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The Flyer E-Newsletter: September 2015

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PRESIDENT’S LETTER

David Headshot

Autumn is here and this time of year there’s a burst of activity occurring on and off America’s wildlife refuges. Migration season is in full swing and wildlife refuges are preparing to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week in October. On Capitol Hill, the drama continues; while it seems unlikely the government will shut down on Oct. 1, anything is possible and we will be ready to share the latest news.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made a major announcement. The Service decided that the greater sage-grouse is not warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act. This decision recognizes the innovative conservation partnerships developed among federal and state agencies, private landowners and local partners over the past five years. We will continue to work with our partners to implement management solutions that ensure healthy and functioning ecosystems for all sagebrush-dependent species.

The Refuge Association is also making strides to conserve wildlife—including migratory birds, as well as federally endangered ocelots, falcons and sea turtles—in Texas. This month’s Flyer highlights how we’re working with on-the-ground partners to maintain the South Texas Coastal Corridor. This exciting collaboration brings together private ranchers and federal, state, non-profit and local partners.

Refuge Friends Groups have also been busy this summer. In the Pacific Northwest, Friends of Haystack Rock debuted a new website in July. The added web features include a more efficient way for teachers to sign their classes up for field trips. The site also showcases the gorgeous landscapes along Oregon’s coast. You’ll probably want to begin planning a trip there after viewing the photos!

Travel north of Oregon, to the 49th state, and you’ll discover Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. We had the opportunity to explore Alaska’s vast wilderness after our board meeting, held at the new Kenai visitor’s center. Read about our adventures in this month’s Flyer.

And finally, we’re thrilled to announce our photography contest is open now through November 15. Winners receive great prizes including the $1,000 cash grand prize and nature gear generously donated by our contest sponsors. Head out to your favorite refuge or submit photos from an earlier visit. We look forward to seeing your best images of America’s wildlife refuges.

Enjoy all that fall has to offer, and I’ll see you on a refuge!


Sincerely,

 

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David Houghton


ON THE REFUGE

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

Moose and Calf at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska | Credit Sandra Noll

Visiting Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is akin to stepping into the past–about 6000 BCE. That’s when humans first set foot on the Kenai Peninsula.

The area first became a national wildlife refuge in 1980, when the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act re-designated the Kenai National Moose Range (established in 1941 to protect moose) as the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. This included establishing 1.32 million acres as Kenai Wilderness.

Today, you can visit the refuge to experience numerous recreational and environmental education opportunities. The refuge offers more than 100 miles of hiking trails, along with areas to go fishing, camping, canoeing and hunting. In the winter, hit the trails for gorgeous views while cross-country skiing.

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In addition to the wealth of activities at Kenai, there’s also an abundance of habitats and wildlife to see. Alpine tundra, boreal forests, wetlands and aquatic areas are home to caribou, bears, spruce grouse, lynx, migratory waterfowl and muskrats to name a few. Before visiting, make sure you are aware of the safest way to travel in bear country and what to do if you encounter a moose. Read additional safety tips and learn more about the adventures that await you in this Kenai National Wildlife Refuge guide.

One unique geological feature on the refuge is the Harding Icefield, which is partially located in Kenai Fjords National Park. The icefield measures 800 square miles–larger than the state of Rhode Island– and is the largest one that exists entirely within the United States. The area gets approximately 400 inches of snow per year and spawns up to 40 glaciers. In addition to providing habitat to brown bears and mountain goats, the icefields and glaciers also supply fresh water for people and wildlife.

Last month, the National Wildlife Refuge Association had a chance to experience Kenai first-hand. Our board of directors held an early fall board meeting at Kenai, and afterwards went on excursions to see the wildlife and landscapes which inhabit the refuge and surrounding lands. Those who hiked into the refuge were rewarded with awe-inspiring views of the mountains.Others took advantage of a boat ride out of Seward to catch a glimpse of harbor seals, whales and seabirds such as puffins that depend on Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge among other public lands and waters.

Kenai is filled with natural and cultural resources, and the Dena’ina people call it “Yaghanen”–the “good land.” Consider visiting Kenai yourself to have your own adventure and create memories to last a lifetime.

Glaucaus Gentian Blooms with Snowfields in Background at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska | Credit: Dawn Bragg


 THE REFUGE ASSOCIATION IN ACTION

Conserving Wildlife in Texas

Painted Bungting at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas | Credit: Carolyn Cardile

Several years ago, the Refuge Association began working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to identify opportunities to help conserve the world-class wildlife resources of Texas. We focused on areas that were essential to important wildlife guilds, under threat from human development and places that needed to look beyond existing refuge boundaries to maintain biological integrity. Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge met all of these criteria, and more.

Since the 1800s Laguna Atascosa’s landscape has been well-known to early ornithologists and naturalists for its abundant birdlife. On August 2, 1939, J. Clark Salyer, II, Chief of the Division of Wildlife Refuges, sent a report to Dr. Ira Gabrielson (first director of USFWS), that identified the Laguna Atascosa area as a top priority for protection. In the early 1900s, small islands within the Laguna Atascosa tidal basins provided nesting habitat for thousands of colonial nesting birds. The surrounding salt prairie, with its scattered yucca, supported the highest number of northern aplomado falcons nesting in the United States. The brush covered clay dunes (lomas) were vitally important to the local ocelot and jaguarundi populations.

 

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South Texas is a Special Place for Wildlife
Texas is one of the most ecologically diverse states in the Union. According to NatureServe’s 2002 States of the Union: Ranking America’s Biodiversity, Texas is second only to California in biodiversity. Texas has the highest number of birds and reptiles and the second highest number of plants and mammals in the United States. It also has the third largest rate of endemism in the country.

The Laguna Atascosa has an impressive 415 species of birds that use it for migration, wintering or breeding. This is more bird species than most any other area in the United States. Several tropical species reach their northernmost range in South Texas, and where the Central and Mississippi Flyways converge. The American Bird Conservancy designates parts of this area as a “globally important bird area” for a its amazing variety of migratory, winter and resident birds and habitats. Millions of migratory shorebirds, raptors, songbirds and waterfowl touch down each year on their journeys between winter homes in Mexico, Central and South America and nesting habitats as far north as the tundra above the Arctic Circle. The federally endangered northern aplomado falcon, ocelot and sea turtles, and the State listed reddish egret call the Laguna Atascosa home. This landscape also hosts wintering waterfowl including 80 percent of the world population of Redhead ducks.

Within and adjacent to Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is the Laguna Madre, one of five hypersaline lagoons in the world. This biologically rich area supports an eco-tourism industry based on one of the most productive fisheries on the Gulf Coast. It is a world-class nursery for red fish, spotted sea trout and black drum. Small tidal basin islands support colonial nesting birds such as gull-billed terns, black skimmers and brown pelicans.

Great Blue Heron at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas | Credit: Sandra Noll
Great Blue Heron at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas | Credit: Sandra Noll

Currently, there are approximately 2 million acres of private ranchland located north of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and the 1.3 million acre Rio Bravo Protected Area, managed by the Commission Nacional De Areas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP) in Mexico. Maintaining the connection, or corridor, between these areas is essential for conservation region’s of the wildlife resources that are valued by so many.

Threats
According to the 2005 Texas Wildlife Action Plan, “All factors considered, this is among the most threatened of the 10 [Texas] ecoregions and the more threatened of the two high diversity ecoregions. The increased population growth and associated development along the coast have fragmented land, converted prairies, changed river flows, decreased water quality and increased sediment loads and pollutants within marsh and estuarine systems. Projections indicate continued high growth and increased fragmentation in most parts of this ecoregion.”

Putting the Pieces Together
Ensuring the long-term health and productivity of the South Texas Coastal Corridor requires a forward-looking land conservation strategy, that builds upon the existing network of international, federal, state, local and private conservation areas; expands the scale of conservation across administrative and political boundaries; and supports management stewardship for the public or private entity best suited for meeting long-term conservation objectives.

The Refuge Association, along with many federal, state, non profit and local partners are working together to make the South Texas Corridor a reality. On August 12, 2015, the RESTORE Council tentatively approved more than $4.3 million of land acquisition funds and more than $1.3 million in restoration planning and implementation funds for the South Texas Coastal Corridor.

We at the Refuge Association are excited to be a part of this exciting collaboration!


INSIDE WASHINGTON

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While Congress seems to have averted a government shutdown with final passage of a Continuing Resolution, or “CR” expected sometime before midnight on September 30th, the threat is far from over.  The short term funding agreement is expected to last until December 11th, but Congressional Republicans and the White House are nowhere near agreement on overall budget caps, the debt ceiling and political issues tacked on in an election year. The drama is playing out right up to the last moment; while most in Washington believe some form of Continuing Resolution will be reached to keep the government’s doors open at least temporarily, the real theatricals are just getting started.

 

 

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Regardless of the political fights, we continue to urge Congress to fully fund the the Refuge System’s operations and maintenance (O&M) budget at $508.2 million in FY16. Severe budget cuts over the past few years have impacted the Service’s ability to meet basic management goals at most of its 563 units nationwide. Without adequate funding, the Refuge System simply cannot meet the most basic wildlife management goals and objectives – including providing quality wildlife dependent recreational opportunity for the public.

Refuges are also economic drivers. For every dollar of federal investment, refuges provide almost $5 in economic return. Refuges are responsible for creating nearly 35,000 jobs and generating $2.4 billion in economic output. Consider that the next time you enjoy an afternoon on the more 568 million acres our National Wildlife Refuge System maintains. Please consider contacting your Congressional representatives, and urge them to adequately fund the Refuge System.

In other news, the Department of Interior announced its decision that the greater sage-grouse is “not warranted” to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. This much-anticipated decision recognizes the innovative conservation partnerships developed among federal and state agencies, private landowners and local partners over the past five years. These partnerships have resulted in an unprecedented investment in sagebrush habitat conservation, restoration and management.

Finally, we were thrilled to learn earlier this month that a U.S. District Court upheld U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell’s decision to not build a gravel road through Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Not only is the road unnecessary, it is also harmful: The road would cut through a federally designated wilderness in the heart of the refuge and destroy this fragile ecosystem.


REFUGE FRIENDS CONNECT

New Website Highlights Coastal Resources of Oregon

Sunset At Seal Rock Beach, Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Ore. | Credit: Anthony Kent
Sunset At Seal Rock Beach, Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Ore. | Credit: Anthony Kent

Thanks to a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Friends of Haystack Rock were able to debut a new website in July. Visitors are greeted with photos that convey the beauty of the Oregon coast and able to readily read stories of how the Friends Group helps conserve the area’s natural resources.

Friends of Haystack Rock are thrilled with the new website look, and are equally thrilled they received training on how to update content quickly and easily.

 

 

 

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Another welcomed feature on the new website is that it integrates Friends of Haystack Rock and Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP), a stewardship and environmental education program. One of the resources HRAP provides is educational field trips for students. Trips integrate observation, investigation and exploration. Students have the opportunity to visit intertidal areas teeming with organisms including sea stars and hermit crabs as well as see the essential nesting habitat the coast provides for shorebirds and seabirds. The new site also allows teachers to register their classes online, another new feature.

You can also visit the new website to view the tide table. At low tide, HRAP can be found along the beach educating adults and children about the sea birds and marine life.

Stacy Benefield, chair of the Friends of Haystack Rock board of directors, is excited for people to check out the new website and learn about the organization. Take a look for yourself at: friendsofhaystackrock.org/friends-of-haystack-rock. You’ll probably want to begin planning a trip after viewing the photos highlighting the gorgeous Oregon coast.

Friends of Haystack Rock supports HRAP in cooperation with the City of Cannon Beach. Their goal is to promote the preservation and protection of the intertidal life and birds that inhabit the Marine Garden and the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge at Haystack Rock. 2015 marks the 30th anniversary of The Haystack Rock Awareness Program, which started as a club of volunteers in 1985. Since then, it has grown into a stewardship and environmental educational program that has educated tens of thousand of individuals and families.

Tufted Puffin Takes Flight at Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Ore. | Credit: Steve Dimock
Tufted Puffin Takes Flight at Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Ore. | Credit: Steve Dimock

 

If you are a Friends group interested in having a positive impact like this on your local community, click here for more information. Or contact Joan Patterson at jpatterson@refugeassociation.org.


 

Donate Today to Receive a Limited Edition 40th Anniversary Photo Book!

PhotobookTo keep the party going and continue celebrating our 40th anniversary, we are unveiling a new limited edition 40th Anniversary Photo Book. This photo book includes 40 of the best photographs from our photo contests representing the immense variety of wildlife and landscapes throughout the Refuge System.

For a limited time, this special photo book can be yours for a donation of $140 or more to the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

Click here to get your limited edition photo book now!

 


 

MORE HEADLINES FROM THIS MONTH

Birding Community E-Bulletin August

Refuge Association’s 2015 Photo Contest Opens

Birding Community E-Bulletin September

Golf Tournament Raised Thousands of Dollars for Refuge Association

Sage-Grouse Announcement Supports Years of Collaborative Conservation

Great News for Izembek National Wildlife Refuge!


GETTING TO KNOW John Morton

Dr. John Morton | Credit: USFWS

Dr. John Morton is a supervisory biologist at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

The Refuge is Best Known For: Moose–Kenai was first established as an area to protect this species.

The Refuge’s Best Kept Secret: Harding Ice Field, which at more than 800 square miles is the largest one entirely in the U.S. Part of the icefield extends into Kenai Fjords National Park.

The Most Interesting Species on the Refuge:Kenai brown bear. They’re huge!

My Favorite Activity on the Refuge: Enjoying the landscape and getting a good workout while backcountry skiing.

The Best Time to Visit the Refuge :July when sockeye salmon are running and the beginning of silver salmon season, which occurs towards the end of the month.


Friends, are you connected?

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RefugeFriendsConnect.org is a membership site that is managed by NWRA and a group of volunteers. If you are a Friends group member or are refuge staff working with Friends you are welcome to join.


 HEADS UP

Keep an eye out for these upcoming events: 

White-tailed Deer with a female Cowbird perched on its head | Stephen Maxson
Stephen Maxson

Oct. 1: Fiscal Year 2016 is expected to begin, barring a government shutdown.

Oct. 2: Connecting People with Nature at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (N.J.)

Oct 3: Connecting People with Nature at Seney National Wildlife Refuge (Mich.)

Oct. 3: National Public Lands Day and 50th Birthday Celebration of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge (Minn.)

Oct. 11 to 17: National Wildlife Refuge Week (nationwide)


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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

Permanent link to this article: http://refugeassociation.org/2015/09/the-flyer-e-newsletter-september-2015/

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