like the Ocean Aquarium Adventure, the Wildlife Galleries area is definitely going to entertain the whole family. It too will also educate you on why we need to protect the habitat where these animals live.
We learned about our most important wildlife conservationists throughout history, and the contributions and sacrifices they made for the benefit of all of us.

I was especially touched by the tribute to Native Americans as the first conservationists. Did I mention you travel through a herd of Buffalo to get to it?

It amazed me – all the attention to details the artist and craftsmen had put into this magnificent attraction. Every wall has hand-painted murals which make it one of the finest art galleries I have ever seen. Even the rocks, trees and foliage are hand-crafted. They match the season and habitat of the animal in the scene. Some animals look like they are walking right out of the wall.

We also visited the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, International Game Fish Hall of Fame, King of Bucks Collection, and the Boone & Crockett National Collection of record wildlife mounts all within the Wonders of Wildlife.

After you have enjoyed WOW, you can go next door to the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World store which, by the way, has been the #1 tourist attraction in Missouri for many years. Besides the biggest selection of outdoor gear under one roof in the world, it also features the NRA National Sporting Arms Museum and the National Archery Hall of Fame. It too has even more aquariums, wildlife mounts and displays.
The visionary behind it all is noted conservationist and founder of Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris. The Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium is his gift to America to inspire people of all ages to engage with the natural world. It is also his way of repaying the blessings he has received from a life lived enjoying the outdoors.
“Wonders of Wildlife is an inspirational journey around the world that celebrates the role of hunters and anglers as America’s true conservation heroes,” said Morris. “We proudly invite families and sportsmen to come share the wonder with an unforgettable experience meant to inspire generations of future conservationists.”

Being a humble man, he is quick to give credit to all the workers whose talents brought his dream to and to the hundreds of conservation leaders across America for their input on what the WOW messages should be.

I saw a sign somewhere on our media tour that said, “The Wonders of Wildlife Museum & Aquarium honors the adventurers, explorers, outdoorsmen and conservationists who helped discover, develop and preserve the nation we love”.

It does that and a whole lot more!

This is something you will never forget and a place you will want to go back to again and again.

Go to www.wondersofwildlife.org for more information and then make the trip to the Conservation Capital of the World in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks to see it for yourself.

Wonders of Wildlife NOW OPEN, An Amazing Adventure into the WORLD of WILDLIFE

  • Wonders of Wildlife provides Tribute to Fish and Wildlife
  • Wonders of Wildlife NATIONAL MUSEUM & AQUARIUM is Extraordinary
  • Founder, Johnny Morris, Has Provided a Trail to Lifelong Conservation in the Outdoors through Fishing, Bass Pro Shops and now, WONDERS OF WILDLIFE
  • Rick Clunn will Attend

By Forrest Fisher

Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium Opens Sep. 20, 2017 – An Extraordinary Experience! 

One of the most respected professional bass anglers in the world is Rick Clunn.  I was humbled to fish with Rick on three different fishing tournament occasions in the mid-90s.  Having done that, It was easy to understand why this southern gentleman was such a successful angler. 

In one word, Rick Clunn has “FOCUS” when he is fishing.  He “TUNES-IN” to every spot, every situation, every cast.  His success as a 5-time BASS Champion demonstrates his “UNDERSTANDING” for fishing.  Above all his fishing success, Rick Clunn is humble, soft-spoken and a true conservationist.   Today Rick will be in Springfield, Missouri, and he has this to share with everyone through his Facebook account:  

Rick Clunn is humble, successful and a role model for all anglers – he will be on hand today at the grand opening.  Rick Clunn Feature Photo

“Melissa and I will be privileged to attend the Grand Opening of the Wonders of Wildlife.  I am sure, like everything Johnny Morris has created, it will defy even the most complimentary descriptions possible.  I made the statement after winning the B.A.S.S. St. John’s River Tournament, “Never accept that all your greatest moments are in the past.”  This man has lived that philosophy his whole life and continues to.  Most will see and be inspired by the Wonders of Wildlife, but I fear there are some who will see it as only a capitalistic venture or a monument to an individual’s ego.

For those of you who might feel that way, I offer my observations and understanding.  I present this view because I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people ask, “Why does he build these museum style stores to sell fishing tackle? Why not be like others in the industry and just put up a metal building and have a lot less overhead?”

I will tell you, to me these are monuments, but not to Johnny Morris! These are monuments to all outdoors people and to the Natural World that he continuously and tirelessly fights for.  At Big Cedar Lodge on Table Rock Lake, there is a Convention Center whose walls are lined with some of the greatest conservation mind’s, thoughts and quotes.  If you think the many Bass Pro Outdoor Worlds are only about selling fishing and hunting tackle I offer the following: “If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago.” Zane Grey.”

I grew up an Angler when being an Angler was observed as nothing more than playing hooky from school or work.  It did not share the status of football, basketball, golf, or other sports.  One of my supervisors at Exxon Oil would talk with you about golf all day, but don’t dare waste company time talking about fishing.  Even after I quit my socially excepted profession, working for the 2nd largest computing center in the world, and started my angling career most thought I had a bad case of sun stroke.  I confess, I will never forget the first time I was proud to be an Angler.  I had gone to Springfield, Missouri, to represent one of my sponsors at the grand-daddy of all fishing stores, at their Spring Fishing Classic.  I had been in a lot of tackle fishing shops, but nothing could have prepared me for this.  When I walked in the front door of the Bass Pro Shop Outdoor World, I was moved.  It was beautiful and I had never seen anything like it.  But more than its beauty, I felt a sense of pride in who I was that I had not felt before.  To this day I challenge every outdoor person to tell me that they did not feel a little of the same, their first time there.  I now know that Johnny saw the Outdoors – and those who enjoy it, as important elements in the conservation of the fast disappearance of our natural world.

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Henry David Thoreau.

I recognize now, like Johnny did from the beginning, that to conserve the natural world we have to expose as many people to its Wonders as possible.  He knew that fishing is one of the last remaining vehicles for the masses to experience the natural world and understand its importance to the sanity of man’s world.  Johnny’s Conservation efforts are never ending.  So when you tour the Wonders of Wildlife, remember the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country.”

Please stay tuned to the Wonders of Wildlife Facebook account for Live streams Sept 20th www.facebook.com/wondersofwildlife

Events start at 3:00 PM the 20th. #WondersofWildlife.

Hope to see you there soon.

 

Ducks Unlimited reaches Conservation Milestone

The Greenhead Mallard is among many beautiful waterfowl that have benefitted from the conservation process and volunteerism of Ducks Unlimited efforts. Joe Forma Photo

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Ducks Unlimited (DU) has achieved a conservation milestone with more than 14 million acres of habitat conserved in North America.  The groundbreaking number is a cumulative accomplishment of the millions of DU volunteers and partners who have been a part of the organization over the past 80 years.

“As we celebrate our 80th anniversary, this milestone is a fitting tribute to the hard work of each and every volunteer, partner and staff member who has contributed to our mission over the past 80 years,” said DU CEO Dale Hall. “If not for their dedication and commitment to conservation, this accomplishment would not have been possible.”

Such conservation gains did not come easily in the face of ongoing threats to waterfowl and their habitats. Loss of wetlands across North America is a challenge DU volunteers take seriously, and their efforts will continue into the future.  Although DU has successfully conserved more than 14 million acres of critical wetlands and associated habitat since our founding in 1937, wetland losses continue.

In the last 50 years alone, the United States has lost more than 17 million acres of wetlands. As human populations grow, demands for clean and plentiful water for use at home and in many agricultural and industrial processes also increase.

Ducks Unlimited – working with partners – provides valuable, on-the-ground solutions that benefit waterfowl populations and maximize water resources through the dynamic natural functions of wetlands.  In addition to providing habitat for waterfowl, wetlands naturally slow and store water to help recharge watersheds and aquifers, improve water quality through biological and physical processes and provide important wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.

“DU’s policy efforts and the hard work of our volunteers, partners and staff will be more important than ever in the coming years,” said Dr. Tom Moorman, DU’s acting chief conservation officer.  “DU, along with our waterfowl conservation partners at the state, federal and private levels, must continue with the cooperative progress that led to 14 million acres conserved, and expand that effort wherever possible to meet ongoing or new threats to wetlands and waterfowl habitat in North America.”

The groundbreaking number is a perfect example of how hunters and others with a passion for waterfowl and wetlands conservation can come together for a common goal.  DU’s mission has always been to conserve, restore and manage wetlands and associated habitat for North America’s waterfowl, and this milestone is a direct reflection of that statement.

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 14 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org.

BLACK BEARS ACTIVE in New York State DIX MOUNTAIN WILDERNESS

  • Black bears have been active stealing food.
  • Campers, hikers, and rock climbers om alert in two locations

Campers and hikers are encouraged to keep all food, toiletries, and garbage in a bear resistant canister to avoid attracting black bears.

Campers are also advised to avoid cooking and eating after dark. Prepare and eat food away from the tent site.

If approached by a bear, do not give it food. Make noise and try to scare it away. Call the DEC Regional Wildlife Office at 518-897-1291 to report encounters with bears.

Hikers and campers may also want to consider carrying bear spray as a precautionary measure for close encounters. If you do so please read the instructions carefully before setting out on the trail and be sure to follow the instructions if you use the spray.

Gill Brook

Bears have approached hikers and campers in the area around Gill Brook, Indian Pass, Mt. Colvin, Elk Pass, and Nippletop. These bears are approaching closely in an attempt to intimidate people into giving them food. DEC warns hikers and campers not to reward bears by dropping packs or otherwise providing them with food.

DEC recently captured and euthanized the most aggressive of the bears. A bear with one purple ear tag and one green ear tag had been approaching numerous hikers and campers very closely and not backing down.

Another bear with one red ear tag has been a reported problem but has not behaved as aggressively has been encountered less frequently.

Chapel Pond

Other bears have been stealing food from campers and rock climbers in the area around Chapel Pond, including the Beer Walls. Campers are hikers are encouraged to keep all food, toiletries, and garbage in a bear resistant canister or out of sight in motor vehicles.

Rock climbers should rack up at their vehicle, leave all food in the vehicle, or carry any food with you as you climb. Do not leave packs on the ground for bears to destroy.

DEC has temporarily closed one of the campsites at the Chapel Pond Outlet while it attempts to capture the bears. Captured bears will be given unique colored ear tags, hazed, and released. 

For more info, click here: Prevent human bear conflicts.

Injured Black Bear draws attention in Wellsville, New York

  • Bear struck by car, scared, climbed tree
  • Bear was tranquilized and examined
  • Released to Coyle Hill State Forest, Allegany County
    For many, black bears symbolize wilderness and wildness, but increasingly, bears can be found in semi-rural environments, agricultural areas and occasionally, in urban centers. NYSDEC Photo

    On July 5, Environmental Conservation Officer’s Russ Calanni and Jason Powers, and Lt. Don Pleakis and Division of Wildlife staff, worked to safely remove a black bear that had climbed a tree in a residential neighborhood in the village of Wellsville after being hit by a car. Although it was not seriously injured, the bear jumped a fence and took cover in a tree. It started to draw attention from the neighbors and the decision was made to tranquilize the bear and remove it from the village. ECO’s Calanni and Powers, members of DLE’s Chemical Immobilization Team (CIT), darted the bear and safely removed it from the tree.
    The Wellsville Police Department stopped traffic along busy State Route 417 while the tranquilization and removal took place.
    After loading the bear into a trap, it was transported to Coyle Hill State Forest, where the bear was examined, tagged, monitored, and then released.

    Black Bear distribution in New York. Primary range refers to areas where breeding bears were known to occur. Secondary range includes areas with routine bear sightings. Transient and dispersing bears may be found in all of upstate New York, including areas generally considered unoccupied by bears. Courtesy NYSDEC

    New York’s black bear population is currently estimated at a minimum of 6,000-8,000 bears in areas open to hunting, with roughly 50-60% of the bears inhabiting the Adirondack region, about 30-35% in the Catskill region and about 10-15% in the central-western region. In addition, bears are now well established in many other areas, including the Tug Hill, Hudson Valley and across the Southern Tier of New York, and transient bears are routinely encountered throughout the Lake Ontario Plains, Mohawk Valley, and St. Lawrence Valley. With the exception of Tug Hill, these other areas include a greater proportion of agriculture or have higher human densities, making them less suitable for bears due to the higher likelihood of human-bear conflicts.
    Black bears are an important and natural component of New York’s ecosystem. Whether you live or recreate in the bear country, please help maintain and protect the bears, and at the same time protect yourself and your property by not feeding bears and by reducing bear attractants.
    If you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law occurred please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).

Learn Elk Hunting: Archery Details, Step-by-Step

Bugle Magazine is a hunter’s bi-monthly resource package, with tips, advice, gear know-how and humble stories from successful experts. Photo Courtesy of RMEF

By Forrest Fisher

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) has gone beyond the norm to help people everywhere learn more about conservation and hunting, and why hunting is so important to conservation.

Just having returned from a visit to Medora, North Dakota, and the National Park that Teddy Roosevelt created there, I am sure that our late President Roosevelt would be so very proud of the dedicated folks at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

I joined RMEF this past year and keep asking myself why I took so long to find RMEF, but at least now, I’m a member and their BUGLE magazine is not just a magazine, it is a learning tool.  In this latest issue (Jul/Aug 2017) of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation BUGLE, story author – Kurt Cox,  shares intimate, in-depth details of those many things a first-time archery elk hunter might be wondering about.  Veteran hunters too, can learn from Kurt’s tales of hands-on truth in easy-to-read lessons and descriptions.

He describes his manner of calling, his movement in trailing an Elk for a shot opportunity and how he survived through his consumption of spring water, wild berry picking and frosty overnight chills. All this amidst the wonder of the visual expanse of mountain peaks, dark timber and an internal impulse to use cow calls. All hunters can learn from his shared experiences in this story.

Cox shares his hope and wonder, all the while looking for that perfect spot that he might send his arrow and put some meat in the family freezer.  Then after much effort, significant effort, there is a cow, then a bull, then an arrow shot and a score.  We learn about ethics here too, since Cox takes a second arrow shot and a third too.  There is explanation for the harvest in this manner, clarification that hunters country-wide need to know more about.

Check out this story, then read much more in this ARCHERY ISSUE of BUGLE Magazine, in the nearly 40-page special edition section.  Learn about cows and bulls, elk habits, use of camo, scent, sound, the excitement, the right gear, making the right noises, the reality of the experience, and perhaps you will find in you, like me, the inspiration to travel thousands of miles to hunt an elk.

Hunting for elk is an escape for some, but it is an inspiration for all hunters.

The mission of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is to insure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.  I came late to embrace this RMEF group – I’m from the east, my poor excuse, but I’m here to pass the word to all of my hunter friends, especially bowhunter colleagues, to join up with RMEF and start the complete learning of how to better yourself for your next hunt.

What you learn from the BUGLE magazine will help make you a better hunter every time you step into the world of the woods.

Visit www.rmef.org and sign up soon.  After just one or two issues, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  Reading this magazine is an adventure in learning.  Don’t delay. Remember, hunting is conservation.

 

Pebble Mine – Does Anyone Hear the People of Alaska?

  • Bristol Bay is the Spawning Home for FIVE SPECIES of SALMON
  • Pebble Mine Could Destroy the Bristol Bay Fishery
  • Many Groups, based on Science/data, OPPOSE Pebble Mine
  • Review the Details

By Forrest Fisher

The author and his partner share in the Alaskan resource of healthy, uncontaminated, Coho Salmon during the annual September run. The Pebble Mine could jeopardize this fishery. Forrest Fisher Photo

Not far from Anchorage, Alaska, generations of people among multiple nations of the world have relied on the fishery resources of Bristol Bay.  The Pebble Mine project has been a virtual threat for nearly ten years now.  For investors, it looks good on paper, but the potential for problems on the project might also destroy the most unique and most valuable salmon spawning fishery resource in the entire world – with value to healthy human life.  Is that worth the risk of mining?  Would you agree that outflow of residual pollutants and possible uncontained, unplanned leakage of mining fluids and related contaminants into the effluent of this unique fishery worth any risk at all?  Would we want to risk destroying the spawning beds for five species of Alaskan salmon?  Not me.  Not you, I hope.

From the records of Alaska as referenced in http://www.savebristolbay.org/people (please check the link), Alaska ranks ninth among seafood-producing nations in the world. Forty-two percent of the world’s harvest of wild salmon and 80 percent of the production of high-value wild salmon species such as sockeye, king, and coho salmon, come from Alaska waters.

Salmon is the most valuable commercial fish managed by the state of Alaska and Bristol Bay is Alaska’s richest commercial fishery. In Bristol Bay alone, the 2008 harvest of all salmon species was approximately 29 million fish, and the value of the 2008 commercial catch topped $113 million.

Bristol Bay has long been recognized as a vital contributor to Alaska’s commercial fishing economy, so much so that in 1972 the Alaska legislature determined that it was in the best interest of the state to establish the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve. This protected Bristol Bay fisheries’ longstanding and valuable commercial, subsistence, and sport fishing from oil and gas development.

However, it does not protect against hard rock mining operations like Pebble Mine.

All five species of Pacific salmon return to Bristol Bay to spawn in its rivers, including pink, chum, sockeye, coho and king. The waters of the region have long been an integral part of the state and local economies, providing thousands of sustainable jobs to Alaskans for generations.

Commercial fishing-related jobs account for nearly 75 percent of local employment. The annual payroll for fish and wildlife-related employment totals $175 million2. Commercial fishing and the associated canneries have been the major industries in the area for many decades. In 2009 residents marked the 125th anniversary of commercial fishing in Bristol Bay.   The commercial fisheries management area of Bristol Bay includes eight major river systems: Naknek, Kvichak, Egegig, Ugashik, Wood, Nushagak, Igushik and Togiak.

The Kvichak River, which runs from Lake Iliamna (the largest freshwater body in Alaska) to Bristol Bay, is home to the single largest salmon run on the planet. The Nushagak River hosts the largest king salmon run in Alaska.

Annual commercial catches between 1984 and 2003 averaged nearly 24 million sockeye salmon; 69,000 chinook; 971,000 chum; 133,000 coho and 593,000 pink.  Bristol Bay’s productive salmon runs are remarkable even by Alaska’s standards, where the next largest commercial sockeye salmon run in 2008 was 4.15 million in the Alaska Peninsula/Aleutian Islands region.

Every year fish return to Bristol Bay in astounding numbers, largely due to the sound, scientific management of state and federal agencies.

For instance, in 2008 the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run produced approximately 42 million fish National Geographic listed Alaska as one of only three well-managed fisheries in the world, the others being Iceland and New Zealand. The forecast for 2016 season is expected to be another banner year, at roughly 46 million.

It seems common sense that we as an educated people of science and logic for the better of all peoples, would need and want to protect this nature resource.  With its astounding beauty and prolific salmon runs, Bristol Bay is a place of international importance.

The future of this fishery would appear to be threatened by the proposed Pebble mine as well as hard rock mining on adjacent state and federal land.

As this seems common to basic understanding, the Bristol Bay watershed must be put off-limits to Pebble and other large-scale mining projects.

The Alaska Trout Unlimited Program works to protect and restore wild salmon and trout populations throughout Alaska.  Through sound scientific data, strong grassroots outreach and advocacy, and hands-on involvement in conservation projects Alaska TU protects some of the most prized rivers on the planet, works to restore those that need some help, and engages the next generation of coldwater stewards in Alaska’s natural heritage.  Alaska TU works with a unique and broad coalition of Alaskan’s to protect Bristol Bay.  To reach Alaska TU at their Alaska Office, write Alaska TU, 3105 Lakeshore Drive, Anchorage, AK 99517, (907) 770-1776.  If you support this effort Alaska TU encourages you to donate at this link: https://gifts.tumembership.org/donate/bristolbay. 

Bristol Bay is a sacred trust that we as “modern man” must all work to protect well into the future.

For more information, visit: http://www.stoppebblemine.org/.  For a No Pebble Mine sticker, visit: http://www.cafepress.com/mf/69574663/nopebblemine-sticker-3x3_sticker?productId=879617887.

FWS to Aim (Again) for Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting

  • Top panel of bear specialists recommends US Fish and Wildlife Service develop a new proposal to delist Yellowstone grizzly population.
Grizzly Bears exist in increasing numbers in Yellowstone. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Photo

Recently (December), the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) unanimously recommended the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) put out a new proposal for removing grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone region from federal Endangered Species Act protections. The IGBC includes the top managers from every state and federal agency managing grizzlies and grizzly habitat.

More than 700 grizzlies now roam this corner of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, which covers more than 12 million acres in and around Yellowstone and Grand Teton National parks. More grizzlies live here now than inhabited the entire lower 48 states in 1975, a three-fold increase from the estimated 225 bears that roamed the Greater Yellowstone in 1981.

Grizzly numbers and range are also expanding in Montana’s Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, where nearly 1,000 bears are now estimated to live. USFWS is looking at proposing the delisting of this population as well, and collected public comments for the post-delisting management plan in summer 2013. If the US Fish and Wildlife Service accepts the IGBC’s recommendation, as seems likely, it will issue a new proposed rule in the Federal Register. That will be followed by a multi-month public comment period. Given the time it will take to write and review the new rule, actual delisting likely will not occur until 2015.

The USFWS delisted grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone following similar recommendations in 2007, but lawsuits by environmental groups led the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to return the bears to endangered species protections two years later, citing questions raised about the decline of whitebark pines. The trees produce a protein-rich nut grizzly’s relish, but have declined as much as 70 percent in the Greater Yellowstone in recent years due to attacks by blister rust fungus and mountain pine beetles.

The USFWS then requested that the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, led by experts at the US Geological Survey, review the relationship between grizzly bear population health and recent declines in whitebark pine. In December, the IGBC received the results of that review. Researchers found grizzlies that previously foraged on whitebark pine in the fall have turned to other food sources—meat, chief among them—and haven’t displayed any distinguishable loss of body fat in that exchange. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team also released statistics that show bear deaths within the region fell by half in 2013, while cub production remained high. In fact the number of female grizzlies with cubs in the Yellowstone ecosystem was the highest ever counted in 2013.

For more than two decades, researchers studying the chemical make-up of hair samples found that Yellowstone grizzlies are among the most carnivorous bear populations in North America’s interior, according to IGBC’s recent report. Depending on the age and sex of a bear, meat makes up anywhere from 45 to 79 percent of the protein in their diet. Whitebark pine nut production is cyclical, as is the case with huckleberries and other foods. Some years they are prolific while other years they produce very few. And so grizzly bears were already accustomed to dealing with such diet shifts, substituting animal protein in poor seed years. Recent studies have borne this out, showing grizzlies have been able to maintain fat levels equal to that of the best whitebark seed years. Chris Servheen, USFWS grizzly bear recovery coordinator and a spokesman for the IGBC, also points to grizzlies in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDC) as a population that has grown 3 percent per year for decades without the presence of whitebarks.

“Whitebark pine has been functionally extinct in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem for 30 years due to the impacts of white pine blister rust,” says Servheen.  In December, the IGBC said it felt confident the Greater Yellowstone’s grizzly population is adapting well to a similar change. “The sense of the committee is that there is no measurable negative impact on either individual grizzly bears or the grizzly population as a whole,” says Servheen. “Given that, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee recommended that the USFWS should move forward and produce a new proposed delisting rule. The whitebark question was the only issue the 9th Circuit used to state that the Yellowstone grizzlies should not be delisted. The new analysis by the Study Team should address the concerns that the judges had about how declines in whitebark would impact the health of the Yellowstone grizzlies.” If recent history is any indication, it’s nearly guaranteed that new lawsuits from environmental groups will challenge any move by USFWS to delist, which may well return it to the chambers of a federal judge.

“I’m sure we’ll go through the legal knothole again,” says Servheen.

RMEF’s take: The booming populations of grizzlies in both the Greater Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide ecosystems represent the Endangered Species Act doing exactly what it was intended to do: help imperiled species recover. That’s no simple task, especially when that animal can weigh a thousand pounds and roam 100 square miles or more. But the top bear biologists in America unanimously agree that we have achieved healthy, growing and sustainable grizzly populations. Instead of celebrating this success, though, the same serial litigators that overturned the Yellowstone ecosystem grizzly delisting in 2009 are loading their legal cannons for yet another round of lawsuits. This not only undercuts the letter of the law, it betrays all the sportsmen and diverse communities that have provided funding and other real forms of support to this recovery effort for decades. RMEF fully supports the conclusions of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee: delisting is long overdue in the greater Yellowstone.

Want to Help? You can help fuel one of America’s most effective conservation movements! Our members, donors and partners have helped conserve more than 7 million acres of elk country – a land area more than three times the size of Yellowstone National Park! The vast majority of that land is open for public hunting and other recreation, for you as well as the generations that will come after you.  But, each day, more wild places disappear. There is much work to do.  Elk, other wildlife, their habitat and America’s hunting heritage need your help. Please join RMEF today! Different membership levels are available. You’re welcome to join online by using the form (https://jrd.rmef.org/howtohelp/join), or by calling (800) 225-5355, Mon – Fri, 8 AM – 5 PM Mountain Time.

Outdoor Resources for Families – FREE From New York State

  • New York State Conservationist for Kids is FREE
  • Useful Outdoor Discovery Articles
  • Environmental Education Information for All Ages
Kids and Nature work together to promote Conservation. Check out these links!

Many children learn about the outdoors from adults who accompany them as they explore. Plenty of times the kids teach the adults as well as the adults teaching the kids! If you are looking for ideas on how to enjoy the outdoors with the young people in your life visit the web sites listed below.

Outdoor Discovery is an online newsletter from DEC for families. It encourages New Yorkers to explore outdoors and learn about the environment. Each issue introduces subscribers to a a seasonal environmental or nature topic, suggests a related activity and lists family friendly events at DEC’s environmental education centers. DEC Outdoor Discovery is emailed to subscribers every other Wednesday and also appears on DEC’s website.

DEC operates environmental education programs statewide. These include two environmental education centers from Albany to Buffalo, plus regional environmental educators who serve New York City, Long Island and Central NY.

The DEC’s residential environmental education summer camps have be operating for over 60 years. The camps serve boys and girls ages 11-17, who attend a week long program exploring the outdoors and learning about the environment. Campers can even participate in a hunter safety class and receive their hunter safety certificate. The four summer camps are located across the state, two in the Adirondacks, one in the Catskills and one in Western New York.

National Wildlife Federation advocates spending at least one hour each day outdoors in nature. Their web site Be Out There provides ideas for reconnecting kids with the many benefits of the great outdoors. Good for both mental and physical health, spending time outdoors is also fun and helps kids build a connection to nature. Using the “NatureFind” feature visitors can find outdoor activities in their area, and across the country.

Nature Rocks from the Children and Nature Network, The Nature Conservancy and R.E.I. provides ideas for exploring outdoors with children. They also offer a search feature to locate programs, sites and outdoor play groups, known as Nature Rocks Flocks in your area.

For more, just visit: http://www.dec.ny.gov/education/59422.html.

Fishing Boom in the Drought-Stricken Everglades

By Forrest Fisher

Mayan chiclid are honest fighters on light gear and they can get quite large, this is 2-1/2 pound fish!  This species and others are feared to be competing with native species in some areas, allowing FWC to issue a no-limit daily bag rule for anglers that enjoy consumption of the fish they catch. Conservation and protection can be delivered in many forms.  Forrest Fisher Photo

While visitors are not normally familiar with catching fish that look like they might be from an aquarium, there are locals and visitors reporting many fantastic panfish catches.  

Exotic panfish, such as oscar and Mayan cichlid, are biting almost as fast as you can cast or bait your hook. Low water levels in the marsh are concentrating fish in the L-67A and other canals of the Everglades Wildlife Management Area, and anglers are frequently reporting catches of multiple fish per hour.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) promotes the consumptive use of exotic fish as a management tool, and anglers are encouraged to take as many oscars and Mayan cichlids as they would like.  There are no size or bag limits on these species.

“As is frequently the case, low water conditions near the end of a dry season have fish stacked up in the canals along the vegetated edges. Anglers are enjoying exceptional catch rates,” said Barron Moody, FWC regional freshwater fisheries administrator.

Concentrate your fishing effort close to shoreline vegetation or along the drop-offs near the banks.  Good fishing can be had from shore or by boat.  Live baits and artificial lures produce good catches in the WCAs.  The preferred live baits are shiners, crickets, and worms.  The top producing artificials are soft plastics rigged weedless, Beetle spins, crankbaits, and topwater poppers or chuggers. 

Even if portions of EWMA are closed due to environmental conditions, the boat ramps and canals remain open for fishing.

So grab your fishing license and get out there while the fishing is hot.

For more information, view the FWC’s Everglades fishing brochure and recent site forecast at MyFWC.com/Fishing. Current fishing forecasts, regulations and directions to boat ramps can also be obtained from FWC at (561) 625-512.

There are consumption advisories for some species. Visit FloridaHealth.gov and search “Seafood Consumption” in the search bar for more information.

The Eagle Has Landed

By Robin Jenkins, DVM

Peace River Wildlife Center received a frantic call from a landscaper recently.  A baby eagle had walked into his open equipment trailer and was just hanging around.  He had tried to shoo it away, but it wouldn’t leave.  I asked him to take a picture with his cell phone and send it to me. 

To his credit, the gentleman was no less concerned about the bird’s health when I explained that it was actually a fancy racing pigeon, not an eagle.  We sent a rescuer to pick up the uninjured bird—it was probably just exhausted after being buffeted by strong winds.  Luckily, we were able to locate the bird’s owner and return it to him.

So, when we got another call about two male eagles fighting in midair at the other end of the county, we took the call with a grain of salt.  But multiple calls from the same area confirmed that there may actually be something to the story.  Then another caller claimed that an eagle was walking around their lawn and seemed injured.

Our favorite snow bird husband-and-wife rescue team, Barb and Tom Taylor, were dispatched to check out the situation.  Quite often in these cases, as soon as the bird is approached, it takes flight.  End of story.  This time, the bird ran into some heavy scrub, evidently not willing or able to fly away.  So Tom, in his infinite wisdom (and short pants), dove into the jagged palmettos after the bird, and a wacky race ensued.  Tom’s shins were shredded, but he caught the bird.

It turns out it was an adult female eagle.  Since this is the end of breeding season for these large raptors, she may have been defending her territory or nest from an invading neighbor.  She had suffered deep puncture wounds on her legs and a crack on her beak.  X-rays (with our beautiful new digital x-ray machine; hooray!  Thank you, donors!)  showed the crack at the caudal edge of her beak was superficial.  After a course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs for her leg lesions, she was healing quite well.

The eagle was taken to our 100-foot flight cage to make sure she was capable of flight.  She was flying fine, although she walked around the cage like a little old lady—actually, like me after a recent reminder that the law of gravity applies to everyone.  She minced and limped with every step.  Obviously, her legs were still sore, but the wounds were healing and there was no evidence of infection.  After a few days of strength training in the flight cage, she was given thumbs-up for release.

Bald eagle beak fracture after territorial dispute.

Although her wounds were not completely healed, we wanted to get her back out to her home as soon as possible.  Like most wild animals, she will complete the healing process much faster at home than under the additional stress of being in captivity.  She may have had a family waiting for her there, although any offspring should have been old enough by this time of year to be okay without her for a few days.  And presumably, Dad would have been there to babysit in her absence.  And we all know how much Dads appreciate being left alone with the kiddos while Mom goes to the spa for a few days of rest and relaxation. 

There are many ways for you to help us at Peace River Wildlife Center, please review this link and add your name to our webpage newsletter. http://peaceriverwildlifecenter.org/donate/.

 

God Save the King!

  • King Monarch Butterflies Weigh 1/20th as Much as Hummingbirds, but Migrate Just As Far.
  • How You Can Help Ensure the Future of the Monarch Butterfly
  • Milkweed Plants Are The Essential Key

By Jim Low

King Monarch butterfly conservation can be as simple as mowing around milkweed plants in your yard.

“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folk may circumvent this restriction if they know how.  To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own a good shovel.”

I thought of this quote from Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac recently, when I received a press release from Missourians for Monarchs, a public/private partnership to conserve North America’s best-known butterfly species.

The release noted that the early arrival of spring-like weather had caused monarch butterflies to begin their northward migration unusually early.  It went on to say that the fragile migrants were carrying unusually large numbers of eggs this year.  That sounded like great news at first blush, but the release went on to say that naturalists were worried that the advanced timing of migration could cause a reproductive failure.  Monarch larvae can only survive on milkweed plants.  Butterfly experts feared that milkweeds (Missouri has nine species), might not be growing when monarchs arrived, ready to lay their eggs.

“To support the caterpillars, we’re going to need every stem of milkweed out there,” said Missourians for Monarchs Coordinator Jason Jenkins, “So we’re encouraging landowners to hold off on any springtime mowing to help this first generation of monarchs thrive.”

That’s when I thought of Aldo Leopold’s quote.  It just so happens that I have a nice little patch of milkweed growing in my front yard.  The press release was well-timed, because I had not mowed the lawn yet, and milkweed plants already were poking their heads up.  I went ahead and mowed the lawn, but I detoured around each of the two dozen milkweed plants.  I know it looks odd to human visitors, but it’s the orange-and-black, six-legged visitors I’m most concerned about.

If you own some acreage, Grow Native! can help you plant milkweed there, creating a monarch factory.

The life history of the monarch butterfly, which took decades to unravel, is so complex and improbable, it seems made up.  Monarchs make a late-summer and autumn migration to Florida, southern California or Mexico, where they spend the winter.  The following spring, they begin a northward migration that takes several years – and multiple generations – to complete.  Along the way, they harvest nectar from flowers to sustain themselves.  Only their larvae require milkweed for food.

Northward migrating, they mate and lay eggs along their way.  The larvae begin feeding on milkweed leaves immediately, chewing in a circular pattern that prevents entrapment in the plant’s sticky sap.  The leaves and sap contain cardenolides, toxic substances that the larvae concentrate, making them poisonous to most birds and other potential vertebrate predators.

Those foolish enough to consume a monarch larva or adult don’t survive to pass their genes on to the next generation.  Only those that have no interest in eating monarchs survive, vastly reducing the threat to this species.  The viceroy butterfly, which is not toxic, has evolved to mimic the monarch’s color pattern, and thus enjoys an indirect Darwinian advantage.  Black-backed orioles and black-headed grosbeaks are not susceptible to cardenolide poisoning, and account for more than half the mortality of monarchs that winter in central Mexico.

Monarch larvae pass through five stages, known as instars.  The first instar is tiny – 2 to 6 mm long.  At this stage, they are a pale translucent green.  Like other insects, monarchs must shed their skins to grow, passing into the next instar with each molt.  Along the way, they develop a striking white, yellow and black transverse bands, grow long tentacles fore and aft and develop body segments that increasingly resemble their adult form.  By the time they complete the fifth instar, they have increased their mass by a factor of 2,000 and are nearly 2 inches long.  Then they are ready to pupate.

The monarch’s chrysalis is a work of art not unlike the wrapping of gifts for Chinese emperors.  The delicate mint-green exterior is adorned with golden – not yellow, mind you, shimmering gold – spangles.  One to two weeks after pupation, the chrysalis becomes clear, and the adult butterfly emerges.  It hangs upside down while it pumps body fluids into its furled wings to expand them.  The transition from egg to adult takes anywhere from 25 days to seven weeks during the warm months.  They are sexually mature less than a week later.  Female monarchs are polyandrous and produce more eggs the more partners they have.

Monarchs migrate from their wintering grounds to breeding areas and back in one year, but not in one generation.  Generation Number 1 is the one that migrates south in the fall.  In January or February, they mate and head back north, reaching Texas or Oklahoma, where they (hopefully) find milkweed plants, lay eggs and die after a long – for monarchs – life of eight or nine months.  Generation No.  2 hatches, matures, flies farther north, mates, lays eggs and dies.  This repeats another time or two, until the northernmost breeding ground is reached.  There, another two or three generations are born.  The last one might be Generation Number 5 or 6 of that year, but they are destined to become Generation Number 1 the following year, after migrating south and spending the winter.

In this way, monarchs avoid the hot, dry summers that would make their wintering grounds unlivable, and the cold winters that would make it impossible to survive on their breeding grounds.  They also avoid sticking around any one place long enough for predators, diseases and parasites to build up and take advantage of the nutritional resource that monarchs represent.

Getting back to Aldo Leopold, you too, can wield god-like powers, if not of creation, then at least of conservation.

Habitat loss and fragmentation, along with changes in weather have led to a steep decline in monarch numbers over the past 20 years.  Butterfly conservation groups say individuals can make a difference.  Make room for monarchs on your property, whether it is a quarter-acre residential lot or a 5,000-acre farm.

Spare the milkweed plants that grow naturally by delaying mowing as long as possible or mowing around patches of milkweed.  You also can plant native milkweeds, which are available from wildflower nurseries listed at Grow Native!  These will reward your efforts with beautiful flowers that are well adapted to Missouri’s climate and require little or no maintenance.

The Missouri Department of Conservation has a monarch habitat web page about creating monarch habitat too, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has monarch conservation strategies for individual and communities.  And take time to look at the Missourians for Monarchs blog, which has fascinating facts and beautiful photos.

You have the power.

Citizen action is what makes conservation work in Missouri and everywhere else too,

Missourians for Monarchs’ blog is an excellent place to start learning about monarch conservation.

 

HUNTING, FISHING BUSINESSES UNITE IN SUPPORT OF NATIONAL MONUMENTS

Posted by Backcountry Hunters & Anglers | May 09, 2017

More than 100 hunting and fishing business owners and sporting organizations sent a letter today to Congress to show their support for national monuments and the responsible use of the Antiquities Act.

“As someone who has helped develop the outdoor industry in Colorado and watched it grow into an economic powerhouse, I am concerned by current efforts both to curtail national monuments and weaken the Antiquities Act itself,” said Jim Bartschi, president of Scott Fly Rods in Montrose, Colorado. “Public lands such as the new Browns Canyon National Monument preserve incredible outdoor opportunities to hunt, fish, hike, bike, camp and float – and they’re strongly supported by local communities, who understand that these lands offer one of the best new, sustainable ways to grow their local economies.

“Since Theodore Roosevelt established the Antiquities Act in 1906, presidents of both parties have wisely used it to protect our nation’s most treasured hunting and fishing habitats,” Bartschi added. “Let’s make sure we celebrate these special places and work together to retain their status as national monuments.”

The letter is part of a larger effort to demonstrate the important role national monuments and the Antiquities Act play not only to small businesses and rural economies but also to hunters and anglers all across the country. Business owners are meeting with decision makers in Washington this week to emphasize the value of public lands and national monuments to the outdoor industry.

“The outdoor industry accounts for $887 billion in consumer spending and 7.6 million jobs, making it one of the largest economic sectors in the country,” said Jen Ripple, editor in chief of DUN Magazine and a Tennessee resident. “Much of this economic output depends on public lands. Tools for conservation like the Antiquities Act will help ensure that America’s public lands remain not only a great place to hunt and fish but also an important pillar of the hunting and fishing industry.”

The business owners’ letter details support for safeguarding national monuments and the Antiquities Act, as well as criteria to ensure that national monuments are representative of collaborative, ground-up solutions for the management of public lands.

“Though some national monuments can be controversial, the Antiquities Act is an effective and essential tool for conservation,” said Ryan Hughes, a Nevada-based outdoor writer and volunteer for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “In places like Berryessa Snow Mountain in California and Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico, we’ve seen Congress unable or unwilling to pass legislative proposals created with the help of local stakeholders. The Antiquities Act aided in allowing these collaborative efforts to happen.”

In conjunction with Trout Unlimited, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and dozens of other conservation groups and outdoors businesses, BHA produced a report on our nation’s national monuments to highlight the incredible hunting and fishing values these protected areas have to offer.

Written by Field & Stream’s contributing editor Hal Herring, the report highlights five national monuments and the sportsmen who hunt and fish in them. Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, NM; Berryessa Snow Mountain, CA; Upper Missouri River Breaks, MT; Browns Canyon, CO; and Rio Grande del Norte, NM offer some of the finest public fishing and hunting in the country, protected forever under the Antiquities Act.

Help BHA fight for the wild public lands, waters and wildlife that you depend on by becoming a supporting member today.

About Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

Follow us for public land conservation, hunting and fishing news and resources. BHA is the sportsman’s voice for our public lands, waters & wildlife.

 

 

Help Keep Nesting Waterbirds Safe: Give Them Space

A Black Skimmer enjoys the Florida shoreline. “Florida is renowned for its diverse and spectacular bird life,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski. “We want to ensure these birds are here for future generations to enjoy.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Audubon Florida are reminding beachgoers and boaters to give nesting waterbirds and their young space to help keep them safe this nesting season.    

Shorebirds build shallow nests out of sand and shells on beaches in spring and summer, and eggs and hatching chicks are difficult to see. Wading birds, such as herons and egrets, as well as pelicans are also nesting now on islands around the state. Both types of birds can be easily disturbed if people approach too closely. Such disturbance can cause birds to abandon their nesting sites, exposing eggs and chicks to predators, sun exposure and other harm.

Shorebird nests, eggs and chicks are well-camouflaged and can easily be missed and even stepped on unless people know to look out for them. The snowy plover, least tern, black skimmer, American oystercatcher and Wilson’s plover are several of Florida’s beach-nesting shorebird species facing conservation challenges. Vulnerable tree-nesting waterbirds, such as brown pelicans, reddish egrets, tricolored herons and roseate spoonbills, have also experienced declines. These coastal waterbirds can benefit from increased awareness by the public.

People can help keep nesting waterbirds safe by keeping their distance from them and Critical Wildlife Areas.

CWAs are established by the FWC to protect congregations of one or more species of wildlife from human disturbance during critical life stages such as breeding, feeding or migration. Last November, FWC commissioners approved an unprecedented effort to create 13 new CWAs and improve five existing CWAs.

A Snowy Plover on her nest in guard of predators along the Florida seashore.

“Some of the CWAs are so new that they have not yet been marked-off as CWAs. In these areas, we are asking people to be extra vigilant in their efforts to avoid disturbing the birds,” said FWC CWA coordinator Michelle van Deventer.

In northwest Florida, there are three CWAs posted for nesting birds: Alligator Point and St. George Causeway in Franklin County, and Tyndall in Bay County. The FWC is working to create two new CWAs in Franklin County: Flagg Island and Lanark Reef.

In northeast Florida, there are four CWAs posted for waterbird nesting: Fort George in Duval County, Matanzas Inlet in St. Johns County, Nassau Sound Islands in Nassau and Duval counties, and Amelia Island in Nassau County.

The central east coast of Florida area has one CWA posted for waterbird nesting: Stick Marsh in Brevard County. The FWC is working to create a new CWA in this area: BC49 in Brevard County. This CWA has not yet been posted.

In the Tampa Bay area, there are two sites currently posted with CWA signs: Myakka River in Sarasota County and Alafia Banks in Hillsborough County. The FWC is working to create two new CWAs in this area: Dot-Dash-Dit Islands in Manatee County and Roberts Bay Islands in Sarasota County. These CWAs have not yet been posted.

There are several CWAs posted for waterbird nesting in Lee and Collier counties. These include ABC Islands, Big Marco Pass, Little Estero Island and Second Chance. Also in Lee and Collier counties, the FWC is working to create or update several new CWAs, including Rookery Island, Matanzas Pass Island, Big Carlos Pass-M52, Coconut Point East, Broken Islands, Useppa Oyster Bar and Hemp Key. These CWAs have not yet been posted.

In southeast Florida, there are two CWAs marked off for waterbird nesting or foraging: Bill Sadowski in Miami-Dade County and Bird Island in Martin County,  In addition to observing the marked-off areas around CWAs, people can also help by following a few simple steps while enjoying the beach this season:

  • Keep your distance from birds, on the beach or on the water. If birds become agitated or leave their nests, you are too close. A general rule is to stay at least 300 feet from a nest. Birds calling out loudly and dive-bombing are signals for you to back off.
  • Respect posted areas. Avoid posted nesting sites and use designated walkways when possible.
  • Never intentionally force birds to fly or run. This causes them to use energy needed for nesting, and eggs and chicks may be left vulnerable to the sun’s heat or predators. Teach children not to chase shorebirds and kindly ask fellow beachgoers to do the same. Shorebirds outside of posted areas may be feeding or resting and need to do so without disturbance.
  • It is best to not take pets to the beach, but if you do, keep them leashed and avoid shorebird nesting areas. (State parks, national parks and CWAs do not allow pets.)
  • Keep the beach clean and do not feed wildlife. Food scraps attract predators, such as raccoons and crows, which can prey on shorebird eggs and chicks. Litter on beaches can entangle birds and other wildlife.
  • Spread the word. If you see people disturbing nesting birds, gently let them know how their actions may hurt the birds’ survival. If they continue to disturb nesting birds, report it to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone or by texting Tip@MyFWC.com. You may also report nests that are not posted to our Wildlife Alert Program.

“These charismatic birds make Florida the special place that it is,” said Julie Wraithmell, Deputy Executive Director for Audubon Florida. “Giving these parents and their babies a little space will ensure they’re here for generations to come.”

For more information, go to MyFWC.com/Shorebirds and download the “Share the Beach with Beach-Nesting Birds” brochure. Or go to the Florida Shorebird Alliance website at FLShorebirdAlliance.org to learn more about how to participate in shorebird conservation efforts.

For more information about Florida’s CWAs, visit MyFWC.com/CWA.

To learn how you can volunteer your time to protect nesting coastal birds, visit FL.Audubon.org and scroll over the “Conservation” tab at the top, then click on “Coastal Conservation” and “Coastal Bird Stewardship,” or you can email FLConservation@Audubon.orgExternal Website

Walleye in Lake Erie – Fishery Movement and Study

  • Fish are Tagged, Electronically Monitored for Movement
  • Angler Reward System ($100)
  • Cooperative Study: Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System (GLATOS)

By Forrest Fisher

Biologists throughout the Great Lakes are using science and technology to help understand the mysteries of Great Lakes fish, their health and their seasonal movements. NYSDEC Photo

Trained biologists and technicians implant acoustic transmitters to understand fish movements and how they relate to fishing effort and harvest. 

Walleye, lake trout and musky in eastern Lake Erie are netted, identified, tagged with a transmitter and released, then monitored to determine preferred spawning areas and habitat. 

The tagged fish are monitored by a network of acoustic receivers throughout Lake Erie.  Orange external loop tags identify fish that contain acoustic transmitters and offer a $100 reward when returned by an angler. 

This is one of 12 programs that the NYSDEC Lake Erie Fisheries Unit is has provided staff and study toward research and management of objectives for Lake Erie, Chautauqua County and Region 9 in New York State.

For many decades, knowledgeable eastern basin anglers (Russell Johnson, Elma, NY) pondered the idea with angler groups that walleye from the western basin might travel long distances and move to the eastern basin during summer weather to feed on plentiful rainbow smelt, emerald shiners and alewife schools of baitfish.   The color and shape of the migrating fish was slightly different in appearance according to some anglers in the late 1970’s.  Today, the 2010s plus, the forage base adds in the vast population of the round goby family.  Every predator fish seems to find this plentiful resource, perhaps an invasive species godsend that was not accepted as a stable forage base upon it’s early discovery a decade or two ago.

Trained biologists and technicians implant acoustic transmitters to understand fish movements and how they relate to fishing effort and harvest.  NYSDEC Photo

Today, we know from early metal fin-tagging studies and angler report data that walleye in the Great Lakes are known to move long distances through multiple fish and wildlife management jurisdictions.  Understanding fish movements and how they relate to fishing effort and harvest is essential when managing a complex, valuable, multijurisdictional fishery such as the Lake Erie walleye fishery.  Today, this can be accomplished in a more dynamic manner and in real time with in-the-water migratory data collection.

Beginning in spring 2015, New York State DEC biologists started to deploy acoustic receivers in the eastern basin of Lake Erie to monitor the timing, magnitude, demographics, and spatial extent of the western basin walleye migrants tagged on western basin spawning areas by Ohio DNR. Additionally, acoustic transmitters were surgically implanted into walleyes from eastern basin spawning aggregations to estimate spawning site fidelity and movement patterns of individual eastern basin spawning stocks.  

Orange external loop tags identify fish that contain acoustic transmitters and offer a $100 reward when returned by an angler.  NYSDEC Photo

The relative contribution of eastern basin walleyes to the mixed-origin fisheries in the eastern basin will be assessed by implanting acoustic tags in walleye captured in the eastern basin summer fishery.  Acoustic receivers are placed on known spawning areas in the spring and deployed in four lines spanning the eastern basin from north to south to monitor summer and fall movement.  Existing acoustic lines in the western and central basins will allow detection of the westward movement of walleye tagged as part of this study.

Participating organizations include New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Great Lakes Fishery Commission and Michigan State University.

Acoustic transmitters were surgically implanted into walleyes from eastern basin spawning aggregations to estimate spawning site fidelity and movement patterns of individual eastern basin spawning stocks. NYSDEC Photo

Project personnel are many, but key investigators include Jason Robinson (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation) – jason.robinson@dec.ny.gov; Don Einhouse (New York State Department Of Environmental Conservation); Chuck Murray (Pennsylvania Fish And Boat Commission); Tom Macdougall (Ontario Ministry Of Natural Resources And Forestry); Chris Vandergoot (United States Geological Survey); John Dettmers (Great Lakes Fishery Commission) and Charles Krueger (Michigan State University).

The project is set to run from January 2015 through January 2019, receiving funding from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health, United States Fish and Wildlife Service and Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System. Federal and International tax dollars are at work here for a worthy environmental cause.

The information contained in this article and more information on these and other Great Lakes acoustic projects is available in greater detail at the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System (GLATOS) website.

 

 

TRCP’s Revamped Website Makes Conservation Accessible to All Sportsmen

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is proud to announce the official launch of its newly redesigned website at trcp.org. The site overhaul puts original content, educational resources, and opportunities for action front and center, so American sportsmen and women have the tools to advocate for conservation policy that benefits fish, wildlife, and habitat.

The TRCP redesign highlights the organization’s core issues, superior content, and opportunities for advocates to take action.

“Conservation is the bedrock of all our American traditions in the outdoors, but it is often forged online by the sportsmen and women willing to engage and speak out for better policies and funding,” says Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “We hope our new site will continue to serve as an invaluable resource, point of discovery, and outlet for action.”

TRCP worked with Sage Lion Media, a marketing agency out of Denver, Colo., to focus on ease of navigation with a new mobile-responsive design. The homepage showcases some of Theodore Roosevelt’s best quotes, as well as the core issues that the organization fights for: habitat and clean water, sportsmen’s access, and a robust outdoor recreation economy.

The TRCP blog features a customized reading list to introduce users to other conservation topics of interest. And with all its content under one roof, nearly every page showcases beautiful photos and the engaging opinion-driven conservation stories that TRCP is known for.

Visit TRCP now to see what’s new: http://www.trcp.org/.

 

 

Morel Tales to Tell a Spring Story

  • Mushroom season is almost here.
  • It’s likely to be earlier than usual.
  • But if you are still seeing these flowers, it’s probably not here yet.
Prospects for finding morels aren’t great, while Dutchman’s Breeches remain dewy fresh.  Jim Low Photo

By Jim Low

Mushroom season is almost here, and as usual, I got the itch to hunt for them weeks ahead of their appearance.  My rational side told me that the last week of March is ridiculously early to hope to find the big yellow morels that haunt my vernal dreams.  But, as usual, Excitable Me overruled Rational Me.

In defense of Excitable Me, this year has provided extra reasons for jumping the gun.  For one thing, we had weeks of April weather in February and early March.  On top of that, I heard some credible reports of people finding morels a few weeks ago.  I got seriously itchy feet when the mercury topped 85 degrees on several days.  All it took to push me over the edge was the 2 inches of rain that fell Friday and Saturday.  I was out the door early Sunday morning to beat others to my favorite “shrooming” grounds in the Missouri River bottoms.

The temperature hovered around 50 degrees, and low, dense clouds held the promise of more rain.  Those conditions were nearly identical to the day last spring when I found a small bonanza of plump, succulent yellow morels and a scattering of little grays.  Heading out the door, I could practically smell them sizzling in the skillet.  I was sure this was my lucky day.

This unopened Trillium flower was trying to tell me something, it’s too early.  Jim Low Photo

The only footprints I found in “my” morel hot spot on public land belonged to white-tailed deer.  Great!  My early start had put me ahead of the competition.  Many of my would-be rivals no doubt still sat in uncomfortable church pews, while I strolled through a cathedral of towering oaks and maples.  But as I scanned leaf-littered bottoms, I recognized some not-so-encouraging signs.

Adam-and-Eve Orchid is the only plant that I have absolutely come to associate with morel patches.  Jim Low Photo

First was the fact that Dutchman’s Breeches and Toothwort were everywhere.  These delicate plants generally follow close on the heels of Hepatica, the earliest of Missouri’s spring blossoms.  They generally are on their way out by the time I find morels.  My optimism mushroomed temporarily when I began noticing Trillium and May Apple.  These two wildflowers have been associated with past morel finds, but as I continued walking I realized that these were the first of their kind to sprout.  None of the Trillium blossoms were open and the May Apples weren’t even showing flower buds.  By the time I find morels, these plants are in full bloom and stand 12 to 18 inches tall.  These had only poked their heads three or four inches above the leaf litter.

These May Apples hadn’t even unfolded their umbrellas on Sunday.  Jim Low Photo

Sweet William is another wildflower I associate with morel season.  This wild version of garden phlox grows in luxuriant stands when I’m finding morels, but on Sunday morning, I saw only one.  It was still shorter than a big morel and all but a couple of its blossoms were wrapped tight as cigars against the morning chill. 

With flagging confidence, I headed for the spot that produced last year’s bounty and that has been a reliable morel producer year in and year out.  The distinctive, striated leaves of Adam-and-Eve orchids greeted me, proving that the creek bottom’s loamy soil was healthy as ever.  My most productive morel patches all support this plant, also known as putty root.  But today, Adam and Eve had no delectable company.  I finally had to admit that I’d jumped the gun again, but I continued to hold out hope for finding a handful of small but delicious early gray morels.

Most of the blossoms on this Sweet William plant were shut tight against the early-morning chill.  Jim Low Photo

I’m sure that someone somewhere in Missouri found mushrooms that morning.  Sadly, that person was not me and as I trudged homeward, I began to dread the hopeful query that would greet my return: “Did you find any!?” To redeem myself, I stopped at Central Dairy, a Jefferson City institution, and bought ice cream.  That and a brisk hike with a sound track provided by cardinals and titmice, is reward enough for the time being.  I will watch the wildflowers around the house in the coming weeks.  When the Sweet William brushes my knees, I’ll pull on my hiking boots and stuff my pockets with plastic grocery bags, sure as ever that this is my day.

I’d advise you to do the same.  It’s spring!

Reticulated Albino Python Snakes in Manhattan, New York

  • Longest Snakes in the World, Growing to 20 Feet.
  • Reticulated Pythons Can be Dangerous.
  • In New York, a Special Permit is Required to Keep Them
From L to R: New York State Environmental Conservation Officers Brown, Chomicki, Noyes and Lomozik, with two juvenile Albino Reticulated Pythons.  NYSDEC Photo

MANHATTAN – Early in February – 2017, New York State Environmental Conservation Officer (ECO) Spencer Noyes came across a Craigslist ad offering an Albino Reticulated Python for sale in Manhattan.

Reticulated Pythons are classified as wild animals under New York State Environmental Conservation Law and individuals are required to have a special license to possess or sell the snakes.  Reticulated Pythons are the longest snakes in the world, growing to more than 20 feet in length and can be dangerous.

Working with Lt. Michael Buckley, ECO Noyes determined the seller did not have a license.  Acting as an interested buyer, Noyes contacted the seller and after several phone conversations, the seller agreed on a price for the original snake plus a second animal.  On Feb. 13, ECOs Noyes and Bill Chomicki went in plain clothes to the seller’s residence in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, New York.

Lt. Nate VerHague and ECO’s Zach Brown and Jarrod Lomozik served as uniformed backup.  When the seller came outside with both snakes, Noyes and Chomicki identified themselves as Conservation Officers and, after a brief conversation, the seller admitted to not having any DEC permits to possess the snakes.  

The snakes were seized as evidence and transported to the Animal Care Center of New York City, where they are being cared for and will eventually be sent to the Sean Casey Animal Rescue in Brooklyn, New York.  The Sean Casey Animal Rescue Group specializes in the rescue and rehabilitation of reptiles.  The seller was charged with possessing a wild animal without a permit and is due in New York County Court in May.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law, protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2016, the 286 ECOs across the state responded to 26,400 calls and issued 22,150 tickets for crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping and illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

“From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling New York State are the first line of defense in protecting New York’s environment and its natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers,” said Commissioner Basil Seggos.  “They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes.  Although they don’t receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC’s mission to protect and enhance our environment.”

African Snake Bites Man on Staten Island

  • Lucky Man Survives Gaboon Viper Bite
  • Snake Was Illegal
  • Man Had No Permit

New York – A Staten Island was bitten on the hand by a deadly Gaboon Viper (Bitis Gabonica) while the man was

Decapitated head of the Gaboon Viper snake that bite a Staten Island man while cleaning the cage of the snake. The man survived.

cleaning its cage and was transported to Jacobi Medical Center in Bronx County.  The Gaboon viper is a snake species found in the rainforests and savannas of sub-Saharan Africa and is venomous.

On March 11, Environmental Conservation Officer (ECO) Wesley Leubner was on patrol in Westchester and Putnam counties when he heard a news report of a venomous snake bite in Staten Island.  ECO Leubner contacted Richmond County ECO Michael Hameline regarding the report.

ECO Hameline and ECO JT Rich visited the NYPD 121st Precinct in Staten Island to obtain detailed information about the snake.

After being bitten, the subject cut the snake’s head off with a knife and called 911.  NYPD arrived on scene and located the deceased Gaboon Viper, as well as a Red-Tailed Columbian Boa. Both snakes were secured by NYPD’s Emergency Services Unit and transported to the New York City Animal Care and Control office in Manhattan.

The subject was fortunate that the bite was a “dry” bite, meaning that no venom was injected into his hand.  He was able to check himself out of the hospital Saturday morning.  On March 12, ECOs Hameline and Rich interviewed the subject, who admitted to possessing both snakes without the required permits.  The subject was issued a summons for violating NYC Law pertaining to illegal pets, as well as a summons from the DEC for possessing a venomous reptile without a permit.

The case will be heard in Richmond County Court in May. The deceased vi

A Red-Tail Columbian Boa was also an illegal pet (due to no permit) in the same household.

per was seized into evidence; the constrictor is being cared for by NYC animal care and control.

 

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY E

nvironmental Conservation Law, protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

 

In 2016, the 286 ECOs across the state responded to 26,400 calls and issued 22,150 tickets for crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping and illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

“From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling New York State are the first line of defense in protecting New York’s environment and its natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers,” said Commissioner Basil Seggos.  “They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes.  Although they don’t receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC’s mission to protect and enhance our environment.”

Fire!

It’s not a four-letter word if you are trying to maintain high-quality habitat.

It’s a prescription for healthy wildlife

A drip torch is an indispensable tool for setting fires quickly and efficiently, allowing land owners to conduct controlled burns with fire. The Burn allows Nutrient Cycling, Invasive Plant Displacement and Healthy New Growth, and is a Prescription for the Health of Fish, Flora, Fauna and Wildlife. Jim Low Photo

By Jim Low

They probably didn’t understand the role of fire in nutrient cycling, but they knew that fire renewed landscapes.  They might not have known that periodic removal of dead vegetation from ground level makes it easier for quail to move and find food beneath the protective canopy of new growth, but you can bet they knew that bobwhite cocks called more often on land that had been blackened by fire the previous spring.

Modern-day land managers have new reasons for using fire.  Introduced plants like fescue grass, bush honeysuckle and sericea lespedeza can displace native flora, turning once-productive fields and forests into wildlife deserts.  When applied at the right time of year, fire is a powerful tool for controlling these pests and improving hunting.  In marshes, fire releases nutrients and sets back cattails and other native plants that can blanket wetlands, making them useless to mallards, Canada geese and shorebirds.  Invasion by woody plants is a problem faced by prairie and wetland managers alike, and here again, fire is a highly effective process treatment.  Fire also is less expensive than mowing, disking or other mechanical methods of creating the patchwork of exposed water and vegetation of different heights that spells “H-O-M-E” to migrating wildfowl.

Despite the brisk morning air, my back was starting to sweat as I stepped lively along the edge of 20 acres of tinder-dry foxtail, cordgrass, ragweed and fescue grass.  Moments later, the breeze picked up and heat blazed on the exposed back of my neck.  A growing roar told me I needed to pick up the pace, and soon I was almost trotting as I trailed a drip torch behind me.  Another 200 yards and I closed a circle of flame around the field.  I traded the torch for a gas-powered leaf blower to snuff out errant fires kindled by embers carried aloft on the wind.

One key to controlling a prescribed fire is starting with a backfire on the downwind side and then encircling the area with flame, so it burns itself out somewhere in the middle.  Jim Low Photo

Such spot-over fires were few, thanks to careful planning.  With time to enjoy the results of our work, my partners and I pulled out cell phones for photos and video of the spectacle.  Flames leapt 50 feet in the air, creating a true fire storm.  The plume of smoke from our little field soared thousands of feet into the cloudless sky.  Eleven-year-old Emmett Wright was too awed by the power of the blaze to do much besides repeatedly exclaiming, “Whoa!”

Within minutes, the field that had been clogged with dead vegetation was a study in black and gray.  A casual observer might think torching a field was easy or irresponsible.  This fire was neither.  The wide swaths of bare ground surrounding the field were the result of year-round work, mowing and re-mowing to create fuel-free zones capable of stopping a fire after its work was done.  Our burn boss, Emmett’s grandpa, Brad Wright, pored over weather forecasts for weeks, watching for a combination of wind speed and direction and relative humidity that would allow us to burn several sections of our 200-acre duck and upland game hunting club without endangering neighboring property.

There were false starts.  We set a burn date two weeks earlier, only to have our plans ruined by a sleet storm that blew up at the last minute.  We were ready to burn again the following week, and again, the forecast seemed perfect.  But two days beforehand, the U.S.  Weather Service revised the forecast to include strong, gusty wind and dangerously low humidity.  Officials in neighboring counties issued burn bans.  Starting a fire under those conditions would have been reckless and could ruined the reputation we have been re-building with the Chariton County Fire Department since an unfortunate incident a few years ago, which we no longer mention – except to razz Brad.

But last Saturday was finally right.  We would have preferred a southerly wind, which would have allowed us to burn all our upland acres and most of the marsh.  As it was, we got about half the upland and a third of the marsh burned.

You might wonder why we would give up a Saturday to burn a bunch of grass and cattails.  In a word, “habitat.” We want our 200 acres to be as attractive and productive as possible for ducks, geese, quail, rabbits, deer, turkey, beavers, muskrats, otters, herons, snipe, bass, catfish, and the whole array of wild things that inhabit healthy land and water.  One of the surest ways to achieve this is with carefully planned burning.

The human inhabitants of North America have used fire in this way from time immemorial.  The first Americans knew that burning let the sun warm the ground earlier, and that deer, turkey, elk and bison would quickly arrive to take advantage of the resulting flush of succulent new growth.  They probably didn’t understand the role of fire in nutrient cycling, but they knew that fire renewed landscapes.  They might not have known that periodic removal of dead vegetation from ground level makes it easier for quail to move and find food beneath the protective canopy of new growth, but you can bet they knew that bobwhite cocks called more often on land that had been blackened by fire the previous spring.

Even a relatively small fire seems impressive close-up, or when you see the plume of smoke from a distance. Always notify fire officials ahead of time, or you might be billed for an unnecessary visit when neighbors call 911.  Jim Low Photo

Modern-day land managers have new reasons for using fire.  Introduced plants like fescue grass, bush honeysuckle and sericea lespedeza can displace native flora, turning once-productive fields and forests into wildlife deserts.  When applied at the right time of year, fire is a powerful tool for controlling these pests and improving hunting.  In marshes, fire releases nutrients and sets back cattails and other native plants that can blanket wetlands, making them useless to mallards, Canada geese and shorebirds.  Invasion by woody plants is a problem faced by prairie and wetland managers alike, and here again, fire is a highly effective process treatment.  Fire also is less expensive than mowing, disking or other mechanical methods of creating the patchwork of exposed water and vegetation of different heights that spells “H-O-M-E” to migrating wildfowl.

Fire is an important part of management plans that the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service helped us develop for our marsh, prairie and woodland acres.  Because it’s part of a formal plan, such use of burning is usually called “prescribed” fire.  Learning to burn safely and effectively isn’t simple.  That is why MDC offers prescribed fire workshops throughout the state each year.  With the knowledge gained in these workshops, and with management plans prepared in cooperation with wildlife professionals, you can make your little bit of hunting heaven the best it can be.  To learn more about the possibilities, visit MDC’s web page for private landowners.

What looks like utter devastation rapidly turns into a verdant field that draws wildlife like a magnet. Jim Low Photo

 

 

Delta Waterfowl Report Explores Looming Crisis: Declining Numbers of Duck Hunters

  • USA Waterfowl Hunter Population Down 50%
  • Canada Waterfowl Hunter Numbers Drop 70%
Picture reprinted with permission from Delta Waterfowl Foundation, The Duck Hunters Organization, a leading conservation group working to produce ducks and ensure the tradition of duck hunting in North America. Visit deltawaterfowl.org.

Read the full report online at deltawaterfowl.org or in the Spring Issue of Delta Waterfowl magazine

By STOadmin

BISMARCK, N.D. — We need more waterfowl hunters, and so do the ducks. A Special Report in the Spring Issue of Delta Waterfowl magazine explores why we’ve lost hundreds of thousands of waterfowl hunters since 1970, the threat this poses for the future of hunting and conservation, and what we can do about it.

The 10-page report is posted in its entirety at deltawaterfowl.org/looming-crisis.

Among the findings: There were 2.03 million active U.S. waterfowl hunters in 1970, and only 998,600 in 2015. The steepest declines have occurred since 1997, despite high duck populations, lengthy hunting seasons and liberal bag limits.

Canada’s waterfowler numbers have fallen even more drastically, peaking in 1978 at 505,681 and declining to fewer than 170,000 today.

This trend should alarm anyone who cares about waterfowl hunting and wetland conservation.

“We tell folks to support conservation — to replace the ducks they shoot every year,” said John Devney, vice president of U.S. policy for Delta Waterfowl. “We should also be telling them that you must replace yourself as a duck hunter. It’s as important as buying a federal duck stamp.”

 

 

Too Many Lies, Too Many Crappies – Oneida River

New York State Conservation Officers catch illegal poachers in Onondaga County.
  • Onondaga County, New York

On Feb. 28, 2017, Environmental Conservation Officer (ECO) Mark Colesante received an anonymous tip that fishermen were catching and keeping over the legal limit of black crappies on the Oneida River.  Knowing that the location is private, secluded, and a fishing hot spot, ECO Colesante called ECO Don Damrath for assistance.  The two officers watched the fishermen reel in a few fish and head for their truck.

The ECOs met the fishermen at the truck just as they were dumping hundreds of fish from their buckets into a cooler.  The men claimed half of the crappies were caught the day before, but couldn’t produce any evidence.  ECOs Colesante and Damrath issued summonses for possessing crappies over-the-limit and undersized fish, returnable to Town of Clay Court.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law, protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2016, the 286 ECOs across the state responded to 26,400 calls and issued 22,150 tickets for crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping and illegal mining, black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

“From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling our state are the first line of defense in protecting New York’s environment and our natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers,” said Commissioner Basil Seggos. “They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes. Although they don’t receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC’s mission to protect and enhance our environment.”

CFM ANNOUNCES 2017 CONSERVATIONIST OF THE YEAR

 

by Larry Whiteley

Bob and Barb Kipfer were honored with the 2017 Conservationist of the Year Award by the Conservation Federation of Missouri at their annual awards banquet held March 10th in Jefferson City, MO.

Bob, a military veteran, and his wife Barb are both retired medical professionals who live in Springfield, MO but spend a majority of their time at their property in Christian County they purchased in 1995.

The property has been a certified Tree Farm since 2008 but they began implementing a Forest Stewardship Plan soon after purchasing the property and they value their woods for their protection of water quality in the Bull Creek watershed and work to assure that protection continues. They were named State Tree Farmers of the Year in 2015, are members of the Forest and Woodland Association of Missouri, Missouri Forest Keepers Network and hosted a Missouri Tree Farm Conference.

They have also used their forest for harvesting of selected trees, timber stand improvement, cedar cutting and prescribed fire for restoration of two glades.

In addition, they have allowed a Charity Firewood Harvest of over 100 pickup loads which was delivered to families in need who heat with wood but had no source.

One of their first big projects was working with the Missouri Department of Conservation on stream bank stabilization. They allowed MDC to try different approaches to stabilize the stream.

They have also personally planted over 6 acres of trees as riparian corridors and are worked with other Bull Creek landowners to protect the Bull Creek watershed, hold Earth Day events and more.

Both are active participant’s in stream monitoring with the Bull Creek Stream Team and they have hosted Missouri State Universities Kyle Kosovich in a Gravel Deposition study for his Master thesis.

Bob and Barb love to teach others and are very active with the Springfield Public Schools WOLF program in weekly classroom sessions at the school as well as hosting the WOLF kids at their property for educational classes several times yearly.

For 3 days last June they led classroom sessions at the Branson H.S. Ecology Class on invasive species, native plants/wildflowers, trees, Lepidoptera, Missouri black bears and skull identification.

Bob also does Henry Rowe Schoolcraft reenactments for schools and groups in which he describes Schoolcraft’s observations of the pre-settlement Ozarks landscape and the wildlife he encountered. He will also be doing reenactments of Schoolcraft for the upcoming Schoolcraft Bicentennial.

They have hosted MDC tours, Boy Scout activities, wildlife studies of plant and animal species, bear studies by the Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Mycological Society forays, Missouri Naturalist and Missouri Native Plant Society field trips for plant and wildflower identification, and Greater Ozarks Audubon Warbler migration study.

They are also active members of the Springfield Plateau Missouri Master Naturalist and write an educational blog www.Springfieldmn.blogspot.com with over 1,000 informative postings.

Barb Kipfer is passionate invasive species eradicator and vigorously attacks any multi-flora rose, garlic mustard, Sericea lespedeza, Johnson grass or any other non-native species with vigor.

The Kipfer’s have also restored warm season native grass fields on their property, worked with the MDC on hog trapping, and work at endangered species protection.

They collect native butterflies, raise moths, and volunteer at special events for the Butterfly House at the Springfield Botanical Gardens as well as host an annual mothing event at their property.

Even though they do not hunt themselves they allow hunting to help control the deer population so it does not exceed the habitat’s carrying capacity.

Bob and Barb Kipfer are two people with hearts as big as the outdoors they love and a passion for conserving, preserving and educating. They are excellent role models for other Missourians to do all they can to educate, conserve and protect.

 

 

 

Educational Fly Fishing Conference – It’s About Kids

• Learn Fly-Fishing, 3-Day Session, Low Cost
• For Teachers, Everyday Workers, Friends of the Outdoors
• Schooling for Adult Mentors, Community Outreach Mentors
• Science Educator, Orvis Endorsed Guide Instructor

By Forrest Fisher
The summer of 2012 – it was a good year. A very special, dedicated group of outdoor educators held the first and only national interdisciplinary fly fishing conference, and this bi-annual nationwide community outreach effort continues in June, 2017.

Designed especially for professional educators that teach school-age children, the Children in the Stream extends an invitation to community education and company training instructors alike, through an intensive 3-day conference that will train adults about the outdoors through the fun of fly fishing. The conference will introduce methods for instructors to manage effective sharing and teaching skills necessary to integrate this idea to meet curriculum requirements for community schools, organizations and company training platforms.

The course is comprised of comprehensive workshops that use fly fishing as the foundation for investigating science, math, English language arts, visual arts and community outreach. This truly unique interdisciplinary approach is possible because of the eclectic expertise of participants and the commitment from instructors.

The conference is presented by Dr. Mike Jabot and Alberto Rey. Dr. Jabot is a renowned professor in science education who is a member of NASA’s international educator’s team and who has received many teaching awards. Alberto Rey provides his extensive experience as a humble Orvis endorsed fly fishing guide, as a distinguished university professor in visual arts, and as the founder and director of a successful 18-year old youth fly fishing program.

Children in the Stream provides the instruction, materials and means of acquiring discounted equipment needed to implement the participant’s own customized interdisciplinary fly fishing curriculum or to start a youth fly fishing program in a community protocol. The truly unique programming also meets the needs of school’s that utilize common core learning standards. The instructors address how to realize the participant’s goals while working within limited budgets. The interdisciplinary workshops of the conference promote a holistic integration of conservation and community involvement that will help to nurture future stewards of our natural resources. The ultimate goal is to develop the interest of our youth for the outdoors and provide them with an appreciation and more complete understanding of their environment.

The conference is held at the beautiful Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, New York. Roger Tory Peterson was an ornithologist who developed the “Field Guide to the Birds” and other field guides, and he inspired and “instructed” millions of bird-watchers and helped foster concerns for our environment around the world. In 1984, the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History was founded in Peterson’s hometown of Jamestown, New York, as an educational institution charged with preserving Peterson’s lifetime body of work and providing environmental programming.

The conference this year will take place on June 27, 28 and 29. The cost for the three-day conference is $350 which includes instruction in the classroom, instruction in the field, fly rod outfits, fly-tying kits and reference publications. The low conference fee is available because of private grants and donations from the Dreamcatcher Foundation and the Orvis retail company.
For information about the schedule and comments about Children in the Stream by previous participants, please go to http://www.childreninthestream.com/. Please share this with a friend.

White Deer Foresee Good News for Future

White Fawn

• White Male Deer, White Female Deer, Come Together
• Indians Say this is Sacred and Special Sign

By Forrest Fisher
People everywhere are interested to see distinguished nature in the wilderness, white deer are one of those precious resources that create a sacred and reciprocal bond with nature for many of us. White deer are awe-inspiring with their simple, raw beauty.

In East Aurora, New York, photographer Theresa Meegan has introduced the nature world to the 10-year old Albino deer that has lived in this village and is frequently seen by passers-by that slow their vehicles to take a double look at the beautiful animal. The deer provides a true measure of special life in nature that survive in the wild outdoors and live long lives.

Now imagine hundreds of white deer, wild in nature, that live in deer herds all in the same place. That would be nearly incomprehensible, right? But there is such a place, though the white deer there are not Albino. The white deer found at Seneca Army Depot in central New York are a natural variation of white-tailed deer which normally exhibit brown coloring.

The Seneca White Deer are leucistic, which means they lack all pigmentation of the hair, but have the normal brown-colored eyes. Albino deer, which lack only the pigment melanin, have pink eyes (or blue eyes) and are extremely rare – like the one in East Aurora.

The Seneca White Deer interbreed freely with the brown deer in the former U.S. Army Seneca Depot there and appear to share the habitat equally. The ambassador to save the white herd at the Depot has been an old outdoor friend, Dennis Money. The Depot was a fenced-in area that kept these deer together as a giant family where hunting was usually not permitted, except for management purposes several decades ago way back to the years after World War II.

The Seneca white deer now number about 200 of the approximately 800 whitetail deer within the old Depot fence. The future of the deer, as well as the rest of the wildlife in the former Depot Conservation area had been dependent on how the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) decided to use the 10,000 acre site, previously released for public sale by the Army. Concern by outdoor lovers of the special deer breed was high.

For about a decade or so, the home range of this special white deer herd was at risk of commercial development. The species would have been eliminated over future years, but today, the world’s largest herd of all-white deer has a new champion with Earl Martin, the new owner of the Depot land.

Martin, owner of Seneca Iron Works and Deer Haven Park LLC in Seneca Falls, bought the 7,000-acre site earlier this year, located within the Seneca County towns of Romulus and Varrick. His $900,000 offer included saving the celebrated deer herd and was unanimously approved by the Seneca IDA. That was good news that made all of the laborious and extended extraordinary efforts of Dennis Money worth all the effort. Money and Martin have saved the special deer herd.

Martin has arranged to plant more vegetation to make sure the deer have enough to eat, engaged repairs to the miles and miles of chain-link fence that surround the property, hired an ecologist to survey the land and to come up with an overall plan to ensure the white deer herd’s survival, and he has increased security patrols to keep poachers off the land.

Learn much more about the nature of this special deer herd, including how to visit the area and be charmed and inspired by these deer, visit this link: http://senecawhitedeer.org/.

According to the site, Native Americans have a long history of respect for white deer which are sometimes referred to as the ‘ghost deer.’ The Lenape Indians have a white deer prophesy. Here is an oral translation of that prophesy: “It has long been predicted that there would come a time when a white male and white female deer would be seen together, and that this would be a sign to the people to come together.’

They were way ahead of us. Despite issues that we see as a nation trying to rebuild in many ways, it seems high time for people to come together.

Border Collies vs. Tiger Poop

Deer are well-nourished in many American yards, but a herding dog, such as a border collie,
could be the solution if deer are damaging your landscape. Photo courtesy of MDC

• Deer Problem: Deer Love Shrubs and Seedlings
• Dogs Love to Chase Deer
• Secret Fence and Dog Collar = Solution

By Jim Low
The remarkable success of Missouri’s deer restoration program has been a godsend for hunters and a huge boost to the state’s economy. Deer hunting alone is a billion-dollar industry in the Show-Me State, and that doesn’t take into account the value of more than 10 million pounds of venison that goes into residential freezers and community food banks each fall. Assigning a conservative price of $5 a pound to this lean, organic, free-range, locally-sourced fat-free meat, puts the total value up around $50 million.
Every story has more than one side, however. If you operate a tree nursery or a fruit orchard, your view of Missouri’s burgeoning deer population is apt to be less rosy. Losses to deer browsing can top 80 percent of tender young saplings, making deer Public Enemy No. 1 for these businesses. Suburban homeowners have a dog in the fight too, as deer find hostas, daffodils and shrubs too tempting to pass up. After replacing your third quince or dogwood seedling, you begin to have more sympathy for nurserymen and less for deer. All this goes a long way toward tarnishing the whitetail’s image as an economic boon.

The last thing the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) wants is for people to regard wildlife as a nuisance. So, several years ago, the agency devoted some of its research budget to developing practical means of protecting commercial and residential plantings from deer. They quickly dismissed various repellents as ineffective or prohibitively expensive. Nurserymen told MDC that herbal extracts, capsaicin – even tiger feces – weren’t just expensive, the deer quickly learned to ignore them. They were ineffective.

MDC Research Biologist Jeff Beringer instead, focused on a more vivid and lasting reminder of one of deer’s natural predators, canines. He put domestic dogs in a plantation of white pine, which for deer, is the equivalent of candy. To keep the dogs inside the plantation, he used an invisible fence. This consists of two parts. One is a circle of wire laid in or on the ground. This “fence” emits a radio signal. The other half of the system is an electronic collar that picks up the radio signal from the ground wire. When the collar senses a weak signal from the wire, it emits a warning tone. As the dog gets closer to the wire, it switches from the warning tone to a mild electric shock.

With patient training, Beringer conditioned the dogs to associate the warning tone with the perimeter wire and an unpleasant shock, keeping the dogs inside the pine plantation. Then it was simply a matter of the dogs doing what dogs do – chasing things. For this purpose, Beringer found that herding breeds, such as border collies, were the best suited to the job. Deer that ventured into the plantation quickly found themselves the objects of barking, nipping attention.
Over the three-year course of the study, pine seedlings sustained an average loss of 13 percent browsing. This compared favorably with a 37-percent loss in plots with no dogs, in which seedlings were sprayed with a commercial deer repellent. The loss in unprotected plots was 56 percent. Beringer also included a pine plantation treated with commercial deer repellent. In that plot, deer ate 37 percent of the seedlings. He found that seedlings in the dog-protected plot sustained less damage and recovered sooner than those in the other two plots. So, apparently deer that were bold and lucky enough to get a few nibbles in the plot protected by Beringer’s trained dogs often had their meals interrupted.

If you own a tree nursery or an orchard, you probably already have found a solution to any challenges posed by deer. On the other hand, if you are like me, and merely own a home surrounded by deer habitat, you might take Beringer’s findings to heart. If you don’t already own a dog, getting one might have benefits not ordinarily associated with canine pets. I have lived in my present home for 22 years. I have hunted deer in my back yard for the entire time, but for the first five years, I didn’t own a dog. Then I bought a retriever and I have had one ever since. When we first moved into our little house in the woods, we occasionally had deer wander through the yard. In contrast, during 17 years of dog ownership, I have seen deer only once. They were three – two fawns and a doe. The fawns were nibbling around the edge of the back yard, while the doe stood, twitching with nerves, a few yards back in the woods. When she refused to follow their lead, the fawns followed her back away from the house – and the scent of a predator.

It’s also worth noting that we have dozens of hostas and shrubs in our yard, along with a vegetable garden, and none have been touched by deer in 17 years. I’m not sure if it’s cheaper to pay for dog food and veterinary bills, or import bales of tiger poop every year, but I do know dogs also are more fun to have around.
Nurserymen looking for a way to protect tree seedlings from voracious deer now turn to man’s best friend.

Boating Enthusiasts Lead Congressional Boating Caucus

The new co-chairs of the House of Representatives Recreational Boating Caucus are Representative Lois Frankel (D-Florida) and Representative Tom MacArthur (R-New Jersey). BoatUS Photo

  • Recreational Boaters Benefit from Efforts
  • Issues Include Everglades, Fisheries Management Reform
  •   Boating Safety, Industry Standards
The new co-chairs of the House of Representatives Recreational Boating Caucus are Representative Lois Frankel (D-Florida) and Representative Tom MacArthur (R-New Jersey). BoatUS Photo

By STOadmin

WASHINGTON, DC- February 13, 2017: The Congressional Boating Caucus was formed in 1989 as an informal, bipartisan group of US Senators and Representatives to advocate for the interests of the recreational boating industry. Recreational boaters have also benefitted from the Caucus’ leadership on shared issues such as restoration of the Everglades, fisheries management reform, flood protection efforts, and projects that support waterway access.

Today, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) joined with the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) to welcome the new co-chairs of the House of Representatives Recreational Boating Caucus, Representative Lois Frankel (D-Florida) and Representative Tom MacArthur (R-New Jersey).

Representative MacArthur is an active New Jersey shore boater and tourism advocate, while Representative Frankel, a House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee member, hails from the number #1 boating state in the nation and is a boating and angling enthusiast.

“This is exciting news for boaters,” said BoatUS Government Affairs Senior Program Manager David Kennedy. “Representatives MacArthur and Frankel will provide great leadership on issues that matter for those of us who love to spend time on the water.”

Added Kennedy: “Boat owners need the products, competition and innovation that only a strong domestic boating industry can bring. To enable boating to continue to be a $121 billion industry in this country, we need smart long-term sustainable policy on everything from the ethanol mandate to dredging. BoatUS also recognizes NMMA’s great efforts in growing the Caucus.”

BoatUS is the nation’s largest organization of recreational boaters with over a half-million members. We are the boat owners’ voice on Capitol Hill and fight for their rights. We help ensure a roadside trailer breakdown doesn’t end a boating or fishing trip before it begins. On the water, TowBoatUS brings boaters safely back to the launch ramp or dock when their boat won’t, 24/7. The BoatUS Marine Insurance Program gives boat owners the specialized coverage and superior service they need. We help keep boaters safe and our waters clean with assistance from the nonprofit BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water. Visit BoatUS.com.

Florida Scrub-Jays in Festival Spotlight

The Florida Scrub-Jay is a beautiful coastal bird that lives nowhere else except in Florida, it is a light gray-brown bird with a bright blue head, blue wings and tail. FWC Photo

  • Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Stuart, FL
  • Feb. 18, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Guided Walks, Exhibits, Swamp Band Hay Rides, Kids Activities, Entertainment and Food
The Florida Scrub-Jay is a beautiful coastal bird that lives nowhere else except in Florida, it is a light gray-brown bird with a bright blue head, blue wings and tail.  FWC Photo
The Florida Scrub-Jay is a beautiful coastal bird that lives nowhere else except in Florida, it is a light gray-brown bird with a bright blue head, blue wings and tail. FWC Photo

Posted by Forrest Fisher

Come celebrate this songbird at the 8th annual Florida Scrub-Jay Festival on Saturday, Feb. 18, at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, about 12 miles south of Stuart on U.S. Highway 1.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the festival will offer guided walks, exhibits, swamp buggy and hay rides, kids’ activities, entertainment and food.  There will be an opportunity to meet Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) staff and partners that are helping conserve this threatened species.  The FWC is one of the festival’s organizers.

The Florida scrub-jay is distinctive because of its unusually cooperative family lifestyle.

Craig Faulhaber, the FWC’s avian conservation coordinator said, “The Florida Scrub-Jay lives in family groups composed of a breeding pair that mates for life and its offspring. Young Scrub-Jays often stay with their parents for one or more years and act as helpers to defend the family’s territory and raise young.  Breeding pairs with helpers successfully raise more young than lone pairs.”

“Because Florida Scrub-Jays are very territorial and don’t migrate, people may get the chance to watch events in the life of a Scrub-Jay family throughout the year.  Family members work together to defend territories averaging 25 acres from other Scrub-Jay families, with at least one member always on the lookout for predators,” said Faulhaber.

The Florida Scrub-Jay is one of the many wildlife species you may spot at Jonathan Dickinson State Park.  It needs sandy scrub habitat to survive, but its populations have been impacted by habitat loss, agriculture and the lack of natural or prescribed fire to maintain vegetation height and sandy openings on scrub lands.  Scrub-Jay populations are thought to have declined by as much as 90 percent since the late 1800s.

What does the call of this bird sound like? More like a screech than a song, since it is related to species like the crow.  Hear the sound of a Florida scrub-jay by going to AllAboutBirds.org and searching for Florida Scrub-Jay.

People can help Florida Scrub-Jays by:

Find out more about Florida scrub-jays by going to MyFWC.com/Imperiled, clicking on “Listed Species,” “Birds” and then “Florida Scrub-Jay.”

Mountain Lions in Missouri

Mountain Lion roams inside an enclosure in Illinois Prairie Zoo.

  • Female Cat Noted in Shannon County
  • Increasing Number of Reported Sightings 
  •   Ozarks May be Perfect Wilderness Nesting Area
The discovery of a female mountain lion in Shannon County last month is a recent development in a 20-year saga. Mountain lions undoubtedly will continue to filter into Missouri from western states. The question is whether Missouri will find ways to live with this native species. (Missouri Department of Conservation photo)
The discovery of a female mountain lion in Shannon County last month is a recent development in a 20-year saga. Mountain lions undoubtedly will continue to filter into Missouri from western states. The question is whether Missouri will find ways to live with this native species. (Missouri Department of Conservation photo)

By Jim Low

A famous author once said, “If you build it…”, you know the rest.

Some of the brightest and darkest moments in conservation history have been the result of “unintended consequences.” The attempt to eradicate predators from the Kaibab National Forest in the 1920s was intended to boost deer numbers, but without predators to keep their population in check, deer numbers soared and then crashed, due to disease and starvation.  That’s a classic example of negative unintended consequences of human actions.  However, recent events prove that things can work the other way as well.

In the depths of the Great Depression, Missourians realized that letting the state legislature set hunting and fishing regulations had turned wildlife into a political football.  The results were disastrous.  Deer once had been so common that their hides were a standard unit of monetary value – the “buck.”  But by the 1930s, only a few hundred remained in the state.  Wild turkeys, fish, forests and other wild resources were all in similarly dismal condition.

Outrage over lawmakers’ squandering of the state’s natural legacy prompted citizens to take wildlife management out of politicians’ hands and vest it in an independent conservation agency, what we now call the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).  Within a few decades, deer once again were numerous enough to support carefully regulated hunting, not to mention today’s $1 billion deer-related recreation and tourism industry.  The story has been much the same for fish, forests and non-game wildlife.  Given a chance to heal, Missouri’s wild places have returned the favor by bouncing back.  In at least one instance, they have done so in a way that no one foresaw.

More than 60 years after the last known mountain lion was killed in Missouri in 1927, MDC reported a series of verified mountain lion sightings.  It started as a trickle.  In 1994, there was a tantalizing case where raccoon hunters killed a mountain lion.  They had a video showing the cat, but they got rid of the carcass before conservation agents apprehended them. In 1996 and 1997, two Missourians captured mountain lions on video.  In 1999 MDC’s Mountain Lion Response Team found tracks where rabbit hunters had reported seeing a cougar.

In the early 2000s, the trickle of verified reports grew to a steady stream, with video, photos and two road-killed mountain lions in four consecutive years.  In 2011, the stream swelled to a flood.  That year, MDC verified 14 mountain lion sightings.  This startling upswing probably was partly due to hunters increasing their use of game cameras, which accounted for half of the sightings.  2012 saw 11 more verified sightings, followed by eight in 2013.  The pace slackened a bit in subsequent years, possibly because the novelty of sightings wore off and people stopped reporting every new one.  Others might have kept sightings to themselves to protect the animals.

What accounts for the return of this top-level predator?  Mountain lions are simply taking advantage of Missouri’s success in restoring their No. 1 food item, white-tailed deer.  Young male mountain lions typically leave their birth areas to escape being killed by dominant adult males and establish their own territories elsewhere.  They can travel hundreds of miles while looking for unoccupied land with sufficient food and female mountain lions to mate with. Female mountain lions are more likely to stay where they were born.  Almost without exception, the mountain lions seen in Missouri have been young males.  This leads MDC to believe that the mountain lions seen here are transients, rather than part of an established, reproducing population.

Young male mountain lions find plenty of deer to eat in Missouri.  Finding mates has been a different matter.  Male cougars that don’t find females tend to keep moving, which accounts for the sporadic nature of documented sightings in Missouri.  Fourteen one year, fewer than half that number two years later.  Sightings scattered around the state. These facts, together with the absence of sightings of mountain lion cubs, was strong evidence that Missouri didn’t have a breeding population…yet.

Things took a new and exciting turn last month, when DNA testing revealed that an elk had been killed by a female mountain lion in Shannon County.  This was only the second confirmed female in Missouri.  The first was an animal whose pelt and head were recovered from a trash dump in Texas County in 1998.  Circumstantial evidence indicated that it might have escaped or been released from captivity.  It might not even have come from Missouri. So, the female cougar documented in Shannon County this year might reasonably be considered Missouri’s first truly free-ranging female mountain lion in 90 years.

This means Missouri could soon have a breeding mountain lion population.  If that happens, it would raise questions about MDC’s policy regarding mountain lions.  In 2006, the Missouri Conservation Commission responded to interest – and concerns – about continuing mountain lion sightings by doing two things.  One was to remove the mountain lion from the state’s endangered species list.  The Commission justified this action by saying that, since there was no evidence of a breeding population in Missouri, the species should more properly be considered extirpated.  This lumped mountain lions in with other species, such as moose and elk, which occasionally wandered into Missouri from other states, but were no longer endemic here.

The Commission’s other action was to issue a policy statement that “it is not desirable to allow the re-establishment of a mountain lion population in Missouri.”  The underlying assumption was that a breeding population of mountain lions was incompatible with Missouri’s level of human settlement.  In other words, Missouri simply didn’t have room enough for humans and their domestic animals to coexist with mountain lions.

I wonder about this.  Nebraska has had female mountain lions since at least 1991.  Breeding has been documented there and a female mountain lion was found in southeastern Nebraska last year.  Granted, Nebraska’s population density is roughly one-third that of Missouri, but the Cornhusker State isn’t exactly wilderness.  And in addition to its human population, Nebraska has 50 percent more cattle than Missouri, according to CattleNetwork.com.  And while wilderness is a scarce commodity in Missouri, it isn’t entirely absent.  The Mark Twain National Forest has seven designated wilderness areas in the Ozarks, encompassing more than 71,000 acres.  It probably is no coincidence that most Missouri’s mountain lion sightings have come from the Ozarks.

If Nebraskans can get along with mountain lions, maybe Missourians can too.  Nebraska held an experimental hunting season in 2015 and hunters harvested five mountain lions.  The hunt drew predictable opposition and the Nebraska Parks and Wildlife Commission is gathering more information about the state’s cougar population before offering another hunting season.  Carefully regulated hunting based on good science is the preferred method of managing wildlife populations in North America, which has a rich tradition of fair-chase hunting.  Missouri already has learned to live with black bears, some of which migrated into the state from Arkansas.  MDC deals with problem bears when necessary and the agency is currently laying the foundation for a science-based hunting season.  It will be prepared when bear numbers reach the point where hunting is sustainable and necessary to prevent unacceptable levels of bear-human conflict, just as it does with white-tailed deer

I understand the concern some Missourians have about allowing the development of a breeding population of mountain lions.  North America’s biggest cat is a formidable predator and you can’t blame parents and ranchers for being concerned.  But it is worth noting that Missouri has never had a documented mountain lion attack on humans.  Even in states with well-established mountain lion populations, attacks are extremely rare. And the Missouri Wildlife Code allows people to kill mountain lions that attack or kill humans, livestock or other domestic animals.

Personally, I’m thrilled to think that I might get to see a mountain lion in the wild here in Missouri.  And it goes against my grain to discourage a native species that is making a natural, unaided comeback as a result of our own work restoring the conditions in which it once thrived. Traffic fatalities resulting from deer-automobile collisions are a much bigger threat to human safety than mountain lion attacks, yet no one seriously suggests getting rid of deer.

I hope Shannon County’s female mountain lion finds a mate and raises a litter of cubs that live long, happy lives.  Imagine watching one of them slip through the woods as you sit in your deer stand.  For me, adding that dimension of wildness to Missouri’s outdoors is worth the minimal risks involved.

Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting Delayed

More than 100 Grizzly bears have been killed as a result of increased attacks on humans and livestock, allowing landowners and management groups to consider scientific management is now necessary. Photo courtesy of Sportsmen’s Alliance

  • Public Comments Cause Hold
  • 100+ Grizzlies Killed for Human or Livestock Attack 
  • Social Tolerance Levels Reached
  • Goal is to remove 700 Bears
More than 100 Grizzly bears have been killed as a result of increased attacks on humans and livestock, allowing landowners and management groups to consider scientific management is now necessary. Photo courtesy of Sportsmen’s Alliance
More than 100 Grizzly bears have been killed as a result of increased attacks on humans and livestock, allowing landowners and management groups to consider scientific management is now necessary. Photo courtesy of Sportsmen’s Alliance

Posted by Forrest Fisher

The removal of 700 grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the protections of the Endangered Species Act has stalled after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife received more than 650,000 comments.  Many comments from American Indian Tribes and animal-rights supporters expressed unwarranted fears that the recovered animals would again face extinction despite successful scientific management of every other game animal on the continent.

Last year, the Sportsmen’s Alliance twice submitted comments in support of delisting the distinct population of grizzly bears and returning them to state management in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.  The action would open the possibility of closely monitored hunting for grizzlies, but within guidelines that assure no detrimental impact to the overall population in each state.

The delisting from federal protections and return of grizzlies to state management would apply to a distinct population of recovered grizzly bears found in an area around, but not in, Yellowstone National Park.  The population of grizzly bears has surpassed recovery goals in both population benchmarks and duration of time meeting those goals, proving that the population is not just recovered, but stable and growing.

Moreover, more than 100 grizzly bears have been killed for depredation of livestock or attacks on humans in the last two years – a significant number indicative of the population having reached social tolerance levels within the available habitat.

About the Sportsmen’s Alliance 

The Sportsmen’s Alliance protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them.  Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is responsible for public education, legal defense and research.  Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense capability possible.  To learn more about membership in this group, please visit: http://www.sportsmensalliance.org/membership/individual-membership/.

Florida Identifies Imperiled Species

Pine Barrens Tree Frog

  • Management Plan Rule Changes Are In Effect
  • Florida Wildlife Conservation Charting Essential Course
  •   57 Species Identified with New Status
Pine Barrens Tree Frog
Pine Barrens Tree Frog

Posted by Forrest Fisher, Managing Editor

The Imperiled Species Management Plan rule changes are now in effect, including changes in listing status for many species. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved the groundbreaking plan in an effort to achieve conservation success with dozens of imperiled species throughout the state. The plan outlines the steps to conserve 57 species along with the broader vision of restoring habitats essential to the long-term survival of multiple fish and wildlife species.

“Florida is charting an ambitious new path for wildlife conservation success on a statewide scale,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski. “Seeing a roseate spoonbill wading in shallow waters, a black skimmer resting on the beach or a Big Cypress fox squirrel sitting in a pine tree is an essential part of the Florida experience. This innovative plan is designed to keep imperiled species like these around for many generations to come.”

White Ibis in the Florida Ocean Surf
White Ibis in the Florida Ocean Surf

Nine rules were revised in support of the ISMP, focusing on changes to listing status, adding authorizations in a management plan or Commission-approved guidelines, preventing possession of species coming off the list, and accomplishing overall rule cleanup and clarification. Among the nine rules, one rule affecting inactive nests of non-listed birds is still pending.

Under the rule change that updates species’ listing status:

  • Fifteen species will no longer be listed as imperiled species because conservation successes improved their status: eastern chipmunk, Florida mouse, brown pelican, limpkin, snowy egret, white ibis, peninsula ribbon snake (lower Keys population), red rat snake (lower Keys population), striped mud turtle (lower Keys population), Suwannee cooter, gopher frog, Pine Barrens tree frog, Lake Eustis pupfish, mangrove rivulus and Florida tree snail. These species still are included in the plan for guidance in monitoring and conserving them.
  • Twenty-three species are newly listed as state Threatened species, a change from their former status as Species of Special Concern: Sherman’s short-tailed shrew, Sanibel rice rat, little blue heron, tricolored heron, reddish egret, roseate spoonbill, American oystercatcher, black skimmer, Florida burrowing owl, Marian’s marsh wren, Worthington’s marsh wren, For STO 01202017, CONSERVATION, picture 3of3, Florida Pine SnakeScott’s seaside sparrow, Wakulla seaside sparrow, Barbour’s map turtle, Florida Keys mole skink, Florida pine snake, Georgia blind salamander, Florida bog frog, bluenose shiner, saltmarsh top minnow, southern tessellated darter, Santa Fe crayfish and Black Creek crayfish. Threatened species have populations that are declining, have a very limited range or are very small.
  • Fourteen species keep their state Threatened status: Everglades mink, Big Cypress fox squirrel, Florida sandhill crane, snowy plover, least tern, white-crowned pigeon, southeastern American kestrel, Florida brown snake (lower Keys population), Key ringneck snake, short-tailed snake, rim rock crowned snake, Key silverside, blackmouth shiner and crystal darter.
  • Five species remain Species of Special Concern: Homosassa shrew, Sherman’s fox squirrel, osprey (Monroe County population), alligator snapping turtle and harlequin darter.  These species have significant data gaps, and the FWC plans to make a determination on their appropriate listing status in the near future.

Important things to know about the Imperiled Species Management Plan:

  • It includes one-page summaries for each species, including a map of its range in Florida and online links to Species Action Plans. The 49 Species Action Plans contain specific conservation goals, objectives and actions for all 57 species.
  • It also has Integrated Conservation Strategies that benefit multiple species and their habitats, and focus implementation of the plan on areas and issues that yield the greatest conservation benefit for the greatest number of species.

Learn more about the plan at MyFWC.com/Imperiled.

Midwinter Flickers and Colorful Woodpeckers

Flicker – In the eastern U.S., Male flickers have black moustaches in addition to the red nape patch and yellow feathers.

  • We Watch Wildlife and Learn About Nature
  • Sunflower Seeds Bring Birds to You in Winter
  • It’s a Great Year for the Birds!
Flicker – In the eastern U.S., Male flickers have black moustaches in addition to the red nape patch and yellow feathers.
Flicker – In the eastern U.S., Male flickers have black moustaches in addition to the red nape patch and yellow feathers.

By Jim Low

What do you suppose is the most popular wildlife-based activity in Missouri and nationwide? If you guessed deer hunting or bass fishing, you missed the mark.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2011 survey of outdoor recreation showed that a little more than 1 million Missourians engaged in fishing and spent $505 million doing so.  Missouri’s 576,000 hunters spent $773 million on their sport.  That’s big. But 1.7 million Missourians reported watching wildlife, and they spent $1.2 billion on their hobby, including buying bird food.

I thought of this yesterday, when I bought my 10th 40-pound bag of sunflower seeds since October.  Squirrels get their share of our sunflower largess, but most of that 400 pounds has disappeared down the throats of finches, juncos, doves, cardinals, chickadees, titmice, wrens, nuthatches and blue jays.  It’s amazing that such tiny animals can consume so much food.

Red-Bellied – Red-bellied woodpeckers are slightly smaller than flickers.  The reddish-brown tinge on their bellies doesn’t live up to promise of their name.
Red-Bellied – Red-bellied woodpeckers are slightly smaller than flickers. The reddish-brown tinge on their bellies doesn’t live up to promise of their name.

Sunflowers are only part of what we provide.  Cracked corn, millet, sorghum and thistle seed also are on the menu, and I have lost count of how many suet cakes we have gone through.  I would guess it’s more than 50 store-bought cakes, plus several pounds of dense, high-energy fat from deer that I shot.  I don’t want to know how much we will spend feeding birds by the time the nectar feeders come out of storage in the spring.  All I know is that the show is well worth the price of admission.

We used to believe we fed birds to help them get through the winter.  But our friend, the late Jim D.  Wilson, who was Missouri state ornithologist for many years, informed me that was an illusion.  He said birds have plenty of natural food and don’t need handouts from people.  People feed birds, he said, because they love seeing them and want to bring them close enough for a good view.

Lately I’ve been getting a great view of some of my favorite birds, woodpeckers.  I have had a soft spot in my heart for Northern flickers since I was 9 years old and rescued one that had probably had flown into a window or a tree limb and then got so cold sitting in the snow that it couldn’t fly.  We brought it indoors, and an hour later it flew away, apparently as good as new.  That hour of close contact with the pigeon-sized bird made a lasting impression on me.

Our house in the woods has always had an abundance of downy, hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers.  Even the big pileated woodpeckers that frequent our woods pay regular visits to our suet feeders.  But in the past, we hardly ever saw flickers and never a red-headed woodpecker.  This year, for some reason, several flickers have put us on their daily feeding rounds.  This prompted me to set up my camera and tripod.  My office window looks out on several feeders, so I can continue to work, reaching out to touch the shutter release when birds show up.

Hairy – Hairy woodpeckers are smaller than flickers or red-bellies.  However, they are larger than downy woodpeckers and have longer, stouter beaks.
Hairy – Hairy woodpeckers are smaller than flickers or red-bellies. However, they are larger than downy woodpeckers and have longer, stouter beaks.

Woodpeckers are a particularly attractive group of birds, but for my money, none is more handsome than the flicker.  It’s also the most widely distributed in North America, with a range extending from north-central Alaska to Nicaragua and from Nova Scotia to Cuba.  Although there is only one species, the flicker shows a surprising variety of color phases across its range.

Eastern flickers are commonly called yellow-shafted or golden-winged flickers or yellowhammers, on account of the yellow shafts and undersides of their flight feathers and the bright yellow shafts of their tail feathers.  Their heads are gray, except for a red band on the nape of the neck.  Their most endearing feature is a black moustache, which only males have.

Out West  flickers’ wing and tail feathers are red instead of yellow, so they are sometimes called red-shafted flickers.  Their heads, necks and throats are uniformly gray, except for males’ moustaches, which are red.  Both sexes lack the red nape patches of their eastern relatives.  In the Southwest, male flickers also have red moustaches.  Both sexes have rusty brown caps, and gray cheeks and throats.  Otherwise, they look just like their neighbors farther north.

The bodies of all three varieties are dappled with jet-black spots.  Their backs are barred, and they have white rump patches that are seen only in flight.  The flicker’s final dramatic touch is a striking black chest patch, which is present in both sexes and all regions.  These are called “gorgets,” a reference to a piece of 18th century armor designed to protect the wearer’s throat.

Downy – Smaller size and delicate beaks distinguish downy from hairy woodpeckers.  Otherwise, the two are very similar.
Downy – Smaller size and delicate beaks distinguish downy from hairy woodpeckers. Otherwise, the two are very similar.

Flickers differ from most other woodpeckers in that they spend much of their time foraging for ants and other insects on open ground, often in company of robins or bluebirds.  In areas where trees are not available, they will nest on the ground like nighthawks or killdeers, scooping out shallow depressions in which to lay their eggs.  Our house is surrounded by forest, which is why we haven’t seen much of them before.  I have no explanation for their appearance in numbers this year.

Pileated – The pileated is Missouri’s largest woodpecker – up to 20 inches tall.  It’s raucous, “kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk!” sounds like Woody Woodpecker’s wacky call.
Pileated – The pileated is Missouri’s largest woodpecker – up to 20 inches tall. It’s raucous, “kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk!” sounds like Woody Woodpecker’s wacky call.

Now if I can just figure out how to attract red-headed woodpeckers, we will have all the species commonly seen in central Missouri.  That might be a tall order, since they favor farm land with dead trees standing in the open.  But we can hope!

Braving It: Journey into the Alaskan Wild

Jim Campbell and 15-year old daughter, Aidan, rafting in Alaska on the Hulahula River, August 2014.

  • A Father and Daughter True Story of Adventure
  • Bone-Chilling Cold, Grizzly Bears, Polar Bears, Inner Strength
  • Guidebook for Conquering Fear as a Parent
  • Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Jim Campbell and 15-year old daughter, Aidan, rafting in Alaska on the Hulahula River, August 2014.
Jim Campbell and 15-year old daughter, Aidan, rafting in Alaska on the Hulahula River, August 2014.

By Forrest Fisher

Adventure above the view of our modern Western culture is not traditional.  When James Campbell and his teenage daughter, Aiden, set off to visit Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, they discover untouched wilderness, bone-chilling cold, grizzly bears, polar bears, wolves, ubiquitous clouds of mosquitoes, compelling them to define new elements for survival and forming a sacred connection with each other and native peoples there.

In the beauty of the natural world found in the Refuge, they form new levels of heartfelt trust and inner strength.

This true story provides extraordinary insight into the wild outdoors to be found hiking, crossing the Hulahula River, paddling the Arctic Ocean and finally, helping local natives build a cabin for winter survival.  They discover new wisdom and ingenuity in a land dominated by blue skies, howling and growling night animals, flowing rivers of ice-cold water, and harsh climate.  The also discover precious clean air, fertile forests, and a special kind of instinct for survival that all the plants and trees and animals have developed.

Jim Campbell and daughter, Aidan, on the Hulahula River, in front of the cook fire, 3 days south of the Arctic Ocean, August 2014.
Jim Campbell and daughter, Aidan, on the Hulahula River, in front of the cook fire, 3 days south of the Arctic Ocean, August 2014.

The book describes the manner of how they each embrace the wild land and each other to complete their journey, as they are tested with the rigors of unfettered Alaskan nature.  They hunt game animals for meat, largely caribou and moose, despite the chill factors that often exceed 50 degrees below zero.  They learn the tools of the survival trade from native Eskimo peoples that become close friends.

This book is a tribute to a land that offers breeding habitat to caribou, geese, ducks, loons, and many other migratory species from five continents.  The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge lies about 125 miles east of the National Petroleum Reserve, an area rich in coal and oil that is largely controlled by the oil and gas industry.  We are still an oil-dependent nation and, for me, this book provides new insight for a better understanding of what we might lose if we do not insure to protect this fundamental and relatively unexplored Alaskan American resource.

Aidan and Jim proudly standing in front of the cabin they helped build.
Aidan and Jim proudly standing in front of the cabin they helped build.

If you can imagine to hear the ancient call of the yellow-billed loons that occupy this land, you may begin to understand the epoch of diversity of life and seasonal survival requirements that are forsto-01052017-travel-and-conservation-picture-4of4met by the birds, the animals and the peoples that interact in this sacred and undisturbed land.

The book will provide a trail for you to see how a father shares this colossal wilderness with his daughter while she is growing toward the Western community of modern adulthood.  To buy the book, click here: http://jamesmcampbell.com/books.

Understanding that, this is a timeless story for all of us who love the wilds of the outdoors.  It is about parenting.  It is about nature.  It is about preserving life, enhancing life, and celebration of life, and something that may be lost for all time without close oversight from educated peoples in the Western world.

Enjoy this story of life and survival.  I sure did.  Check out this video to listen first hand, from Jim Campbell himself:

Sage Grouse Chicks – How & Why of Tagging (Part 3 of 3)

Each chick’s radio tag is smaller than a pinky nail, and secured quickly with two sutures. Photo by Kenton Rowe.

  • Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) Program 
  • 50-80 Chicks Tagged Each Year
  • Chicks and Mother Hen Monitored for Health
  • 1,450 Ranches Enrolled, Conserved 5.5 million Acres

 

Each chick’s radio tag is smaller than a pinky nail, and secured quickly with two sutures. Photo by Kenton Rowe.
Each chick’s radio tag is smaller than a pinky nail, and secured quickly with two sutures. Photo by Kenton Rowe.

By Brianna Randall, Sage Grouse Initiative

Saving sage grouse saves more than 350 other species, including plants, insects and a host of wildlife.  The Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) is a partnership of ranchers, agencies, universities, non-profit groups, and businesses that embrace a common vision: wildlife conservation through sustainable ranching.  One key in the success of the program starts with successful chicks and understanding where they are and how they are doing.

Tell us how a typical chick-tagging might go.

We usually have three people in a team. Because the hen does not want to leave her brood (which is roosting underneath her), we are usually able to get close enough to the hen to touch her. After using telemetry to find the hen, we surround her and gently flush her off the chicks. Then we immediately scoop up all of the chicks and put them in an insulated cooler with a hot water bladder in the bottom, creating a warm environment. Most first nest attempts average 8-10 chicks, and second nest attempts usually yield about 6. From there, we pick two chicks randomly and weigh them. Each of these chicks then gets a tiny transmitter attached with two quick sutures.

When we’re done, we set all of the chicks back onto the ground as close to the capture area as we can. Once we leave, the mom comes back and gathers the brood under her. We always check on the hen and chicks the following day to make sure all of the chicks are okay. In total, we usually tag between 50-80 chicks each year from about 25-40 nests.

A hen covers her brood of older chicks. Sage grouse nests are typically a simple, shallow depression near sagebrush shrubs. Photo by Mark Szczypinski.
A hen covers her brood of older chicks. Sage grouse nests are typically a simple, shallow depression near sagebrush shrubs. Photo by Mark Szczypinski.

How do you check on the chicks once they’re tagged?

After tagging, we spend the rest of the summer monitoring and tracking the brood. Basically, if all three transmitters are heard in the same area and on a similar compass bearing and the signal strength seems the same, we assume the two chicks and the hen are all okay. If one signal is weaker or not in the same area as the other two signals, we go check on the bird. Otherwise, we stay about 30m away from the broods.

We monitor broods every other day for the first 14 days — since this is the time of highest mortality — then twice per week thereafter until the chicks reach 75 days of age, which is just before the batteries start to die on the chick transmitters. By mid-August and into September, we start recapturing the surviving chicks to fit them with an adult necklace transmitter since they’re big enough to carry it by then. We only tag the hens, and they’re old enough by then for us to identify the sex.

How do you know if a chick or hen is dead?

If a hen is motionless for more than 4 hours, the transmitter’s pulse doubles to indicate potential mortality. We do monthly survival checks from October through March by jumping in a small airplane to get locations on all of our tagged birds. After any mortalities during the spring and summer, we’re typically left with 75-90 hens to locate on each of these flights.

If any are dead, I go find the transmitter to recover it, and see if I can figure out what happened to the bird. Some years for whatever reason, we’ve had four mortalities per month during the fall and winter survival checks, but other years it’s only about one mortality per month.

During the first half of the study, the annual apparent survival estimates for sage grouse hens ranged from 57-82% from 2011 through 2015. For chicks, the survival estimates range from 12-22%. We look forward to continuing the tagging effort to have more data in the coming years.

 Meet the Expert

Mark Szczypinski holds a kangaroo rat, another critter that depends on healthy sagebrush habitat.
Mark Szczypinski holds a kangaroo rat, another critter that depends on healthy sagebrush habitat.

What’s the best part of your job?

I love the diversity of the things that I do, from hiring and training technicians to repairing field gear to tagging birds and interacting with all of the landowners in the area. My job changes with the seasons, which means I never get bored!

What are your favorite off-the-clock activities?

All things outdoors are right up my alley. Hunting, fishing, backpacking — you name it. I’ve lived in the Intermountain West for quite a while and appreciate this landscape immensely.

Mark Szczypinski’s sage grouse tagging crew for the 2016 field season.
Mark Szczypinski’s sage grouse tagging crew for the 2016 field season.

The Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) is a partnership of ranchers, agencies, universities, non-profit groups, and businesses that embrace a common vision: wildlife conservation through sustainable ranching.

Launched by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in 2010, SGI applies the power of the Farm Bill to fund and certify voluntary conservation projects in sage grouse strongholds across 11 western states.  To date, the 1,450 ranches enrolled have conserved 5.5 million acres.

For more information on the Sage Grouse Initiative program or to become involved directly with the SGI program, visit: http://www.sagegrouseinitiative.com.

Habitat Protected Near Mount St. Helens

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its conservation partners permanently protected and opened access to 1,453 acres of wildlife and riparian habitat in southwest Washington.

  • Hunting is Conservation
  • 1,453 Acres of Habitat Protected
  •   Coordinated by Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

By STOadmin

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its conservation partners permanently protected and opened access to 1,453 acres of wildlife and riparian habitat in southwest Washington.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation worked with Merrill Lake Properties LLC and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to connect protected lands and enhance recreational activities like hunting and fishing.

“There was a possibility that the previous owner could offer this Merrill Lake waterfront property to the highest bidder, but now this landscape is forever protected and open for everyone to access and use,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer.

“Our working partnership with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation enables us to meet the public’s demand for increased wildlife conservation, more open space and recreational opportunities,” said Clay Sprague, WDFW Lands Division manager. “We very much appreciate and value the key role that RMEF has played in opening up this incredible landscape near Merrill Lake for the public. Their funding of the remaining acreage is a very timely contribution and enhances this public acquisition.”

The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office provided vital funding through its Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program for the project and RMEF stepped in to bridge a shortfall due to a purchase deadline. WDFW takes immediate ownership of 1,016 acres while RMEF holds 140 acres until funding is acquired for conveyance to WDFW. RMEF is currently spearheading that effort.

The transaction benefits Washington’s largest elk herd and is the latest in a series of projects near Mount St. Helens. RMEF collaborated with its partners to complete the first phase of the Merrill Lake project, encompassing 297 acres, in 2015.

“This property with its early seral and old growth forests has an extremely diverse set of conservation values that, in addition to elk, benefit black-tailed deer, mountain lions, black bears, osprey, eagles and other animal life as well as salmon and steelhead,” added Henning.

The land provides low elevation security for elk and is a vital fishery featuring some of the coldest fresh water inputs from the Kalama River that lead into the lower Columbia River system.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:  Founded over 30 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of nearly 220,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 6.9 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK. Take action: join and/or donate.

Sage Grouse Chicks – How & Why of Tagging (Part 2 of 3)

These two-day-old chicks stay warm on a hot water bottle within a cooler. The antennas on the tagged chicks are visible in the back.  Mark Szczypinski Photo

  • Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) Program 
  • Hen Nesting Can Recur
  • Telemetry Device is Harmless to Chicks
  • Time of Day is Critical for Tagging Success
These two-day-old chicks stay warm on a hot water bottle within a cooler. The antennas on the tagged chicks are visible in the back.  Mark Szczypinski Photo
These two-day-old chicks stay warm on a hot water bottle within a cooler. The antennas on the tagged chicks are visible in the back.  Mark Szczypinski Photo

By Brianna Randall, Sage Grouse Initiative

Saving sage grouse saves more than 350 other species, including plants, insects and a host of wildlife.  The Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) is a partnership of ranchers, agencies, universities, non-profit groups, and businesses that embrace a common vision: wildlife conservation through sustainable ranching.  One key in the success of the program starts with successful chicks and understanding where they are and how they are doing.

So how do you know when a hen has hatched her brood?

We go out on the ground every other day during the April-May-June nesting season using handheld three-element Yagi antennas to listen for each hen’s VHF radio transmitter in order to get a her location — a process called telemetry. Once a hen’s location doesn’t change for two consecutive checks, we go in to confirm whether or not she is actually on a nest. If she is on a nest, we mark a point at least 100m away, which becomes the remote monitoring site for that nest.

Each nest is assigned an estimated hatch date which is 27 days from the first day we found the nest. Every two days after that first marking, we check to see if the hen is still on the nest by listening with telemetry equipment and evaluating if the compass bearing of the hen from the monitoring point has changed. This bearing won’t change more than a few degrees if the hen stays on the nest.

If the hen is absent from the nest around the estimated hatch date, we go in to see if one or more eggs hatched successfully. Hatched eggs will have an even break around the middle with a detached membrane inside and are usually still in the nest bowl. Often, one end of the shell will end up stacked inside the other end.

Sage grouse eggs usually crack around the center when the chicks hatch. John-Severson Photo
Sage grouse eggs usually crack around the center when the chicks hatch. John-Severson Photo

What if a nest fails?

Nest predation is common, especially since sage grouse are ground nesters. The nest bowl is simply a shallow depression usually underneath a sage bush — easy access for hungry foxes, coyotes, snakes or ravens. If a hen is not on her nest, we go in to determine why she isn’t there. If the nest was found by a predator we often find evidence of predation: eggshells strewn about or eggs with holes in them.

If a nest fails, that hen goes back into our “tracking and monitoring” phase. It’s common for hens to make a second nest if her first nest fails, and occasionally even a third nest if the first two nests fail. We also continue to track the barren hens throughout the season to monitor their use of the surrounding sagebrush in relation to the different grazing treatments being used.

When do you tag the new chicks?

We try to tag chicks two days after they hatch. But it always depends on the weather. Chicks can’t thermos-regulate for the first 7-10 days of their life, which is why they often roost under their mom, particularly at night. We do everything possible to keep the chicks plenty warm during the capture process. Though it’s usually late May or June when they hatch, it can still get cold here in Montana, especially since we do the tagging at night. We always tag as close to sunset as possible, and only if it’s over 50 degrees F and there’s no rain, wet soil, or wind. Sometimes, that means we don’t get to tag the chicks until they’re close to a week old.

Mark Szczypinski finds radio-collared sage grouse hens using telemetry. Kenton Rowe Photo
Mark Szczypinski finds radio-collared sage grouse hens using telemetry. Kenton Rowe Photo

The Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) is a partnership of ranchers, agencies, universities, non-profit groups, and businesses that embrace a common vision: wildlife conservation through sustainable ranching.

Launched by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in 2010, SGI applies the power of the Farm Bill to fund and certify voluntary conservation projects in sage grouse strongholds across 11 western states.  To date, the 1,129 ranches enrolled have conserved 4.4 million acres.

Next week, Part 3 of the series.

For more information on the Sage Grouse Initiative program or to become involved directly with the SGI program, visit: http://www.sagegrouseinitiative.com.

Sage Grouse Chicks – How & Why of Tagging (Part 1 of 3)

Researchers in Montana carefully attach a lightweight radio transmitter to this days-old sage grouse chick to monitor its survival. Kenton Rowe Photo

  • Program Saves Hundreds of other Wildlife and Plants
  • Provides Tracking for Researchers
  • Identifies Preferred Sage Grouse Locations from Growth
  • Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) Program
Researchers in Montana carefully attach a lightweight radio transmitter to this days-old sage grouse chick to monitor its survival. Kenton Rowe Photo
Researchers in Montana carefully attach a lightweight radio transmitter to this days-old sage grouse chick to monitor its survival. Kenton Rowe Photo

By Brianna Randall, Sage Grouse Initiative

The Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) is a partnership of ranchers, agencies, universities, non-profit groups, and businesses that embrace a common vision: wildlife conservation through sustainable ranching.

Launched by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in 2010, SGI applies the power of the Farm Bill to fund and certify voluntary conservation projects in sage grouse strongholds across 11 western states.  To date, the 1,129 ranches enrolled have conserved 4.4 million acres.

Saving sage grouse saves 350+ other species, including plants, insects and a host of wildlife, and the wide open spaces that define a West where “the deer and the antelope play.

Why do scientists want to tag sage grouse chicks?  

SGI expert, Mark Szczypinski, Conservation Technician with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, has the answer: “It helps us keep track of chick survival rates, seasonal movements, and habitat use.  Plus, it also helps us understand sage grouse behavior.  Here in eastern Montana, we’re learning a lot from tracking hens and their broods as part of a 10-year sage grouse research project that started in 2011.

What’s your role in the Montana sage grouse research study?

“I coordinate all of the field logistics from my base in Roundup, Montana. That means hiring and training 9 seasonal technicians, communicating with landowners, making sure all of the equipment is working, and capturing, tagging and monitoring birds myself, too.

The study area covers approximately a half-million acres, which makes it a huge undertaking. We have 7 pickup trucks and 6 ATVs to help us find and monitor the birds. Each tech is assigned a specific area, and is responsible for tagging and monitoring all of the birds within that area.

Mark Szczypinski (right) tags a chick with Joe Smith, a PhD student working on this study. Sage grouse tagging takes place in the dark, either after sunset or in the pre-dawn hours. Kenton Rowe Photo
Mark Szczypinski (right) tags a chick with Joe Smith, a PhD student working on this study. Sage grouse tagging takes place in the dark, either after sunset or in the pre-dawn hours. Kenton Rowe Photo

Landowner cooperation has been phenomenal during the project, which is important since 85% of the study area falls on privately-owned ranches. The funding provided by a host of public and private partners is also central to keeping the project going.”

A volunteer tagger displays a young sage grouse chick. Mark Szczypinski Photo
A volunteer tagger displays a young sage grouse chick. Mark Szczypinski Photo

How many birds to you tag each year?

“That depends. Before we can tag chicks, we have to first tag females so that we can find their nests. Our goal is to start each spring with 100 radio-marked hens. Usually, we have to capture about 25-40 hens in March and April to get us back up to 100 hens before nesting begins in late April.

It’s important to note that we use very different tags for fully-grown females versus small chicks. We fit adults with a VHF radio transmitter that are 25 g — about the size of the first joint as your thumb — and hangs like a necklace on the hen. For chicks, the transmitters are only 1.3g in weight (smaller than your pinky nail) with a 6-inch-long antenna attached. We suture these tiny tags with two small stitches to the skin on the chick’s back — similar to getting your ears pierced.”

Next week, Part 2 of the series.

For more information on the Sage Grouse Initiative program or to become involved directly with the SGI program, visit: http://www.sagegrouseinitiative.com.

American Outdoor Sportsman of the Year

Lisa Snuggs accept her award from Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame founder, Garry Mason. Photo by Rob Simbeck

  • Lisa Mcdowell Snuggs 
  • Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame
Lisa Snuggs accept her award from Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame founder, Garry Mason. Photo by Rob Simbeck
Lisa Snuggs accept her award from Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame founder, Garry Mason. Photo by Rob Simbeck

By Jill J Easton

Lisa McDowell Snuggs was chosen as the 2016 American Outdoor Sportsman of the Year by Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame.  She was picked for her dedication in helping outdoor communicators – which she does 365 days a year as Executive Director of The Southeastern Outdoor Press Association (SEOPA).

Garry Mason, the founder of the organization, nominated Lisa because of her efforts to keep hunting and fishing a vibrant part of American culture, by encouraging quality outdoor communications. Her long relationship with some of the best voices of the outdoors, encourages excellence.

“Without outdoor writers, whose stories are so important, many people would not be able to see, appreciate and understand the love of the outdoors that many of us in the outdoor industry have,” said Mason. “Lisa plays a big part in making that happen and we are very proud to honor her as this year’s American Outdoor Sportsman of the Year.”

Lisa in her own Words

Lisa McDowell was born into the world of outdoor communicators.  Her dad Bodie, was an outdoor writer for the Greensboro Daily News in North Carolina.  As one of the two youngest siblings in a large family, she and her brother Mark often went along when he went out on assignment.

“Going with my dad meant checking out all the local farm ponds, dove fields and campgrounds,” Lisa said.  “It also meant regular visits to the area city-owned lakes, sportsmen’s’ clubs, and events.  More Sunday afternoons than not were spent at the local gun club.

I learned early on that everybody has a story and they are willing to tell it if you’re willing to listen.  I’ve always loved the outdoors and I’ve always enjoyed writing as well, though, until SEOPA, most of my writing is done in conjunction with a piano or guitar.

When he went to SEOPA and Outdoor Writers of America meetings, we went along and I met some of the outstanding outdoor communicators working in the 1960s and 1970s.”

Her first job was working for The Plastic Development and Research Company (PRADCO, a fishing lure company).  Along the way the talented singer and songwriter made four albums and wrote numerous outdoor-related songs.  In 2000 she became executive director of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association a position she currently holds.

Talk about SEOPA

“The term outdoor writer includes people who share stories on paper, radio, television, video, through photography, art, blogs, websites and through songs.  It always starts with a story. It’s the words that all mediums have in common.

Anybody who enjoys reading, watching and/or listening to outdoors stories should thank an outdoor writer. They play a big part in keeping the heritage sports of fishing, hunting, camping, boating and shooting alive.

If you are interested in learning more about SEOPA, or any of the regional or national outdoor writer groups, they all have excellent websites.  For communicators that would enjoy finding help from the excellent speakers that share information at our conferences, the newsletter and more than 400 writers and outdoor-related companies, check us out. The qualifications for membership are listed on the website and applications can be completed on line.”

What personality characteristic makes you a good linchpin for SEOPA?

“Being a good listener, and I’ve been told I have the heart of a servant.  I enjoy helping people. Figuring out how SEOPA members can help each other and seeing it happen is so rewarding.”

What part of the job do you enjoy most? 

“The most rewarding project so far is working on the Lindsay Sale-Tinney award.  It’s a scholarship that brings an aspiring young communicator to the conference each year.  The award was established in 2011 by Stu Tinney, the founder of Striper Magazine, in honor of his late wife Lindsay.

Of the six recipients so far, four are still SEOPA members and seem to be well on their way to establishing themselves as outdoor communicators.  Meeting these young people and getting them and other young people involved in SEOPA is an honor.

Lindsay Sale-Tinney loved helping young people learn about the outdoors.  She was a talented writer, photographer, angler, equestrian and all-around good person.  She would be proud of the work we’re doing in her name.  The award is a part of the Outdoor Journalist Education Foundation of America.  People can find out more about it at by visiting seopa.org and clicking on OJEFA.”

Describe your work in the outdoor industry

“I worked for PRADCO for 10 years starting in 1986 as the company’s outdoor writer liaison.  I showed new products to the media at the annual fishing tackle trade show produced by the American Sportfishing Asssociation.  Back then it was called the AFTMA show, which stood for American Fishing Tackle Manufacturers Association (now it’s known as iCAST).  I also represented the company at several outdoor writer conferences each year.  Because of attending the SEOPA and OWAA conferences when I was a kid, I knew many folks in the industry. Working with PRADCO allowed me to get to know even more writers and broadcasters from all over the country.

In the mid-90s, I worked with a group of investors in Tennessee who were marketing sporting goods on television.  When that didn’t work out I took a temporary job working for Castlerock Productions when they were in Tennessee filming “The Green Mile.”  The exterior of my house was used as Tom Hanks’ house and I ended up working for the construction division of the film company.  When that came to an end, I managed an office for a small manufacturing firm for a couple years until the opportunity with SEOPA came along in 2000.  It was meant to be!”

Who are some of the famous outdoor folks you have met, known and worked with?

“Outdoor communicators and the people they write about are the best people in the world.  It’s almost like a secret society.  I guess all groups of kindred souls feel the same way – you know – birds of a feather, but there’s just something special about “my” group.

Some of the folks I’ve met and called friends in this business include Tom Gresham and his dad Grits, Homer Circle, Forrest and Nina Wood, Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland, Ray Scott, Jim Zumbo, Mark Sosin, Tom Kelly, Tes Jolly and Jimmy Houston.  Lots of professional anglers who fished on the circuits in the 80s or earlier like Bobby and Billy Murray, Rick Clunn, Zell Rowland, Hank Parker, Roland Martin, Bill Dance, and of course Sugar Ferris who founded Bass’n Gals for women like Kathy Magers and Linda England.

I think it’s interesting that so many country music artists enjoy fishing and hunting, too.  I met Merle Haggard at a Bassmasters Classic in the 1980s and presented special fishing lure packages to George Jones and Travis Tritt when they were producing PSAs for the fishing industry in the early ‘90s.  Music and fishing go together.”

In addition to your work with outdoor writers you are a musician, how has this affected your outdoor career?

Music has always been a big part of my life.  It’s given me so many opportunities and introduced me to some of my favorite people.  My first job was playing the piano during Sunday buffet at the Holiday Inn.  I got $5 and all I could eat.  As a bonus the chief taught me the secret of his fried chicken!  When I was 17 I started playing in a family-owned restaurant every Wednesday night and one weekend a month.

Lisa Snuggs with a wintertime bass caught in a small lake at Sumter Farms near Geiger, Ala., on the far western edge of the Alabama Black Belt Region. Photo by Jeff Samsel
Lisa Snuggs with a wintertime bass caught in a small lake at Sumter Farms near Geiger, Ala., on the far western edge of the Alabama Black Belt Region. Photo by Jeff Samsel

“Then dad got me a gig singing a few outdoorsy songs and Amazing Grace to kick off the Sunday session of Indiana University’s American Fishing Institute when it came to Raleigh.  After hearing me sing, Billy Murray told me I should sing Ramblin’ Fever with the words changed to Fishin’ Fever.  I said, “You write ‘em down and I’ll sing ‘em.”  He scribbled down the changes and that became the first song about fishing I recorded.  I wrote more than a dozen fishing and outdoor-related songs after that, recorded two albums in the mid-80s and recut some of them and a few new ones in 1996.

SEOPA conferences were great memories when I was a kid.  Tom Rollins, the first executive director, played the guitar and would always sing a few songs after the banquet on the last night. People would gather and sing along.

 Tom and his wife Mona came to visit us in North Carolina several times and he always brought his guitar along.  When I began attending SEOPA on behalf of PRADCO, I was glad to see the sing-along tradition was still in place.  By then I was able to participate in earnest instead of just listening.  Then, when I was hired by SEOPA we kept gathering on the final night to “pick and grin.”  It was always just a casual get together and a way to relax after a busy conference.  One president was so impressed by all the talent in the room that he insisted it become an official part of the conference.

These days it’s a part of the dinner program and is sponsored by the National Wild Turkey Federation, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited and Winchester. Representative from these organizations enjoy sharing their conservation messages in such a festive yet intimate setting.”

What are your favorite outdoor activities?

“Fishing is my favorite outdoor activity, though I haven’t done much of it lately. When I said that to Uncle Homer one time he said, ‘You have to make time, like you would for anything else that’s important.’  He was right, of course.  Most anglers agree that catching a fish is the proverbial icing on the cake of being outdoors.

Fishing forces you, as one of my songs says, “to leave it all behind.”  I have fished in so many beautiful places and I remember thinking about (and feeling sorry for) all the people in the world who have no idea such peaceful places exist.  There’s just nothing like feeling you have thousands of acres of water to yourself as you make just one more cast at sunset.  You have no choice but to relax.

Another favorite activity is simply walking around in the woods, especially in winter. It’s even better with someone who knows more about plants and animals than you do.”

Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge

-New Refuge: Conserving Key Habitat in the Northeast

-Provide Food and Shelter for Rabbits, Woodcock, Ruffed Grouse, Monarch Butterflies, Box Turtles, much more

for-sto-10312016-conservation-picture-1of1

BY STOadmin

Following an extensive public process, and with overwhelming public support, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized the creation of Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge, dedicated to conserving and managing shrubland and young forests for wildlife in New England and eastern New York. The approval of the refuge marks a key step, enabling the Service to now work with willing and interested landowners to acquire land.

The nation’s newest wildlife refuge joins the largest network of lands in the nation dedicated to wildlife conservation, with 565 other national wildlife refuges – at least one refuge in every state – and other protected areas covering more than 150 million acres. A hundred years in the making, the refuge system is a network of habitats that benefits wildlife, provides unparalleled outdoor experiences for all Americans, and protects a healthy environment.

“National wildlife refuges provide Americans with incredible opportunities to experience nature at its finest,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge will give New Englanders and New Yorkers the chance to conserve important habitat in the region, ensuring current and future generations can experience the rich variety of animals and plants that call these special places home.”

“The approval of Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge marks a milestone in an exemplary partnership with six state wildlife agencies and a foundation for working with local governments and others to explore conservation opportunities,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber. “Interested landowners now have a unique opportunity to leave a legacy of conservation and to contribute to a large-scale effort that will make a difference for American woodcock, New England cottontails, monarch butterflies and other wildlife.”

Over the past century, many shrublands and young forests across the Northeast have been cleared for development or have grown into mature forests. As this habitat has disappeared, populations of more than 65 songbirds, mammals, reptiles, pollinators and other wildlife that depend on it have fallen alarmingly.

Despite significant efforts by many agencies, organizations and landowners to manage existing lands, conservationists have determined that more permanently protected and managed land is needed to restore wildlife populations and return balance to northeast woodlands. Great Thicket NWR responds to that need to preserve and manage land to benefit shrubland-dependent wildlife, such as the ruffed grouse, golden-winged warbler, box and spotted turtles, whippoorwill, blue-winged warbler and Hessel’s hairstreak.

A key step in the formation of the refuge was the completion of the land protection plan and environmental assessment. The Service made the draft plan available for public review in early 2016, resulting in more than 6,000 comments – over 90 percent of which were supportive.

Now that the plan has been approved, the agency can begin working with willing and interested landowners in 10 target areas of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island to acquire up to 15,000 acres through various methods, including conservation easements, donations or fee-title acquisition. Current refuge staff would manage all acquired lands within existing resources.

This process is expected to take decades, as the Service will work strictly with willing sellers only and depends on funding availability to make purchases. Lands within an acquisition boundary would not become part of the refuge unless their owners sell or donate them to the Service; the boundary has no impact on how landowners can use their land or to whom they can sell.

Wildlife refuges provide habitat for more than 2,100 types of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish, including more than 380 threatened or endangered plants or animals. Each year, millions of migrating birds use refuges as stops to rest and refuel on their journeys of thousands of miles between their summer and winter homes.

National wildlife refuges do not just provide a boost to wildlife. They are strong economic engines for local communities across the country and provide intrinsic value to all Americans. A 2013 national report, Banking on Nature, found that refuges pump $2.4 billion into the economy and support more than 35,000 jobs. They are also excellent venues to hunt, hike, bike, boat, observe wildlife and more.

The plan and all related documents – including all comments received and how they were addressed – are available at: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/refuges/planning/lpp/greatthicketLPP.html.

Direct links to more resources:

Asian Carp Blitz in Kentucky

Invasive Asian Carp are big, plentiful and are a slimy mess in Kentucky and Barkley Lakes, especially once they are aboard your boat, KFW is testing the waters for data collection. Photo is courtesy of Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife

-November 8-10, 2016

-Goal: Asian Carp Population Survey

-Benefit: Collected Fish Sold to Fish Processors

Invasive Asian Carp are big, plentiful and are a slimy mess in Kentucky and Barkley Lakes, especially once they are aboard your boat, KFW is testing the waters for data collection. Photo is courtesy of Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife
Invasive Asian Carp are big, plentiful and are a slimy mess in Kentucky and Barkley Lakes, especially once they are aboard your boat, KFW is testing the waters for data collection. Photo is courtesy of Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife

By Forrest Fisher

If you have ever fished Kentucky Lake or Barkley Lake for bass or crappie, especially in a tournament, you might have some idea about the size of the Asian Carp population there, but it’s just an idea.  There are lots of ‘em!  Anglers can catch them occasionally when fishing for game fish species.  They fight incredibly hard and are fun to land until you get them into the boat.  Their outer layer is sheer slime, it very slick and almost pasty. They are not native in the lakes and are an invasive species that the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife is trying to understand more about.

Kentucky is working with federal agencies, in cooperation with volunteers, commercial anglers and fish processors, and is launching a “Carp Blitz” on November 8-10 to help gauge the population of invasive Asian Carp in Kentucky and Barkley lakes.  At least a dozen sampling crews will be netting, electrofishing and working with licensed commercial anglers to collect as many Asian carp as possible during this three-day period.

“This very large effort is primarily a sampling or data collection exercise which, if deemed successful, will be repeated annually in order to provide relative abundance and population demographics of Asian carp in Kentucky and Barkley Lakes,” said Ron Brooks, fisheries director for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.  Other participating agencies will include the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Kentucky Lake at sunrise from Kentucky Lake State Park and Marina is a beautiful way to start the day!  Hotel accommodations are reasonable at the State Park.  Forrest Fisher Photo
Kentucky Lake at sunrise from Kentucky Lake State Park and Marina is a beautiful way to start the day! Hotel accommodations are reasonable at the State Park. Forrest Fisher Photo

In 2013, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife sponsored Carp Madness, a first of its kind tournament for commercial anglers whose primarily goal was the thin the Asian carp population in the two western Kentucky lakes.  It proved successful, as a handful of participants collected more than 83,000 pounds of Asian carp during the two-day tournament.

Brooks believes if weather conditions are good, the Carp Blitz effort will easily eclipse the Carp Madness tournament.  State and federal fisheries crew will use electrofishing equipment to drive the wary Asian carp into the waiting nets of the commercial anglers.

“All Asian carp harvested will be donated to the commercial anglers assisting with this effort,” Brooks said.  “Kentucky’s fish processing businesses will purchase all fish harvested.”

As part of the effort, researchers with Murray State University are working with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife to tag fish with telemetry markers.  This will allow researchers to discover the movement patterns and habitat use of Asian carp in Kentucky and Barkley Lakes.

We’ll pass on what we learn of this effort as results are communicated.  Kentucky Lake is an incredible fishery and recreational resource for all to enjoy.

Conserving Wetlands & Waterfowl

Ducks Unlimited: Science, Research, Biology

for-sto-10192016-conservation-picture-1of1-credit-to-joe-forma
Thanks to the many conservation programs of Ducks Unlimited chapters across this great nation, waterfowl and other species too, are able to survive and thrive. Joe Forma photo

By Forrest Fisher

Ducks Unlimited is a dedicated group that may be underappreciated by all the rest of us outdoor folks.  The work that this group performs for others will provide fundamental and ecological improvements for many waterfowl species.  Their work will help waterfowl and other species overcome unforgiving vulnerabilities due to loss of habitat and will add to the dynamic transformation of the natural world to remain reciprocal and productive.

The Ducks Unlimited conservation programs have always had a strong biological foundation.  Science and research tradition continues today with hundreds of studies to address the habitat needs of waterfowl.  Although a great deal of work has been done and many important questions answered, there is still much to learn about how the birds respond to landscape, habitat and environmental changes.

DU has embraced an approach of constant monitoring and evaluation which allows for continual refinement of its habitat programs.  In the end, such an approach ensures that each and every dollar invested in conservation programs is used as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Below is a summary of the methods DU uses to conserve wetlands and valuable habitat in priority areas for North American waterfowl.

How DU Conserves:

  • Restoring grasslands
  • Replanting forests
  • Restoring watersheds
  • Working with landowners
  • Working with partners
  • Acquiring land
  • Conservation easements
  • Management agreements
  • Geographic Information Systems

Restoring Grasslands

Ducks such as mallards, pintails and teal build nests in dense, grassy areas near wetlands. Grassland cover helps hens conceal their nests and increases their chances of successfully hatching a clutch.  Once hatched, the hen leads the ducklings over land to a nearby wetland, where they grow into adults.  DU and its partners help to secure and restore these grasslands to reduce predation rates and improve nest success.

Replanting Forests

Forests that flood regularly due to overflowing riverbanks, such as the bottomland hardwood forests in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV), make for ideal wintering habitat for ducks, and provide essential breeding and foraging habitat for other wildlife species.  However, 80 percent of these forests have been cleared for agriculture and other purposes, and rivers have been tamed with dams and levees.  To date, DU has reforested more than 178,000 acres in the MAV and worked to restore backwater to these forests to mimic historical flooding.

Restoring Watersheds

A watershed is the area surrounding a wetland, and therefore has a great effect on the water quality and general health of a wetland.  When watersheds are disturbed, silt, nutrients and contaminants can be washed into downstream wetlands, impacting the flora and fauna that inhabit these systems.  For example, in the Chesapeake Bay, most of the aquatic vegetation has been lost and fisheries have been contaminated due to degradation of the watershed.  DU restores drained wetlands, protects stream corridors and establishes buffer strips that filter nutrients and silt.

Working With Landowners

Nearly three-fourths of America’s remaining wetlands are on private lands.  All over North America, DU works with farmers, ranchers and other landowners to improve the agricultural and recreational value of their land, making it more wildlife-friendly.  Additionally, a new market is developing where landowners can become suppliers of environmental credits that can be sold in a voluntary trading market by adopting certain types of conservation practices on their land.

Working With Partners

No single group could perform the work necessary to meet the goals of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and DU’s International Conservation Plan.  Virtually all of DU’s projects are done in cooperation with a number of partners, including state and federal agencies, private corporations and foundations, and individuals.

Acquiring Land

In special cases, DU will purchase property then restore it to improve its value to wildlife.  Once the habitat work is complete, DU will then sell or donate the property, usually to a government agency that will manage it for wildlife.

Conservation Easements

Some of the most valuable wildlife habitat is threatened by development.  DU’s Conservation Easement Program is designed to protect habitats forever through agreements with landowners.

Management Agreements

DU offers financial incentives to landowners that manage their land for waterfowl and other wetland wildlife.  The landowner receives a number of benefits under this type of agreement, and hundreds of wildlife species are insured quality habitat.

Geographic Information Systems

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology enables DU to determine where our habitat work will be most effective as well as monitor the results of our work. Combining satellite images with other information, such as wetland inventories, land-use practices, soil type, wildlife use and more; DU’s GIS specialists produce models that help identify the best places to restore or protect habitat on the landscape.

For more detailed information about waterfowl habitat conservation in an area near you, please visit our Priority Areas.

Get Involved

Do yourself a favor and opt to learn more about all this goodness!  Visit the DU link and read on about the details of DU conservation efforts: http://www.ducks.org/.

Conserving Wetlands & Waterfowl

Ducks Unlimited: Science, Research, Biology

for-sto-10192016-conservation-picture-1of1-credit-to-joe-forma
Thanks to the many conservation programs of Ducks Unlimited chapters across this great nation, waterfowl and other species too, are able to survive and thrive. Joe Forma photo

By Forrest Fisher

Ducks Unlimited is a dedicated group that may be underappreciated by all the rest of us outdoor folks.  The work that this group performs for others will provide fundamental and ecological improvements for many waterfowl species.  Their work will help waterfowl and other species overcome unforgiving vulnerabilities due to loss of habitat and will add to the dynamic transformation of the natural world to remain reciprocal and productive.

The Ducks Unlimited conservation programs have always had a strong biological foundation.  Science and research tradition continues today with hundreds of studies to address the habitat needs of waterfowl.  Although a great deal of work has been done and many important questions answered, there is still much to learn about how the birds respond to landscape, habitat and environmental changes.

DU has embraced an approach of constant monitoring and evaluation which allows for continual refinement of its habitat programs.  In the end, such an approach ensures that each and every dollar invested in conservation programs is used as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Below is a summary of the methods DU uses to conserve wetlands and valuable habitat in priority areas for North American waterfowl.

How DU Conserves:

  • Restoring grasslands
  • Replanting forests
  • Restoring watersheds
  • Working with landowners
  • Working with partners
  • Acquiring land
  • Conservation easements
  • Management agreements
  • Geographic Information Systems

Restoring Grasslands

Ducks such as mallards, pintails and teal build nests in dense, grassy areas near wetlands. Grassland cover helps hens conceal their nests and increases their chances of successfully hatching a clutch.  Once hatched, the hen leads the ducklings over land to a nearby wetland, where they grow into adults.  DU and its partners help to secure and restore these grasslands to reduce predation rates and improve nest success.

Replanting Forests

Forests that flood regularly due to overflowing riverbanks, such as the bottomland hardwood forests in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV), make for ideal wintering habitat for ducks, and provide essential breeding and foraging habitat for other wildlife species.  However, 80 percent of these forests have been cleared for agriculture and other purposes, and rivers have been tamed with dams and levees.  To date, DU has reforested more than 178,000 acres in the MAV and worked to restore backwater to these forests to mimic historical flooding.

Restoring Watersheds

A watershed is the area surrounding a wetland, and therefore has a great effect on the water quality and general health of a wetland.  When watersheds are disturbed, silt, nutrients and contaminants can be washed into downstream wetlands, impacting the flora and fauna that inhabit these systems.  For example, in the Chesapeake Bay, most of the aquatic vegetation has been lost and fisheries have been contaminated due to degradation of the watershed.  DU restores drained wetlands, protects stream corridors and establishes buffer strips that filter nutrients and silt.

Working With Landowners

Nearly three-fourths of America’s remaining wetlands are on private lands.  All over North America, DU works with farmers, ranchers and other landowners to improve the agricultural and recreational value of their land, making it more wildlife-friendly.  Additionally, a new market is developing where landowners can become suppliers of environmental credits that can be sold in a voluntary trading market by adopting certain types of conservation practices on their land.

Working With Partners

No single group could perform the work necessary to meet the goals of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and DU’s International Conservation Plan.  Virtually all of DU’s projects are done in cooperation with a number of partners, including state and federal agencies, private corporations and foundations, and individuals.

Acquiring Land

In special cases, DU will purchase property then restore it to improve its value to wildlife.  Once the habitat work is complete, DU will then sell or donate the property, usually to a government agency that will manage it for wildlife.

Conservation Easements

Some of the most valuable wildlife habitat is threatened by development.  DU’s Conservation Easement Program is designed to protect habitats forever through agreements with landowners.

Management Agreements

DU offers financial incentives to landowners that manage their land for waterfowl and other wetland wildlife.  The landowner receives a number of benefits under this type of agreement, and hundreds of wildlife species are insured quality habitat.

Geographic Information Systems

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology enables DU to determine where our habitat work will be most effective as well as monitor the results of our work. Combining satellite images with other information, such as wetland inventories, land-use practices, soil type, wildlife use and more; DU’s GIS specialists produce models that help identify the best places to restore or protect habitat on the landscape.

For more detailed information about waterfowl habitat conservation in an area near you, please visit our Priority Areas.

Get Involved

Do yourself a favor and opt to learn more about all this goodness!  Visit the DU link and read on about the details of DU conservation efforts: http://www.ducks.org/.

Connecting Conservation, Families, and the Outdoors

Ringneck Pheasants in the wild are scarce in many states, but conservation programs to raise them and return them to country farm fields are active in many regions of the United States. Joe Forma Photo

By Forrest Fisher, with excerpts from NYSDEC

No matter what state you live in, children typically learn about conservation and the outdoors from adults who accompany them as they explore. Plenty of times the kids teach the adults as well as the adults teaching the kids! If you are looking for ideas on how to enjoy the outdoors with the young people in your life visit the web sites listed below.

New York State has provided a wonderful guideline for all other states to follow. Outdoor Discovery (http://www.dec.ny.gov/public/84455.html) is an online newsletter from the New York State Department of Environment Conservation (NYSDEC) for families. It encourages New Yorkers to explore outdoors and learn about the environment. Each issue introduces subscribers to a seasonal environmental topic or nature topic, suggests a related activity and lists family friendly events at DEC’s environmental education centers. DEC Outdoor Discovery is free and emailed to subscribers every other Wednesday, it also appears on DEC’s website.

DEC operates environmental education programs (http://www.dec.ny.gov/education/74.html) statewide. These include two environmental education centers from Albany to Buffalo, plus regional environmental educators who serve New York City, Long Island and Central NY.

The DEC’s residential environmental education summer camps (http://www.dec.ny.gov/education/29.html) have be operating for over 60 years. The camps serve boys and girls ages 11-17, who attend a week long program exploring the outdoors and learning about the environment. Campers can even participate in a hunter safety class and receive their hunter safety certificate. The four summer camps are located across the state, two in the Adirondacks, one in the Catskills and one in Western New York.

National Wildlife Federation advocates spending at least one hour each day outdoors in nature. Their web site Be Out There (http://www.nwf.org/What-We-Do/Kids-and-Nature.aspx) provides ideas for reconnecting kids with the many benefits of the great outdoors. Good for both mental and physical health, spending time outdoors is also fun and helps kids build a connection to nature. Using the “NatureFind” feature visitors can find outdoor activities in their area, and across the country.

Nature Rocks (https://www.natureworkseverywhere.org/home/) from the Children and Nature Network, The Nature Conservancy and R.E.I. provides ideas for exploring outdoors with children. They also offer a search feature to locate programs, sites and outdoor play groups, known as Nature Rocks Flocks in your area.

Key Largo – Burmese Python Hatchlings Spotted

  • Officials Ask for Help
  • Invasive Species
An 18-inch-long python found in north Key Largo, Aug. 23, 2016. Photo by Jeremy Dixon, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

From the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission News, Burmese python hatchlings have been spotted for the first time on Key Largo. This is a discovery that’s prompting officials to send postcards to homeowners there asking for help spotting the elusive snakes. The postcards show a picture of a python and list a phone number to call if someone spots one.

One 18-inch-long Burmese python was found on Aug. 2, 2016, in Key Largo, and a second similar-sized python was found on Aug. 3 in the same location. A third hatchling was found on Aug. 23 in north Key Largo. These confirmed observations are the first known hatchling-sized Burmese pythons found in Key Largo. These observations suggest that pythons have reproduced near this location, but there have been no sightings of python nests or eggs in the area.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Exotic Species Hotline has received 31 credible reports of Burmese pythons in the Keys over the past five years, with recent confirmed sightings limited to Key Largo.

“While we have documented Burmese pythons in the Keys for a while now, this is the first time we have documentation of hatchlings in the area. This is not surprising considering the proximity to the known breeding population in the Everglades,” said Kristen Sommers, section leader of the FWC’s Wildlife Impact Management Section.

The United States Geological Survey, FWC and other partners are working together with local residents to increase detection and monitoring efforts for Burmese pythons in the Keys.

“We’re sending the postcards in an effort to collect more information on where and how often pythons are being sighted,” said Bryan Falk, a USGS biologist. “This information will ultimately help all of the agencies involved focus our research and control efforts in areas where python densities are highest, and hopefully mitigate their further spread. We worry about pythons becoming established in the Keys because there are several at-risk populations of small mammals, like the Key Largo woodrat and the Key Largo cotton mouse that would be easy prey for Burmese pythons.”

Residents and visitors can help by reporting sightings of Burmese pythons and other nonnative species to the FWC’s Exotic Species Reporting Hotline at 888-Ive-Got1 (888-483-4681), online at IveGot1.org or by downloading the free “IveGot1” smartphone app.

In addition to sustained efforts to manage Burmese python populations, USGS and the FWC continue to work to improve detection and removal capabilities for Burmese pythons and other invasive species, such as Argentine black and white tegus, in coordination with partner agencies and organizations. For more information about Burmese pythons in Florida, go to MyFWC.com/Python.

National Hunting and Fishing Day 2016

huntingfishingday_sm

Saturday, September 24, 2016
Kids and Adults Invited to Discover the Fun of the Outdoors
Johnny Morris named 2016 Honorary Chair

National Hunting and Fishing Day, formalized by Congress in 1971, was created by the National Shooting Sports Foundation to celebrate conservation successes of hunters and anglers. From shopping center exhibits to statewide expos, millions of citizens have learned to appreciate America’s sportsman-based system of conservation funding. That system now generates more than $1.7 billion per year, benefiting all who appreciate wildlife and wild places.

In locations all around the country, kids and adults alike, can share in a few of the fun and challenging hands-on activities that include fishing, outdoor gear, archery, firearm safety and much more. Sportsman and conservation groups will feature exhibits with displays of hunting and fishing equipment with demonstrations of outdoor skills.

National Hunting and Fishing Day (NHF Day) has named leading national conservationist and Bass Pro Shops founder, Johnny Morris, to serve as the honorary chair for NHF Day 2016. A lifelong sportsman with a passion for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation, Morris is one of the country’s foremost leaders working to ensure natural habitats, wildlife and the outdoors remain healthy for future generations to protect and enjoy.

“America’s sportsmen and women are among our nation’s most active conservationists and it’s important we recognize and celebrate everything they do to protect outdoor habitat and ensure thriving populations of wildlife,” said Morris. “I’m proud to lend my support and raise awareness for hunters and anglers, America’s conservation heroes through National Hunting and Fishing Day.”

The NHF Day event is just one more of the ways Morris is honoring the unsung heroes of conservation. Later this year, Morris will unveil the new Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri, a 315,000-square foot conservation destination envisioned as a tribute to America’s hunters and anglers. Through immersive habitats and interactive displays the experience will inspire future generations to enjoy, love and conserve the great outdoors.

“NHF Day is continually looking for folks that have a true passion for the outdoors and is very involved with conservation,” said Misty Mitchell, national coordinator, National Hunting and Fishing Day. “Johnny Morris is leading the charge in all facets of conservation. We couldn’t be happier to have him serve as our National Chair.”

This annual event takes place on Saturday, September 24, 2016, with activities taking place across the country.

Morris joins a distinguished group that has included Jim Shockey, Eva Shockey, Craig Morgan, Bill Dance, T. Boone Pickens, Louise Mandrell, Hank Williams Jr., Jeff Foxworthy, Wade Boggs, Arnold Palmer, the USA Olympic Shooting Team, Tony Stewart and others.

For more information, visit http://www.nhfday.org.

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‘Hands off!’ Is Best for Sea Turtle Hatchlings

  • Infant Turtles Face Many Obstacles
  • Let Nature Take Its Course
Sea turtles are cute and look like they may need help from people at times, but Florida Officials say it is best to leave them alone to help them as a species. Photo Credit: Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission

Sea turtle hatchlings are digging out of their nests and clambering toward the ocean in September and October, the last months of Florida’s sea turtle nesting season. Just remember, “Hands off!” is the best policy for beachgoers encountering sea turtle hatchings.

Well-meaning efforts to rescue a sea turtle hatchling by helping it leave a nest or picking it up and placing it in the ocean are not good ideas, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists.

Worse yet, are instances where hatchlings are being handled by people who think it’s OK to get that close, often because they want to take a photo.

“Some Florida beachgoers are unaware that sea turtle hatchings should be watched from a distance and left undisturbed,” said Dr. Robbin Trindell, who leads the FWC’s sea turtle management program. “Even well-meaning attempts to rescue sea turtle hatchlings can do more harm than good. And digging into a sea turtle nest, entering a posted area, or picking up a sea turtle hatchling to take a photo also are against the law.”

Hatchlings must overcome many obstacles to survive. Digging out of their nests may take a few days. Once out, they are vulnerable to predators. And any misdirection on their path to the sea – from artificial lighting to items left on the beach, holes in the sand or people approaching or handling them – may leave them exhausted, lost or dehydrated on the beach in the morning sun.

“So please remember to keep your hands off sea turtle hatchlings and tell others to do the same,” Trindell said. “The best way to help hatchings is to turn off any artificial lighting on the beach at night or at least keep it shielded. If you see hatchlings, watch from a distance and never shoot flash photos.”

Beautiful adult Sea Turtles lay their eggs along the sandy dunes of the Florida coastline in many areas, please leave them alone to help them best. Photo Credit: Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission

Bright lights on houses, motels, condominiums and businesses along the beach can disorient nesting adult females, but are particularly harmful to turtle hatchlings. The hatchlings will head for the bright lights, thinking they are the sparkling sea. They can end up walking landward and are more likely to become prey for animals like coyotes.

People are asked to call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline, 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or *FWC or #FWC on a cellphone, to report hatchlings that are stranded, wandering in a road or parking lot, heading away from the water or are dead.

For more on sea turtle nesting and hatchlings, go to MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle.

Florida Springs Get Restoration Help

Unique Ecosystems
Florida Springs Support All Florida Life

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Each year when winter travelers head south to Florida, one place that many seek to visit are the gin-clear spring-fed lakes and waterways. Visitors can see fish 25 feet down and they appear to be just a few feet away. The water is clear and uncontaminated, and the Florida conservation folks and legislators seem to share one common goal to assure that these unique ecosystems are maintained for future generations.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, there is a plan and there is funding.

Springs Funding Projects 2016-17

Florida is home to more large (first and second magnitude) springs than any other state in the country. Springs are the window into the health of our groundwater, which is the source of 90 percent of drinking water for Floridians.

Some springs support entire ecosystems with unique plants and animals. They also flow into other rivers that are dependent on the spring’s clean fresh water. Additionally, Florida’s springs offer many recreational opportunities such as swimming, kayaking and diving, attracting visitors from all over the world and serving as economic drivers for our communities.

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Under Governor Scott and the Legislature, the state of Florida has made an unprecedented financial commitment to springs restoration, funding nearly $275 million over the last four years specifically for spring restoration. This record funding has enabled the department to assist local governments and other stakeholders to identify and construct projects that are imperative to achieving restoration goals. Projects awarded during the first year are already expected to reduce 847,376 pounds of nutrient pollution and conserve 24.1 million gallons of water per day for our aquifers.

Fiscal Year 2016-17

More than $89 million in springs projects will be leveraged from the over $56 million investment from Governor Rick Scott’s 2016-17 “FLORIDA FIRST” budget. This brings the total investment by the state and local governments in spring projects to nearly $275 million in the past four years.

The 35 projects statewide, funded through the FY 2016-17 appropriation include:

  • Southwest Florida Water Management District (Crystal River/Kings Bay springs, Homosassa Springs, Weeki Wachee Springs and the Upper Floridian Aquifer) – A total investment of nearly $15 million for seven projects including water reclamation, central sewer expansion and advanced wastewater treatment.
  • St. Johns River Water Management District (Silver, Volusia Blue and Wekiva springs, as well as the Wekiva River and the Upper Floridian Aquifer) – A total investment of more than $24 million for eight projects including land acquisition, water reclamation and aquifer recharge and central sewer connection.
  • Suwannee River Water Management District (Fanning, Hart, Ichetucknee, Otter, Poe, Pot and Wacissa springs as well as the Suwannee and Withlacoochee rivers and the Floridian Aquifer) – A total investment of more than $31 million for 12 projects including central sewer expansion and enhanced agricultural water quality management practices projects.
  • Northwest Florida Water Management District (Cypress, Econfina, Gainer, Jackson Blue and Wakulla springs) – A total investment of more than $19 million for eight projects including land acquisition, central sewer connection and improved management practices projects.

To learn more about Florida Springs, visit: http://www.floridasprings.org/learn/.

Hilborn vs. Greenpeace – Integrity Won

Fisheries Ecology and Population Modeling

Fisheries Ecology and Population Modeling is defended. Photo: http://www.noaa.gov/fisheries

By Mike Nussman, President and CEO, American Sportfishing Association

Character assassination and innuendo seem to have replaced debate and open discussion of issues these days. If you cannot refute someone’s policy arguments, then invent an allegation, throw mud and make the attack personal.

Surprisingly, I am not describing the 2016 Presidential election.

Rather, I am referring to Greenpeace’s recent misguided attempt to slander Ray Hilborn, Ph.D., an internationally recognized expert on fisheries ecology and population modeling whose research is highly regarded by policy makers around the globe. Dr. Hilborn is professor of aquatic and fishery science at the University of Washington.

Greenpeace, the D.C.-based environmental organization, asserts that overfishing is universal and the oceans are being emptied. However, Dr. Hilborn’s, and his collaborators, scientific research and conclusions continually punch holes in Greenpeace’s desire to turn the world’s oceans into one great no fishing zone. So, with no science of their own to “stand on,” Greenpeace set out to attack the man’s integrity.

This past May, Greenpeace attempted to cast doubt on Dr. Hilborn’s science by challenging the transparency of his funding sources. They challenged Dr. Hilborn’s professional integrity, with accusations that he was furtively pushing a message favorable to the fishing industry – that fishing pressure can remain high without negative impacts on stocks – in exchange for financial gain and research support.

This “lack of transparency” conspiracy theory runs rampant in Washington, D.C., a place I’ve worked for the past 30 years. While Dr. Hilborn has retained his credibility: Greenpeace’s tactics have none.

For the record, Dr. Hilborn was cleared of bias by two of the most respected science research publications, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Science magazine. Moreover, his employer, the University of Washington, released a statement saying that Dr. Hilborn followed all necessary protocols for publicizing funding and was in full compliance with disclosure rules. Even had these institutions not been probed to vouch for him, he states quite clearly on his website the funding sources for his research.

Environmental groups (e.g., Pew and the Environmental Defense Fund), the commercial sector (e.g. Bristol Bay Salmon Processors) and federal agencies (e.g. National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) have all entrusted Hilborn and his lab to conduct studies on various aspects of saltwater fisheries, covering topics such as hatcheries, fishing cooperatives and the influence of changing environmental conditions on fish populations. In fact, Dr. Hilborn and Greenpeace both receive funding from the Packard Foundation.

Something that struck me about Ray Hilborn going back to one of the first times we spoke was how frank he is about what the science says. What, then, can we make of the assertion that his “agenda” is to promote the fishing industry and, as Greenpeace would portray it, to squander our marine resources? This is far from accurate.

In fact, in his own response to Greenpeace’s allegations, Dr. Hilborn thanked Greenpeace for offering him the opportunity to advertise his research and its results. Dr. Hilborn noted that Greenpeace is unable to attack the science; science that threatens their repeated assertions that overfishing is universal and that the oceans are being emptied.

To quote Dr. Hilborn, “On the contrary, it is clear that where effective fisheries management is applied, stocks are increasing not declining, and this is true in North America as well as a number of other places. Overfishing certainly continues to be a problem in the Mediterranean, much of Asia and Africa.”

hilborngreenpeace2Dr. Hilborn’s rigorous and peer reviewed research makes clear that fisheries management works. Greenpeace may not like his conclusions, but, their effort to attack the messenger with false accusations should be repudiated by academia, by commercial and recreational fishermen and other environmental organizations.

Dr. Ray Hilborn is one class act.

For similar stories on a daily basis, visit The Fishing Wire at: Permalink

The Fishing Wire welcomes your comments and actively solicits letters and guest editorials from readers as well as fishery managers, scientists and industry experts in boating, fishing and related equipment. Please send your comments and suggestions to frank@thefishingwire.com.

Wildlife Habitat, History, Permanently Protected in Montana

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From the Director of Communication at Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation headquarters in Missoula, Montana, there is news of success.

A 320-acre property in southwestern Montana, vital to wildlife and linked to the pages of United States history, is now permanently protected thanks to a successful collaboration between the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a conservation-minded family and the United States Forest Service.

The former Holland Family Ranch is located west of Dillon and was previously an in-holding in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. It lies squarely on the Nez Perce National Historic Trail, where Chief Joseph led his Nez Perce tribe away from its pursuers in 1877.

“We appreciate the Holland family for reaching out to us to help conserve and permanently protect this key stretch of habitat,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Land Conservation. “It is especially rich in wildlife values.”

Elk use the property as calving grounds as well as spring and summer range. It serves as an important wildlife movement corridor between the Big Hole River Valley and the Continental Divide for elk, mule deer, moose and black bear. It is also home to Canada lynx, wolverine, a wide variety of other animal and bird life, and includes more than two miles of fisheries, wetlands and surrounding riparian habitat.

RMEF recently conveyed the tract to the Forest Service thus providing both new and improved public access for hunting, fishing and other recreational activities. “This purchase is a perfect example of how partnerships can conserve wildlife, ecological, recreational and historic values,” said Melany Glossa, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest supervisor. “Working together with RMEF and the Holland family to be a part of this legacy has been a really wonderful experience.”

The Land and Water Conservation Fund, Cinnabar Foundation, Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust and RMEF provided funding for the project.

If you have questions about the RMEF or are interested in receiving background materials or arranging interviews please contact: RMEF Director of Communication, Phone: 1-800-225-5355, Ext. 481, E-mail: publicrelations@rmef.org.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded over 30 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of nearly 220,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 6.8 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.

Take action: join and/or donate.

My Gray Tree Frog Guest – Warty Marty

The song of the gray tree frog is heard throughout Missouri and the eastern United States, though few people recognize its source.

Standing in my front yard yesterday, waiting for my golden retriever to fetch a retrieving dummy, I glanced at a bluebird house hanging on a cedar nearby.

It’s made of recycled plastic that would be indestructible if the surrounding woods did not harbor gray squirrels. Unfortunately, the bushy-tailed brigands are frightfully common hereabouts, and they feel it is their privilege, if not their duty, to enlarge the hole leading into any cavity to accommodate their girth.

The bird house, with its ragged, squirrel-gnawed opening, languished in my garage until recently, when my wife brought home a galvanized steel bushing designed to repair such rodent vandalism. It was too small to span the capacious portal, so I mounted a piece of plywood to cover the original surface, screwed the bushing in place and rehung the birdhouse, hoping to attract a late-nesting bluebird couple.

Twenty-four hours later I discovered that a new tenant that taken possession of the house. To my surprise, however, it was not blue and feathery, but gray…and warty. To be specific, it was a gray tree frog.

You might think I would be disappointed by this turn of events. In truth, I’m quite pleased. Bluebirds are fair-weather neighbors, arriving after winter has blown its last gale and departing long before November draws its dreary, gray curtain over Missouri skies.

Gray tree frogs, on the other hand, stick with us all year long. They might not be visible for much of the year, but they are out and about long before the first bluebirds of summer arrive and they can be found beside the porch light on evenings well into October. And when the inevitable warm spell occurs in February, they announce to all and sundry that spring is not far off.

This points up another area where gray tree frogs outperform Missouri’s state bird. Whereas the bluebird’s song is a brief, unmusical mumble, the gray tree frog announces itself with a lusty and remarkably birdlike trill that never fails to make me smile. This “song” is doubly remarkable for its volume, which is far out of proportion to the singer’s diminutive size. I would bet that not one in a hundred people, upon hearing a gray tree frog’s voice at dusk or dawn, ever guess that they are being serenaded by an amphibian, rather than a bird.

My warm, fuzzy reaction to the gray tree frog’s trilling song might have something to do with memories of how they helped me introduce my daughter and son to nature. As noted earlier, these little songsters like to hang out beneath outdoor lights, thanks to the smorgasbord of tasty insects that congregates there.

To illustrate this connection, I used to capture inch-long moths and dangle them, fluttering, in front of the 2-inch long frogs. In moments, the hungry amphibian would grasp the offering between its front legs and jam the dry morsels into their gaping maws with apparent gusto. Particularly large, dusty meals might require extra stuffing and several convulsive gulps to swallow, but I have never seen one of these guys start a meal it couldn’t finish. Watching such outsized morsels disappear into such a small creature is a geek-show that would put the carnival side-show freaks of yesteryear to shame.

Beneath the porch light is definitely the easiest place to find gray tree frogs. When perched in the more natural habitat of tree trunks, their mottled gray color and bumpy skin render them virtually invisible. Knowing this, you could be forgiven for mistaking juvenile gray tree frogs for an entirely different species. Young of the year are a bright – somewhere between lime and grass – green.

In one of those astonishing and inexplicable tricks of nature, the gray tree frog has two species, common and Cope’s. The two are visually indistinguishable, and their ranges overlap extensively. So, you may ask, how do herpetologists tell them apart? If you have a highly attuned ear, you might detect a higher pitch in the trill of the Cope’s gray tree frog. If not, and if you own an electron microscope, you count their chromosomes. The common gray tree frog has precisely twice as many as the Cope’s!

Gray tree frogs are common from the Atlantic Coast westward to Minnesota and eastern Texas. During the day you might be able to locate them on the undersides of wooden decks and lawn furniture. They also like to hide beneath the leaves of potted plants and in crevices of window and door casings. This last habit gets more than a few of them squashed.

They are most active at night and on overcast, rainy days, which apparently make them feel so fine they can’t resist singing. While I’m a little sorry my newly refurbished bird house won’t be hosting bluebirds, I’m tickled to know it is being used by a warty-skinned neighbor who shares my love of rainy days.

State Parks Offer Fun, Adventure, Awe

Letchworth State Park in Western New York State

The Genesee River flows in splendor and grace over the Middle Falls.

A beautiful hidden oasis, one of many natural wonders in New York State, has earned the title of the “Grand Canyon of the East”.

Why, you wonder?  In addition to having three natural GORGEous waterfalls, Letchworth State Park also contains wonderful overlooks of the gorge that has been carved out by the Genesee River.

Anyone can drive into to the park for a $10 fee per vehicle, which covers the cost of the whole day.  There is also an abundance of camping options, from tenting to bringing a camper, to staying in a cabin or renting out a shelter for a day.

My friends and I – fresh home from college and looking for an outdoor adventure, decided to drive the hour or so and make a day trip.  We found what USA Today described as the “Best State Park in the Nation of 2015.”

We parked at the High Falls and started hiking north to the middle and lower falls.  Yes, this river flows south to north!  Along the way there were breathtaking outlook points and an easy-to-follow trail that kept us mostly next to the river and gorge.  The park offers an additional 66 miles of trails to choose from!

Our trail included several steep walking sectors where various levels of stairs eased the trek and climb, both on the way there and back.  We explored a small creek that ran under a bridge, waved hello to other hikers, and stopped at various outlooks to stare in awe at the intriguing beauty of the Devonian bedrock, shale and limestone, that make up the sides of the gorge.

The Upper and Middle Falls aren’t extremely distant from each other, only about a half-mile; it’s the Lower Falls that’s the most remote and takes up a majority of the hike.

An overlook of the Devonian Bedrock that defines the gorge.

All in all, hiking the Upper Falls to the Lower Falls and back again is a 7-mile excursion (this includes, of course, taking closer looks at “that tree over there” or “this really cool stream over here”).  We all had a fantastic time!  It was a beautiful day and reaching the Lower Falls was worth the effort of the hike, especially with it adjacent to a stone bridge that crosses the gorge.

After we hiked back to the car, we drove through the park at the far entrance so we could view so many of the other wonderful views.  There are many “pull-over” points designated as “Photo-Spots” along the drive.  This park has a diversity of activities and accommodations, including a restaurant, museum and gift shop, while offering kayaking, cross-country skiing, exquisite bird watching and thrilling white-water rafting.

For more information on visiting this park, check out http://nysparks.com/parks/79/details.aspx

Happy Hiking!

Kiley Voss, student at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Sage Grouse Initiative Program and Wildlife Conservation

Sage Grouse are incredibly unique and beautiful birds that are benefiting from this unique new program entitled the Sage Grouse Initiative. Photo by Rick McEwan

Sustainable Ranching is Renewable Goal for Field Staff

The Sage Grouse Initiative is a new paradigm for conserving at-risk wildlife that works through voluntary cooperation, incentives, and community support.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service launched SGI in 2010, applying the power of the Farm Bill to target lands where habitats are intact and sage grouse numbers are highest – covering 78 million acres across 11 western states.  While private lands are the primary focus, the Initiative serves as a catalyst for public land enhancements.  Today, the Initiative belongs to the many partners shaping history.

Working together, we are conserving wildlife habitat and managing ranchlands in ways that also create more nutritious forage for livestock.  We are passing on our western heritage of vast skies, unbroken sagebrush-steppe, and room for wildlife and people to roam.

Conservation easements help protect habitat that is critical to Sage Grouse survival. Photo by Jeremy R. Roberts

SGI is now entering its seventh year, has proven to be a model for cooperative, science-based, landscape-scale, habitat conservation.  Our partners are led by the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Program, but SGI works hand-in-hand with local community groups, federal and state fish and wildlife agencies, nonprofits, and thousands of agricultural landowners to ensure Farm Bill conservation programs reach their full potential for habitat conservation.

SGI’s partnership positions are funded by a host of participating nonprofit organizations, state fish and wildlife agencies, or federal partners.  We now have over two dozen field staff located in 11 states who comprise our Strategic Watershed Action Team (SWAT).  These dedicated and enthusiastic range conservationists, wildlife biologists, and natural resource specialists continue to deliver on-the-ground conservation results during the first quarter of 2016. The field capacity provided by SGI SWAT partnership positions have enabled NRCS to double the amount of conservation projects across the West.

The Intermountain West Joint Venture takes the lead in coordinating SGI’s Strategic Watershed Action Team.  IWJV also produces quarterly reports to track success on the range, like this new report.  Since 2010, our SWAT team has helped plan or implement the following gains for sage grouse, wildlife, and working rangelands:

  • 2,293,260 acres of rangeland improved to increase sage grouse hiding cover during nesting season. Additional grass cover is expected to increase sage grouse populations by eight to ten percent.
  • 291,613 acres of conifer removed in key nesting, brood-rearing, and wintering habitats. Removing encroaching conifers from sagebrush rangelands eliminates tall structures in otherwise suitable habitat. As birds re-colonize former habitats, increased bird abundance is anticipated.
  • 193 miles of “high-risk” fencemarked or removed near sage grouse mating leks. Marking fences is expected to reduce sage grouse fence collisions by 83%.

In addition, SGI ramped up our science and outreach efforts in 2016, with several new reports, stories, and web tools designed to enhance conservation efforts on the ground.

To learn more or become a volunteer, please visit: http://www.sagegrouseinitiative.com/about/new-paradigm/.

Welfare for Winter-Weary Wildlife

Controlled Burns, Planting Food Plots, Pond Conservation Ideas

The Missouri Conservation Department has information on-line and offers workshops to help landowners conduct prescribed burns safely.

“Hey buddy, can you spare me a food plot? I’ll pay you back in the fall.”  You’ll never hear this line, because deer, turkey and bass don’t ask for handouts.  Life can be harsh for the animals that bring hunters, anglers and nature lovers so much pleasure.  After a tough winter, it’s not a bad idea to lend wildlife a helping hand.  Spring is the right time to start.

For instance, it’s the perfect time to plant a food plot and it’s not too late to plant trees that will provide food and shelter for wildlife and control erosion.

If you farm, this might be the year you decide to leave a few rows of grain for quail and turkeys, or increase the width of buffer strips between crops and stream corridors to improve water quality for fish.  If you have warm-season grasses, you can plan now to use grazing and haying techniques that improve yield and wildlife habitat.

Prescribed burning is one way to improve wildlife habitat.

Instead of letting your wood lot become overcrowded with unhealthy trees, you can conduct timber stand improvement, increasing production of acorns and other forest crops needed by deer and turkeys.  While you are at it, you might fell a few trees around the edges, creating critical woody cover for quail, rabbits and other ground-nesting wildlife.

Did you notice dead fish when your lake or pond thawed this spring?  If so, it makes sense to investigate the cause.  Siltation might have reduced water depth to the point where fish have no place to escape winter’s icy grip.  Fish kills also can result if you have too much aquatic vegetation.

While you are thinking about your lake, consider creating underwater habitat by installing fish-attracting structures.  Usually called brush piles or crappie beds, these underwater habitats create places for tiny invertebrates to grow.  This fuels the growth of aquatic insects, shad, minnows and other food items for bluegill, crappie, bass and catfish.  Fish-attracting structures also do what their name implies – attract fish to spots where you can key in on them with pole and line.

A trip to the local farm supply store for food plot seed will pay dividends this fall.

Lack of expertise is what stops most of us from taking these simple measures for better hunting and fishing.  That is why the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has self-help publications and employs private land services biologists.  It’s their job to help landowners achieve their fish and wildlife management goals.

You can get started by visiting http://mdc.mo.gov/your-property and checking out the resources available there.  To identify the private land services biologist for your area, visit http://on.mo.gov/1Uk3E5d, select your county from the drop-down menu under “Who’s My Local Contact” and get started.

Fish and wildlife really will pay you back.  Honest!

Free Marine Educational Resources

Connecting Students and Teachers with Marine Science

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The Bridge is a growing collection of the best marine education resources available on-line. It provides educators with a convenient source of accurate and useful information on global, national, and regional marine science topics, and gives researchers a contact point for educational outreach. Resources are organized as indicated on the sidebar on the left side of the screen.

Partners
The Bridge is supported by the National Sea Grant Office, the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP), and the National Marine Educators Association (NMEA).

The Bridge began in 1997 as one of five projects funded by NOPP. The other four are: COAST: Consortium for Oceanographic Activities for Students and Teachers; Enhancing K-12 Science Education Via Satellite-Televised Interactive Technologies; JASON Project – Expanding Student and Teacher Access to Ocean Science Research; Bringing the Ocean into the Precollege Classroom Through Field Investigations at a National Underwater Laboratory.

NMEA members and Sea Grant’s network of educators are actively involved in project administration, serving on the Bridge’s Clearinghouse Coordinating Committee (CCC), and assisting with national information dissemination and site reviews. A Scientific and Technical Advisory and Review (STARS) group advises on scientific content. Project administration and staff are at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary.

To learn more, visit: http://web.vims.edu/bridge/?svr=1.

Powering-Up near Old Faithful

Millions of people have been a part of this crowd watching Old Faithful erupt. Photo by Ed Austin/Herb Jones

Yellowstone National Park is celebrated for its pristine wilderness and the habitat it provides for countless creatures, from bison and wolves to eagles and hawks.

Yellowstone was established as a protected area for the joy and pleasure of visitors in 1872, almost 40 years before the National Park Service was created in 1916.  Known as being the oldest park in the United States, and possibly in the world, Yellowstone offers many popular visitor favorites such as the Old Faithful Geyser and its many prestigious canyons and rivers.  One feature that is not well-known to the public is their new and powerful renewable energy system.

The new battery power grid at Yellowstone is well engineered and organized to power the remote Lamar Buffalo Ranch Station. Photo courtesy of Toyota & Iecomento

Yellowstone has teamed up with Toyota and the world of engineering systems to electrically power their Lamar Buffalo Ranch Station (visit: https://www.yellowstoneassociation.org/lodging/lamar-buffalo-ranch).  The Camry hybrid battery packs (208 of them) are now providing electric power to the the station, with the battery system storing the energy transferred from nearby solar panels.  Buffalo Lamar Ranch is very secluded, offering only one road to drive there and back during the winter months to tourists and visitors who can stay in rustic cabin accommodations.

All the (used) batteries were dissembled and tested before being re-built to their present capacity to capture the energy from the solar panels.  Collecting power from the sun during daytime, the solar panels generate enough energy to run six American households.  The new battery system at the Station will allow it run completely on sustainable energy for the first time since it was built in 1907.

Toyota already has an extensive recycling program to reuse its hybrid car batteries and Yellowstone is a functional extension of improvements from re-useable science.  But, the Yellowstone program extends past the new battery system with old batteries, as hybrid cars are now also used for operations in the park, along with helping build the “green” building, the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center.

For more information on Yellowstone, follow this link: https://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm

Wetlands Offer a Food Web for New Life

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Wetlands can be compared to rainforests and corals reefs in their abundance and importance of the biodiversity that they support and sustain.  The wetlands is a rare ecosystem that provide habitats for a variety of wildlife, supporting valuable species of fish, insects and animals that cannot live anywhere else.

Wetlands support the basis of many food webs because their “high levels of nutrients and primary productivity is ideal for the development of organisms,” according to the EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) article, “Wetlands Protection and Restoration.”  Water from rain saturates the soil, establishing a unique home for many unique aquatic and terrestrial species.

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The high nutrients allow for an abundance of plants to be grown, which in turn feed the fish, amphibians and insects.  These are then eaten by birds and mammals, which also rely on wetlands for nesting and migrating.  Florida is one of the most prominent spots in the country for wetlands, but it is also one of the most populated people places too.  Florida’s wetlands are numerous, but could be endangered due to development.  The wetlands found in Florida consist mostly of coastal wetlands, which include salt marshes, bottomland hardwood swamps, fresh marshes and mangrove swamps.

You might ask, why should wetlands be saved?  Why should they be important to people?  Coastal wetlands provide generous amounts of helpful services to our human community, such as protecting homes from flooding and preventing erosion.  They can absorb sea level rises brought about by storms and absorb ocean currents that would erode away rock.  Not only do they protect housing, but they also provide sustenance, since about 50 percent of commercial fisheries in the Southeastern United States are near coastal wetlands, according to the EPA.  Coastal wetlands also complete important tasks that can’t be seen, such as controlling water quality by filtering out particles before the ocean and carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration is when coastal wetlands are good at storing carbon that would have been released into the atmosphere, much like old-growth forests do.  Very important.  This is due to their slow decompositions and quick growth abilities of their plants.

Coastal wetlands are beautiful places that provide extraordinary outdoor recreation opportunities, such as fishing, hiking, kayaking and hiking.  Thankfully there are organizations trying to safeguard these lands, but all of us can do our own helpful part too, by being mindful of items we use and understanding if they can contaminate water.  For example, use phosphate-free laundry detergent (can suffocate plant life by supporting algae growth), or use only non-toxic sprays for gardens and lawns, since the runoff can trickle into a watershed and then contaminate a wetland.

Doing those few and simple things, we can all enjoy the great outdoors and know that we are working together to keep the place clean!

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Groups Join Forces to Advocate Outdoor Policy

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The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) signed a partnership that will foster greater cooperation to jointly advance the outdoor traditions of hunting, angling, recreational shooting and trapping at the state and national levels of government.  This is where many of the decisions impacting these outdoor activities are made.

Jeff Crane, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President, shared, “Given that CSF and RMEF have long collaborated to advance the interests of America’s sportsmen and women, this formal partnership is a natural fit.  Working side-by-side, both organizations are well positioned to protect our hunting heritage in elk country and throughout the nation.”

The CSF States Program manages the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses which currently includes more than 2,000 state legislators in 48 bipartisan sportsmen’s caucuses across the nation. It also works with 33 members of the Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus as a link between lawmakers and the state and federal fish and wildlife management agencies, the outdoor industry and conservation organizations.

David Allen, RMEF President and CEO said, “It’s evident that now, more than ever, we need to educate and engage sportsmen and women, as well as our legislators, about the vital habitat, management and conservation issues and challenges that face our wildlife.  Working even closer with CSF helps us do exactly that.”

“RMEF has a long history of successfully working shoulder-to-shoulder with the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation,” said Blake Henning, RMEF Vice President of Lands and Conservation. “This agreement strengthens our resolve and intentions to work together to be more productive and do a greater good on behalf of conservation, wildlife, sportsmen and women.”

The ability to effectively advocate for natural resource and wildlife management policies as well as traditional outdoor interests is dependent on the ability to organize supporters on multiple fronts.

RMEF has nearly 220,000 members, including 11,000 volunteers, who take part in fundraising and on-the-ground conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects across more than 500 chapters in 49 different states.

The new agreement provides an enhanced opportunity to combine CSF’s conservation policy knowledge and network with RMEF’s membership and chapters to effectively guide policy in a way that encourages the participation of sportsmen and women in the legislative process. It also strengthens efforts to make a greater positive collective impact on outdoor heritage, wildlife management, public access, public and private land conservation, and hunter recruitment and retention.

About the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation:

Since 1989, CSF has maintained a singleness of purpose that has guided the organization to become the most respected and trusted sportsmen’s organization in the political arena. CSF’s mission is to work with Congress, governors, and state legislatures to protect and advance hunting, angling, recreational shooting and trapping. The unique and collective force of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC), the Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus (GSC) and the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC), working closely with CSF, and with the support of major hunting, angling, recreational shooting and trapping organizations, serves as an unprecedented network of pro-sportsmen elected officials that advance the interests of America’s hunters and anglers.  For more information, contact Sara Leonard, CSF, (202) 543-6850 x11 or sara@sportsmenslink.org

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

Founded over 30 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of nearly 220,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 6.7 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.  For more information, contact Mark Holyoak, RMEF, 406-523-3481 or mholyoak@rmef.org

Bass Pro Founder, Johnny Morris, Achieves High Honor

Cited for Prestigious Beretta and SCI Foundation
2016 Conservation Leadership Award
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Joseph Hosmer, President, Safari Club International Foundation, announced that on Tuesday, February 2, 2016, Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, was honored with the prestigious Beretta and SCI Foundation Conservation Leadership Award for demonstrating extensive international hunting experience and a lifetime of commitment to wildlife conservation and education though volunteer service and philanthropy.

Over the years, Johnny Morris has made giving back to conservation a hallmark of his company since he first began selling fishing tackle in the back of his dad’s liquor store in 1971.  Over the course of several decades, Morris has dedicated himself to inspiring people, especially youth and families, to love, enjoy and conserve the great outdoors.  He has heavily invested in efforts to conserve our natural resources in a variety of ways.  From wildlife and fisheries conservation to introducing young people to the outdoors to cultivating the next generation of natural resource stewards, he is supporting the conservation community at national and local levels.

A conservationist at heart, Morris recognizes the need for citizens to take a strong position in the careful management and use of our natural resources.  Using his entrepreneurial success as a platform for that cause, he has made significant contributions of time and resources to many conservation organizations, such as National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Quality Deer Management Association and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Because Morris strongly believes that hunters and target shooters are America’s first and best conservationists, he works hard to share our outdoor heritage and foster a new generation of conservation stewards.  He is deeply committed to providing youth development opportunities and community outreach and education.

Morris will build on his legacy this year with the opening of the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium – one of the largest, most immersive conservation attractions in the world, in Springfield, Missouri.  Primarily funded and operated by the nonprofit Johnny Morris Foundation, Wonders of Wildlife consists of an all-new 1.3-million-gallon aquarium adventure showcasing 35,000 live fish, mammals, reptiles and birds, and an immersive wildlife museum that brings visitors eye-to-eye with the greatest collection of record-setting game animals ever assembled. The 315,000-square foot experience celebrates the critical role responsible hunting and fishing plays in wildlife conservation and inspires visitors to enjoy, love and conserve the great outdoors.

As recognition of the award, Morris received an elegant trophy designed by Beretta and hand crafted in their Italy factory, and in addition a custom gold and sapphire award pin created by jeweler Madeleine Kay.

Morris was announced as the winner at the Beretta and SCI Foundation Conservation Leadership Award elegant black-tie gala which was attended by over 380 guests, including honored guests Cav. Ugo Gussalli Beretta and his wife Mrs. Monique Gussalli Beretta.  The evening consisted of the “Oscar-style” award ceremony, a gourmet dinner, an elite live auction, silent auction, and live entertainment featuring emcee J. Alain Smith, host of the Rugged Expeditions television show, classical guitarist Daniel Vera and Joe Wiegand as Teddy Roosevelt.

Other finalists for the 2016 Award included Ron and Jackie Bartels, Ralph and Deb Cunningham, Robert Model, Byron and Sandra Sadler, and A.C. (Charles) Smid – all of whom were eminently qualified to receive the award.  This year’s finalists will automatically be eligible for next year’s award along with any future nominees.

Safari Club International Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that funds and directs worldwide programs dedicated to wildlife conservation and outdoor education. Any contribution may be tax deductible under Internal Revenue Code section 170(c) as a charitable contribution to the extent permitted by law. Tax deductible amount of gift is reduced by the “Fair market Value” of any goods, services, or advantages that a sponsor receives for the donation.

EIN #86-0292099

Our thanks to Howard Communications for the content and details of this story.

Florida Wildlife Refuges, One Goal

While I enjoy shooting, fishing, photography and many other outdoor facets of fun, one of my personal goals through my education in Conservation Biology is to insure the survival of endangered species through the support of proper management and well-being of all native, wild species.  Early in January, I had the chance to travel south to Ft. Myers in Florida and visit my grandparents, so of course, I took the opportunity to journey to a few wildlife sanctuaries, both public and private.  There are multiple sanctuaries, dotted not only around Port Charlotte and Ft. Myers, but around all of southwest Florida.

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The privately funded refuge called the Peace River Wildlife Center is a humble organization with a simple goal, “Dedicated to the care, preservation, and protection of Charlotte County’s native wildlife.”  With the limited supplies they have, they re-enable injured wildlife for return to the wild.  If the injuries are too severe, however, the animals stay at the center and are open for the public to see and learn from.  They manage their operation and keep it running through private donations, volunteer services, paid sponsor memberships and a recycling program.  The public is invited to contribute from near and far at http://peaceriverwildlifecenter.org.  Their inhabitants are mostly birds, including pelicans, ducks, red-tailed hawks, even some bald eagles.

The publicly funded refuge we visited was the J.N. Ding Darling wildlife refuge.  It is one of the 550 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System administered by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  J. N. Ding is a vast national wildlife refuge, covering almost the entire half of the luxurious vacation site, Sanibel Island.  This well-organized site promotes natural habitat restoration of the mangroves, which many fish, wildlife and animals depend on for survival as a food source and a habitat.  Although it is home to many native birds, amphibians, alligators, fish, and countless insects.  One of the most important functions at J. N. Ding is that it provides place for migratory birds to nest in the winter.  The other half of the island is occupied by shops, hotels, and vast homes on five-star sandy island countryside.  The refuge is also on 5-star real estate acreage; luckily the founder, J.N Ding, bought the 6400 acres of land in 1945, and it has become a vital place where mangrove forests, seagrass beds, cordgrass marshes, and West Indian hardwood hammocks are safe from realtors.  For more on J. N. Ding, see their website: http://www.fws.gov/dingdarling/VisitorInformation.html.

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J.N Ding not only saved a spot for migratory birds to have a place to rest on their journey, but it is also an elemental part of the rare estuarine ecosystem, which is an area that freshwater and saltwater mix together.  These estuaries located here provide an abundance of resources for many fish and wildlife species, from providing habitats to attracting prey for the multiple species of birds to feed on.  They also provide nesting and resting areas for manatees and sea turtles where these species can feed on the abundant seagrass beds.

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All in all, the privately funded site was a rehabilitation center adjacent to a refuge area, while the publicly funded site provided a museum-like tour (free) and was a refuge with a drive-through park-like area that protected a whole ecosystem. Although very different in their funding sources and the functions of their establishments, they both have one goal in mind, the protection, management and well-being of all native, wild species.

-By Kiley Voss, student at SUNY college of Environmental Science and Forestry

Go Outdoors to Embrace Passion and Wisdom of Indoor Instruction

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As lovers of the outdoors, most of us are inspired students of nature.  This past October, I gained the opportunity to spend an entire weekend in the Adirondacks as part of a university project that included hiking, canoeing and collecting data for ongoing research projects.

On day one, half of our group was split up into 4 pairs of two to study beaver dams and I was part of the pair that traveled down a river that led to Rich Lake.  Our team was assigned the task of collecting data in the form of pictures and identifying the number and condition of beaver dams and lodges.

outdoors3With no formal trails to follow besides the river, we were fully immersed in nature; it was scary and exciting, all at the same time.  There was no yellow-brick road!  I had never been left so alone without a path to follow or teacher to guide us through the isolated and wild outdoors The three hour hike was amazing, I was half expecting to see a bear around each river bend!  There were so many things I saw and learned!  We were trained and provided with a compass and map with coordinates to later identify beaver dam locations We reached our final destination several miles later, the Adirondack Interpretive Center located on the shores of Rich Lake.

The next day, we also hiked Goodnow Mountain, except it was raining so hard that by the time we reached the summit, we could only see 20 feet in front of us!  Soaking wet, I learned that hiking is fun even without a great view at the mountaintop, because it means we’ll just have to go back and see it again!  outdoors2

Maybe the most interesting thing I learned didn’t start outside, it started in the classroom.  Thanks to the “Diversity of Life” class, students including myself, were able to identify different types of mushrooms and fungi and conks.  We learned before our trip how to identify the different forms of lichen (crustose, foliose, and fructose).  I never knew just how many types of mushrooms there were or how abundant they were until after learning details in class.  We were then able to apply this knowledge outside the classroom.  I knew what different types of mushrooms looked like in the lab, but actually finding a bunch of puffballs on a rotting tree and seeing them release their spores helped my understanding!  Basically, being outside reinforced what I had learned in the classroom.

Learning effectively outside starts inside.  Children dropped into the outdoors with no prior instruction will find difficulty in understanding what they see, but not if parents and teachers take the time to share details, ideas and plans, and then head outdoors.  Trying to teach music without instruments and only sheet music is similar; the concept is not realized until play and practice with real instruments takes place. The same goes for the outdoors.  Children can be given maps and charts, but unless they experience their meaning outside, they may not fully develop and understand the lesson intended.

Explain to them what you want them to learn, teach them the details, and remind them what they have studied, then turn them loose.  They will grow a deep respect with more understanding for the outdoors.  Enjoy every moment with our amazing nature outdoors!

By Kiley Voss 

Student at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science & Forestry 

The Power of Good

Alabama Power is Helping Each Other Make a Difference

Alabama PowerThis past October, President David Gray, CEO of the new website service, www.ShareTheOutdoors.com, met with energy giant, Alabama Power Company, an electricity corporation that supplies half of the power to Alabama. The large corporation that serves over 1.4 million customers while managing 14 hydro-facilities along the Coosa, Tallapoosa and Black Warrior Rivers, is not just an ordinary corporation, it’s a corporation that gives back. Alabama Power has many programs that provide grants for schools in sports, education, and conservation.

They have contributed over $150 million since Alabama Power was created, on over 90 programs that are centralized around the environment, education, art, health, and community. Their environment sector focuses most heavily on environmental education, offering 14 grants that support programs that teach about environmental conservation in classrooms, and 6 grants to offer outdoor learning in schools. One grant was awarded to Brookwood High School, which used the $7500 given to build a sustainable outdoor garden to grow plants. The Agriculture Career Class uses the classroom almost every day, studying how to propagate plants and manage erosion, giving youth an opportunity they never would have had without the grant.

In addition to their multiple grants, Alabama Power has their own volunteer system, called the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO). These volunteers provides their hands and time with ongoing projects or events throughout the community. One event, held last May (2015), was a three day event called Just Gone Fishin’, which indulges children and shows them the joy of fishing by teaching them about baits, life jackets, and of course giveaways of rods and reels so they can continue to experience fishing after the session. This event would not have been possible without over 100 volunteers from the APSO, who helped kids bait hooks, learn about safety and kept the event running smoothly.

This company is instilling knowledge about the environment for current and future generations currently in the learning process, when so many schools do not have a set curriculum for teaching environmental science at all. Alabama Power goes above and beyond, when placed in comparison to many other similar power companies across the country that offer few or no outreach or volunteer programs. Alabama Power is not compelled to do any of the work they do. Alabama Power could choose to not offer any of these programs and would still be a great company, but maybe that is what makes them even a better company. Alabama Power does not have to offer grants and support for volunteer programs, but they do anyway. It seems to me, that Alabama Power really makes a positive difference. That is the power of good!

Grow American Outdoors at College

University of MontevalloThe President’s Outdoor Scholar program at the University of Montevallo (UM) offers a unique opportunity where like-minded students enjoy the great outdoors, conduct course work on the environment and related academics, then join with faculty, students, staff, administrators and the community to solve environmental problems through their work on campus.

For students that have a passion and interest in outdoor pursuits, UM offers this special highway into the future of the outdoors with wildlife management and conservation at the root of academic study.

With courses that involve strategies for fishing and hunting, game preparation, guided trips to learn afield with outdoor professionals and progress in developing conservation fields, a new academic passion for what lives outdoors is defined.

Partial Tuition Scholarships are available through the UM Foundation for Students who have distinguished accomplishments in outdoor sports and demonstrated a personal commitment to conservation. UM students have a motto that hits home today, “We wear Purple and Gold, but we think Green!”

Students at UM conduct field studies at Ebenezer Swamp, a wooded UM wetland of 60 acres located near the University in central Alabama. Students find an ecologically diverse and environmentally sensitive watershed there that offers the longest remaining free-flowing river (Cabana) with more species of fish per mile than any river in North America. The river is one of eight biodiversity waterway hotspots in the United States. UM has high goals that include raising the profile of the ecologic importance of wetlands to high school and middle school students, as well, while simultaneously providing a sound introduction to the underlying principles that help understand the science of the outdoors at the college level.

For more information on the President’s Outdoor Scholar program at UM, contact William Crawford, Station 6215, Montevallo, AL, 35115, telephone: (205) 665-6216, email: wcrawford1@montevallo.edu.

Harvest is about Understanding the Weeds

….Sportsmen must help Teach Corporations this Message

ConservationIf we can see that the Earth and everything in it holds as much value and worth as the value of people themselves, then we might be headed in the right direction toward changing the mindset of over-harvest. Robin Kimmerer’s native people lived life by minimizing harm to plants and all living things around them.

They provided a good example for the rest of today’s world to consider an everyday task. Instead of take, consume, and repeat, we as modern people need to be smarter, we need to harvest, but conserve what we have.

We only have one Earth, so full of life that can give us so much, so many natural wonders, and modern culture participants (corporations) often only perceive it as simple property, something to harvest infinitely, something to own and make profit. They seem understand the value of oil, and wood, and meat, but they do not understand the value of the soil, of trees, of life.

We know that life in the outdoors is bigger than that. We need a better way to teach the people who live life in the indoors just how much bigger.

When we lose diversity of life species of any type, we also lose knowledge and wisdom. We lose the possible trail to a medicine or DNA root that could have led to a cure for serious diseases that still befuddle modern man, such as cancer. We risk the loss of a different direction in thinking that could supersede the status quo, we lose intelligence.

Sportsmen as conservationists need to remember that we have the right to harvest and we also have a larger duty to assure continued generations of that species of harvested fish, plant, tree or animal. All are equally important to all of us. Tell the corporations of the world this same message. Teach this to others and work to spread the word!

 

Place-Based Education Can Help Grow Conservation!

ConservationAs David Sobel pointed out, not one environmentalist became an environmentalist because they heard about deforestation, or poaching, or pollution in drinking water, or endangered ecosystems. They became environmentalists because they had a strong connection to the outdoors in their childhood; I know I did!

I came to care about the natural word not because I heard of scary environmental happenings, but because I learned to love the outdoors at an early age. I loved hiking in my backyard and sledding down the hill. I loved riding my grandpa’s ATV through the trails in his woods and tapping maple syrup out of his maple trees. Then I loved identifying different birds and trees as I got older, and my biology class in high school, not in elementary school. That really taught me to heighten my awareness of the natural world. It solidified my love and need to help protect the environment and to influence others to understand the flora and fauna sooner in their life.

Let the children play and learn while they can, especially in the outdoors, because soon enough, they will also learn that not everything is OK in our natural world. Some of this time, we can fill an elementary need for understanding in nature when we fish and when we hunt. People learn about catch and release, management of wildlife populations that need an organized plan, license dollars support research funding – all this is very important to the complete understanding of harvest, not over-harvest. This manner of benefit is an ancient indigenous manner that preserves survival of human life, human health, we also grow wisdom of conservation. This must also be understood and fortified for all generations.