As this issue of The Flyer hits your inbox, Thanksgiving is upon us and we at the National Wildlife Refuge Association are very thankful to you, our friends, supporters and advocates.
2013 has been a busy year – from fiscal cliffs to sequestration and shutdowns. We have asked for your voices and your support on many occasions, and you have been there — thank you. Along the way, we celebrated major conservation milestones: the creation of a 920,000-acre Conservation Area in the Bear River Watershed of Utah, Wyoming and Idaho; the expansion of the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas; the return of Canada lynx to the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Vermont; and an urgent effort to save the Florida grasshopper sparrow from extinction in the Northern Everglades.
To achieve these milestones, NWRA mobilized a broad spectrum of partners. We brought Refuge Friends to Washington to testify in support of refuge policy and funding, we forged a new alliance with a national network of ranchers and farmers known as Partners for Conservation, and we led the 23-member Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) in pressing for strong funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System even in challenging budget times. To learn more about this year’s achievements, please read our 2013 Annual Report
We could not achieve these successes without the support of NWRA members and donors. In this season of giving, I hope you will remember NWRA and please consider making a generous donation. Like the Refuge System itself, NWRA delivers an exponential return for every dollar invested, but we need your support to make it all happen. A great time to do this is Giving Tuesday, the day after Cyber Monday, December 3. Keep an eye out for our tweets and Facebook posts. We hope you will consider a donation to NWRA this holiday season.
As we look forward to 2014, we are excited to make some improvements in the way we communicate with you, our Flyer readers, and others who share our interest in wildlife conservation in and around America’s national wildlife refuges. Please help us make The Flyer the best newsletter it can be by filling out a short survey.
Enjoy this latest Flyer. From all of us at the National Wildlife Refuge Association, have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and don’t forget to visit your local wildlife refuge.
We are giving The Flyer a facelift, and we need your input! Please fill out this short survey, and tell us what you want to see in a future Flyer: SURVEY
Protecting America’s Wildlife, NWRA’s 2013 Annual Report, is now available online. From our Beyond the Boundaries program which focuses on landscape based conservation efforts to building our network of friends and supporters to include much deeper work with private landowners through a new strategic alliance with Partners for Conservation, NWRA is supporting America’s wildlife and wild places throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System. Click HERE to view our 2013 Annual Report!
Banking on Nature Report Released by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
For every $1 Congress provides in funding to run the National Wildlife Refuge System, almost $5 on average is returned to local communities according to a new report released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Banking On Nature study shows that national wildlife refuges are a good investment for American taxpayers and give a boost to local economies.
“Conservation conserves more than wildlife, it is conserving our tax dollars; an important value for Americans of all political stripes” said David Houghton, President of the NWRA. “There is nothing more conservative than conservation or more progressive than preserving our natural world for future generations.”
The report shows a remarkable trend of increased visitation to refuges and increased economic contribution to local communities. Not only is it great that visitation has increased, but the increase occurred during the height of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. From 2006 to 2011, refuge visitation increased by 30 percent and overall economic output from refuges increased by 22 percent, resulting in an annual $2.4 billion returned to local economies every year.
Highlights from Banking On Nature Report
The National Wildlife Refuge System:
Generates $2.4 billion in sales and economic output, a 20% increase (from 2006);
Welcomes 46.5 million visitors annually, a 30% increase (from 2006);
Returns on average $4.87 to a local economy for every $1.00 Congress provides in funding, a 22% increase (from 2006);
Creates 35,000 jobs annually, a 23% increase (from 2006);
Produces $792.7 million in job income for local communities;
Generates $342.9 million in local, county, state and federal tax revenue;
Brings tourists from around the nation and world – 77 percent of refuge spending was done by visitors from outside the local area;
Provides a combined economic benefit to communities nationwide that is almost five times the amount appropriated to run the System.
During the government shutdown, it was extremely apparent that national wildlife refuges are essential to the American economy. “Local businesses that depend on their refuge, suffered huge losses,” said Houghton. “Refuges are economic engines, providing substantial bang for our buck, something that as we emerge from the Great Recession, is more important than ever.”
FWS anticipates the upward trend in refuge visits and local economic stimulus will continue.
However, NWRA and over 230 volunteer, local refuge “Friends” groups are concerned that with recent budget cuts and more on the horizon, visitation will decrease as refuges close to visitors due to lack of staff and resources.
“The Refuge System is facing the loss of more than 450 staff positions by the end of next year should Congress continue slashing their budget,” said Houghton. “Refuges will be forced to eliminate popular hunting and wildlife watching programs, and end volunteer efforts due to lack of staff to provide oversight and many will close their doors entirely. These short sighted budget cuts will ultimately hurt not only wildlife, but local economies that depend on these unique federal lands.”here.. To view the entire Banking on Nature Report click here. To view the full press release from CARE click here.
How to Spend Three Incredible Days in Jackson Hole as an Intern
written by Emily Paciolla
As an intern at the National Wildlife Refuge Association, I spend much of my time keeping our members and supporters updated on the wildlife conservation efforts that we and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are involved in. I don’t usually get to witness the wildlife for myself, but at our most recent board meeting I was lucky enough to experience first-hand what a refuge can offer.
Our most recent board meeting was held in Jackson Hole, WY, within view of the National Elk Refuge. I was invited along to help with logistics, and the trip gave me an incredible opportunity to see some of the wildlife and wild places NWRA works to protect.
We arrived on Halloween, so instead of dressing up in a costume, I was dressed in layers upon layers of warm clothes. As a San Jose, California, native, I’m not used to the 20-degree temperatures (except while snowboarding in the mountains). But I quickly forgot all about the cold when I saw the beautiful landscapes all around me.
I thought I’d share some highlights from our trip, and give you some inspiration to take a wildlife viewing trip to Jackson Hole.
Day One: Bored Meeting Becomes Scenic Board Meeting
Most board meetings might be a snoozer for an intern, but we were lucky to be hosted at the National Museum of Wildlife Art, an incredible facility that not only showcases some of the best wildlife art in the world, it is set within the side of a mountain, barely visible from the road, with stunning views of the Elk Refuge.
After a great day of conversation about NWRA, we got a personal tour of the museum by Manager of Events, Wendy Merrick. Wendy showed us the galleries and shared stories about the artists. We ended the day with a fabulous reception with local conservationists overlooking the refuge.
Day Two: Wildlife Galore
One thing I love about NWRA is that I get to spend my days learning more about wildlife. And in Jackson Hole, it’s everywhere! We started the day at the National Elk Refuge Headquarters, where we saw a short film about the supplemental feeding program at the refuge to sustain large populations of elk. The refuge staff explained the many challenges this program currently presents, as well as the challenges of ending the program altogether. While most agree that phasing out the feeding program is best, nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and we came away appreciating the complexity of the issue.
While on the refuge, we toured the areas that will soon be full of elk after they migrate down from the mountains, visited the feed storage sheds, and ate box lunches at a cabin that has been on site since the turn of the century.
We had a great time with the staff of the refuge, as well as National Wildlife Refuge System Chief Jim Kurth, who came along for the tour. We can’t thank them enough for showing us this incredible refuge!
Next, we travelled up the road into Grand Teton National Park, where we got up close and personal with some incredible creatures!
The bison in Yellowstone are unique and special because Yellowstone is the only place in the U.S. where bison have remained since prehistoric times. While viewing the bison, we saw some pronghorn antelope run by in the distance, and even caught a glimpse of Grizzly Bear 399 and her cubs.
Day Three: Yellowstone or Bust
It was a bust, at least in terms of getting to see Yellowstone. We got to the entrance, but the guard warned us that the snow was piling up fast, and they’d be closing the road in and out of the park within hours. So we snapped a quick photo, ate our lunch and headed back to Jackson. On our way back we took a detour through the Whiskey Mountain Habitat Area in Dubois, Wyoming to look for bighorn sheep. Unfortunately, like the elk, they hadn’t migrated down out of the mountains yet. But we did see tons of mule deer, and some spectacular scenery.
As I headed out of Jackson to head back to my life in Washington, D.C., I couldn’t help but to think about how I am one lucky intern to be able to experience all of this as part of my job! This experience gives me inspiration to keep sharing the wonders of wildlife with all of NWRA’s members and supporters.
Senate Passes Resolution Commemorating National Wildlife Refuge Week
On November 14th, the Senate passed a Resolution retroactively commemorating National Wildlife Refuge Week. Senate Refuge champions, Chris Coons (D-DE), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced the resolution to commemorate October 13-19, 2013, as “National Wildlife Refuge Week”. Typically this resolution would have passed right before Refuge Week begins, but this year, the government shutdown cancelled many Refuge Week activities and postponed the resolution. While Refuge Week has been celebrated since 1995 on the second full week of October, this non-binding resolution marks the 4th consecutive year that the U.S. Senate has recognized the value of the National Wildlife Refuge System to the American people. The resolution showcases the remarkable lands and waters of the Refuge System, the value to local communities, and the support provided by refuge Friends groups and volunteers. Please thank your two U.S. Senators today! This resolution:
- encourages the observance of National Wildlife Refuge Week with appropriate events and activities;
- acknowledges the importance of national wildlife refuges for their recreational opportunities and contribution to local economies across the United States – returning on average almost $5 in economic activity for every $1 appropriated to run them;
- pronounces that national wildlife refuges play a vital role in securing America’s hunting and fishing heritage for future generations;
- identifies the significance of national wildlife refuges in advancing the traditions of wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, and interpretation;
- recognizes the importance of national wildlife refuges to wildlife conservation and the protection of imperiled species and ecosystems, as well as compatible uses;
- acknowledges the role of national wildlife refuges in conserving waterfowl and waterfowl habitat pursuant to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918;
- reaffirms the support of the Senate for wildlife conservation and the National Wildlife Refuge System; and
- expresses the intent of the Senate—
- to continue working to conserve wildlife; and
- to manage the National Wildlife Refuge System for current and future generations
The Senate resolution highlights many key facts about the Refuge System which also were highlighted in the Banking on Nature report. The Refuge System comprises over 150-million-acres and includes 561 refuges and 38 wetland management districts, found in every state and territory of the U.S. As noted in the Banking on Nature report, refuges are economic engines in local communities where 46.7 million annual visitors contribute nearly $2.4 billion to local economies and support about 35,000 local jobs. The ecological and wildlife diversity found in the Refuge System, which protects temperate, tropical, and boreal forests, wetlands, deserts, grasslands, arctic tundras, and remote islands, and provide habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 species of reptiles and amphibians, and more than 1,000 species of fish. The resolution also highlights the importance of Refuge System volunteers and more than 220 refuge Friends groups, who contribute 1.4 million volunteer hours the equivalent of more than 700 full-time employees—to the Refuge System each year.
NWRA thanks Senators Coons, Sessions, Cardin and Schatz for sponsoring this resolution and to the entire body of the U.S. Senate for its passage. Please consider sending your two U.S. Senators a quick message thanking them for their support. Secretary Jewell Announces $162 Million for 45 Projects to Protect Atlantic Coast Communities from Future Storms
Great news for natural resource conservation! The end of October marked the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy and although emergency funding from Congress did not follow until January 2013, lawmakers did provide a pot of funds to the Department of the Interior to address needs related to response, recovery, and mitigation of damage caused by the storm. (January 2013 Flyer) We were happy to see more relief efforts being made to help the victims of such a disastrous storm – both humans and wildlife.
The morning of October 24, Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, spoke at the E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in New Jersey to announce the allocation of a portion of those funds. Approximately $162 million will be invested in 45 restoration and research projects – including $100 million to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service! Several projects will be on national wildlife refuges including $19.8 million to restore a highly damaged tidal salt marsh/barrier beach ecosystem at the Prime Hook NWR in Delaware. $11 million is going to restore salt marshes at Seatuck, Werthein and Lido Beach NWRs on Long Island, New York. These projects will help guard Atlantic Coast communities and wildlife habitat against future powerful storms by restoring marshes, wetlands and beaches, rebuilding shorelines, and researching the impacts and modeling mitigation of storm surge impacts.
“What we witnessed during Hurricane Sandy was that our public lands and other natural areas are often the best defense against Mother Nature,” Jewell said. “By stabilizing marshes and beaches, restoring wetlands, and improving the resiliency of coastal areas, we not only create opportunities for people to connect with nature and support jobs through increased outdoor recreation, but we can also provide an effective buffer that protects local communities from powerful storm surges and devastating floods when a storm like Sandy hits.”
This is wonderful news for conservation and natural resources, since these funds will be used to build a more resilient future along the Atlantic coast. It has been shown that natural barriers have been more effective than man made barriers in natural disasters such as Sandy.
Another $100 million will be available in a competitive grant program – the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Competitive Grant Program – administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Requests for proposals will be announced on October 29th. Information on the competition can be found here.View the full article here View a list of all the projects, click here
Unfortunately, bats get a bad rap. Just because they are spooky looking and only come out at night, doesn’t mean they aren’t great animals to have around. In fact, bats are actually really important to the ecosystem. Bats eat insects that can damage our crops and ruin our gardens.
According to Paul Cryan, a bat ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, “People often ask why we should care about bats, and our research analysis strongly suggests that bats are saving us big bucks by gobbling up insects that eat or damage our crops. It is obviously beneficial that insectivorous bats are patrolling the skies at night above our fields and forests—and that these bats deserve help.” It is said that insect-eating bats save the agricultural industry at least $3 billion a year since they provide a free pest control service. Bats are found all over in refuges throughout the country. Some of which are Trinity River NWR (TX), Fern Cave NWR (AL), Aroostook NWR (ME), Great Swamp NWR (NJ), and many more! These bats help keep the refuge ecosystems balanced.
Unfortunately for these generally misunderstood and undervalued critters, the populations of hibernating bats are at risk of extinction due to the fungus causing disease known as white nose syndrome (WNS). Symptoms of WNS first appeared in hibernating bats in 2006 in upstate New York. Since then, the disease causing fungus has killed over 5 million bats in the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, and Canada. In the past seven years, populations in the Northeast have declined 99 percent.
White-nose syndrome is named for the white fungus that appears on the face, ears, wings, and feet of hibernating bats. The fungus penetrates tissues of the nose, mouth and wings of the bats which are all vital to the bats’ ability to avoid dehydration and maintain body temperature. The bats that are infected wake up more often than normal during hibernation, exhausting their limited energy reserves long before spring. This causes the bats to come out of hibernation severely underweight; often times these bats will starve to death post hibernation because they often emerge before their food supply does. The disease thrives in low temperatures and high humidity which are conditions commonly found in the caves and mines where northern long-eared bats hibernate.
Now THAT’S scary!
In May of 2011 a National Plan for Assisting States, Federal Agencies, and Tribes in Managing White-Nose Syndrome in Bats was developed by a team of federal state, tribal, and non governmental partners to address the spread and impact of WNS.
To learn more about White-nose Syndrome, click here.
Brown Bears in Trouble on Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
On October 26, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) was forced to implement an emergency closure of brown bear hunting at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on the Kenai peninsula. FWS was alarmed at the high number of bears harvested throughout 2013 as a result of a “no limit” policy implemented by the Alaska Board of Fish and Game in May. The Fish and Wildlife Service issued a press release explaining the decision. The latest figures show that at least 66 bears have been killed so far in 2013 – roughly 10 percent of the peninsula’s population – well above what is considered sustainable. State and federal wildlife biologists consider 4-6 percent the high end of the percentage of bears that can be killed before the population is at risk. Officials are also concerned that the number of bears harvested could be low due to delays in reporting. Another added concern is that of the 66 confirmed dead in 2013, 22 were female. The high number of lost females could be detrimental to the entire population. Brown bears are slow to reproduce, so keeping more females alive is important for the sustainability of the population. We support FWS’s decision to issue this emergency closure to brown bear hunting on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. FWS held public meetings on November 21 and 25 and written comments will be accepted until December 13.
DID YOU KNOW?
SUPPORT THE NWRA!
The National Wildlife Refuge Association is on the cutting edge of wildlife habitat conservation and citizen engagement in the United States. But we need your help to advance our work protecting large landscapes, educating decision-makers in Washington, and mobilizing refuge Friends in support of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Please make a generous donation today! Flyer Masthead Photo Credit: Kestrel, Wade Dowdy