Vicky Hartzler for United States Senate – Republican Support for Sportsmen  

  • A lifelong resident of Missouri and a Small Business owner.
  • Public school teacher where she was Co-Director of the At-Risk Teens program, Launched the Missouri Drug-Free initiative.
  • Lifelong farmer elected to the United States Congress in 2011 and Reelected to Congress in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021.
  • Hartzler is a candidate for the Republican nomination to the US. Senate.
Vickey Hartzler, Republican Senate Nominee in Missouri for the August 2022 Primary Election, Hartzler is a lifelong resident of Missouri and a Small Business owner.

By David Gray

If you love to hunt, target shoot, and value the rights provided by the Second Amendment, that is – to keep and bear arms, please read more about Vicky Hartzler, the Republican party candidate for U.S. Senate, in this interview.  Learn about her answers about the right to keep and bear arms. Many in the State of Missouri say that if Vicky Hartzler could join Missouri Senator Josh Hawley in the US. Senate, it would be a Missouri Dream Team for defending Second Amendment rights.

Interview with Vicky Hartzler (courtesy of ShareTheOutdoors.com)               

Question: You have been called an authentic conservative.  What is an authentic conservative?

Vicky Hartzler Answer: “A person that has conservative values in their heart and always acts accordingly.”

Question: Why do you want to be a Senator from the state of Missouri?

Vicky Hartzler Answer: “To serve the people of the state and fight to stop socialism so that people can pursue their dreams. Right now, that is being interfered with.”

Question:  What is America’s Greatness?

Vicky Hartzler Answer: “Our values of faith, family and freedom.”

QuestionYou have been a Congressional Representative from the 4th District in Missouri. Is a Senator a “representative” or afree thinker” elected to do whatever they want?  What is your position on that?

Vicky Hartzler Answer: “A Senator is still a public servant. The only thing that will change for me as a Senator is that I will represent the entire state.“

Question: Our Second Amendment says, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  Is there any infringement of the second amendment you would consider supporting?

Vicky Hartzler Answer: “NO.  In fact, we see in other countries that when their (citizen) gun rights are infringed, their other rights soon get infringed.”

Question:  When I say the word America what is in your heart and immediately comes to mind?

Vicky Hartzler Answer: “Pride, gratefulness, the experience of freedom, and to make the most of our opportunities.”

Question:  When I say the word Missouri what comes to mind?

Vicky Hartzler Answer: “Love of Missouri, farms, small towns, industries and cities on each end that are good places.”

 Question.  What is your favorite Outdoor Activity?

Vicky Hartzler Answer:  It used to be grabbing the fishing rod and going to the pond.  Now it’s a walk in the woods on our farm. It’s so peaceful and pleasant activity.   

 Question:  The Missouri Department of Conservation is the envy of all other states as the model for excellence in conservation management.  The Missouri Conservation Department is overseen by a citizen’s commission.  Almost every year a small group of state legislators introduces a bill to strip away the citizen’s control of the Conservation Department and place it the control of state government.  Of course, this is a state issue and not one that would come before the United States Senate, but as an individual Missourian, what are your thoughts on that?

 Vicky Hartzler Answer:  Missouri does have the best conservation model that works in the best interests of all the citizens.  It is the conservation model that is the envy of many other states and should not be changed. 

After the SharetheOutdoors.com interview, the following endorsement for Vicky Hartzell from Missouri Senator Josh Hawley was announced.

Endorsement from Josh Hawley Senator Missouri.

“For almost a year I’ve been asked who I intend to vote for in the [Missouri Senate] Primary this August. Well, I’ve made up my mind. I’ll be supporting Vicky Hartzell. Vicky has the integrity, the heart, and the toughness to represent Missouri.  I can’t wait to work with her.”

Vicky Hartzler Career Information

  • A lifelong resident of Missouri.
  • Small business owner
  • Public school teacher where she was Co-Director of the At-Risk Teens program
  • Lifelong farmer
  • Launched the Missouri Drug-Free initiative
  • Elected to the United States Congress in 2011
  • Reelected to Congress in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021.

Click here for a Link to the Vicky Hartzler campaign.

Click here for a Link to fundraising for Vicky Hartzler.

Florida Summer Adventure – VISIT a Sustainable Dairy Farm!

Dakin Dairy Farms is a sustainable farm with a focus on Made-In-America business for many years to come.

  • See and learn where milk comes from, cow to bottle, then taste the real deal.
  • Enjoy breakfast or lunch at the Farm Kitchen and store.
  • Kids can play in the 5-acre picnic area and dig for shark teeth there.

Sunny days in Florida offer a chance for new wild adventure, especially now with alligator mating season in progress (you might find them under your car any day of the week).  My better half and I like excitement, but this time we took to a short and peaceful sort of adventure road trip to Myakka City in Manatee County, Florida. Arriving there we discovered Dakin Dairy Farms – a sustainable family dairy farm of about 1,200 acres. It’s a place where kids can learn learn where milk comes from, how milk travels from the cow to the bottle, and then taste the difference of truly fresh milk from Dakin.

Sustainable dairy farming is a new way for farming to continue in America, Dakin Farms is on the leading edge.

They process and sell their own milk and cheese products, and offer tours to the public (re-starting in Oct-2021). In their Farm Market Store, you may purchase delicious cheeses, milk, and butter. The Farm Market Café is open year round and serves delicious meals that are sure to leave you feeling happy.

The Dakin Dairy Farm occupies more than 1,200 acres near Myakka City, in Southwest Florida.

At their farm site, visitors can find a 5-acre family picnic area/petting zoo with tables, baby cows (more than 30 baby cows are born each month!), goats (2 baby goats were born on Valentine’s Day), and a not-so-big earth hill where kids can dig for ancient shark teeth. Everyone is looking to find a Megalodon tooth, the biggest of fossilized shark teeth from whale-eating sharks that roamed the seas about 10-20 million years ago.

The picnic area includes tables for family seating, and much more for kids to enjoy while exploring a dairy farm.

The best part? Their kitchen nook! A lengthy breakfast and lunch menu at really affordable prices for VERY generous portions. We tested some of the items out for taste – try their Reuben Sandwich, it was delicious!

We met the general manager, Courtney, who explained the operation of the farm, their large number of cows and other farm animals, their roadway dirt -fill provision capability for county highway crews, and the function of the kitchen, gift shop and children’s picnic area.  We then met the chef and storekeeper, Russell, who explained some of his cooking secrets not to be shared in this venue, but you could stop in there and see for yourself.

It was a very relaxing morning! Their delicious products are carried in Publix, Detweiler’s and many other south Florida area stores. Learn more about Dakin Dairy Farms when you visit this Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/DakinDairyFarm.

The famous Dakin Dairy Farm Tours will restart beginning in October 2021.

Ducks and Gators forge new Wetlands Preserve Partnership

Photo by the Late Joe Forma, a life-long supporter of wildlife conservation.

  • Ducks Unlimited and the University of Florida work together for conservation at the DeLuca Preserve
  • Land donated to the University of Florida by Elisabeth Deluca
Photo by the Late Joe Forma, a life-long supporter of wildlife conservation.

Thanks to the tremendous generosity of Elisabeth DeLuca, more than 27,000 acres of iconic Florida prairie and wetlands habitat have been permanently protected through a unique partnership between Ducks Unlimited (DU) and the University of Florida.

The land was donated to the University of Florida by Elisabeth Deluca, and a conservation easement was set up through DU’s land trust – Wetlands America Trust. The easement will protect important wildlife habitat and natural values on the property in perpetuity.

“This Kissimmee Prairie landscape is in the Everglades headwaters, yet at the edge of central Florida’s tourism and development core and is now a permanently protected piece of the conservation puzzle,” said DU CEO Adam Putnam. “For generations to come, students and researchers will make new discoveries alongside migrating waterfowl, endangered red cockaded woodpeckers and grasshopper sparrows on this massive outdoor laboratory. Future ranchers, water-fowlers, nature lovers and wildlife scientists will be able to apply what they’ve read in textbooks to what they’re observing on the landscape, thanks to Elisabeth DeLuca. This partnership between the University of Florida and Ducks Unlimited benefits waterfowl, wildlife and millions of Floridians who value clean water and the protection of the natural landscape.”

This property will continue to be grazed using sustainable methods, thereby protecting its grasslands, one of the most threatened ecosystems in the country. Rates of grassland conversion in the U.S. have continued at a rapid pace, with a significant portion lost to non-agricultural uses.

“Elisabeth DeLuca’s generous contribution of such a significant property is a gift to all Floridians and really, to people everywhere,” said UF President Kent Fuchs. “The preservation of this land and what it will enable our scholars to learn, teach and achieve will reverberate around the globe.”

Through a multi-faceted partnership, DU and the University of Florida will utilize the property for education, outdoor engagement and working-lands conservation, including the training of future generations of natural resource and agriculture professionals in a living laboratory. The easement serves as a perfect launching pad for Ducks Unlimited’s expanding conservation programs in Florida. While this is the first conservation easement held by DU and WAT in Florida, DU has conserved more than 33,000 acres in the state through other programs. This easement is also the largest in the history of Ducks Unlimited.

“Located between a global tourism destination, with the Turnpike as a boundary, the DeLuca Preserve is an epic win for conservation, and an international model for research, education and outreach,” Putnam said.

This property, along with other state and federal lands, comprise 250,000 acres of protected areas of the Northern Everglades Headwaters which is an important ecosystem for wildlife corridors, watershed protection, flood mitigation and endangered species habitat. Livestock grazing is a highly compatible and economically important management strategy on this landscape.

The Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund provided critical funding via the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida to help endow Ducks Unlimited’s permanent conservation easement and other costs associated with this once-a-generation gift of land.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Ducks Unlimited and the University of Florida to help conserve this outstanding habitat, which will serve as a national model showcasing how wildlife management, water conservation and ranching can thrive together,” said Bob Ziehmer, Senior Director of Conservation at Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. “We are grateful to our customers who, by rounding up purchases in our stores and online to the Outdoor Fund, directly support key conservation projects like this.”

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 almost 15 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.

Spring is an active time for wildlife!

  • Be prepared for encounters, do your best not to disturb them

Springtime is an active time for wildlife in Florida, with sea turtles beginning to nest on beaches, manatees leaving their warm-water winter refuges and gopher tortoises starting to stir outside their burrows.

Sea Turtles are laying eggs along the sandy beaches in spring. Florida FWC Photo

With warmer weather, a variety of species around the state are following their internal biological clocks that tell them to move, mate, feed and nest. These species include black bears and their cubs, nesting waterbirds and snakes.

Florida Blackskimmers on the beach. Florida FWC Photo

Because of heightened wildlife activity in springtime, people are more likely to see and encounter all kinds of animals, both adults and their young. Florida’s residents and visitors can help by being aware of how to avoid disturbing wildlife during the rites of spring.

“Viewing wildlife is one of the pleasures of being outdoors during spring,” said Kipp Frohlich, who leads the Division of Habitat and Species Conservation at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “It helps if kids and adults know the importance of not disturbing wildlife. Keep your distance, so you don’t startle a sea turtle, gopher tortoise, manatee or nesting bird that you happen to see during your outdoor adventures.”

Tips on how to enjoy and help conserve Florida wildlife during spring:

  • Sea turtles – Help sea turtles by keeping beaches dark at night and free of obstacles during their March–October nesting season. Bright artificial lighting can disturb nesting sea turtles and disorient hatchlings, so avoid using flashlights or cellphones on the beach at night. Turning out lights or closing curtains and shades in buildings along the beach after dark also will ensure nesting turtles aren’t disturbed as they come ashore and hatchlings won’t become disoriented when they emerge. Clear away boats and beach furniture at the end of the day and fill in holes in the sand that could entrap turtles.
  • Manatees – Look out for manatees when boating. Chances of close encounters between manatees
    Injured wildlife are common finds by outdoor adventure folks. Call for help. Florida FWC Photo

    and boaters increase in the spring, as manatees leave their winter use areas and travel the intracoastal waterways along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and other inland waters. For boaters, it is a critical time to be on the lookout for manatees to avoid collisions with these large aquatic mammals. Boaters should follow posted speed limits as many areas have seasonal zones in spring that reflect manatee migration patterns.

  • Gopher tortoises – Spring days are a good time to spot a gopher tortoise, as Florida’s only native tortoise becomes more active, foraging for food and searching for a mate. If you see gopher tortoises or their half-moon shaped burrow entrances, it is best to leave them alone. You can help a gopher tortoise cross a road by picking it up and placing it in a safe location along the roadside in the direction it was heading. But only do this if it is safe for you to do so, and Remember the tortoise is a land animal, so never attempt to put it into water.
  • Nesting birds – Keep your distance from birds on the beach or on the water. If birds become agitated or leave their nests, you are too close. Disturbance can cause birds to abandon their nesting sites, which exposes their eggs and chicks to predators, sun exposure and other harm. Because shorebirds and seabirds build well-camouflaged shallow nests out of sand and shells on beaches, their nests, eggs and chicks are vulnerable to being stepped on unless people look out for them. Wading birds, such as herons and egrets, and pelicans also are nesting now on mangroves and tree islands.
  • Bears – As spring temperatures warm, bears become more active, increasing the opportunities for conflicts with people. Don’t give bears a reason to stay in your neighborhood. Remove anything that might attract bears, such as unsecured garbage or pet food. If they can’t find food, they’ll move on.
  • Snakes
    Scarlet King Snake. Florida FWC Photo

    Watch out for snakes in your yard or when hiking. What should you do when you come upon a snake? Just stand back and observe it. Snakes don’t purposefully position themselves to frighten people. They’d much rather avoid encounters and usually will flee.

  • Injured and orphaned wildlife – If you find a baby animal, it is best to leave it alone. Baby animals rarely are orphaned; a parent may be nearby searching for food or observing its young. Instead, report wildlife you think may be injured or orphaned to the nearest FWC Regional Office.

It’s illegal to disturb or harm wildlife, so if you see someone not following the rules – or spot an animal in distress – call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone.

Learn more about where and how to view wildlife at MyFWC.com/viewing.

Conservation Pioneers, a Never-Ending Love Story

Bob and Barb Kipfer – medical professionals, parents, conservationists, heart-warming people – two lives well-lived through sharing.

By Larry Whiteley

From time to time in life, you meet people with hearts as big as the outdoors they love. It is hard for those who know these two unforgettable people, Bob and Barb Kipfer, to think of one without thinking of the other. They are husband and wife, but they are more than that. They are friends, they are a team, they are life partners in a life well-lived.

The first chapter in their book of life begins at Kansas University Medical Center. Bob was a medical student in his first year of patient care in the hospital wards. Barb had just arrived as a newly graduated nurse on her first job. During his daily classwork around the hospital, Bob took particular notice of Barb. One-day, Bob saw her going into a room where nurses went to dump bedpans. He followed her in, closed the door, and asked her out on a date. He thought he might get dumped-on too, but she said yes. They were married on September 4, 1965, and another chapter in their life had begun.

Two years later, Bob received his draft notice, then served with the infantry in Viet Nam as a battalion field surgeon. That meant he traveled into battle with the troops and worked in field hospitals in the battle zone. Barb continued nursing back in Kansas and caring for their newborn son, Mark, hoping Bob would make it back home. I am sure there were times when Bob wondered the same thing. Like most Viet Nam veterans, he doesn’t talk much about that time in his life. Needless to say, he did make it home to his family after his tour of duty ended. They settled down to somewhat normal life during four years of his residency at the Mayo clinic. Their family also grew with the birth of their daughter, Amy. Life was busy, life was good.

Bob, on right, during his tour in Vietnam on the field surgical team.

In 1973 Bob and Barb and the kids moved to Springfield, MO to start a new chapter in their lives. Bob practiced Gastroenterology and Internal Medicine at a local hospital. Barb began to teach at a school of nursing. They bought a home and moved into an urban neighborhood where they still live today. Their lives were busy, but they managed to find time to go fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and sailing on weekends. They played tennis. They traveled. They made lots of friends at work, in their neighborhood, and through social activities. One of those friends owned land with a cabin in the Ozark hills of southern Missouri, where Bob and Barb visited often, and they soon started looking for land of their own. That search led them to land with a clear-flowing creek running through a beautiful valley with forested hills and lots of wildlife. They fell in love with this special place, and another chapter was to be written.

Bob and Barb continued to work at their medical jobs during the week and stayed at their home in town. Unless they were traveling to places all over the world, visiting their kids and grandkids in other states, or going to social events, they were at their valley cabin on weekends.

Ten years after buying the property, Bob decided it was time for another chapter to be written. He had been working in medical administration, in addition to his medical practice, but having more fun on their property, he retired. He gave up tennis for a chainsaw and a tractor down in the valley. Barb waited two more years before retiring just to make sure Bob was house broke.

Retirement started another chapter to their story. During their time spent in the valley, they started working with the Missouri Department of Conservation to clear trees to bring back glades that were once there. They also worked with the department to plant trees for bank stabilization to protect the stream and their land. They even planted over 2,000 tree seedlings themselves for the same purpose. This all sparked their interest in conservation and fed their desire to conserve and protect this special place.

Barb provides an educational ecology tour for kids.

Their transformation from medical professionals to dedicated conservationists and conservation educators is an amazing chapter in their book of life. It’s about how their love for conservation grew and changed not just their lives but changed and touched the lives of so many others—more than they will ever know.

They became involved with the Springfield Plateau of Missouri Master Naturalists. Bob writes an informative blog for the group, Barb represents them on the Grow Native board. She leads educational tours of their urban yard in Springfield, where she has planted over 100 native plant species. She even made a video tour of what has been accomplished so far to be used for virtual education. Barb spends a lot of her time in the valley trying to rid their land of any kinds of invasive species or plants not native to the area. They have restored warm-season native grass fields and work at endangered species protection. They collect native butterflies, raise moths, volunteer at special events at the Butterfly House, and host mothing events at their property. A somewhat unique event.

They implemented a forest stewardship plan for their property, and it is now a certified Tree Farm. They were named State Tree Farmers of the Year in 2015 for all their work with timber stand improvements and even hosted a Missouri Tree Farm Conference.

Their land in the valley has grown to 400 acres and includes another cabin with their land additions. The valley and the house are used by college students for stream ecology studies. The Audubon Society has access to bird counts and education.  They have hosted Missouri Department of Conservation tours, a black bear study, Boy Scout activities, wildlife studies of plant and animal species, wild mushrooms studies, and field trips for groups studying plant and wildlife identification. Their land is open to other conservation-minded groups for retreats and ecology field trips, woodland management, and stream education.

Bob conducts a hands-on session sharing secrets of life in the outdoors for kids to learn more about conservation.

They were named the 2017 Conservationists of the Year by the Conservation Federation of Missouri. I would bet if you asked them what they have enjoyed doing most of all the things they have done, it would be their work with the public schools’ WOLF program. They teach fifth-graders in weekly classroom sessions and host kids in their valley for educational classes several times a year. Bob and Barb have profoundly impacted conservation in the lives of all the kids and people they have taught. The kids love them and will never forget Bob and Barb. This world could use more people like the Kipfer’s. Their impact on conservation has been immense.

One of these days, I hope in the far distant future, Bob and Barb will no longer be able to manage their land. When that time comes, they have donated it to Missouri State University under a protected agreement to sustain the valley’s natural ecology and use it to educate students who will be our future conservationists and conservation educators.

When Bob and Barb are gone, their ashes will be added to the old cemetery in the valley they loved. Their passion for conservation will continue through these students, the Wolf School kids, and all the other lives impacted by these two people. It will not be the final chapter of their book of life, though. Their story will go on through all the lives they have touched. Those people will pass on their passion for conservation. The Bob and Barb story will continue.

That makes this a never-ending story.

Rocky Mountain National Park – EXPLORE the Amazing and Unique Alpine Tundra Ecosystem found here

  • Elk, Moose, Black Bear, Birds, Fish, Mountains – Great Views…Bring a Camera!
  • Take note of National Park Entry Permit Requirements, VISIT www.RECREATION.GOV
  • One memory here can last for All Time, especially when you stand on the Continental Divide, located here. East to the Atlantic, west to the Pacific. Wow.

Black Bear in Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo and story, courtesy of National Parks Service at Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado, USA

Compiled by Forrest Fisher

Our bears are searching for something scrumptious!

With a nose 280 times more sensitive than humans, they are world champs of food hide-and-seek!

This time of year, Rocky’s black bears (there are no brown bears in the park) are especially hungry as they prepare for hibernation—a phase called ‘hyperphagia.’ Rocky has seen an uptick in bear-related property damage in the past few weeks. There are many ways our visitors can help keep our bears wild as well as protect themselves!

• When visiting by car: Store food properly in LOCKED cars with all windows ROLLED UP during the night and day. Do not store coolers (even with only water in them) in truck beds. Clean dirty dishes before storing.
• When backpacking: Store all food and scented items (deodorant, toothpaste, chapstick, sunscreen) in a bear canister. When sleeping, place this canister at least 200 feet (60 m) from your tent.
• When camping in campgrounds: do not cook or eat in your tent. Do not bring food inside your tent. Lock all food in provided food storage lockers.
• Dispose of trash promptly and appropriately (in bear-proof bins when available.)
• If you see a bear, act big! Yell and clap, and it will likely move away. Do not run from a bear, and do not abandon food in a hasty attempt to leave.
• Report any bear-related incidents to a ranger.

Rocky Mountain National Park is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

It’s also home to some of the most fragile. While only 0.2% of the US land area is alpine tundra, Rocky is lucky to say that almost 1/3 of the park is comprised of this amazing ecosystem. Because of its fragility and susceptibility to changes, it provides a canvas for scientists to explore change over time through long-term monitoring.

Sunset on the Alpine Tundra at Rocky Mountain National Park. NPS/C Hernandez 

Since 2015, Dr. Sarah Schliemann, a professor of environmental science at Metropolitan State University of Denver, has been investigating the release of carbon dioxide from alpine soils, also known as ‘soil respiration’ (#ParkScience).

We are celebrating the amazing alpine tundra this year at Rocky Mountain National Park! As part of that, we are sharing Dr. Schliemann’s work through a 4-part series of posts. This is the first in that series. Visit Rocky Mountain National Park on Facebook to learn more about Dr. Schliemann’s work and other park research. See more here: https://www.nps.gov/rlc/continentaldivide/research-highlights.htm

Elk enjoy feeding on fresh growth on the unique Alpine Tundra in Rocky Mountain National Park. Kiley Voss photo.

From NPS Park Ranger, Kiley Voss, “I’m beyond excited as a Park Ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park this summer season! I’m overjoyed for the opportunity to spend a summer living in the mountains on the west side of the park, for a moose study, for a town surrounding an alpine lake, for search and rescue training, for the headwaters of the Colorado River, for helping update signage and photographs, for a Colorado October full of aspens, for wildlife watch programs and tundra stewardship, for historic site talks and ranger-led campfires.”

Reservations are required to enter all areas of Rocky Mountain National Park from 6am to 5pm. Learn more at https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/fees.htm or simply visit www.Recreation.gov.

Great Lakes Water Levels at Record Highs…Should we Sell to Fix the Problem?

  • Ideas to tap the Great Lakes water were essentially stopped in 2008, when the Great Lakes Compact was made law
  • Instead of cities and states around the lakes worrying about keeping enough water along their lakefronts to float boats, they are now concerned about lakeside parking lots becoming marinas.
  • Who is going to crack first?
Lakeside parking lots becoming marinas, is there a solution?

By Mike Schoonveld

The water levels in the Great Lakes have cycled from high to low to high and back, countless times in the 10,000 years since the glaciers gouged the land, then filled the trenches back up with their melt water. High and low water periods are still happening in response to the amount of precipitation in the Great Lakes watershed and the gallons of water that ultimately flows down the St. Lawrence River (minus evaporation).

Containing twenty percent of the unfrozen freshwater in the world, the remaining 80 percent of the world would like to have some of the water – whether the lakes are low or high. Over time, some innovative schemes have been devised to get it.

One company was going to fill ocean-going tanker ships with Great Lakes water and haul it all the way to Australia.  The multi-national company, Nestle, made plans to haul Great Lakes water away, one plastic bottle full at a time.

These and other ideas to tap the Great Lakes water were essentially stopped in 2008 when the Great Lakes Compact was made law. By unanimous consent of all the states and provinces bordering the lakes, the compact essentially disallowed commercial use of Great Lakes water if that use would remove the water outside of the Great Lakes watershed.

It was an easy regulation to pass back in 2008 when the water levels in the Great Lakes were approaching near record low levels. “Experts” were pinning the low levels on climate change and predicted no end to the ever dropping lake levels. The “Compact,” they said, was just one of many regulations governments would need to take to save the lakes, human civilization and most other life on earth.

Except now, the Great Lakes are brim full and each additional centimeter added to the Great Lakes water level sets new records. The same experts espousing theories of ever-dwindling Great Lakes water levels in 2008 are now claiming high water levels are the result of climate change and predicting no end to lakeshore flooding.

Now, instead of cities and states around the lakes worrying about keeping enough water along their lakefronts to float boats, they are worrying about lakeside parking lots becoming marinas. Something has to be done to get rid of the water before the Great Lakes become 25 percent of the world’s freshwater.

How soon is one of the states (or provinces) going to break the compact? There are none of the states or provinces bordering the lakes which don’t have their own version of money problems. Each one of those governments have budget struggles every fiscal year and each one fights for every nickel they can scrape up to squander.

All of these states are spending money right now, hiring climate change experts, planners, engineering firms and forming commissions to figure out how to cope with high waters along their lakeshores. How soon will one of the governments realize they can sell it?

Former ploys and ideas to tap into the Great Lakes were devised with the idea the water was free. The tanker ship hauling the water to a far away continent was expensive, but the cargo was free. What if it wasn’t?

Is the current high water levels something which will reverse itself or will water levels continue to rise? I don’t know. Ask an expert.

Do you think Illinois, which is hundreds of billions of dollars in debt, would balk at selling a trillion gallons of Lake Michigan for a penny per gallon?  Do you think drought-plagued Texas wouldn’t pay that amount, or the Nestle Corporation?

What about Michigan?  A trillion gallons of Great Lakes water at a penny per gallon would put 10 billion bucks in Michigan’s treasury.

Would the other signatories to the Great Lakes Compact object? In the past they’ve certainly objected to water withdrawal proposals brought up through out the region. Would they object again, or would the legislators and administrators think, “Great idea! Pump away the problem. It’s like selling air. It’s free money!”  Soon pump stations would be going up in every state.

If even one state broke away and the others objected, what could they do? Michigan isn’t going to invade Wisconsin – other than with lawyers. The federal government is unlikely to step into the fray. The states are now begging the feds for financial assistance to fight the high water, just as they did when they hit up the feds for dollars to dredge channels and harbors when the water was low. From the point of view of the feds, the problem is a solution.

Is the current high water levels something which will reverse itself or will water levels continue to rise?  I don’t know. Ask an expert. I do know, once the pumps are installed, the water starts flowing out and the money starts flowing in, it will take more than a compact between the states to stop the flow.

THE END

What to Do When You See a Snake

What to Do When You See a Snake

  • Snakes are common across the United States, the Georgia DNR can help us understand more about snakes, then venomous and non-venomous types. 
Adult black racer snake, non-venomous, eats rats, mice, varmints.

By the Georgia DNR

As spring hits full stride, Daniel Sollenberger from Georgia DNR will field more calls and emails about snakes. And most will involve two questions: What species is this and what should I do?

As for the first question, seldom is the snake a venomous species, according to Sollenberger, a senior wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Whether it’s venomous, of course, is the concern or fear underlying most of the questions. Chances are it’s not. Only six of the 46 species native to Georgia are venomous and only one -the copperhead – usually thrives in suburban areas, which is where the majority of Georgians live.

“While at least one of Georgia’s six species of venomous snakes could be found in each county in the state, seldom are they the most common species encountered,” Sollenberger said.

Now to the second question: What should you do, or not do, if you see a snake?

  • You can try to identify it from a distance. Resources such as georgiawildlife.com/georgiasnakes, which includes DNR’s “Venomous Snakes of Georgia” brochure, can help.
  • Do not attempt to handle the snake. Give it the space it needs.
  • Remember that snakes are predators that feed on rodents, insects and even other snakes. There is no need to fear non-venomous snakes. Also, Georgia’s native non-venomous species are protected by state law, and the imperiled eastern indigo snake is federally protected.
  • If a clearly identified venomous snake is in an area where it represents a danger to people or pets, consult georgiawildlife.com/nuisancewildlife for a list of private wildlife removal specialists. Most bites occur when a snake is cornered or captured, and defending itself.

Non-venomous snakes such as scarlet king snake, eastern hognose and water snake species are frequently confused with their venomous counterparts—coral snakes, rattlesnakes and water moccasins, respectively. While pit vipers, which include all venomous species native to Georgia except for coral snakes, are often identified by their broad, triangular-shaped heads, many non-venomous snakes flatten their heads when threatened and may have color patterns similar to venomous species.

The bottom line: Use caution around any unidentified snake. For more on Georgia’s snakes, visit georgiawildlife.com/georgiasnakes. Also, “Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia” (University of Georgia Press) is a comprehensive reference.

Snake Insights

  • Benefits: While some snakes eat rodents and even venomous snakes, others prey on creatures some Georgians also many not want near their homes. Brown and red-bellied snakes, for example, feed on snails and slugs, the bane of gardeners. Crowned snake species primarily eat centipedes.
  • Baby snakes? Snakes such as earth and brown snake species are small and homeowners occasionally mistake them as juveniles. The common concern here: Are the parents nearby? Yet while some species are live-bearers and some are egg-bearers, snakes do not exhibit parental care. If there are parents, they are not watching over their offspring.
  • Prevention: To reduce the potential for snakes near your home, remove brush, log piles and other habitat features that attract mice, lizards and other animals on which snakes prey.

Help Conserve Wildlife

From eastern indigo snakes to bald eagles, DNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section works to conserve rare and other Georgia wildlife not legally fished for or hunted, as well as rare plants and natural habitats. The agency depends primarily on fundraisers, grants and contributions. That makes public support key.

Georgians can help by supporting the state’s Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund. Here’s how:

  • Buy a DNR eagle or new monarch butterfly license plate, or renew one of the older plate designs, including the hummingbird. Most of the fees are dedicated to wildlife. Upgrade to a wild tag for only $25! Details at georgiawildlife.com/licenseplates.
  • Donate at gooutdoorsgeorgia.com. Click “Licenses and Permits” and log in to give. (New customers can create an account.) There’s even an option to round-up for wildlife.
  • Contribute to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund when filing state income taxes—line 30 on form 500 or line 10 on form 500EZ. Giving is easy and every donation helps.
  • Donate directly to the agency. Learn more at georgiawildlife.com/donations.
  • Purchase a hunting or fishing license. A one-day, $5 hunting/fishing license returns to Georgia wildlife that fee plus about $45 in federal excise taxes paid by hunters and anglers nationwide.

Visit georgiawildlife.com/conservation/annualreport to see how your support is put to work for wildlife.

How to Miss a Turkey – Conservation by any other name…here are some TIPS to extend your season!

  • No matter where you hunt, turkey season is short and bag limits are small.
  • NOT filling a limit, there is a reward, your time afield is maximized, the hunt is extended.
  • The important thing is being “out there,” a day or two away from work, the anticipation for another hunt.

By Mike Schoonveld

I have made lots of hunters happy by explaining the best techniques to completely miss the shots they fire at the game they are stalking. The seasons are short and limits are small.

A competent hunter with a fair amount of accuracy with his shooting iron can find himself sidelined by success.

Any hunter will tell you the “kill” is secondary to the hunt. The important things are being afield, day or two away from work, and pitting human skills against animal instincts. Not bagging a deer or not filling a limit of ducks insures your time afield is maximized and the hunt is extended. In short, a good clean miss can be what makes a season a success.

I don’t hunt turkeys, but I do shoot shotguns and can offer plenty of advice at how to fail at what would seem a simple task. The task is to blast a 20-pound plus bird that is standing still or moving slowly with a gun designed to pepper pellets into a duck flying 40 miles per hour.

It can’t be that hard, so when a turkey is fired upon and missed, one of two things happened. There was equipment error or there was shooter error. If the gun went “bang” when the trigger was pulled and a load of pellets flew out the end of the gun’s muzzle, that pretty well eliminates the equipment error.   A more certain ploy to insure a full season of fun during turkey season is to rely on yourself to cause the missed shots. Here are some very reliable methods.

You can get overly excited when you first see that gobbler heading your way, responding to your seductive calls. Don’t worry about the distance. Never mind that the bird heading ever closer, thus making the shot easier. Blast away as soon as you see the Tom. Out past 40 yards or so, your pellets will slow to the point that they’ll bounce off the feathers and the rest of the pattern will pepper harmlessly into the forest.

You can take this to the other extreme, as well. Let the bird approach to within 10 or 15 feet and try for a head and neck shot with a pattern that measures about 2.7 inches across. Shotguns are designed to be “pointed” not aimed; but at extremely close range, you better learn to aim.

Then there’s the ol’ shoot through the brush trick. The gobbler is in easy range. You can see it strutting through a screen of the forest understory. Fire away, I guarantee you’ll miss.

Even with an open shot, only a half dozen of the pellets you fire will hit a vital spot on the turkey. So you aren’t really trying to force hundreds of pellets through the brambles. Most were destined to miss, anyway. What you are trying to do is thread those half dozen pellets which are on target through the maze and you only need to have a half dozen sticks or twigs in the way to insure a clean miss. A turkey behind a screen of intervening shrubbery is as safe as Capt. Kirk being attacked by a bevy of Klingon torpedoes when the Enterprise shields are up.

The most acceptable way to miss a turkey is to try to get a better look at your target. Shotguns don’t have a rear sight to use for aiming because, as I said earlier, you don’t aim a shotgun. Your eyes become the rear sight as you look down the barrel and point the gun. Can’t see the turkey real well because you are looking down the barrel? Just raise your head a few inches off the stock and you can see it clearly. Of course, now your “rear sight” has been adjusted to make the gun shoot high. The more clearly you see the bird, the higher you will shoot. Simple, effective and the best part is you get to keep on hunting.

So try one or more of these tricks when you hit the turkey woods in the next few weeks. Want to ensure you get to keep hunting, combine some of these techniques. You’ll thank me and be happy if you don’t get the bird on opening day, the rest of the season is still available for you!

THE END

Gopher Tortoise Day in Florida, an Awareness-Celebration to Share With Others

Embrace the opportunity to learn about a threatened species and help the conservation efforts. Florida FWC Photo

  • Gopher tortoises are threatened due to habitat loss, let’s all share the need to be aware
  • Florida gopher tortoise awareness day is April 10th
  • Find gopher tortoises on a walk to any Florida beach, and at many other places 
Wildlife experts call the gopher tortoise a “keystone species” because it is the backbone of the plant and wildlife community in which it lives. A beachgoer here is helping to lure the tortoise away from a busy road and back to safety near Blind Pass Park on the Gulf of Mexico in Southwest Florida.

 

By Forrest Fisher

Gopher tortoises are charming creatures.

Above, “A guide to living with gopher tortoises,” contains information on the importance of the gopher tortoise in Florida and what to do if you encounter one. Courtesy FWC

They are also beachgoer stoppers. “Hey look over there,” said Matt Nardollilo, as he motioned to his family friends headed to the beach with towels and shark tooth screens.  His college girlfriend, Kelsey Voss, who is studying veterinary medicine, slowly approached the tortoise and said, “They’re so cute! We should really try to get her away from the road.” The group had already witnessed one other reptile tortoise that had lost its life to traffic on the busy highway earlier. Using grasses that the vegetarian gopher tortoise enjoys as a primary meal staple (often eating all day long), the tortoise was coaxed back to the safety of the sand dunes. While there, the group saw one other gopher tortoise digging a burrow in the dense foliage between the parking lot and beach.  Gopher tortoise burrows average seven feet deep and 15 feet long but can be more than 40 feet long. “It’s been such an incredible nature day,” shared Matt, “I love visiting Florida!”

Gopher tortoises are classified as a state-threatened species in Florida, primarily due to habitat loss. The slow-moving reptile is vital to Florida ecosystems, as it digs burrows that provide shelter for over 350 native species. The Gopher Tortoise Council declared April 10th as Gopher Tortoise Day to raise awareness for this remarkable reptile. 

There are many ways that EVERYONE can help conserve this keystone species on this special day and throughout the year!

  • Host your own Gopher Tortoise Day event to raise appreciation. At your event, you can distribute materials found on the Gopher Tortoise Day website to help attendees learn how to help gopher tortoises and the habitats they live in.
  • Volunteer at a local park to improve gopher tortoise habitat by picking up trash, removing invasive plants, or planting native plants.
  • Organize hands-on activities for kids at a local school or nature center using the materials found on the Gopher Tortoise Day website. The website includes gopher tortoise coloring pages, a taxonomic matching game, gopher tortoise hats and masks, and even an interactive gopher tortoise burrow. You can even design Gopher Tortoise Day T-shirts for your event!
  • Install gopher tortoise-friendly signs where tortoises frequent to increase awareness. Make sure to receive permission from property owners first.
  • Become a volunteer for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to help conserve these gentile reptiles!
  • Participate in a wildlife appreciation festival. You can request a local gopher tortoise expert from the FWC to give a presentation at the event. Email GTevents@MyFWC.com to see if someone is available to attend.
  • Plan native plants in your yard or neighborhood using the Florida Guide to Gopher Tortoise Friendly Plants.
  • Become a citizen scientist by utilizing the Florida Gopher Tortoise smartphone app to catalog gopher tortoises seen in your community.
  • Encourage kids to develop an appreciation for nature and gopher tortoises by using the Gopher Tortoise Field Trip Guide.

Visit the Get Involved page for more ideas on how to bask in the glory of Gopher Tortoise Day.

No matter how you choose to enjoy it, make sure to share on social media or invite local news media to your event! For a sample of social media posts and press releases,check out the Media page of the Gopher Tortoise Day website. Remember to promote your posts by using #GopherTortoiseDay!

Celebrating Gopher Tortoise Day is one way to help tortoises in your community, but many of these activities can be done year-round to benefit this important species!

For more information about Gopher Tortoise Day, hosting an event, or adopting a resolution, please contact GTevents@MyFWC.com or call (850) 921-1025.

 

Are Coho Salmon the “NEW SALMON” for LAKE HURON?

  • Kings, Cohos, Atlantic Salmon, Steelhead, Lake Trout…and their forage base
  • Atlantic Salmon and Steelhead have more extended lives and thrive on different forage
  • The Michigan DNR has an essential decision to make, in 2020: is the King dead?
Will cohos put the bend in the fishing rods of Lake Huron anglers in 2020?

By Mike Schoonveld

After the results of the coho salmon stocking experiment in Lake Michigan a few years back, the test was a success. Control of the overabundant alewife population had been established in Lake Michigan, so cohos were stocked in Lake Huron next. There, the experiment was also a success, but two things worked to keep the Lake Huron success in the background.

First, they were second. Who placed second at the Daytona 500 last year? Who earned a silver medal in Olympic ski jumping? Few people remember runners-up.

More importantly, after the resounding success of coho stocking in the Great Lakes, next came the stocking of chinook salmon. There’s a cute maxim about Great Lakes salmon: “A coho is a silver, a chinook is the king!” Coho and chinook are the names given these species by the indigenous people, explorers, and settlers to the Pacific Northwest who called them silvers and kings.

The emphasis in this aphorism is on kings, since king salmon are usually two or three times larger than cohos and two or three times harder to bring to net, even at equivalent sizes. Once kings entered the picture, few anglers put much effort into trying to catch cohos.

In Lake Michigan, cohos gained a loyal following – especially in the southern end of the lake – near Benton Harbor and New Buffalo in Michigan, and again in Platte Bay in October, when Michigan’s cohos show up for their spawning run. Lake Huron coho fans were much smaller in number, and far fewer cohos were fished for and caught. Add to this the expense of stocking cohos is roughly triple the cost per fish of stocking king salmon. It was an easy decision, 30 years ago, for the Michigan DNR to discontinue the coho program in Lake Huron.

The Michigan DNR reintroduced coho salmon in Lake Huron and they will be ready to catch this season, in 2020.

Things changed in 30 years, most notable was the collapse of the alewife/chinook salmon dominated ecosystem in Lake Huron. Sure there were lake trout, steelhead, walleye, bass, perch, even pike, muskies and smallmouth in certain areas, but the primary forage fish was alewife, and the central predator feeding on the alewives was king salmon.

The demise of the alewife/chinook ecosystem in Lake Huron is well documented. There were many moving parts in the collapse, but basically, king salmon numbers went up due to natural reproduction, and the resulting kings ate all the alewives.

Chinook catches crashed to near zero despite continued MDNR stocking in select locations. Biologists learned that most of the stocked fish that would hopefully provide a minimal background chinook fishery for Huron anglers had migrated to Lake Michigan, where alewives were available by the time they were big enough to catch.

The chinook/alewife connection proved to be unbreakable. When alewives were eliminated, native forage species (which had been suppressed by the abundant ales) flourished. Sticklebacks, sculpin, herring, and others increased, as did non-native smelt and invasive round gobies. Kings turned their nose up at eating these alternatives.

Not so with Lake Huron’s other predator fish. Walleyes, lakers, and others quickly responded by foraging on these alternate, often more nutritious prey fish.

Fishermen, by and large, weren’t as interested in fishing for lake trout, walleyes, and other species. It was king salmon that attracted the crowds and provided customers for charter captains, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses. Fishing license sales attributed to Lake Huron anglers dropped dramatically.

Can anything be done? That’s the new question the MDNR hopes to answer.

One potential answer is to stock more steelhead.

Steelhead are more opportunistic feeders, seemingly as content to slurp beetles and moths off the lake surface as they are chasing shiners or other small prey fish.

Another potential answer is to stock Atlantic salmon. The Atlantic salmon program run by Lake Superior State at Sault Saint Marie in the St. Marys River, which flows into Lake Huron, seems to be vibrant. Perhaps the Atlantics could fill the void left by the shortage of Huron kings.

Perhaps an idea based on the concept “everything old is new again” could entice anglers back to Lake Huron. The MDNR recently stocked almost 50,000 coho salmon at Port Sanilac and another 50,000 at Alpena.

Food studies have shown cohos aren’t nearly as picky eaters as king salmon. They spend their first year of life, or longer, in the hatchery. When stocked at only seven or eight inches in length, they feed more on bugs than prey fish for much of their second year of life, and even in their third and final year (they spawn and die at age three), they will eat insects as well as smelt, gobies or most any other fish they can find.

The angling results of this experiment will be known this year. By spring, these cohos should be two or three times as large (16 to 22 inches), and many will be four to six pounds by mid-summer.

When it comes to Lake Huron salmon, a take-off on another familiar dictum may be appropriate, “The king is dead…long live the coho!”

THE END

 

 

Bill to Recruit, Retain, Reactivate Hunters Heads to Trump’s Desk

Bipartisan legislation to keep the government open and invest in conservation to become law 

By Randall Williams

Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have passed a bill to safeguard hunting traditions, while paving the way for new investments in conservation.  

Bipartisan legislation to fund the government through September 2020 cleared both chambers and included language allowing excise taxes on firearms and ammunition to be used to address declining hunting participation.  The Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act was one of several key wins in the year-end appropriations bill.

“In times of political rancor, it’s clear that conservation and outdoor recreation unite people from all walks of life,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. This legislation invests in the future of hunting and fishing, public land access, habitat restoration, and ensuring healthy waterwaysWe are thrilled that it is making its way to the President’s desk and we look forward to seeing it become law.”

The bill also included $495 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, $200 million for Everglades restoration to reduce harmful algal blooms, $55 million for WaterSMART grants to strengthen fisheries and water efficiency, and $175 million for NRCS Watershed and Flood Prevention Operationsand $73 million for the Chesapeake Bay. 

LIVE & LEARN about LAMPREY’S, there are Many Species

  • Lampreys, lampreys everywhere…some are part of nature
  • Native species vs invasive species are always a concern for understanding
  • Lampreys live in the Great Lakes, isolated northern lakes, the Mississippi River, other places

By Mike Schoonveld

A couple of years ago I fished for sturgeon on the Rainy River in Minnesota, just upstream from where it flowed into Lake of the Woods. As luck would have it, I caught one and it came with a surprise.

My Lake of the Woods sturgeon came with an attached Silver Lamprey, see the wound right above the dorsal fin.

Last fall I fished for largemouth bass on the Mississippi River near LaCrosse, WI and one of the bass we caught that morning also came with a surprise. Each of these fish flopped on the deck with a lamprey clinging to their side.

I have not lived a fish-sheltered life. I’ve fished every Great Lake and dozens more not quite so great lakes. I’ve studied, fished for, and caught nearly every game fish available in these waters. When I landed that Minnesota sturgeon, the tag-along lamprey was an unexpected surprise.

As a Great Lakes fisherman, I am very familiar with sea lampreys, an invasive species from the Atlantic Ocean, now present in all five Great Lakes, as well as New York’s finger lakes.

It’s not a surprise when I catch a trout or salmon with lamprey scars, or even with a live lamprey still attached.

Sea lampreys in the Great Lakes are invasive species, and they kill thousands of trout and salmon each year.

My Rainy River surprise was a mystery. How had sea lampreys moved from the Great Lakes to Lake of the Woods and why hadn’t I ever heard about them damaging the fish populations there as they do in the Great Lakes?

Mystery solved; it wasn’t a sea lamprey. The lamprey suctioned to the sturgeon I caught was most likely a silver lamprey, one of four native species of lampreys found in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and the other Great Lakes states. Two of them, like sea lampreys, are parasites. Chestnut lampreys – the other native parasitic lamprey – have been found in Minnesota, but have not been seen in Lake of the Woods.

I identified this silver lamprey after the fact. I was trying to get a grip on it so I could treat it the same way I treat the sea lampreys which come on my boat attached to a salmon or trout. They come aboard in one piece; they go back to the lake in two parts. Lampreys are slick and squiggly, and the sturgeon-sucker squiggled back into the river before I could decapitate it.
Neither silver or chestnut lampreys are protected species in Minnesota so that I wouldn’t have been in trouble had I put it on the chopping block. Since then, I have now learned they don’t deserve to be hacked into pieces as do sea lampreys in the Great Lakes.

By the time the lamprey came on board the boat with me on the mighty Mississippi, I knew better. It could have been either a silver or chestnut lamprey. Both are endemic to the big river. I released it, all in one piece, soon after snapping a photo (shown here).

This native Chestnut Lamprey was released back into the Mississippi after I plucked it off a largemouth bass.

NATIVE VS. INVASIVE

Why was I so soft-hearted about the bass-sucking lamprey encountered on the Mississippi River and why am I so ruthless about the sea lampreys “vampiring” on lake trout in the Great Lakes? Aren’t the silver, chestnut and sea lampreys all doing similar things? Aren’t all of them blood-sucking parasites potentially and probably injuring or killing the fish they attack?

Absolutely! The difference is the silver lampreys in Lake of the Woods and the chestnut lampreys in the Mississippi River have never wiped out entire populations of fish where they have been found. Invasive sea lampreys did that in the Great Lakes and would still be doing it if not for lamprey control programs in the US and Canada. Even with silver and chestnut lampreys there is still plenty of sturgeon in Lake of the Woods – along with walleye, lake trout, pike, crappies and other fish. There is still plenty of fish in the Mississippi River as well.

Native lampreys and native fish all evolved together and co-developed a host/parasite relationship and achieved a natural equilibrium. The long and short of it is through a complex web, which involves many more species than just bass or sturgeon and lampreys, there aren’t ever enough native lampreys in a system to overwhelm the fish on which they feed. Nature is a savage place. Big fish eat little fish, herons and ospreys eat bigger fish. For the most part, nature is always interacting to maintain the balance. Native lampreys parasitizing native fish are as much a part of that balance as an osprey snatching a pike.

THE END

 

TRCP Urges Congressional Action with Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic wasting disease has now been found in more than half the states in our country and wildlife managers are tasked with responding to the epidemic with limited resources. TRCP Photo

by Kristyn Brady

In his third appearance before Congress this year, the TRCP’s president and CEO again pressed lawmakers to invest in surveillance and testing for the deer disease that has sent state wildlife agencies scrambling to respond

In a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) President and CEO Whit Fosburgh continued to push lawmakers on the need for more meaningful federal action in the fight against chronic wasting disease (CWD). The always-fatal disease has spread rapidly among wild deer, elk, and moose populations in recent years and creates increasing uncertainty for hunters who represent a critical source of conservation funding in America.

The committee convened to discuss creating a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chronic wasting disease task force, but Fosburgh argued that this does not go far enough.

“Coordinating and expediting the federal response to CWD is important—and the task force proposed by this committee could help do this—but the single most important thing Congress can do to stop the spread of CWD is to give the states the resources they need to track and fight the disease in the wild,” Fosburgh testified. “Congress provided strong and consistent federal funding to assist the state wildlife agencies in responding to CWD through 2011, but when this funding ran out, states were forced to cut back on other programs to respond to the disease. Some simply stopped looking for it.”

Fosburgh pointed to the 2020 House Agriculture Appropriations bill, which would reestablish federal funding for CWD by providing $15 million to state wildlife agencies for surveillance and testing. That bill is currently in conference with the Senate, which provides just $2.5 million for wild deer in its bill.

“If members of this committee care about stopping CWD, I urge you to reach out to your colleagues on the Appropriations Committee and ask them to support the House level of $15 million in the Agriculture Appropriations bill,” he said. “Chronic wasting disease is a symptom of a systematic failure to invest in conservation. That is why America’s hunters and anglers so fervently hope that this Committee will help address the CWD crisis.”

Watch a video of the full hearing here.

The TRCP has asked sportsmen and women to call on lawmakers for these investments in the nationwide CWD response. Learn more here.

This hearing marks the fifth time this year that the TRCP has represented the interests of American sportsmen and women by delivering official testimony before Congress. View details on our previous testimony related to improving access to public landsthe five priority pieces of legislation that would `invest in fish and wildlife habitathow to create drought solutions while enhancing conditions for fish in the Colorado River Basin, and how House lawmakers can step up in the fight against CWD.

Here’s one more thing you can do this hunting season: Tell Congress to support more federal funding for CWD research and testing.

Those Goofy Golf Balls!

  • The WORLDWIDE BAN-THE-DRINKING-STRAW movement started with a single turtle’s straw-clogged nostril video…WHAT ABOUT GOLF BALLS?

By Mike Schoonveld

I confess to being a recovering golfer. I think I’m fully recovered since my urges to hit the links are now exceedingly infrequent. I haven’t owned a set of clubs since I got out of high school and hand-me-downed my hodge-podge collection of Wilsons, MacGregors and Spaldings to my younger brother.

I did play a few rounds of golf in college and after graduation with borrowed clubs, but as I matured, my recreational pursuits moved to more fishing and hunting, and less to “chasing the little round ball.”  Little did I know I was saving the Earth by jonesing on golf.

I was never a threat to Tiger Woods (back then, it was Arnold Palmer), so when I was golfing and encountered a water hazard, I frequently took full use of it. I’ve plunked my share of balls into the ponds, rivers, or lakes guarding the fairways where I played. So do most other golfers.

A recent Internet post puts the number of golf balls littering America’s water-bottoms at 300 million. I don’t know if that’s a total number or that many accumulate each year, but like many Internet statistics, it’s likely a just-plain-guess either way. Either way, that’s a lot of golf balls. Put them all together, and they would fill Yankee Stadium (actually, I just made that up, but feel free to repeat it as fact).

No wonder golf balls have gained the attention of environmental worriers. A stadium full of golf balls can’t be environmentally safe.

But why I wondered? My first thought was perhaps riparian creatures like otters, muskrats, or water snakes were mistaking golf balls for eggs and eating them. Wrong! 

Researchers seeking facts about the aftermath of lost golf balls aren’t much worried about snapping turtles in golf course ponds mistaking them for food, at least so far. However, if the lost-ball scientists could document just one turtle with a golf ball clogged system, it would be revolutionary. After all, the worldwide ban-the-drinking-straw movement started with a single turtle’s straw-clogged nostril video.

If only some cute (or turtle-ugly creature) would turn up with golf-ball-it is, both the golf ball industry as well as the “collect money to save the Earth” industry would benefit greatly.  Golf ball makers could produce and market a variety of water-hazard friendly balls. Politicians and government regulators could make up rules and policies dictating all sorts of golf ball decrees. Tiger Woods and other pros could endorse environmentally sensitive balls. Environmental activists would have more reasons to picket golf courses, especially those frequented by unfriendly politicians.

Alas, it’s not whole golf balls causing the environmental degradation, it’s the conversion of golf balls into microplastic particles now consuming researchers’ dreams. Nothing lasts forever, even a golf ball in a lake. Eventually, the same forces of nature which formed the Grand Canyon and over time, turned the mighty Scottish Mountains into the not so mighty Scottish Highlands (birthplace of golfing) will grind a golf ball into little more than golf-ball dust, and then what?

According to researchers for the DGA (Danish Golf Association), golf ball dust has been found to contain “dangerous levels of zinc” and then opined that zinc could poison plants. Maybe so in Denmark. I’ve heard the phrase, “Something is rotten in Denmark” – maybe it’s rotting golf balls. Here in the USA, zinc is recognized as an essential plant micronutrient and regularly applied to the soil by gardeners and farmers. If you are Danish or plan to golf on your next trip to Scandinavia, look for zinc-free golf balls.

I’m happy problem seekers have little more about which to worry than golf ball pollution around America’s lakes, rivers and golf course ponds into which errant hooks or slices could result in excess zinc, clogged raccoons or other golf ball pollution. If that’s the worst thing being plopped into our water resources, America is in pretty good shape. At least until a turtle shows up on YouTube with a Titleist wedged in its throat. 

Conservation Practices are Vital

  • “It is not what we have that will make us a great nation: it is the way in which we use it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

By Jason Houser

In my view, conservation can be broken down into three subcategories: Habitat, Wildlife, and Fish. Each plays a vital role in successful conservation practices.

Within the outdoor world, there is an organization for just about every outdoor activity, whether it is the National Trappers Association, Whitetails Unlimited, Quail Forever, Muskies Inc., Pope & Young Club, or any of the many other non-profit organizations on a national and state level.

Most of these organizations play a vital role in successful conservation practices by donating millions of dollars to improve habitat, wetlands, land management policies, wildlife restoration, youth education, and more.

Conservation efforts include many things, and each has its role. Whether it prescribes burning to help shape forests to be productive for wildlife, such phrases as “habitat days” remind everyone of the importance for habitat management, federal CRP and tree programs, fish stocking programs, elk reintroduction, creating wetlands, butterfly gardens, pollinator fields, improved fish habitat and much more.

Many, if not all, of the non-profit wildlife organizations, host multiple banquets throughout the year – nationally, regionally and locally. Money raised through such banquets goes towards conservation efforts earmarked as playing a vital role in continued successful conservation and wildlife efforts.

It is up to outdoorsmen and women to help sustain these efforts. Even though it is a group effort, it is up to each individual to get involved. Become members of these organizations and find out what you can do. It is not always about the money, but the time you can donate to help their efforts succeed, educating others, volunteering at banquets and events, and more.

Many of their websites provide great information on how you can help. Whether it is gathering Christmas trees after the holiday to introduce to ponds and lakes to create restorative habitat for fish, providing cover for ground-nesting birds, performing a prescribed burn, or one of the many other tasks they recommend, it’s just a click or phone call away.

These conservation programs reach every corner of the country. Each species of wildlife and fish and their respective home areas are affected by conservation practices. As outdoorsmen and women, we can do our part to see that conservation efforts continue, and they will make a positive difference for generations to come.

To help promote conservation efforts and sustain wildlife numbers, we MUST get more people involved. One exciting way to get this done is through the “R3” program. The R3 program is the hunting industry’s emphasis on recruiting, retaining and reactivating new hunters. It’s simply pointing out to existing hunters that it is up to us to preserve our sport, and if we each put a little effort into finding, encouraging, helping, and supporting both novice and non-active hunters, anglers, trappers and others, we can grow the sport we love.

Do you know someone you can help? Visit www.nationalr3plan.com for more resources.

“It is not what we have that will make us a great nation: it is the way in which we use it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

South Dakota auction offers Live Bison, YOU CAN BUY ONE!

Bison For Sale!

  • Live Bison are typically transported to expand herds in other parts of the country – the auction is a 54-year-old tradition at Custer State Park
  • Wild live Bison range in size from 400 to 1500 pounds, depending on sex and age
  • The Bison auction program is exemplary in the world of Conservation
Mature Bison bulls in South Dakota can grow to 1,500 pounds and more at Custer State Park. Forrest Fisher Photo

By Forrest Fisher

Wildlife management is a scientific process and biologists from across the world usually admit that their job is never easy, there are so many variables. Wild game needs to eat to stay healthy and for Bison, their ability to stay healthy is based on the vegetation production on the range, the prairies. For every day of my life, it seems I learn new things that are a common tradition in other parts of our great country.  I learn that conservation can take on many forms.

At Custer State Park in South Dakota, Resource Program Manager, Mark Hendrix says, “Our range prairies – where the Bison roam, are comprised of mixed grasses. In our 71,000 acres of the park, about 30,000 acres are used by the Bison. To assure there is enough food for healthy Bison and to help promote the continued expansion of native animals like the Bison, we cull our herd to maintain a wintering herd of about 950 animals.”

Hendrix adds, “In September each year, we assure all our Bison are tagged. The calves receive a Bangs ear tag, the bulls receive a small steel ear tag. All have been vaccinated as calves to assure they are disease-free and we follow up by conducting a blood test on each Bison.  Then, based on the number of calves born each year, we offer animals for auction. This helps keep the animals of the park and the range grasses healthy for survival, and the species has the benefit of expanding, as well.”

Winter herds of up to 950 Bison are among management goals for healthy herds at Custer State Park, South Dakota; Numbers vary each year based on range vegetation production. Forrest Fisher photo

Perhaps the management of animals is absolutely best when designated species can be removed in this way. In some states, wildlife management permits for hunting wild game are offered for sale to help regulate the population numbers of a particular species and concurrently, there is hunter adventure. Typically, there is also a highly beneficial economic impact. With hunter permits, however, it is not always possible to achieve the designated management goals and for many species with permit quotas, there is NO NEED to expand those species elsewhere.  In Custer State Park, the practice of healthy Bison herd management is an assured process with a proven track record.

Custer State Park provides the opportunity to expand the Bison herd to regions of the country where Bison were once plentiful and need help for herd restoration.

After talking with Mark Hendrix, I believe the Custer State Park Bison management program is exemplary. The program is above-board, procedurally consistent and fully operational.

Each November, Custer State Park provides between 200 and 500 head of live Buffalo for public auction. Buyers and spectators from around the United States come to watch and participate in the annual auction. The live Buffalo are typically purchased to supplement an existing herd, to start a herd, or for consumption.

These are healthy two-year-old breeding bulls, tagged for identification, age and for auction at Custer State Park in South Dakota. Custer State Park Photo

The auction at the park’s Visitor Center will provide live and online bidding as the 2019 Fall Classic Bison Auction opens on Saturday, Nov. 2, where approximately 432 head will be available for sale. The on-site and online auction will begin at 10 a.m. (Mountain Daylight Time). The Custer State Park visitor center is located 15 miles east of Custer on Highway 16A, near the junction of the Wildlife Loop Road and Highway 16A. 

This year’s offerings include 25 mature bred cows, 32 mature open cows, 20 two-year-old bred heifers, 20 open two-year-old heifers, 83 yearling heifers, 70 heifer calves, 104 bull calves, 52 yearling bulls, 11 two-year-old breeding bulls, and 15 two-year-old grade bulls.

“Due to excellent range conditions and high calving rates, the park has a larger quantity of animals to offer this year,” said Chad Kremer, Bison herd manager. “The change to a video auction rather than a live auction has also been positive. It reduces the stress on the buffalo and expedites the entire process.”

A review of recent Bison auction records shows that the Bison calves weigh 300-400 pounds and cost an average of $1600-$2000; the mature cows weigh 800-1100 pounds with a cost of $3200-$4000 each while mature bulls weigh as much as 1500 pounds and cost an average of $3500-$4700.

For the past 54 years, the park has made surplus Bison available for sale to the private sector. A significant amount of park revenue results from the Bison sale and goes toward continued operations of the state park system. The live internet auction is now going on its eighth year and has helped reach buyers who wouldn’t have been aware of the auction in the past.

Bison For Sale!  The annual Custer State Park auction provides an opportunity for Bison herd expansion to many areas of the country. Forrest Fisher Photo

“The average cost of the Bison is about $2000 or so,” said Mark Hendrix. Simple math shows financial benefit for the park. When it is possible to help keep wildlife healthy, expand a dwindling wildlife resource for use elsewhere, and help support the programs and budget of the park staff, everyone wins.  

In the past, the Bison have been used to start or expand herds in Texas, Minnesota, Colorado, North Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and elsewhere. The purchased Bison must be removed by Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019.  Hendrix added, “Folks that are aware of the auction arrive prepared to transport the animals at their own expense. Some states require special permits, certifications, and tests before transport, we can help with that.”

For additional information about the upcoming Bison auction, contact Custer State Park at 605-255-4515 or email questions to CusterStatePark@state.sd.us.  For the auction brochure and live videos of available live Bison stock in the auction, please click here.

 

3 Billion Birds – GONE Since 1970

Red-winged Blackbirds, Blue Jays, White-throated Sparrows among highest losses – why have they disappeared?

  • We have lost enormous numbers of familiar birds 
  • Suspected contributors: climate change, habitat loss, pressure from invasive species and pesticide use
  • To make a difference: Make windows safer – prevent window strikes, landscape with native plants, keep cats indoors, avoid pesticide use, reduce plastic use, learn more about citizen science initiatives
Data furnished by KITE TALES, the monthly newsletter of the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail.

A recently published study in the journal Science has revealed shocking declines in bird populations across North America. Since 1970, we have lost 2.9 billion birds. That number translates to nearly 1 in 3 birds that have been lost. This number was staggering to even the scientists behind the paper, who have dedicated their careers to the study of ornithology and are very familiar with the challenges facing our birds.

Surprisingly, some of the species that have experienced the greatest declines are some of the most common. Over the last 50 years, we have lost enormous numbers of familiar birds like Red-winged Blackbirds, Blue Jays, and White-throated Sparrows. “Keeping common birds common” has been a rallying cry for conservationists, and it seems that this is even more important than we previously thought.

The loss of these wonderful animals is devastating in and of itself, but it is also a sign of much larger problems. Birds are excellent indicator species – they are sensitive to changes in their environments and we have abundant data on birds from both professional researchers and citizen scientists.

When we know birds are in trouble, we can infer that the ecosystems to which they are intricately linked are also in trouble. Many of the factors that we know are causing bird population declines – climate change, habitat loss, pressure from invasive species and pesticide use – also affect countless other species of plants and animals.

The findings of the study aren’t all bad news – in fact, some groups of birds have increased population sizes due to directed conservation efforts. Woodpeckers, birds of prey and waterfowl have all seen their populations grow as we have protected their habitats and food sources from degradation and loss. The other good news – there are concrete actions you can take to help bird populations.

There are 7 simple steps you can easily take to make a difference, many of which already will be familiar to our readers. Preventing window strikes, landscaping with native plants, keeping cats indoors, avoiding pesticide use, drinking bird-friendly coffee, reducing plastic use and participating in citizen science initiatives are all actions you can take to protect bird species today.

Another important step? Make sure that you are a voice for birds. Share this news with friends and family on social media or by word of mouth!

This information and story has been republished from KITE TALES, Issue 36, OCT 2016 – The monthly newsletter of the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail.

Wildlife Trafficking Ring BUSTED in Florida, was smuggling 1000’s of turtles – all returned to wild

Thousands of turtles have been illegally taken from the Florida wilds.

  • Over 600 turtles were returned to the wild
  • Illegal commercialization of wildlife ranks 4th behind guns, drugs and human smuggling
  • Illegal trade of turtles is having a global impact on many turtle species and our ecosystems.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has charged two suspects for poaching thousands of Florida’s native turtles from the wild and selling them illegally in Florida, with final destinations in international markets. These charges represent the state’s largest seizure of turtles in recent history.

“The illegal trade of turtles is having a global impact on many turtle species and our ecosystems. We commend our law enforcement’s work to address the crisis of illegal wildlife trafficking,” said FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton.

“Putting a stop to this criminal enterprise is a significant win for conservation,” said Col. Curtis Brown, head of FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement. “Arresting people engaged in illegal wildlife trafficking supports our environment and legal businesses. It is especially positive and rewarding to be able to release many of the turtles back into the wild.”

“We know that the global black market in live animals includes traffickers smuggling protected species of turtles out of the United States, usually for export to the Asian pet market,” said Dr. Craig Stanford, Chairman of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. “This sinister and illegal trade threatens the future of many species of North American animals, and as one of the most threatened animal groups on the planet, turtles are at the forefront of our concern.”

The illegal commercialization of wildlife ranks fourth behind guns, drugs and human smuggling and, in many instances, is connected due to the monetary gain. The International Fund for Animal Welfare estimates illegal wildlife trade in the US at $19 billion annual income.

The FWC launched an undercover investigation after receiving a tip in February 2018. Through surveillance and other investigative tactics, FWC investigators determined that a ring of well-organized wildlife traffickers was illegally catching and selling wild turtles to large-scale reptile dealers and illegal distributors, who shipped most of them overseas on the black market. Michael Boesenberg (DOB 02/05/1980) of Fort Myers, directed individuals to illegally collect turtles in large numbers; once he had enough turtles on hand he would then sell to a buyer with links to Asian markets.

To fulfill a buyer’s request, these poachers targeted habitats known for the specific species. Over time, they depleted the populations so much that they had to expand into other parts of the state to meet the growing demand. The FWC predicts that turtle populations are most heavily impacted in Lee County, the primary source for the seized turtles, but that the suspects worked with other wildlife traffickers around the state and country. The total negative impacts to wild turtle populations stretch beyond Lee County and Florida.

“Wild turtle populations cannot sustain the level of harvest that took place here,” said Dr. Brooke Talley, the Reptile and Amphibian Conservation Coordinator for the FWC. “This will likely have consequences for the entire ecosystem and is a detriment for our citizens and future generations.”

Depending upon the species, the poached turtles sold wholesale for up to $300 each and retailed for as much as $10,000 each in Asia. Evidence indicated turtles sold within one month totaled an estimated $60,000. The sellers received mostly cash, occasionally trading turtles for marijuana products.

The FWC documented more than 4,000 turtles illegally taken and sold over a 6-month period, including Florida box turtles, Eastern box turtles, striped mud turtles, Florida mud turtles, chicken turtles, Florida softshell turtles, Gulf Coast spiny softshell turtles, spotted turtles and diamondback terrapins. As a result of a search warrant served on Aug. 12, investigators found the poachers in possession of hundreds of turtles, along with the skull and shell of a protected Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle. The turtles seized had an estimated black market value of $200,000.

All seized animals were evaluated for health and species identification by FWC biologists. Over 600 turtles were returned to the wild, two dozen were quarantined and released at a later date, and a handful were retained by a captive wildlife licensee since they were not native to the area. Nearly 300 of the freed turtles are now part of a long-term monitoring project by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.

“SCCF has been conducting research on these turtles for nearly two decades.Thanks to FWC for uncovering this illicit activity that has adversely affected wild turtle populations,” said Chris Lechowicz, Wildlife & Habitat Management Program Director at SCCF.  

Selling wild-caught freshwater turtles is illegal and harvesting them from the wild is specifically regulated by Florida Administrative Code 68A-25.002 (6). Some turtle species may be kept as captive wildlife with the proper permits.

The public can help by reporting suspected wildlife violations to the FWC. To make a report, call the Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or text Tip@MyFWC.com.

The suspects and their charges are as follows:

Michael Boesenberg (DOB 02/05/1980 of Fort Myers, FL):

  • F.S.S. 812.019(2) – Dealing in stolen property as an organizer
  • F.A.C. 68A-25.002 (6)(a)1 – 3 counts – Taking over the bag limit of turtles
  • F.A.C. 68A-25.002 (6)(a) – Over the possession limit of box turtles
  • F.A.C. 68A-25.002 (6)(c) – Sale and offer for sale turtle taken from the wild
  • The enabling statute for these violations of F.A.C 68A-6 is F.S. 379.4015(2)(a)1.
  • FAC 68A-6.004(4)(q)1(c) – 9 counts – Standard Caging Requirements for Captive Wildlife
  • F.S.S 379.2431 – Possession of marine turtle parts
  • F.A.C 68A-4.004(5) – Possession of black bear parts
  • F.S.S. 893.13(6)(a) –Possess cannabis over 20 grams
  • F.S.S. 893.13(1)(a)(2) –Possess with intent to sell/deliver
  • F.S.S. 893.13(6)(a) –Possess controlled substance (THC oil)

Michael Clemons (DOB 09/05/1996 Fort Myers, FL):

  • F.S.S. 812.019(1) –Dealing in stolen property
  • F.A.C. 68A-25.002 (6)(a)1 –2 counts –Taking over the bag limit of turtles
  • F.A.C. 68A-25.002 (6)(a) – Over the possession limit of box turtles
  • F.A.C. 68A-25.002 (6)(c) – Sale and offer for sale turtle taken from the wild
  • F.A.C. 68A-25.002(6)(b) – Transporting wild caught turtles without a permit

 

The Real Asian Carp Threat

Flying carp are the YouTube stars threatening to invade the Great Lakes.

  • Mussels and other invasive species have had effects
  • Asian Carp could alter much more than is discussed
  • Flying Asian Carp have become “YouTube Stars”
Are Asian Carp more a threat to the Great Lakes or the Milwaukee River, shown here, and all the other Great Lakes tributaries? (USGS photo)

By Mike Schoonveld

None of the 180-plus invasive species found in, or threatening the Great Lakes, have more name recognition among average citizens than the Asian carp. Though people have heard of zebra mussels, only a relative few have heard of Quagga mussels. Many experts point to Quaggas as the most environmentally damaging invasive species to ever infest the Great Lakes.

Still, of all the invasives in the Great Lakes – the mussels, the lampreys, miniature freshwater shrimp and all the rest – none are as well known as the YouTube stars – the “flying carp.” No doubt you’ve seen those big silver carp jumping onto boats in middle America’s big rivers. Too bad zebra and quagga mussels and other invasives weren’t as photogenic and engendered an equal amount of dollars and concern when they first invaded the lakes.

The flying carp are named silver carp – they are the jumpers. They, along with their cousins, the bighead, black and grass carp are often grouped together as Asian carp. All of them are serious problems in middle-America’s rivers.

When I get questioned by someone about invasives in Lake Michigan (or the other Great Lakes) almost always the question is about Asian carp. You’d think the lakes are swarming with them. They aren’t, though the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Illinois and other rivers are, and the potential does exist for the swarms to spread on northward and eventually get into the Great Lakes.

No one wants that to happen and the easiest way to quantify the magnitude of the damage – should they get into Lake Michigan and then spread to the other lakes – is to express it in dollars and cents. Hurricane Sandy caused $62 billion in damage. Western wildfires cost $18 billion last year. Disasters seem to be best understood, comprehended or compared that way. How would you compare a flood with an earthquake with a hurricane? What is the economic damage? The only logical way.

Flying carp are the YouTube stars threatening to invade the Great Lakes.

The dollar figure most often used to warn of the economic damage to the Great Lakes should Asian carp become established is six billion dollars ($6,000,000,000.00). That’s an annual figure to the “fishing industry” which, I assume, is a cumulative figure combining the economic impact of both recreational fishing and commercial fishing.

When a person sees this number, the A follows B reasoning is: A) should the carp proliferate in the Great Lakes, then B) they will somehow displace the salmon, trout, walleye, whitefish, perch and other species people harvest from the lakes.

Not so much. Asian carp feed by filtering algae, plankton and other nearly microscopic “edibles” from the water. This is the same thing baby fish feed on their earliest stages of life and the same things the slightly larger things like freshwater shrimp eat. Once baby fish grow, they switch to feeding on shrimp and other zooplankton before ultimately switching to eating other fish.

If the carp get established in the lakes, the next logical step is they’ll vacuum out enough algae, plankton and the rest of the stuff at the bottom of the food chain to starve the sport and commercially important fish. Eventually, they will eliminate six billion dollars of economic impact each year.

Except for one thing, the invasive mussels have already done that. Lake Michigan’s water is now more clear than Lake Superior’s water. (Lake Michigan has far more zebra and quagga mussels.) Lake Michigan is also ground zero as the location Asian Carp could most readily access the Great Lakes because of its connection via man-made waterways to the mid-American river system.

If the mussel invasion already sucked the life from the bottom of the food chain, would the Asian carp exacerbate it? Hardly. Most Asian carp were they to freely swim upstream from the Illinois River into Lake Michigan, would quickly starve to death. There’s not enough algae and plankton in the lake to keep them healthy for long.

But maybe one in a one hundred (1%) would live in the lake long enough to find, say the Root River in southern Wisconsin, Trail Creek in Indiana or the St. Joseph River in southern Michigan. Maybe only one in one thousand (0.1%) would find a new home in these or other tributary streams. If they did, they could proliferate in them and a new invasion would occur. From the St. Joe River to the Black River. From the Black to the Kalamazoo or the Grand and on up the coast.

Eventually, should this happen, much of the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada could be infiltrated by flying carp and the cousins. That’s the real threat of letting Asian carp gain access to the Great Lakes. If that were to happen, the economic damage would make the six billion dollar figure now bandied about seem insignificant.

THE END

Wind Turbines: Threat to National Treasure of the Great Lakes

By Capt. Tom Marks

I much prefer to write about fishing. Unfortunately, lately, all my time is being consumed by “fighting” to keep industrial wind developers from building wind projects in Lake Erie. In all my life, I could never have imagined being in such a dire place. “My lake,” Lake Erie, is about to be turned into an industrial power complex. Lake Erie is a National Treasure which is supposed to be held in Public Trust by the government for the benefit of everyone, not for the benefit of an industrial power project.

Wind turbines are pitifully inefficient when it comes to their productivity. As an example, New York State has 1,987 megawatts of installed wind generating capacity. All of New York State’s wind turbines were producing only 136 megawatts to the grid as I wrote this article. That is a productivity level of 6.8% of their full potential, this is typical. It’s NYS’s goal to replace all fossil fuel generation with wind and solar. If we were to rely on just wind at this hour, we would need a total of 51,455 wind turbines with a capacity of 3MW each to replace all our fossil fuel sources for the state.

New York State is 54,556 square miles in area. We do not need more wind turbines, we need a better plan.

Please support a moratorium on wind turbine construction in the Great Lakes.

Want to know more? Here is the rationale:

Ten years ago the New York Power Authority (NYPA) headed by Ritchie Kessel, put out bids to Wind Power development companies to build industrial-scale wind turbines in Lakes Erie and Ontario. The proposal at the time was called “Great Lakes Offshore Wind” (GLOW). The GLOW proposal was for about 130 wind turbines with the primary site to be in Lake, but it could be built in Lake Ontario.

I formed a group, Great Lakes Wind Truth (GLWT), to oppose the project.

Casualties – DEAD BIRDS hit by wind turbine blades. The blades are deceptively fast, the tips traveling on average 150 mph.

Great Lakes Wind Truth membership was composed of like-minded individuals across New York State, Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada. Our mission was to raise public awareness and get political support to help others understand the inefficiency and then stop the proposal. We were able to get every county on the shores of Lake Erie and Ontario except one to pass resolutions to oppose construction of wind turbines off their shores. I can’t tell you how many meetings and public events I attended, but it was a lot. I even went door to door from the Pennsylvania – New York border to Buffalo and put a flyer I made in every door of every lakefront home or cottage raising awareness of the proposal and its negatives

The bottom line, GLWT was able, with the help of a lot of supporters, to stop the proposal before it could get off the ground. The reason that the New York Power Authority (NYPA) gave for canceling any proposed project is that it would not be cost-effective. Almost concurrent to our fight opposing GLOW, there was another project being proposed in Lake Erie off Cleveland, Ohio. Lake Erie Energy Development Company (LEEDCO) called their proposed project Ice Breaker. Ice Breaker is a six to nine industrial-scale wind turbine project to “test the feasibility” of constructing wind turbines offshore in Lake Erie, however, the broader goal by LEEDCO is to build another 1,400 to 1,500 wind turbines in Lake Erie.

The Walney Extension – world’s largest wind project off the coast of England.

GLWT mustered opposition and was successful in delaying the Ice Breaker Project. The Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), in its denial for permits, listed all LEEDCO’s deficiencies for the project. LEEDCO has addressed some and reapplied. GLWT has again put up opposition to the project citing numerous issues with building such projects in the Great Lakes. We are now at a critical point waiting for the OPSB to make its decision to issue permits for the project to proceed. It has taken 10 years to reach this point in wind project development. Wind developers count on the opposition to wear down or lose interest opposing these proposals.

Most recently, Diamond WTG Engineering & Services, Inc., a wind energy development company owned by Mitsubishi, has proposed a wind project in eastern Lake Erie. The proposal is for 50 industrial-scale wind turbines with 4 megawatt generators. The project would be located in Lake Erie between Buffalo and Dunkirk, New York, about 5 miles from shore. There have been other proposals for wind turbine projects in Lake Michigan and Lake Ontario.

Wind companies are relentless.

Developers and supporters of alternative energy sources make a lot of claims about the benefits of their projects, such as:

“We need green energy to reduce CO2 emissions.”

“We must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.”

The Steel Winds Project on the Shore of Eastern Lake Erie

The developers will also claim that putting wind turbines in the lakes will add fish-attracting structures that will improve fishing. Developers and politicians who support such projects claim that wind turbine projects create jobs. Developers will tell us that they are “tapping” a free energy source to make inexpensive electricity. There is a lot that developers don’t say about these projects in the lake that are real important. So, let me tell you why I think wind power project development is “bad” for the Great Lakes.

Reducing CO2 emissions is a myth.

How the power grid “works” can be a bit complicated, but here is a simplified explanation. There is base load power usually supplied by nuclear plants, hydro or coal. Base load power is the power that is “always” there so you can flip a light switch and your lights come on. When businesses and factories start-up in the morning there is a surge in demand. Natural gas plants kick in to meet this peak in power demand. These plants ramp up through the day as the demand increases. This is a simplistic explanation, but it is how the grid “works”.

Now you will be able to understand the myth that there is a net CO2 reduction when wind generation is incorporated into the power grid.

Wind energy is intermittent, variable in intensity, out of sync with demand and unpredictable.

Wind energy is weather dependent.

Wind energy has no capacity value as other forms of energy have.

We can rely of Nuclear Power, Hydro, and Natural Gas to produce power on demand, thus these sources have capacity value. Wind cannot promise delivery of power it requires backup 24/7/365 and the back-up source for wind in most cases is natural gas or another fossil fuel. These backup plants can’t be shut off when the wind is blowing because you cannot predict when the wind will not be able to produce electricity. Thus wind turbine generating power plants do not replace any existing fossil fuel electric generating plants.

Do wind turbines create a fish-attracting structure? I do not know! The wind developers are being very dishonest if they claim that they know. There are no wind power plants the sizes being proposed in Lake Erie in any other freshwater body in the world.

There is no data to support their claims.

We do know that wind turbines on land create vibrations that are harmful to humans and animals.

There is plenty of research to support that infrasound generated by turbines cause deformities in animals living near these structures. There is certainly lots of data confirming human health, as well as the quality of life, impacts from wind turbines. The power transmission cables connecting a wind project to the grid will lay on the lake bottom. Power cables have magnetic fields around them when power is traveling through them. Fish can be impacted by magnetic fields which may disrupt important migration patterns and forage activity, but we don’t have the data for large projects in freshwater lakes to be certain.

The Great Lakes were once a repository for our industrial pollution. The solution to pollution was thought to be dilution. Sadly we found out there was only so much pollution the Great Lakes could handle before damages occurred. After the 1972 Clean Water Act, we became “enlightened” and stopped polluting the Great Lakes. Since then, billions of dollars have been spent by the federal government and the surrounding states to restore the Great Lakes. We are still spending huge amounts of money for Great Lakes restoration.

The construction of large wind turbine projects will disrupt the buried industrial pollution legacy. It is best to leave those deep contaminated sediments undisturbed, if not, once again we risk the health of the fishery and make fish unsafe to eat.

Wind turbines certainly will negatively impact the source of drinking water that 35 million people depend upon.

Wind turbine projects create jobs, but they are temporary jobs.

The good jobs are very specialized and those workers will likely be workers from overseas. A wind power project once built, is very automated and controlled from a distant location. It takes only a few technicians at a computer. The turbines do require maintenance, again these are specialty jobs and crews travel around the country as contracted maintenance crews.

Actual jobs created will be minimal.

Our economy is booming right now, we are almost at full employment, so we really don’t “need” these jobs. That is why when foreign workers come in to build turbines you never hear any uproar. There is some boost to local businesses, but it is, again, only temporary.

Free energy. It reminds me of the promises made by another energy source back in the 1950s that never materialized. The states that support “green energy development” mandate that the power grid operators buy electricity produced by Wind Power Projects. The wind power company negotiates power purchase agreements with grid operators. It is hardly fair to the electric customer because the grid operator is forced to buy the electricity produced regardless of the cost. The power purchase agreements often extend for the life expectancy of the wind power project, about 20 years, to make the project profitable. The power purchase agreement that LEEDCO negotiated recently in Ohio, for the Ice Breaker project, will charge customers 30 cents per kW/hr. The current customer rate from conventional sources is 5.5 cents per kW/hr.

That free source of power is not free at all, it is mighty expensive.

Wind power plants are not financially sustainable without power purchase agreements, property tax breaks, and project subsidies from the government.

Here is what the wind developer doesn’t tell you.

The reason they want to build offshore in the lakes.

They pay no property taxes to a town, county or school district.

For the developer, it is a real cost saving that is not passed on to the consumer.

The wind developer doesn’t tell you what happens when the wind turbine outlives its usefulness. Who is responsible for decommissioning? Companies are putting up “bonds” to pay for the decommissioning, but who can predict the cost 20 or 25 years into the future? Often the company that builds the project sells it to another company and when it becomes obsolete the last owner goes out of business leaving useless wind turbines rusting and falling apart. When I asked NYPA what were the plans for GLOW at the end of its “life” they were just going to knock the turbines over and leave them on the lake bottom.

The typical wind turbine contains 400 to 500 gallons of oil. It is not uncommon that within a wind turbine project that several will leak oil. The last thing we want is oil leaking into our source of drinking water. Wind turbines kill tens of thousands of birds and bats every year. The Great Lakes and especially Lake Erie is in a major migration route. Any wind turbine project will be deadly for migrating flocks of birds. The Sierra Club which supports wind development explains that any large building or trucks on the highway kill birds. Unfortunately, this environmental group is willing to make a trade-off on the health and diversity of an ecosystem which is not necessary.

Infrasound from wind turbines has been associated with health impacts to humans and livestock living near projects. It is undetermined if these low-frequency sounds will have the same or worse impact on the Great Lakes ecosystems. The presence of wind turbines in the Great Lakes will be hazardous for helicopters hampering search and rescue operations for boaters in trouble on the lakes. Wind turbines potentially could interfere with radar and air surveillance monitoring for illegal crossings of the border on Lake Erie and Ontario. The turbine towers will incorporate designs to break ice that is pushed around them, it is hard to predict the impact it will have on reefs when the ice potentially could be scouring the lake bottom all winter as opposed to just the during the spring melt.

Oil leaks from a wind turbine gearcase. The gear case can contain on average 400 to 500 gallons of gear oil.

There is no data; it will be an experiment on the Great Lakes.

There will certainly be a visual impact.

I believe most people will find sunsets viewed through a maze of wind turbines less than pleasing. There is a value for the wide-open expanse of the lake view. Shorefront property is valuable, a wind project in its view will certainly reduce this value and potential property tax revenue.

President Bush declared these lakes a National Treasure. How can anyone allow a National Treasure to be desecrated by an industrial project. We would never allow a wind developer to build wind turbines on the National Mall or in Yellowstone National Park. Why would we allow the Great Lakes to become an industrial park? The Great Lakes are held in the Public Trust for all Americans to benefit not foreign industrial wind developers.

In Ontario, Canada, there has been a moratorium on the construction of wind turbines in the Great Lakes for over 10 years.

It is time we do the same in the United States.

Our Great Lakes are too valuable of an asset and natural wonder to risk to an experiment by industrial wind developers. Once these projects are built in the lakes there is no going back and we will have opened the doors to all developers.

Important to know: “….May 18, 2004, President George W. Bush by Executive Order: Establishment of Great Lakes Interagency Task Force and Promotion of a Regional Collaboration of National Significance for the Great Lakes 

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and to help establish a regional collaboration of national significance for the Great Lakes, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. The Great Lakes are a national treasure constituting the largest freshwater system in the world. The United States and Canada have made great progress addressing past and current environmental impacts to the Great Lakes ecology. The Federal Government is committed to making progress on the many significant challenges that remain….”

The Great Lakes are being threatened with industrial development in their waters which will cause irreparable ecological harm. So I wrote the following to raise public awareness of these threats and my concerns.

Comments? Capt. Thomas Marks, Port Charlotte, Fl. 33980; e-mail: Capt.tommarks@gmail.com

References/Resources:

 

Endangered Snake is Reintroduced to Northern Florida

Michele Elmore of USFWS about to release an eastern indigo snake to a gopher tortoise burrow at the Nature Conservancy Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve. Photo Tim Donovan FWC

  • Good news for America’s longest snake! 15 eastern indigo snakes just released in year three of the north Florida recovery effort
  • Multiple partners collaborate to bring apex predator back to The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve 
Tony Brady of Welaka National Fish Hatchery, USFWS about to release an eastern indigo snake at the Nature Conservancy Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve. Photo by Tim Donovan FWC

Fifteen eastern indigo snakes, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, have just been released in northern Florida as part of a continuing collaborative plan to return the important, native, non-venomous apex predator to the region. This effort marks the third year in a row that snakes raised specifically for recovery of the species have been released at The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve in Bristol.

The eastern indigo species recovery effort in north Florida is the long-term joint commitment of multiple nonprofit, agency and academic partners: The Nature Conservancy, the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens’ Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation, Auburn University, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service), Welaka National Fish Hatchery, The Orianne Society, Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center, Gulf Power, Southern Company through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida. The partners have worked together for decades to restore and manage the habitat required by the snake, and many other species, to make the release possible.

The eastern indigo snake (Drymarchon couperi) is the longest snake native to North America and an iconic and essential component of the now rare southern longleaf pine forest. It serves a critical function to balance the wildlife community — it consumes a variety of small animals including both venomous and non-venomous snakes. At over 8 feet long, the impressive indigo often relies upon gopher tortoise burrows for shelter. The snakes were historically found throughout southern Georgia, Alabama, eastern Mississippi and throughout Florida, though their range is now far more restricted.

Eastern Indigo Snakes on their way to release – Deb Burr FWC (left) and Michele Elmore FWS (right) at the Nature Conservancy Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve. Photo by Tim Donovan FWC

Following recent investigation, a scientific study by Folt et al published in PLOS ONE firmly concluded that the eastern indigo snake is indeed one distinct species, and there is no current evidence to support splitting D. couperi isolated by location. Gene sequence data does not provide evidence to support two distinct species.

Largely eliminated from northern Florida due to habitat loss and fragmentation, the indigo was last observed at ABRP in 1982, until 2017 and 2018 when several dozen snakes were introduced to the preserve. This year’s annual release is part of a 10-year commitment to the species’ recovery and continues a focus on establishment of healthy ecosystems through collaborative land, water and wildlife conservation efforts.

“We continue our work throughout the state and at our preserves to create healthy habitats and properly functioning natural systems that support iconic and important wildlife and plants,” said Temperince Morgan, Executive Director, The Nature Conservancy in Florida. “With the third annual snake release and the teamwork of our dedicated partners, we’re moving the indigos in the direction of species recovery.”  

ABRP is the only site in Florida currently designated for indigo reintroduction. The 6,295-acre nature preserve in northern Florida’s Liberty County protects a large longleaf pine landscape carved by numerous seepage streams and is home to the gopher tortoise and the full suite of longleaf pine specialists. Located in the Apalachicola Bay region along the Apalachicola River, the preserve lies in the center of one of five biological hotspots in North America and is home to a disproportionate number of imperiled species. The preserve is a living laboratory for the development of restoration techniques and land management excellence, dedicated to natural community restoration, preservation of biodiversity, and education and training.

Michele Elmore of USFWS about to release an eastern indigo snake to a gopher tortoise burrow at the Nature Conservancy Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve. Photo by Tim Donovan FWC

Only 5% of the longleaf pine ecosystem remains globally. Over the past 30-plus years, The Nature Conservancy has employed science and technical expertise to develop the state-of-the-art groundcover restoration process that is now used by state, federal and private partners across the southeast to restore longleaf pine habitat. This restoration, combined with the Conservancy’s robust prescribed fire program, has resulted in improved longleaf habitat on over 100,000 public and private north Florida acres in recent years.

Longleaf pine restoration is also a top priority at places like the Apalachicola National Forest and Torreya State Park — both neighbors to ABRP and supported by the U.S. Forest Service and Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The 15 snakes released at ABRP were bred and hatched by the Central Florida Zoo’s Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation, the world’s foremost comprehensive-based conservation organization dedicated to the captive propagation and reintroduction of the eastern indigo snake. All hatched in 2017, the 10 females and five males were raised for one year at the OCIC before transferring to the Welaka National Fish Hatchery for an additional year in preparation for their release. The snakes have been implanted with passive integrated transponders by the Central Florida Zoo’s veterinary staff to allow for identification when encountered after release.

“The Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens and OCIC are proud to contribute to the conservation efforts of this spectacular species,” said Michelle Hoffman, Director, Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation. “By focusing on the captive propagation and reintroduction of eastern indigo snakes, we are able to progress toward our goal of reestablishing this species in the Florida Panhandle.” 

The Welaka National Fish Hatchery, run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is located along the St Johns River in Putnam County. Known primarily for striped bass, channel catfish and bluegill, the hatchery will soon begin raising at-risk Florida grasshopper sparrows and gopher tortoises, in addition to indigo snakes. Over the past 18 months, the snakes were fed a steady diet of dead mice, quail chicks and rainbow trout, and grew to about 4.5 feet in length before release.

“Raising snakes is not what you’d expect from one of our hatcheries, but it shows how the aquatics team can reproduce and grow critters — regardless if they swim or crawl,” said Leo Miranda, regional director for the Service in the Southeast. “We are also working tirelessly with partners to restore the longleaf pine ecosystem that nurtures indigo snakes and myriad of other threatened and endangered species.”

Auburn University’s Alabama Natural Heritage Program brings knowledge to planning reintroduction efforts and expertise in onsite monitoring of the reintroduced snakes. Data collected from the snakes that were released in 2017 and 2018 continues to inform species recovery efforts. The initial 32 snakes released were implanted with radio transmitters by veterinary staff at the Central Florida Zoo, which allow researchers to track the animals’ movements, habitat selection and behavior. One of the eastern indigo snakes that was released in 2017 traveled over a mile from where it was initially released, and two previously released snakes were observed together in the same burrow earlier this year.

The monitoring program is supported in part by The Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center, whose mission is to understand, demonstrate and promote excellence in natural resource management and landscape conservation in the southeastern coastal plains.

The indigo reintroduction efforts are supported by grants and other funding, including a Conserve Wildlife Tag Grant from the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, funded through purchase of Conserve Wildlife Florida license plates and designated for conservation of nongame species and the habitats that support them.

“We are happy to be continuing this project with so many of our valued conservation partners this year,” said Kipp Frohlich, the FWC’s Director of Habitat and Species Conservation. “This release is another important step toward reestablishing a thriving population of this unique imperiled species in the longleaf pine forests of the Florida Panhandle.”

Additional funding to support the reintroduction has been provided by Gulf Power and Southern Company through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The Orianne Society was integral in the creation of the OCIC and the indigo snake reintroduction team and continues to play a role in reintroducing eastern indigo snakes into places they no longer occur. The Society works to conserve critical ecosystems for imperiled reptiles and amphibians, using science, applied conservation and education.

“With three years of releases under our belt, we are now looking forward to seeing evidence of reproduction on the Preserve. I can hardly wait!” said David Printiss, North Florida Program Manager, The Nature Conservancy in Florida.

Throughout the state, the Conservancy continues to pursue conservation projects and support policy that protects natural systems for people and wildlife. Next year’s snake release will be scheduled for summer 2020 — stay tuned.

The Nature Conservancy: The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at unprecedented scale, and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit nature.org/florida. In Florida since 1961, with support from our members, we have helped protect more than 1.2 million acres of vulnerable lands and waters across the state. We own and manage more than 52,000 acres in 25 Conservancy preserves in Florida. nature.org/florida, facebook.com/NatureConservancyFL, twitter.com/nature_florida, instagram.com/natureflorida/

Wherever the Currents may take You, Costa Sunglasses® Adds Support to Shark Research with Ocearch® Colletion

  • A wonderful effort to support the Apex Predator of our Ocean’s       
  • Ocearch Sunglasses, Frames, Apparel…supporting Ocean research…and Shark Survival

We’ve all wanted to see fish where they could not be usually seen with the naked eye, but anglers in the know also know…that the right kind of polarized sunglasses can actually help us to see those invisible fish. Especially at tournament time, saltwater or freshwater, this is critical. To see more fish, who can argue?

A special announcement from Daytona Beach today to help us all – Costa Sunglasses, a company committed to protecting our watery world, is launching new sunglasses, optical frames, frame colors and apparel as part of its growing OCEARCH Collection. This collection supports OCEARCH, an at-sea lab led by explorers and researchers who generate critical data and put science on the side of sharks. Costa’s long-term partnership with OCEARCH deepens its commitment to protect the lifeblood of our oceans.

Costa’s OCEARCH Switchfoot in Matte Tiger Shark with Green Mirror 580G lens.
Costa’s OCEARCH Vela in Matte Deep Teal Crystal with Gray Silver Mirror 580G lens.

Two frame styles are also new to the Costa lineup – Switchfoot™ and Vela™. Switchfoot features a unique double-bridge style, Hydrolite® nosepads and adjustable temple tips for a comfortable fit. The new style is perfect for sun-filled days on the water and is available in Matte Tiger Shark and Matte Black. The new Vela is named for “pez vela”, or “sailfish” and are as majestic as its fishy namesake. Offering Hydrolite nosepads, adjustable temple tips and a classic shape, the new frame is made for wherever the currents may take you. The new Vela is available in Shiny Coastal Fade and Matte Deep Teal Crystal.

The OCEARCH Collection also presents a new opportunity to support conservation through the purchase of Costa’s optical frames. The Ocean Ridge™ 100, 300 and 301 frames are available in Black Fade or Tiger Shark frames colors. These optical frames can be purchased at authorized Costa optical dealers throughout the U.S. and outfitted with an individual’s optical prescription. Costa’s expansion of the OCEARCH Collection to its optical line allows customers the opportunity to make mindful purchase decisions to help protect our watery world in the office or when the sun goes down.

Costa’s OCEARCH Collection now features 17 sunglass frames and four optical frame options, with 12 different frame colors. The OCEARCH Collection includes the following styles from Costa’s 2019 spring additions: Broadbill, Spearo, Panga, Rinconcito, Switchfoot and Vela, which along with Anaa, Caballito, Cat Cay, Fantail, Half Moon, Kare, Loreto, Remora, Slack Tide and Tuna Alley round out Costa’s OCEARCH lineup. The full list of sunglass frame colors includes: Matte Tiger Shark, Sea Glass, Matte Deep Teal Crystal, Matte Fog Gray, Brushed Silver with Matte Gray Crystal, Shiny White Shark, Matte Ocean Fade, Matte Black and Shiny Coastal Fade.

Apparel is also a key part of the OCEARCH Collection, including shirts for men, women and children. The new apparel offering includes new technical shirts and hat options, all carrying new designs like the OCEARCH Wave Shark and OCEARCH Huddle.

“The research OCEARCH is doing is critical to the health of our oceans and is providing important data to help protect the balance of its ecosystem,” said T.J. McMeniman, vice president of marketing for Costa Sunglasses. “Supporting this research is core to Costa’s commitment to conservation and has been a long-standing partnership that the company, and its people, remain extremely passionate about.”

A portion of the proceeds from each sale of sunglasses, optical frames and apparel in the OCEARCH Collection goes to the support of OCEARCH and its mission to protect sharks. Through this collection, Costa is working to help keep our oceans balanced through awareness and funding of OCEARCH expeditions.

About Costa: As the first manufacturer of color-enhancing all-polarized sunglass lenses, Costa combines superior lens technology with unparalleled fit and durability. Still handcrafted in Florida, Costa has made the highest quality, best performing sunglasses and prescription sunglasses (Rx) for outdoor enthusiasts since 1983, and now its product portfolio includes optical frames. Costa’s growing cult-brand status ties directly to its mission to provide high quality products with a focus on sustainability and conservation as the company works hard to protect the waters it calls home. From the use of sustainable materials to its Kick Plastic initiative, IndiFly Foundation and strong partnership with shark research organization OCEARCH, Costa encourages people to help protect the Earth’s natural resources in any way they can. Find out more on Costa’s website and join the conversation on FacebookInstagram or Twitter at @CostaSunglasses.

 

Invasive/Non-native Species Rules TAKE EFFECT May 2 in Florida

  • If you currently possess one of the newly listed prohibited species and do not wish to obtain a grandfathered pet permit, PLEASE Don’t Let it Loose!
Bullseye Snakehead is a non-native species in Florida

By Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission

New rules will help proactively protect Florida from invasive species becoming established in the state. The rules, which were approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in February, go into effect May 2.

The new rules clarify rule language by defining key terms and add some high-risk nonnative animals to Florida’s Prohibited Nonnative Species List. Using recent risk assessments and screenings, the FWC determined these species present a high level of risk to the state and will therefore be added to Florida’s Prohibited Nonnative Species List:  

  • Mammals: meerkat/mongoose, raccoon dog, dhole, brushtail possum, flying fox.
  • Birds: red-whiskered bul-bul, dioch, Java sparrow, pink starling.
  • Reptiles: brown tree snake, yellow anaconda, Beni anaconda, DeSchauensee’s anaconda.
Nile-Monitor Lizard is a non-native species in Florida.

The rule changes include a 90-day grace period for people to come into compliance with the new rules, since prohibited species may only be possessed by permit for research or exhibition purposes. The grace period, which ends July 31, will allow commercial dealers who possess these species to sell their inventory, since commercial sales of these species are no longer allowed in Florida and people will no longer be permitted to acquire them as pets. 

The new rules also include grandfathering language for people who possessed these species as pets prior to the rule changes. People who have any of these species in personal possession will have until July 31 to submit a permit application to the FWC, which will allow them to keep their pet for the rest of its life.

“Our native fish and wildlife are facing a serious threat posed by various invasive species found throughout the state,” said Kipp Frohlich, director of the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. “This new rule will help prevent those species on the prohibited list from becoming the next Burmese python.”

The public can help the FWC control nonnative invasive wildlife by reporting sightings to the FWC’s Exotic Species Hotline at 888-IveGot1 (888-483-4681), online at IVEGOT1.org or by using the free smartphone app IVEGOT1.

Burmese Python is a non-native Florida species.

If you currently possess one of the newly listed prohibited species and do not wish to obtain a grandfathered pet permit, Don’t Let it Loose! Be a responsible pet owner and never release exotic animals into the Florida ecosystem. It is illegal and can be harmful to native wildlife. The FWC’s Exotic Pet Amnesty Program helps prevent nonnative animals from being released into the wild by providing exotic pet owners who can no longer keep their pets with a legal and responsible alternative to releasing them. People may surrender their exotic pets at Exotic Pet Amnesty Day events or year-round by calling the FWC’s Exotic Species Hotline at 888-Ive-Got1 (483-4681). All exotic pets, including ones held illegally, are accepted without penalty and placed with pre-approved adopters. Learn more about the program at MyFWC.com/Nonnatives under the “Exotic Pet Amnesty Program” tab. 

For more information about nonnative species in Florida, visit MyFWC.com/Nonnatives.

Hunting and Fishing Groups File Final Comments Opposing Clean Water Rollback

Photo by Project Healing Waters via Flickr

  • 14 national groups and 70 local affiliate chapters oppose the proposed weakening of clean water standards that would threaten fish and wildlife habitat
Photo by Project Healing Waters via Flickr

By Kristyn Brady

Today (April 15, 2019), dozens of national, regional, and local hunting and fishing groups submitted final comments on the EPA’s proposed rollback of Clean Water Act protections for 50 percent of wetlands and 18 percent of stream miles in the U.S. Their comments underscore the potential economic consequences for rural communities and outdoor recreation businesses and the species that stand to lose habitat if clean water standards are weakened.

Photo by Project Healing Waters via Flickr

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has also mobilized more than 3,500 individual sportsmen and women to submit comments opposing the rollback during the brief comment period.

“At every step of the EPA’s rule replacement process on what waters qualify for Clean Water Act protections, hunters and anglers have been clear about their support for safeguards on headwaters and wetlands,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The science supports protecting these habitats as interconnected to larger water systems, the economics of defending outdoor recreation opportunities and businesses makes sense, and Americans will continue to stand up for clean water to power their outdoor pursuits.”

The groups write that the proposed rule represents a “wholesale gutting of the Clean Water Act’s 47 years of protection for our nation’s waters,” with habitat that supports trout, salmon, pintails, mallards, teal, and snow geese in the crosshairs.

Read the detailed comments here. Fourteen national groups and 70 state and local affiliate chapters signed in support.

Photo by Project Healing Waters via flickr.

 

Giving Back to the Outdoors – 22 Brands Will Raise Funds in Fifth Annual “We Keep It Wild” Campaign

Funds raised will help the Conservation Alliance protect wild lands and waters across North America for future generations to enjoy.

  • “We Keep It Wild” program set for needed help from Outdoor Industry
  • EVERYDAY PEOPLE Can Support this program through product purchase and donation 
  • Together, we have helped protect 51 million acres, 3,107 river miles, removed or halted 34 dams, purchased 14 climbing areas & designated 5 marine reserves

A diverse assortment of 22 companies are hosting fundraisers and online promotions during the month of April to benefit The Conservation Alliance in the fifth annual “We Keep It Wild” campaign.

Funds raised will help the Alliance protect wild lands and waters across North America for future generations to enjoy.

“Participation in our We Keep It Wild campaign is another example of how our members come together around a common purpose,” said Josie Norris, program manager at The Conservation Alliance. “We work with these brands throughout the year to protect North America’s wild places through grant-making and advocacy. We are proud to see our members taking additional action to support our mission by raising money for The Conservation Alliance during the month of April.”

Fundraising efforts in April include:

Other confirmed partners include: FootZone of Bend; Bronwen Jewelry; Farm to Feet; Klean Kanteen; Last Exit Goods; Lifestraw; Nau; Nuu-Muu; shār; Superfeet; and Waypoint Outdoor. All donations are additive to the annual membership dues for each brand.

For information and details on all #WeKeepItWild promotions, please visit: http://www.conservationalliance.com/event-flyer/

About the Conservation Alliance: The Conservation Alliance is an organization of like-minded businesses whose collective contributions support grassroots environmental organizations and their efforts to protect wild places where outdoor enthusiasts recreate. Alliance funds have played a key role in protecting rivers, trails, wildlands and climbing areas. Membership in the Alliance is open to all companies who care about protecting our most threatened wild places for habitat and outdoor recreation. Since its inception in 1989, The Conservation Alliance has contributed more than $22 million, helped to protect more than 51 million acres of wildlands; protect 3,107 miles of rivers; stop or remove 34 dams; designate five marine reserves; and purchase 14 climbing areas. For complete information on The Conservation Alliance, see www.conservationalliance.com.

Fishing Groups Formally Object to “Sustainable” Stamp on Menhaden Fishery – TRCP asks for Action

  • Mining the base of the food chain is neither sustainable nor economically justifiable

By Kristyn Brady

There are rising concerns about volume of harvest and unregulated bycatch. Stephan Lowy photo

Today, three recreational fishing groups filed a formal objection against the Marine Stewardship Council’s recommendation that Omega Protein should receive a certification of sustainability for its U.S. Atlantic menhaden purse-seining operations. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, American Sportfishing Association, and Coastal Conservation Association signed onto the objection, filed with MSC’s leaders in the United Kingdom.

The industrial harvest of this important forage fish by a single foreign-owned company, Cooke Inc.’s Omega Protein, has a negative impact on striped bass and other sportfish that rely on menhaden for food. Earlier this month, MSC—a private international organization, not a government entity—signaled that it would likely put its stamp of approval on Omega’s menhaden reduction fishing operation, in which the oily baitfish is harvested and reduced into meal, pet food, and other products.

MSC reached this conclusion in spite of the fact that menhaden stocks are less than half of what they would be without industrial harvest, which currently suppresses the striped bass stocks on the East Coast by about 30 percent. Striped bass are the single most valuable marine recreational fishery in the country.

“This certification would put a blue ribbon on the practice of robbing sportfish of their forage base, even as striped bass numbers decline in the Atlantic,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the TRCP. His organization collaborated with a legal team to object to MSC’s findings and rallied individual anglers to sign an open letter opposing the certification. “We felt it was important to put pressure on MSC, in every venue possible, not to do this. It is irresponsible to call Omega’s operation sustainable when it affects striped bass numbers and the recreational fishing economy.”

MSC’s published assessment indicates that the certification of sustainability would be granted on the condition that Omega reach certain milestones over four years—not because the operation can be considered sustainable now. Sportfishing groups objected to the rationale behind two of these conditions and the MSC’s overall method of assessing the stock’s status.

“The MSC certification undermines ten years of work by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to establish ecosystem reference points for Atlantic menhaden, a process expected to be concluded in the next year,” says Mike Leonard, vice president of government affairs for the American Sportfishing Association. “For sportfishing businesses on the East Coast, the stakes are very high going into the striped bass season. Menhaden are an important food source for striped bass, and the latest striped bass stock assessment shows a continued decline in spawning stock biomass. This is the worst possible time for MSC to make a misstep like this.”

“In Maryland, anglers are concerned with the health and future outlook for many different recreational fisheries in the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coast, and menhaden are a major piece of the ecological foundation and balance in the region,” says David Sikorski, executive director of CCA Maryland. “This is why we anxiously await management options to be unveiled after nearly 20 years of conversation on how to manage these important fish for their role in the ecosystem. It would be negligent for MSC to hand out its certification just as the game is about to change.”

 

 

 

 

Out of the Classroom & Into the Great Outdoors – the WOLF School Program

  • A School that Changes the Lives of Kids from 5th grade on
  • Wolf School Program creates Conservationists
  • Inspiration, Passion, Empowerment is Learned Here
Caving is messy, but a whole lot of fun. Wolf School Photo

By Larry Whiteley

The amount of time kids spend outdoors in nature is at an all-time low. Time in front of a television, playing video games and time on smart phones is at an all-time high. A recent study by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute found that, on average, children now spend only 12.6 minutes a day on outdoor activities compared with 10.4 waking hours being relatively motionless. The result is a childhood obesity rate that has soared due to a combined decline in creativity, concentration and social interaction skills in our kids.

Because of this we are also at risk of losing an entire generation’s appreciation for how nature works and how we need to take care of it for future generations. As Richard Louv said in his book Last Child in the Woods, “The child in nature is an endangered species and the health of children, and the health of the earth, are inseparable.”

10 years ago in Springfield, MO a group of people got together to try to change those statistics for the kids in their school system. The Wonders of the Ozarks Learning Facility (WOLF) School was formed in partnership with the Springfield Public School System with support from the Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Bass Pro Shops.

WOLF School is like any other public school, but kids choose to attend this one. Well over four hundred 4th grade students who have satisfactory attendance and behavior records apply each year, but only 46 students are chosen by a random drawing to attend as 5th graders.  There is wish and hope competition. The school system provides transportation along with teachers Courtney Reece and Lauren Baer, who are passionate about the outdoors and conservation.

This outdoor learning school is operated by the school system, but the classroom is not in a normal school building.  It is located in the John A. & Genny Morris Conservation Center in outdoor-themed classrooms that provide state-of-the-art facilities to help further learning with technology and an outdoor learning lab. It was all built for the school by noted conservationist, Johnny Morris.

Next door to the school is the Johnny Morris Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium. Kids also use it as a learning facility and sometimes you can find them telling visitors all about the fish and wildlife on display. The Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World store is next door also and furnishes gear, know-how and support. Johnny Morris would probably tell you WOLF School and all the children it has touched is one of the best investments he has ever made.

Studies have shown that outdoor time boosts classroom performance and they grow up to be better stewards of the environment. The school inspires and educates the next generation of conservation leaders with a complete curriculum in the classroom.  Every week, at least once or twice a week, students take what they’ve learned in the classroom and head out into the great outdoors to learn through hands-on exploration and field experiences.

WOLF kids learning and helping at the WOW Museum. Wolf School Photo

They learn about the conservation of Missouri’s water, forests, caves, prairies, wetlands and glades. The kids get to experience hiking, fishing, snorkeling, canoeing and kayaking, stream surveying, river and stream ecology, woodworking, owl pellet dissection, hunting, shooting, game-calling, birding, caving, animal-handling, map and compass, orienteering and a whole lot more.

Misty Mitchell has been there from the beginning of WOLF School and serves as the staff liaison between Springfield Public Schools, Bass Pro Shops and Wonders of Wildlife.  Misty says, “One of my favorite things about WOLF is how it absorbs the entire family. The students are taking and teaching their parents about the natural resources that WOLF visits during the school day. Parents are usually overwhelmed in the beginning as their student’s passion for learning increases by leaps and bounds.”

Teacher Courtney Reece echoed Misty’s words when she said, “My favorite thing about the program is that it doesn’t just affect students. It brings families together. Parents are overjoyed that their kids initiate family time because of the program.”

The school also has helped with teaching the kids from the Missouri Department of Conservation. Southwest Region Outdoor and Education Supervisor Warren Rose says, “We are pleased to offer teacher training, conservation education curriculums and outdoor skills activities for WOLF, but we also want other Missouri schools to know that we can provide the same thing to their school even if they don’t have a special classroom.”

Bob Kipfer loves to volunteer his time to help teach the WOLF kids. Wolf School Photo

Volunteers like Bob and Barb Kipfer are also an integral part of the school. The Kipfer’s not only come to the classroom to help teach the kids, they also open their land along Bull Creek in Christian County to be used as an outdoor classroom several times a year. I asked Bob his thoughts on these school programs and he said, “In a perfect world, all students would have as least some of the experiences that the WOLF program offers. We have the resources including volunteers, but needs change in our nation’s education system to expand the student’s horizons. It is, after all, the world that they will be inheriting.” I think the majority of teachers and parents would agree with Bob’s words.

The success of WOLF School has been credited with helping start a new off campus school for 5th graders called the Academy of Exploration at the Discovery Center of Springfield with a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) focus. In addition, the school system has started the Health Science Academy at Mercy Hospital in Springfield for 8th graders interested in being a part of the health industry.

Over the last decade, over 400 students have graduated from WOLF school. Like Bob Kipfer, I am sure all those involved wish all kids, not just those in Springfield, could have the opportunity to attend schools like WOLF. If that ever happened it could change the lives of a lot of kids and it could also change the broken world we live in.

Barb Kipfer leads the WOLF kids on a nature walk. Wolf School Photo

Maybe if more parents, grandparents, educators and politicians heard the story of Diana Summit we would see those changes happen.  Diana always had a passion for science and was lucky enough to have caring teachers who invested their time to fuel that passion. It was through them that she heard about the WOLF School program.

She talked her family into letting her apply and she was accepted. Coming from an underprivileged home with no car and no money she had to catch a city bus, then walk in all kinds of weather to make it to school. Remember this is a 10-year old 5th grader. “WOLF was feeding something inside me that was so powerful that I had to be there. I had always loved school, but WOLF School was special and I was going to be there whatever the price,” said Diana.

Diana graduated from WOLF School with the 2008-2009 class and is now the first person in her family to graduate high school.  She is currently enrolled at Missouri State University studying to be a veterinarian.  Diana says, “When I look back at this time in my life I can clearly see how WOLF and Wonders of Wildlife really changed my life.”

How many more lives could be changed because of school programs like WOLF? How many families would grow closer together and stronger?  How many kids would grow up to be our future conservationists? How many of these kids as adults would work to change our world for the better?

“If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it. Perhaps this is what Thoreau had in mind when he said, “the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think the same is true of human beings.”

-David Sobel

INFO: www.sps.org/wolf or www.wondersofwildlife.org/education/wolf-school for more information on WOLF School.

Prescribed Fires, Why are they Important?

  • We learn from Oak Mountain State Park in Alabama
Prescribed burning of fire-tolerant longleaf pine forests helps eliminate competition from understory vegetation and fuels the growth of wildlife food sources. Photo by Billy Pope

Part of Long-term Longleaf Pine Restoration

Alabama State Parks will conduct a prescribed burn of two longleaf pine tree zones at Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Ala., during March 2019, weather permitting. The prescribed burns will take place in two locations within the park: approximately 168 acres near the upper fishing lakes and approximately 130 acres near the campground.

Every effort will be made to ensure proper smoke management and safety of the surrounding areas during the burn period. The Alabama Forestry Commission and the City of Pelham Fire Department have been notified and will be on standby if needed.

Regular prescribed burns of fire-tolerant longleaf pine forests help eliminate competition from understory vegetation such as maple, gum, hickory and oak. Prescribed burns also help to fuel the growth of wildlife food sources such as native grasses, wildflowers and forbs.

The longleaf management program at Oak Mountain is a partnership between Alabama State Parks and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Alabama. TNC will provide trained personnel, ATV equipment and logistics expertise to assist with the controlled burns.

Historically, longleaf pine covered millions of acres across several southeastern states including current sections of Oak Mountain State Park. Longleaf pine ecosystems thrived when controlled by naturally occurring fires. However, more than 50 years of fire suppression has degraded the health of some of these ecosystems.

To learn more about the benefits of prescribed fire, visit www.outdooralabama.com/wildlife-management-programs/prescribed-fire-ala….

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Progress in Developing Mentorship and New Participants

  • New Initiatives, Optimism, Support
  • Land Access Improvements
  • Looking for New Hunters Needs a Plan

Click picture to learn more about NSSF

The National Shooting Sports Foundation®(NSSF®), along with several other organizations in the outdoor industry, announced at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade ShowSM (SHOT Show®) a number of initiatives designed to increase participation in hunting and target shooting both through reactivation of those who have lapsed, who have ceased to participate, or participate only sporadically and through recruitment of people completely new to the pastime.

Hunter numbers have declined in recent decades due to a variety of reasons, including lack of mentorship, difficulty in accessing hunting lands and shifts in cultural norms. But there is cause for optimism. Research shows that, despite the decline in participating numbers, many Americans continue to have a strong interest in hunting, and the programs announced today are a clear indicator of progress being made in developing the solutions needed to connect those who are interested in hunting, but haven’t yet participated, with the resources they need to get started.

“There’s a strong, well-documented interest in this great American pastime by people from all walks of life, and one of the keys to taking that interest to active participation is through the support of and encouragement by mentors,” said Jim Curcuruto, NSSF Director, Research and Market Development. “Programs that provide that connection, such as mentoring programs, are what’s sorely needed to move people from wanting to get involved to actually being involved.”

Curcuruto was joined in the press conference by representatives from the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, the Quality Deer Management Association and the Georgia Wildlife Federation, all of which support programs specifically designed to increase participation numbers.

Curcuruto outlined several new NSSF participation initiatives, including its +ONESM program, which encourages experienced hunters and target shooters to mentor youth and adults and recognizes the efforts of these mentors. This program and others are supported by three new major websites developed by NSSF.

LetsGoHunting.orgTM is dedicated to all things hunting, everything from discussion of calibers to use for elk, treestand safety and how to perfect one’s wingshooting skills to working with Western big-game tag draws and a wealth of tasty field-to-table recipes. NSSF’s +ONE movement is a central component of the site, as are the “Where to Hunt” and “Apprenticeship” links.

LetsGoShooting.orgTM, LetsGoHunting.org’s sister site, is dedicated to all things target sports, with a comprehensive library of video and reading resources, geo-locating services for firearms ranges and retailers, safety instruction, shooting sports organizations and more.

Finally, StepOutside.org focuses on cross-participation across a spectrum of outdoor activities. Using geo-locating services similar to that in the LetsGo websites, StepOutside.org acknowledges the mutual interests of, for example, hikers and kayakers with hunting, target shooting and angling pursuits, and encourages participation.

An innovative program in Georgia is underway to help college students give hunting a try. Charles Evans, the Georgia Wildlife Federation R3 coordinator, said this partnership program with NSSF addresses survey findings that suggest that many college students want to try hunting and target shooting, but have never had that opportunity. This program offers an avenue to get started and the tools to help students continue on their own. “We recognize that college students are curious about hunting, the nutritional benefits of game meat and the hunter’s role in conservation. Lifelong habits start in college, and hunting could be one of the better habits students form,” said Evans.

The sale of hunting licenses and tags, along with excise taxes on the purchase of firearms and ammunition, assist federal and state wildlife conservation efforts, with more than $1.67 billion contributed annually by sportsmen and -women. They provide the bulk of conservation funding, so maintaining hunter ranks and safeguarding this funding level is vitally important for the nation’s wildlife, the speakers said.

Another promising program called “Field to Fork” comes from the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA). This modern approach to attracting new hunters works by connecting adults with an all-natural, local, renewable, healthy food source. Field to Fork spans the entire hunting process from hunter education to processing and preparing the harvest for a meal, and it was recently adapted to allow industry members to mentor and participate.

Hank Forester, Hunting Heritage Program Manager for QDMA, said, “Mentoring a new hunter can seem daunting at times, but experience shows that many people interested in hunting will welcome a personal invitation to try it. This is part of what Field to Fork does, provide that invitation that can really make a difference.”

Forester added that, “People in our own industry are interested in learning to hunt, and we’re working to make sure that those desires become a reality by having current participants teach newcomers the ropes.”

To learn more about opportunities to become involved in these programs and to join the national movement to recruit more hunters and target shooters, feel free to contact Jim Curcuruto at jcurcuruto@nssf.org, Hank Forester at hforester@qdma.com, Charles Evans at swanny.evans@gmail.com or Samantha Pedder at samantha@cahss.org.

About NSSF
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 12,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers. For more information, visit nssf.org.

Johnny Morris Awarded the AUDUBON MEDAL, One of Conservation’s Highest Honors

  • Morris is only 58th conservationist to receive the Audubon Medal in its 114-year history
L to R: National Wildlife Federation CEO Colin O’Mara, Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, Audubon Society CEO David Yarnold and Audubon Board Chair Margaret Walker (right) pose with The Audubon Medal. PHOTO CREDIT: Camilla Cerea/Audubon

The National Audubon Society presented one of the most prestigious awards in conservation, the Audubon Medal, to Bass Pro Shops founder and legendary conservationist Johnny Morris and his family in a gala event February 7 at The Plaza Hotel in New York.

Morris has spent his life tirelessly working to preserve wildlife and wild places so that future generations can be as energized and excited by nature as he has been. Morris has long pointed to his earliest days of being out with his family on the streams of the Missouri Ozarks as the inspiration for his extraordinary success with Bass Pro Shops.

Given in recognition of outstanding achievement in the field of conservation and environmental protection, The Audubon Medal was first given out in 1947 to Hugh Hammond Bennett, a pioneer in understanding soil erosion. Morris is the 58th recipient of the medal, joining conservation icons such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias, President Jimmy Carter, Academy Award-winning director and actor Robert Redford, beloved British natural historian Sir David Attenborough, CNN founder Ted Turner, author Rachel Carson and lauded biologist Edward O. Wilson.

“To be awarded the Audubon medal is one of the proudest and most humbling experiences of my life. To be included among the other 58 conservationists to receive this high honor alongside such visionary leaders as Walt Disney, J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling, President Jimmy Carter and others, is a great honor. I’m very proud to share this with my family, and our extended family – the many passionate, conservation-minded people in our company and the sportsmen and women we are blessed to serve,” said noted conservationist and Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris. \

Click for video of acceptance moments.

“What many people don’t realize is that John James Audubon and President Theodore Roosevelt were not only heroes in conservation, they were also sportsmen and hunters. Over many hours spent in the field hunting, they gained a better appreciation for our nation’s fish and wildlife and the habitats required to sustain them,” added Morris. “I hope they are both looking down smiling and happy that we are all here as one united, inclusive family working with passion to carry on the important mission they outlined for us many years ago – to be good stewards of God’s creation and to protect the wild places so that future generations, our kids and grandkids, can have the same opportunities we have to experience the wonders of the natural world.”

Morris’ passion for 40 years has been to help children feel the same awe and wonder of the outdoors that he has felt. Morris has worked with every Republican and Democratic administration since 1978 – when Audubon Medal recipient Jimmy Carter was in office – to advance significant conservation causes. He has often been called a modern-day Teddy Roosevelt.

In 2017 – with Teddy Roosevelt’s Great, Great Grandson Simon Roosevelt in attendance – Morris opened the 350,000 square foot Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium (WOW) in his hometown of Springfield, Mo. It is the largest conservation attraction in the world. In 2018, WOW worked closely with Audubon to unveil “The Year of the Bird,” an extraordinary exhibit that celebrates the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The National Audubon Society is dedicated to protecting birds and the places they need for more than 60 million birders across the United States.

“Audubon has been a force for good in conservation for more than a century,” Morris said. “They began by working with a personal hero of mine, Teddy Roosevelt, to establish the first National Wildlife Refuge. Today, we share a vision to inspire future generations of conservationists to carry on America’s heritage of protecting our natural resources.”
National conservation leaders commemorate the occasion

Hundreds of leading conservationists from across the country gathered in New York to honor Morris and his contributions, which follow in the footsteps of the nation’s greatest conservationists.

“The award is important for conservationists across the political spectrum, as both a reminder and a contemporary acknowledgement of the essential role of hunters and anglers in conservation,” said Great, Great Grandson Simon Roosevelt. “First and foremost, however, the Medal is a rightful recognition of the broad scope of Johnny’s dedication to conservation and his ever-forward-looking leadership.”

Morris was introduced by Colin O’Mara, CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, America’s oldest and largest conservation organization with six million members, who discussed the Bass Pro founder’s impact on the next generation.

“Johnny has instilled a love of wildlife in millions upon millions of children across America,” said O’Mara, who has partnered with Morris to advance national legislation to protect fish and wildlife and develop education programs at Wonders of Wildlife. “He’s advancing conservation in every part of the country. And he’s leaving a legacy that will inspire young conservationists for centuries.”

Morris accepted the award together with his wife Jeanie and children John Paul, Megan, Julie and Jennifer.

Sporting Groups Urge Swift Passage of Public Lands Package

  • Senate Bill 47 would reauthorize the expired Land and Water Conservation Fund

By Drew Youngedyke, Feb. 5, 2019

Sportsmen and women are urging Congress to pass a comprehensive public lands and sportsmen’s package of legislation, once and for all, after failing to do so for multiple terms in a row. Senate Bill 47 incorporates permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) along with a sportsmen’s package which expands access for hunting and fishing, as well as provides protection for fish and wildlife habitat. Introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on January 9, 2019, it could finally see a vote in the Senate this week.

“This Public Lands package is an incredible victory for the sporting community,” said Aaron Kindle, senior manager of western sporting campaigns for the National Wildlife Federation. “It conserves both programs and lands we love and ensures sporting opportunities for years to come. We really need to see this package cross the finish and put a bow on many years of hard work.”

The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which used royalties from offshore energy development to acquire and develop outdoor recreation opportunities, expired in September, 2018.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided outdoor opportunities to generations of hunters and anglers. It’s time to ensure that future generations receive the same opportunities. Congress needs to pass S. 47 without delay to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

In addition to permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, S. 47 incorporates the WILD Act’s innovative responses to conservation threats, while also expanding access for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting on federal public lands, recruiting and retaining more hunter-conservationists, and allowing the transport of archery equipment through national parks.

“The S. 47 package is a huge win for the sporting community, habitat and access,” said Dwayne Meadows, executive director of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation. “I know Wyoming will certainly benefit.”

The public lands package also protects 1.3 million acres of public land through wilderness designation in New Mexico and Utah, wild and scenic river designation and designation of a wild steelhead management area in Oregon, and a study of wildlife migration and habitat fragmentation in California.

“So much of our quality fishing, hunting and reliable access in Idaho relies on programs that require bipartisan support,” said Brian Brooks, executive director of the Idaho Wildlife Federation. “This package is no different. It is a far-ranging, unique approach that is a special acknowledgement to public lands, wildlife and our sporting heritage.”

For More Info: Drew YoungeDyke – Senior Communications Coordinator, National Wildlife Federation – Great Lakes Regional Center, 734-887-7119, www.nwf.org

Uniting all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly changing world

We Believe – America’s experience with cherished landscapes and wildlife has helped define and shape our national character and identity for generations. Protecting these natural resources is a cause that has long united Americans from all walks of life and political stripes. To hunters, anglers, hikers, birders, wildlife watchers, boaters, climbers, campers, cyclists, gardeners, farmers, forest stewards, and other outdoor enthusiasts, this conservation ethic represents a sacred duty and obligation to protect and build upon our conservation heritage for the sake of wildlife, ourselves, our neighbors, and—most of all—for future generations.

The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization uniting all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly-changing world

National Wild Turkey Federation Partners with GoWild to Boost Hunting Heritage Programs, Conservation Efforts and More

  • Conservation, Mentorship, Hunting…all come together

From their headquarters in Edgefield, South Carolina, one of the more storied organizations in conservation and hunting is partnering with the outdoors industry’s fasting growing tech startup. As the National Wild Turkey Federation expands upon its efforts to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters, it’s adding high tech firepower to its communication plan – a partnership with GoWild.

The NWTF’s partnership with the outdoors social media and activity tracking platform allows the organization to modernize its messaging and better appeal to a budding generation of young and first-generation or adult-onset hunters.

“GoWild quickly turned into a place where people realized they could get real time advice for their outdoor pursuits without all of the hassle and politics that can come with other social media,” said Brad Luttrell, the Co-Founder and CEO of GoWild. “Our team couldn’t be more excited to put the power of this community to work for an organization like the NWTF. Few groups have done more for conservation.”

The First Project: A Sweepstakes Promoting Conservation & Mentorship

For the first initiative in the partnership, GoWild is hosting a sweepstakes for the NWTF. Any NWTF member — new or old — can sign up for a chance to win the NWTF Turkey Hunting Sweepstakes via the GoWild app (available on iTunes or Google Play). Entry is easy and free for members. Find details on entering in the GoWild app by searching “NWTF.”

“This isn’t just about new memberships, we want to drive awareness of the value of volunteering to help in the name of conservation,” said Becky Humphries, CEO of the NWTF. “Just as we’ve fought to bring the numbers of turkeys back to a healthy population, we must now focus on raising the number of hunters. Our partnership with GoWild will help us reach a new generation of hunters, and that’s what it’s all about.”

NWTF members can search “NWTF” on GoWild to earn their first entry in the sweepstakes. NWTF members who use the app to log time for Mentorship or Conservation Efforts can earn second entries (details on GoWild). A second sweepstakes will launch soon in partnership with nonprofit Raise ‘Em Outdoors and outdoors land rental tech company Outdoors Access. Anyone who isn’t a member can join at nwtf.org.

In-App Functionality for NWTF

Together, GoWild and the NWTF aim to activate even more people to participate in mentorship, conservation efforts and share lessons beyond hunting. Within GoWild, mentors and mentees can live track hikes, scouts, hunts, archery practice and more. GoWild is donating the sponsorship of its Turkey Trail (essentially a forum of content all about turkey hunting) to the NWTF.

At the Convention

Team GoWild will be at the NWTF Convention and Sport Show in Nashville on Feb. 14 and 15. On Thursday, attendees can find team GoWild at the Hunting Heritage Programs booth, where they can learn about the app and partnership, as well as get info about how to enter in the sweepstakes.

“GoWild has an eclectic group of outdoors enthusiasts,” said Luttrell. “We’ll never be able to do what the NWTF has done for the turkey, but it’s my hope that with this new partnership, we can create some turkey hunters who might have just remained hikers or anglers without us.”

About the National Wild Turkey Federation: When the National Wild Turkey Federation was founded in 1973, there were about 1.3 million wild turkeys in North America. After decades of work, that number hit a historic high of almost 7 million turkeys. To succeed, the NWTF stood behind science-based conservation and hunters’ rights. Today, the NWTF is focused on the future of hunting and conservation through its Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative – a charge that mobilizes science, fundraising and devoted volunteers to conserve or enhance more than 4 million acres of essential wildlife habitat, recruit at least 1.5 million hunters and open access to 500,000 acres for hunting. For more information, visit NWTF.org.

 

About GoWild: GoWild is the most active, fastest growing social media and activity tracking platform for outdoors enthusiasts. The GoWild app is free. GoWild is headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. Download the app for Android, iPhone or Garmin at timetogowild.com.

For more information, contact:

NWTF, Daneil Pieterse at (803) 637-7511

NWTF, Pete Muller at (803) 637-7698

GoWild, Brad Luttrell at (502) 794-2242

New York DEC Announces $3 Million in Grants Available for 2019 Invasive Species Projects

  • Grant Applications Accepted through Feb. 15, 2019
Hydrilla plant (NYSDEC Photo)

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced that $3 million is available in the first round of the State’s newly consolidated Invasive Species Grant Program. To support projects that target both aquatic and terrestrial invasive species across the state, DEC combined previous funding opportunities, including the Aquatic Invasive Species Spread Prevention and the Aquatic and Terrestrial Invasive Species Early Detection/Rapid Response grants, into a single grant program. DEC is accepting applications for these grants through Feb. 15, 2019.

“New York is an international center for trade and tourism, making the state vulnerable to invasive species,” Commissioner Seggos said. “Once established, species such as hydrilla, emerald ash borer, and Japanese knotweed spread rapidly, causing harm to the environment, the economy, and human health. The invasive species grants announced today increase our ability to reduce the impacts of these invasive pests through control, removal, research, and prevention.”

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Invasive species pose a threat to our agricultural economy, potentially causing harm to our crops and our forestry industry. The new grant program provides the targeted resources needed to help the State combat the introduction and establishment of invasives statewide.”

Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, the 2018-19 state budget included $13.3 million in the State’s Environmental Protection Fund targeted specifically for invasive species related initiatives, $3 million of which was made available for these grants. Municipalities, academic institutions, and not-for-profits may submit applications for funding for eligible projects in up to two of the following categories:

  • Aquatic invasive species spread prevention;
  • Terrestrial and aquatic invasive species rapid response and control;
  • Terrestrial and aquatic invasive species research; and
  • Lake Management Plans.

Grant awards range from a minimum of $11,000 to a maximum of $100,000, with a required 25 percent match. Project locations must be located wholly within New York State and priority will be given to projects that include opportunities for public participation, are on or close to public lands or waterbodies, and emphasize long-term success. For full details about the grant opportunity including eligible projects and scoring criteria, visit the Request for Applications on DEC’s website.

Applications are due by 3:00 p.m. on Feb. 15, 2019. All grant applicants must register in the NYS Grants Gateway System (link leaves DEC’s webpage) before applying. Not-for-profit applicants are required to prequalify in the Grants Gateway system, so DEC recommends that applicants start the process in advance of the grant application due date.

The New York State Invasive Species Council, comprising nine agencies, recently adopted a new Invasive Species Comprehensive Management Plan, with assistance from a 25-member Invasive Species Advisory Committee. The Invasive Species Grant Program will provide opportunities to implement various actions identified under the eight focal initiatives around which the Plan is framed.

First Moments in Costa Rica – A Student Adventure

The front porch at the student center provided peace, quiet and tropical jungle at our footsteps.

  • Tropical Rain Forests, Ecology and Coffee
  • Endless Valleys, Lush Flora, Warm Climate Fauna
  • Chalupas, Refried Beans, Pico de Gallo, Guacamole, Gallo Pinto…Delicious Food
The lush mountains of Costa Rica offer uninhabited jungle,  small villages and pristine, clean air.

By Kiley Voss

The word “surreal” had been in my vocabulary several few weeks before leaving the United States. As the plane slowly descends, the mountains seem different somehow. They are seemingly more majestic, if only in the way rolling hills covered in trees can be, some partly covered by a few white puffy clouds, adding to the effect.

August 27th, 2018 – Day 1: This day had probably been one of the biggest leading-up-to-days of my entire life. All of the researching, applications, paperwork, scholarships, doctors, farms, preparations and packing for almost one year has led to this day. Success! Here I am in Costa Rica!

Studying Conservation Biology at SUNY ESF (State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry), I have used the second to last semester of my senior year to complete a study abroad program for three months in Costa Rica, taking classes and getting hands-on learning. The School for Field Studies (SFS) title of their program is Sustainable Development Studies, with classes in resource management, tropical ecology, environmental ethics and directed research.

Arriving at the SFS Center, after the bus took all 22 of us students down winding roads, through hills and valleys of lush emerald green flora, passing vibrant-colored one floor houses, cattle and dogs…and people in cars and on motorbikes, we saw our home for the next three months. It was located at the very end of a road just before the level land drops off into a valley.  The Center is more plants than buildings, with orange trees and mango trees, a pollinator garden, greenhouses, vegetable beds and composting areas (to make affordable mulch).

Driving in Costa Rica offers the exciting view of high-rising mountains and rolling hills galore.

Touring our new home briefly, we find the outdoor classroom, where in a few moments we will be having dinner. Dinner will always be served in the dark, as the sun sets at 5:30 p.m. and dinner will always be at 6 p.m. Wearing our rain boots, which is required of all of us after dark to protect ourselves from possible venomous snakes that are on our Campus Center, we head to the open classroom. We get our first taste of Costa Rican food as we make our own chalupas, an open-faced hard tortilla, in a buffet line style, with options in order of meat, refried beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole and shredded cheese.

I’m still in awe. I can’t believe I’m actually here! There are so many noises that I hear outside my shared bedroom, that I don’t know if they are bird or monkey or insect, and that’s the weirdest, but most exciting thought! I am so used to hearing birds, mammals, or insects back in New York that I can place to the species if heard that this is a whole new world.

August 28th, 2018 – Day 2: Waking up with the sun at 5:30 a.m. today gave me time to journal on one of three hammocks we have on our dorm front porch, as well as two swinging chairs and rocking chairs. It was the absolute best. So peaceful. Time to think with nature. Looking out into the trees surrounding our view, I saw two hummingbirds and two ground birds, while hearing a variety of sounds that for the life of me, I can’t place.

Our front porch at the Campus Center provided the peace and quiet of nearby tropical forest. 

At 7 a.m., the breakfast bell rings, and the aroma of unknown food lures us to the kitchen. We find that the kitchen, which is at the very edge of the center and the hill that it sits upon, offers a beautiful overlook. Breakfast was absolutely delicious, a mix of rice and beans (which I would later find out is called gallo pinto), scrambled eggs and fried plantains, which are, put simply, a bigger form of a banana.

The kitchen window provided a bountiful view of our backyard.

Getting a tour of the farm, after learning about the cucumbers and peppers that are grown in the raised beds, one of the students spots a small brown body low on an orange tree. Looking more closely, we realize it’s an owl! I run quickly back to the dorms to grab my camera, and later learn it was a little Ferruginous pygmy-owl! An avid birder, this is a huge find because:

  1. Birds of prey are always harder to see in the wild than sparrows, finches, or other herbivore/omnivore birds are.
  2. An owl seen during the day is a rarity.
  3. After looking up the range of the species, I realize I would have never had the chance to see it in the northeastern U.S.
A common owl of tropical lowlands, the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl is often seen during the daytime (Cornell Lab of Ornithology).

This is the first time I have ever seen this bird and it may be the last. Thankfully, this bird’s “pinging” sound will be heard from our dorms all throughout the three months, I will later discover.

We continue on our day, learning about our home, this new country, and getting to know one another, getting our first glimpses at what life will be like here.

First thoughts of Costa Rica?

A grand adventure full of firsts, but I already know I’m going to love it here!

 

 

EPA MERCURY ROLLBACK Exposes Communities, Kids, and Wildlife to Increased TOXIC POLLUTION

Buddy Seiner Photo

  • Standards Plan to weaken protection for Americans…Mercury Contamination ROLLBACK
  • Mercury is toxic to children and pregnant women

By Casey Skeens

Washington, DC: Oct. 9, 2018 — The National Wildlife Federation urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to halt moves to weaken standards designed to protect Americans against mercury pollution. The regulatory move, which runs counter to centuries of scientific consensus on the health hazards mercury poses to people and wildlife, would undercut the 2011 Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS).

“Mercury is toxic to children and pregnant women — damaging the central nervous system and harming fetal development. When we fail to reduce mercury from sources like coal plants, it winds up in our waterways and builds up in our food chain, especially within fish populations” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “The Administration’s proposal is so unconscionably bad that the regulated power industry — which has already invested more than $18 billion to reduce these incredibly harmful pollutants —opposes it. This rollback is as reckless as it is dangerous to our communities and wildlife. We urge EPA to keep the mercury standards in place to keep Americans safe.”

The EPA has submitted a proposal for White House review that would severely limit consideration of health benefits that justify the existing strict mercury standards for coal-fired power plants. Next steps may include a proposal to directly weaken or undo the emissions requirements.

Based on the EPA’s own projections, maintaining the MATS rule would annually avoid:

  • Up to 11,000 premature deaths
  • Nearly 5,000 heart attacks
  • 5,700 hospital and emergency room visits
  • 130,000 asthma attacks

 Read more about the dangers of mercury poisoning in NWF’s recent blog.

Woodstock Snake Too Close for Comfort

Northern Copperhead safely captured from the backyard and released to a nearby woods habitat.

On October 3, Environmental Conservation Officer Jason Smith received a call from a resident of Woodstock (New York) regarding a snake close to his home.

The caller was not certain of the species, but was concerned the snake might be venomous. ECO Smith met the caller at his residence and found the snake in a small rock pile next to the back door.

The ECO identified the snake as a Northern Copperhead, one of New York State’s three venomous species.

After coaxing the snake into a bucket, ECO Smith released it in nearby state lands with more suitable habitat.

Editor Note: While venomous northern copperheads are not commonly noted in western New York, timber rattlesnakes have been more commonly observed and recorded (Facebook reports with pictures and site location) with increasing frequency in central and south central New York, including areas of Letchworth State Park and southward into Pennsylvania.  Hikers and campers be aware that many areas of New York State are home habitat for these snakes that have useful purpose in nature.  Watch where you walk and be prepared with a Johnson’s Snake Bite Kit (Walmart – about $12), a handy vacuum suction kit, that is also useful for bee stings, wasp stings, etc. – take care. Dave Barus 

 

Bristol Bay, Alaska – VOTE YES for SALMON

Mining near Bristol Bay, Alaska – PLEASE VOTE YES for SALMON

 

By Chris Wood

Some bad ideas rise above others: New Coke, Diet Water, the Red Sox trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees. One of the worst ideas of all time? The proposal to build a mine in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska.

Vote Yes for Salmon

Scientists during the during the Obama Administration said the mine was too risky. Then, the Trump Administration breathed new life into it. This November, the voters of Alaska will decide whether the state should have the authority to say no to a mine, such as Pebble, that can cause irreparable harm to salmon streams.

Seven rivers drain into Bristol Bay. One is the Nushagak—every year one of the top chinook salmon producing streams in the world. Another is the Kvichak; it supplies nearly half of the world’s wild sockeye salmon. A Canadian mining company, the Pebble Partnership, has proposed building a massive gold and copper mine in the headwaters of these two rivers.

Bristol Bay is the world’s most important salmon fishery. Every year, it sustains a $1.5 billion salmon industry that provides more than 14,000 family wage jobs. The village of Igiugig, population 70, sits at the outflow  of the Kvichak. Last week, Brian Kraft, the owner of Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge, and I, took his daughter, Dakota, to school in Igiugig by boat. Students are more likely to arrive by ATV and boat to school than by car. “Stop Pebble Mine” stickers adorned several ATVs, and more than one student was wearing a “Wrong Mine, Wrong Place” shirt.

Brian and Dakota Kraft outside of school

The Alaska economy is highly dependent on the development of its natural resources. That is what makes the widespread opposition to the Pebble Mine from communities such as Igiugig so unique. Native villages and local communities in the Bristol Bay region oppose the Pebble Mine by more than 75 percent. Their opposition stems from the fact that salmon have provided them sustenance, and cultural and natural touch-points for a millennia.

Outside of school

The Bristol Bay landscape is about the size of West Virginia, with only 8,000 people living in it. The Pebble Partnership proposes to industrialize this wilderness quality landscape with roads, pipelines, a power plant, stream crossings, and other associated development to process and move the ore from the earth to the market. Their preliminary mine plan called for filling more than 4,000 acres of wetlands. It also calls for a tailings pond more than one-third of a mile deep and a mile long to forever store the toxic tailings produced by the mine. The landscape is seismically active. Surface water and groundwater mingle freely in the area. The likelihood of the mine’s toxic tailings contaminating the Kvichak and the Nushagak is high.

Ground and surface water mingle in Bristol Bay

On the boat ride back to his lodge, I asked Brian why native villages such as Igiugig are so opposed to the mine. He said, “In the lower 48, we have spent more than $15 billion to try to recover imperiled salmon and steelhead. Most of those fish remain on the brink of extinction. The cost of keeping Bristol Bay’s salmon runs intact is a lot less expensive than trying to recover them after we destroy their habitat.”

It is David versus Goliath. Opponents of the ballot measure have raised $9 million to the $1.2 million raised by those in support. This year 62 million sockeye returned to their natal waters in Bristol Bay to spawn—the highest number of fish to return since 1893. In a few weeks, the voters of Alaska will decide if that represents a high-water mark against a future of decline and loss or a new normal because the state had the good sense, and the authority, to say “no” to the Pebble Mine.

Vote Yes for Salmon.

Chris Wood is the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. He lives in Washington, D.C., and works at TU’s Arlington, Va., headquarters.  This message was paid for by Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program, Anchorage, AK, Nelli Williams, Alaska Director. The top three donors to Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Fish Habitat Initiative Fund are Dan Michels, Wasilla, AK; Alaska Fishing Unlimited, Port Alsworth, AK; and Josh Grieser, Anchorage, AK.

Expiring Land and Water Conservation Fund a ‘Stunning’ Failure

Wildlife, including wild horses, thrive where clean air, clean water and conservation practices are upheld. Forrest Fisher Photo

  • Program Invests in Parks, Trails Central to Our Wildlife Heritage, Public Lands
National Wildlife Federation Photo

By Mike Saccone, National Wildlife Federation

WASHINGTON, DC — Congress’s inability to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, one of the United States’ most successful and popular conservation programs, is a “stunning failure,” the National Wildlife Federation’s President and CEO Collin O’Mara said today. O’Mara said Congress should quickly reverse course and revive the critical 1960s-era conservation program.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the most successful land conservation program in our nation’s history. Congress’s inability to prevent its expiration is a stunning failure and a betrayal of more than a half century of broad bipartisan support,” O’Mara said. “America’s wildlife heritage, outdoor recreation opportunities and public lands are the envy of the world and drive our $887 billion recreation economy.

“President Johnson said, in signing the Land and Water Conservation Fund into law following its near unanimous passage, ‘True leadership must provide for the next decade and not merely the next day.’ We call upon Congress to heed these sage words and take bold action to ensure that this critical conservation program does not fall victim to gridlock in Washington.”

The Land and Water Conservation Fund uses fees from offshore oil and gas development — at no cost to taxpayers — to invest in urban parks and sports fields, walking and biking trails, historic sites, national parks and other open spaces. The National Wildlife Federation worked closely with Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, Senator Clinton Anderson and Representative Wayne Aspinall to help secure initial passage in 1964 and worked with subsequent Congresses to increase the program’s funding and improve its programmatic impact in 1968, 1970 and 1977.

For the past four years, the National Wildlife Federation has helped lead the charge to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the program, including issuing reports this year on how it supports hunters and anglers as well as families’ access to outdoor recreation..

For more , please visit https://www.nwf.org/.

Ducks Unlimited: A Leader in Wetland Preservation

As a result of waterfowl and wetlands management, hunters and people enjoy

Today, engineering and science are the focus of study to achieve balanced waterfowl and wetlands management at the Ducks Unlimited headquarters in Bismarck, North Dakota.
  • Waterfowl and Wetlands Emerge as Conservation Heroes
  • Cooperation and Passion feed Understanding and New Science
  • Ducks, Geese, People…all need Wetlands

by Bob Holzhei

     The novel, The Grapes of Wrath, written by John Steinbeck, was published in 1939 and two years earlier, at the height of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, dried up wetlands across North America, resulted in plummeting duck populations.

     The novel described the story of human unity, love and the need for cooperation.  However, the effects of the stock market crash in October 1929 lasted long and the Dust Bowl created a sense of desperation as folks moved across the country and away from their homes.

     In the midst of hopelessness and despair, an idea for an organization was conceived in New York City when waterfowlers met in 1930. They saw a need to raise money to preserve and maintain wetlands across the United States.  The original organization was called More Game Birds in America Foundation, which established a 10-year plan for increasing upland game bird populations.  The Federal Government created many wildlife refuges at that time focusing on flyways and refuges, thus creating breeding habitat in the North as well as migration and wintering habitat in other areas.  Eventually the flyways became super flyways.

     Discussion of the future of wildfowl led to wildlife management which was in its infancy stages.  State and federal agencies became involved as a new science began, which was pioneered by Aldo Leopold, a professor of game management at the University of Wisconsin.  Other colleges and universities also began developing courses in wildlife biology and management.

     Suggestions for modernizing the name from More Game Birds in America Foundation to simply Ducks was made, however in Canada, corporations are legally designated as “Limited.”  So the name didn’t fit perfectly, as the organization did not want populations of Ducks Limited.  Thus, the name Ducks Unlimited came about.

     In 1934 the first duck stamp was issued and the money generated was earmarked for duck habitat.

     Ducks Unlimited was established in North America in 1937 as dried up wetlands during the Dust Bowl resulted in decreasing duck populations across the country.  Ducks Unlimited emerged as a grassroots organization which was volunteer based consisting of members who were conservation-minded and outdoor enthusiasts.

     The vision seemed unattainable as the idea was conceived.  Perhaps the thought would settle in the dust and become buried. That did not happen. 

     As of 2017, the Ducks Unlimited annual report indicated 14 million acres of land have been conserved since the founding of the organization.  The “Rescue our Wetlands” campaign was funded by donations from supporters and organizations across the United States.

     Wetlands are crucial for many reasons.  According to Ducks Unlimited, “Wetlands filter drinking water and refill ground water sources, prevent flooding, protect coasts from hurricanes, and provide recreational opportunities for birds, hunters, anglers and boaters.”

     The despair from the years of the Dust Bowl described by Steinbeck transformed as a need for cooperation and led to the emergence of Ducks Unlimited. 

     Over time, The Grapes of Wrath became a beautiful vineyard, thanks to the efforts of Ducks Unlimited.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Applauds Pilot Program to Allow States to Manage Recreational Red Snapper Fishing in Gulf of Mexico

Red Snapper

The Department of Commerce and NOAA Fisheries will work closely with each state agency and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to provide support during the two-year pilot study on Red Snapper. NOAA Photo
  • New two-year pilot program grants partial management responsibility of the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery to the five Gulf states. 

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross commended the innovative, two-year pilot program that grants partial management responsibility of the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery to the five Gulf states. Red snapper caught by private anglers in state and federal waters off Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas will be covered by the program.

“Granting these experimental fishing permits to all five states continues the work we started last year to expand recreational fishing opportunities through coordinated, Gulf-wide seasons,” said Secretary Ross. “We are going to give the States the opportunity to demonstrate effective management that improves recreational opportunities for all Americans. We will be working closely with the states and the Gulf Fishery Management Council to ensure effective conservation and management of the red snapper stock.”

In response to congressional direction and the Gulf states’ interest in managing recreational fishing for red snapper, the U.S. Department of Commerce and NOAA Fisheries encouraged the states to submit exempted fishing permit applications to test new and innovative ways to manage recreational red snapper fishing. The permits allow those states to manage recreationally caught red snapper in both state and federal waters, and test data collection methods through two-year pilot programs. Each state will set its own 2018 and 2019 private angling red snapper season, monitor red snapper landings, and close the private angling season when the state’s assigned quota is reached.

“As a Texas native, I know how valuable the red snapper recreational fishery is to coastal businesses of the Gulf of Mexico,” said Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “We appreciate the states’ willingness to work with us to test a new management strategy that supports rebuilding this population, while improving fishing opportunities for anglers.”

The following state agencies each submitted exempted fish permit applications: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The Department of Commerce and NOAA Fisheries will work closely with each state agency and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to provide support during the two-year pilot study.

Last updated by Office of Communications on August 19, 2018

National Program Critical for Recreational Access

Nature and the Wild need much support to sustain their heritage. Click on this short story to learn much more.

 

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.