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Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge Turns 70

Two Pied-billed Grebes on the marsh at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge in Texas | Donna Niemann
Two Pied-billed Grebes on the marsh at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge in Texas | Donna Niemann

This month, Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is celebrating its 70th anniversary. We’re taking a look at one way the refuge has changed in response to the growing community and following up on the how the floods of 2015 could affect the refuge in 2016.

Located in north-central Texas, the 12,000 acre Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1946. The once rural surrounding area has grown more urban as the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area expands. People now live much closer to the refuge, which has led to an increase in visitation. These additional visitors are causing the refuge to modify its programs, most notably the educational offerings.

Results of a visitor survey conducted five years ago, show visitors would like to see more environmental education programs offered by the refuge. The refuge currently lacks the funds to hire environmental education staff, but is discussing hiring an educational position to help meet visitor’s requests. “The Friends of Hagerman,” said Rick Cantu, wildlife refuge specialist, “have been instrumental in helping the refuge assess the wants and needs for nature programming.”

One of the many ways Friends of Hagerman supports the refuge is by providing monthly nature programs geared towards adults and children. The adult programs began in April 2007, and have grown to be quite popular. College professors, USFWS personnel and other experts present on a wide-ranging list of topics on a voluntary basis. In 2009, the Friends began offering monthly nature activity programs for children. In 2013, in addition to sponsoring a three-day birding festival featuring David Sibley, they began offering daily nature activities during spring break week every year. The Friends also organize school field trips at the Refuge. All of this is done with volunteers and funded by the Friends of Hagerman.

Helping Monarch Butterflies
This past summer and fall, the refuge expanded its educational opportunities through a joint partnerships with AmeriCorps and the Student Conservation Association (SCA). A monarch student conservation corps intern worked at the refuge for six months and developed community events to support monarch habitats. This included visiting schools to teach children about the importance of pollinators, instructing local residents on how to build backyard butterfly habitats, coordinating a monarch tagging event and more. All events were well received and one of the monarch tagging event participants commented, “ I haven’t had this much fun since I was a kid!”

In October, the refuge celebrated the grand opening of a new butterfly garden that is also certified as a Monarch Waystation through the Monarch Watch program. Monarch Waystations provide resources to produce successive generations and sustain their migration, such as milkweed.

Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is participating in the Monarch Joint Venture, a partnership of federal and state agencies, organizations and academic programs working together to protect monarchs and their habitat. Texas is an important state for monarch migration because it’s situated between the main breeding grounds in the north and the overwintering areas in Mexico. Monarchs normally fly through Texas towards the end of September and by the last week of October, most have flown over into Mexico.

Impact of 2015 Floods
In late January, Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge reopened from a December 2015 flood. This was the last of four total floods the refuge experienced in 2015, making it a year full of openings and closings. Waters rose as much as 25 to 30 feet above normal levels. Then, from June to October, there was so little rain that this area was under a drought.

The public was unable to visit their refuge for large portions of last year or participate in activities such as the popular photography safaris, hosted by the Friends group — each flood required a month of clean up once the waters receded. But people were not the only ones impacted by the rising waters. How did this affect the wildlife and vegetation at Hagerman?

Cantu noted the floods displaced wintering waterfowl and migratory birds, but wildlife was able to move to higher ground during the flooding. The effects on vegetation won’t be seen until spring. Seeds from invasive vegetation may have come with the floods, but if any are present they won’t germinate until the warmer spring air arrives.

Now that the refuge is open, plan a visit to Wildlife Drive, hike along the trails and join in the 70th birthday celebration. Hosted by Friends of Hagerman, the February 21 birthday festivities will include a cake, refreshments, a photo slideshow depicting Hagerman throughout the years and a special book for you to share your refuge memories.

Learn more about Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge at: fws.gov/refuge/Hagerman.

If you’d like to see your refuge highlighted, please email or call Tracey Adams at (202) 577-3396. We’d love to speak with you!

Permanent link to this article: http://refugeassociation.org/2016/02/hagerman-national-wildlife-refuge-turns-70/

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