We’ve enjoyed celebrating National Wildlife Refuge Week. Part of our efforts to recognize this annual celebration included announcing a new partnership with National Wildlife Federation aimed at educating Americans about the importance of protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Read about why this area is under threat from the oil and gas industry in The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: An American Crown Jewel in Need of Permanent Protection. This report details how we can safeguard the area’s unique wildlife, vital habitat and indigenous traditions.
National Wildlife Refuge Week concludes on Saturday, Oct. 17. Plenty of activities will be taking place on the final day of this week long celebration. Now is an ideal time to to visit a national wildlife refuge because it’s migration season, which means you’re almost guaranteed to see wildlife on the move. Find a refuge in your area and enjoy activities including viewing where endangered whooping cranes and sea ducks are raised during the Wildlife Festival at Patuxent Research Refuge (Md.).
While you’re out celebrating America’s national wildlife refuges, make sure to take photos for our 2015 Wildlife Refuge Photograph Contest. Entrants are eligible to win the $1,000 cash grand prize or nature gear to outfit your next visit to a wildlife refuge. Visitors everywhere take incredible photographs and we can’t wait to see images of your favorite places.
Finally, don’t forget that we are now taking nominations for our 2016 Refuge System awards. Do you know someone who goes the extra mile at your local refuge? Nominate an individual or group. The categories are Refuge Manager of the Year, Refuge Employee of the Year, Refuge Friends Group of the Year and Refuge Volunteer of the year. Nominations are due by Dec. 1.
I hope to see you on a refuge,
ON THE REFUGE
Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, Texas
While surrounded by sloping canyons, shrubland, Spanish oaks, bluestem grasses and oak-juniper woodlands in Balcones National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, you’ll also see what appears to be – oyster shells? Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Those are oyster shells in the Texas Hill Country.
More than 60 million years ago central Texas was a shallow sea teeming with fish and other marine life.
Today, the area has a much different landscape. You’ll see old growth stands of mature Ashe juniper, low-growing shin oaks, grasslands and spring-fed creeks which provide important habitat for many species unique to the Texas Hill Country. The black-capped vireo and golden-cheeked warbler, both federally endangered species, are two of the reasons why this refuge was established.Read more...
Semi-open land with small trees and shrubs, about 3 to 9 feet in height, are where you can spot the vireo. Warblers can only be found nesting in the oak-juniper woodlands of central Texas. Both species spend their summers in Texas before retreating to the warmer climate in Mexico during the winter months. Because these two songbird varieties depend on specialized habitats, it’s critical to keep these areas free from development. The American Bird Conservancy recognized Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge as an Important Birding Area for its significant role in conserving the golden-cheeked warbler, the black-capped vireo and their habitats.
In addition to vireos and warblers, more than 240 other bird species rely on Balcones for all or portions of the year. The Hill Country is also a special place for additional types of wildlife–at least one-third of Texas’s threatened and endangered species live or move through this region.
Visit Balcones in the spring to watch the prairies transform into an array of colors as wildflowers bloom. Additional brilliant hues dot these lands, courtesy of the butterflies pollinating various flowers.
For more information and to plan your visit, go to: fws.gov/refuge/Balcones_Canyonlands.
THE REFUGE ASSOCIATION IN ACTION
Now Open: 2016 Refuge System Awards
Annually, the National Wildlife Refuge Association shows our support for the individuals and groups who consistently go the extra mile to benefit and maintain our national wildlife refuges. Help us recognize these dedicated supporters or Refuge System employees, and show your appreciation for their outstanding contributions. Nominate a Friends Group, employee or volunteer for a 2016 National Wildlife System Award.
Honoring the excellence of these individuals and groups not only highlights the dedication and devotion of those who support the Refuge System, but also raises awareness about the diversity of the National Wildlife Refuge System, the challenges it faces and innovative efforts across the country to meet those challenges.Read more...
Nominations are due December 1. Results will be announced in March 2016. Award recipients will receive a commemorative plaque and a monetary award: $1,000 for refuge manager, employee and volunteer awards; $2,000 for a Friends Group.
Candidates nominated in prior years, but who did not receive an award, are eligible to be nominated this year.
The National Wildlife Refuge System Award seeks to highlight personal stories describing the efforts of a dedicated refuge manager, employee, volunteer or friends group in their community. Read the inspiring stories conveying the achievements of our 2015 awardees.
Success! We are proud to announce the U.S. Senate has passed a resolution, by unanimous consent, declaring Oct. 11-17 as National Wildlife Refuge Week.
This resolution commemorates the second full week of October, annually set aside since 1995, to honor the National Wildlife Refuge System and the myriad recreational and educational opportunities available for every American to enjoy. These seven days are a chance for Refuge System staff, in partnership with nonprofit Friends organizations and volunteers, to host festivals, educational programs, tours and other events to celebrate wildlife conservation, for the benefit of present and future generations.Read more...
We’d like to say thank you to all who took action and sent letters requesting their Senators and Representatives sign a resolution commemorating refuge week. Our sincerest thanks to Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) who led a bipartian group of more than 23 co-sponsors, including Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Senator Al Franken (D-MN).
Several members of the House of Representatives also encouraged observance of National Wildlife Refuge Week. Support from the House was led by Co-Chairs of the Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), Rep. Rob Whittman (R-VA), Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), along with more than 20 additional colleagues.
Read the full text of the National Wildlife Refuge Week Resolution in the Senate.
Read the full text of the National Wildlife Refuge Week Resolution in the House of Representatives.
Land and Water Conservation Fund Update
On Sept. 30, one of the most vibrant and important programs for the conservation of wild lands, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) expired. Established by law in September 1965 as a bipartisan commitment to protecting our nation’s land and water resources, the LWCF has helped protect some of the most iconic and biologically important habitats in the National Wildlife Refuge System. From protecting endemic bird and plant species at the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge in Hawaii to conserving working landscapes in the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, the LWCF has protected nearly 2 million acres in the past 50 years.
The program authorized that revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling be put into a fund of up to $900 million annually to be spent on conservation for 50 years.
As of Oct. 1, because of congressional failure to act, the program has no legal authorization. Several other prominent conservation programs, such as the Endangered Species Act and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act have also expired, but continue to function for conservation purposes.
What does this mean for LWCF? First, the good news: even without an authorization, the appropriations committees can still fund projects; and we fully expect that they will. Because LWCF was never appropriated at the full amount (it was only funded at the full $900 million twice in its 50 year history), there is technically money sitting in the fund — at least on paper — to the tune of $20 billion. The appropriations committees can draw on these funds until they run out. However, new money will not be flowing into the fund until Congress acts to reauthorize the program – and that is a problem we are seeking to solve.
The Refuge Association is extremely engaged in the effort to reauthorize LWCF and to ensure that adequate amounts are appropriated every year for refuge projects. We are encouraging a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the program (In the Senate, the Environment and Public Works Committee and Energy and Natural Resources Committee both have jurisdiction. In the House, it is the Natural Resources Committee.). Until that time, we will continue to urge the Senate and House Appropriations Committees to robustly fund the projects that have made the American public lands system the best in the world.
REFUGE FRIENDS CONNECT
Community Joins Together to Improve Water Quality
Thanks to the Friends of Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge, a local waterway is getting some much needed attention.
About seven years ago, the Friends Group started sampling the water quality at Chestnut Creek and noticed it was not healthy. Testing indicated the water contained unsafe levels of E. coli as well excessive levels of oxygen, ammonia, nitrogen and phosphorus.
This prompted the Friends of Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge to apply for a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, allowing the Friends to develop a plan to address the water quality problems.Read more...
Ray Stainfield, president of the Friends of Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge is working closely with the local community on this project. Individuals offering their expertise and assisting with the data collection include: Dr. Mike Kemp, professor at Murray State University, Maggie Morgan, coordinator at Four Rivers Basin, Jackson Purchase Foundation and the Kentucky Department of Water. Stanfield is also working with local landowners on strategies to restore the polluted creek.
In addition to improving the water, this grant has also benefitted the Friends Group. Press attention has increased the community’s interest in this wildlife refuge. Stainfield reported within the past few months three more schools have signed up to participate in their Nature of Learning program, which helps connects the schools to their local refuge. Since the program’s inception, Friends of Clarks River has educated 11,000 students.
Friends of Clarks River has applied for an additional grant to implement their water quality improvement plan. They hope to hear about that funding in late 2015 or early 2016.
Donate Today to Receive a Limited Edition 40th Anniversary Photo Book!
To 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.
MORE HEADLINES FROM THIS MONTH
GETTING TO KNOW Carl Schwope
Carl Schwope is a fire management officer at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, Texas
The Refuge is Best Known For: Golden-cheeked warbler, a federally-listed endangered species that nests exclusively in the Texas Hill Country.
The Refuge’s Best Kept Secret: This area used to be an ocean! Look closely and you’ll see fossilized oyster shells along paths.
The Most Interesting Species on the Refuge: Spanish oak–they grow in a specific geological layer.
My Favorite Activity on the Refuge: Assisting with prescribed fires, which benefits hardwood species such as Spanish oak.
The Best Time to Visit the Refuge: Early December, when the leaves begin to change.
Friends, are you connected?
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.
Keep an eye out for these upcoming events:
Oct. 17: See where endangered whooping cranes and sea ducks are raised and studied during the Wildlife Festival at Patuxent Research Refuge (Md.)
Oct. 18: 17th annual Trinity River Butterfly Count at Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge (Texas)
Nov. 17-22: Over 140 individual events during the six day Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (N.M.)
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