National Wildlife Refuge Association http://refugeassociation.org Home of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) Thu, 23 Apr 2015 21:04:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Paddling Through the Beautiful Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/okepaddling/ http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/okepaddling/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 13:30:59 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=11659

Continue reading »]]> Mark Musaus: Mark retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2012 as deputy regional director for the Southeast Region and, when he’s not out adventuring, he works for the National Wildlife Refuge Association as a regional representative for the Southeast Region.


Late this past January, I noticed a text from a friend.  It read “I’m sitting next to Curt and he wants to know, would you like to go paddling in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge?  I thought it was a general interest question. Mimicking my daughters I texted … “Uh, yeah!!!” This has always been on my bucket list of things to do. I mean, who wouldn’t want to do it? In 2013, National Geographic listed the refuge as #49 in its “World’s Most Beautiful Places – 100 Unforgettable Destinations.” In February of this year, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia was also identified as one of the top 10 canoe trips in the world by Green Global Travel. Oh, and one more factoid: the refuge is part of the National Water Trail System, one of only 18 so designated trails in the U.S., in part because it requires an act of Congress.

Taken in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Wilderness Area. It is the largest intact blackwater swamp in North America. Aerial views of the swamp, showing overnight camping platforms. | Michael Lusk
Taken in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Wilderness Area. It is the largest intact blackwater swamp in North America. Aerial views of the swamp, showing overnight camping platforms. | Michael Lusk

When I found out Curt was serious and planning a three day, two night canoe trip at the beginning of April, I couldn’t wait! Some planning is required because three refuge access points and 120 miles of water trails exist in the Okefenokee Swamp. Seventy of those miles are open to motor boats using a 10HP motor or less. The rest is open only to canoes and kayaks. A total of 9 platforms/campsites are available by reservation only, and three more platforms are for day use only (picnicking, rest, port-a-john use). Thank goodness the planning for our group of 9 was in the hands of Curt McCasland, former Okefenokee refuge manager and now a refuge supervisor in California. Joining us on this canoe trip would be the current refuge manager Michael Lusk…I was in good hands.

Our first day was the longest paddle, about 12 miles. We paddled through some majestic, old growth cypress forests, listened to the singing of prothonotary and parula warblers, stopped and had a leisurely lunch at one of the day use platforms (visited with two other parties enjoying the same break), and arrived at our platform for the night late that afternoon. It wasn’t 15 minutes into unloading all of our camping gear from the canoes when we were treated to the hooting of two barred owls nearby. I’m not sure if they were welcoming us or warning the other wildlife, but it was a glorious sound which we all relished by standing still to listen. That evening we were treated to a symphony of sounds, mostly pig frogs, and combined with an almost full moon, it was magical. Disney World has nothing on this place!

Alligator along water trail at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge | Michael Lusk
Alligator along water trail at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia | Michael Lusk

Our second day was a shorter paddle to Floyd’s Island where we hauled our camping gear to a clearing by a cabin built by a timber company before the refuge was established. We could have slept in the cabin but with the warm evening, opted to pitch our tents on the ground. We enjoyed walking the island, birding (some in the group even saw three wild turkeys), and relaxing. A fire pit enabled us to enjoy an open fire, a grilled meal, and fun conversation.

On our third day we paddled some new trails for a couple miles and then retraced much of our first day’s trail back to Stephen Foster State Park, where we had embarked on our adventure. This time it was a Saturday, so we saw more refuge visitors – and more alligators.

The nine in our party ranged in age from teenager to retiree. Besides the two refuge managers (Michael and Curt), two other current Service employees came along: Eric Davis, Assistant Regional Director for Migratory Birds for the Pacific Southwest region, and Ivan Vincente, Visitor Services lead at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. Besides the majesty of the swamp, what made this special to me was the fact that these four professionals in the wildlife business were as much or more enthusiastic about the trip as the rest of the group. If they weren’t talking about resource management, or the huge fire that burned 309,000 acres of the swamp in 2011, they were trying to identify a plant species or find a warbler singing in the tree canopy. Their passion for the resource and its management and protection were clearly evident. It made me feel good knowing the care of our federally entrusted resources and lands are in good hands.

I agree with National Geographic, the trip was unforgettable!


Click here to learn more about Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. 

Click here to see more photos from the trip.  

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President Obama Visits Florida Everglades to Speak Out About Climate Change http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/president-obama-visits-florida-everglades-to-speak-out-about-climate-change/ http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/president-obama-visits-florida-everglades-to-speak-out-about-climate-change/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 21:32:43 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=11653

Continue reading »]]> In his first-ever visit to the Florida Everglades, President Obama today marked the occasion with an Earth Day speech about the need to address climate change.

National Wildlife Refuge Association President David Houghton had a front-row seat for the speech, which touched on the need to protect large landscapes like the Everglades in the face of sea level rise and other climate change impacts.

“This is not some impossible problem that we cannot solve,” Obama said. “We can solve it if we have some political will.”

President Obama speaking at Everglades National Park on Earth Day about climate change impacts | David Houghton
President Obama speaking at Everglades National Park on Earth Day about climate change impacts | David Houghton

Afterward, Houghton was able to speak to the president about his conservation achievements.

“It is wonderful to see our President so vocal about these issues,” said Houghton. “I was able to thank him for all of his great work in the Everglades, the Arctic, in wildlife trafficking, and of course with the expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.”

This was the President’s first trip to the Everglades, an ideal location to discuss climate change and its impacts given the area’s sensitivity to sea level rise.

Florida’s vast Everglades region is a unique and world-famous wildlife resource. It is the home of iconic creatures such as American alligators, brown pelicans, egrets, spoonbills, herons and ibis. It also shelters one of our nation’s rarest animals, the endangered Florida panther, as well as the more common American black bear and bobcat. Among the imperiled bird species found in this landscape are the Everglades snail-kite, the Florida scrub jay and the crested caracara. This region also shelters some unique reptiles such as the gopher tortoise, indigo snake and the sand skink – a rare legless lizard that travels underneath the sand.

The Everglades also plays a crucial role in the lives of Florida’s human residents. It provides water supplies vital to millions of domestic users, along with businesses and farms. It also helps sustain livelihoods by providing fertile croplands and pastures for livestock grazing, as well as recreational opportunities that draw millions of tourists and their dollars.

As Florida’s human population has grown, the strain on the Everglades has increased. Land has been drained, paved over and plowed under; water supplies have been diverted and polluted. In addition to the direct threats to wildlife posed by these human activities, climate change poses a significant new challenge.

The Refuge Association’s work in the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, about 200 miles north of the Everglades National Park, is a recognition of the entire ecosystem’s value and plays a crucial role in securing the integrity of the region’s water, wildlife and economic benefits. Accompanying Houghton was Lefty Durando, one of the many ranchers in the Headwaters area working to secure this area for future generations.

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New National Wildlife Refuge Established to Protect Some of Appalachia’s Rarest Places http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/new-national-wildlife-refuge-established-to-protect-some-of-appalachias-rarest-places/ http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/new-national-wildlife-refuge-established-to-protect-some-of-appalachias-rarest-places/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 20:34:10 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=11648

Continue reading »]]> Just in time for Earth Day, a new national wildlife refuge has been added to the Refuge System!

Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge has been formally established on 39 acres in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina.

The Nature Conservancy, a fellow member of the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement, donated the first parcel in Ashe County.

Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service speaking at the establishment ceremony | Mark Musaus
Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service speaking at the establishment ceremony | Mark Musaus

This brings the total number of wildlife refuges up to 563. On a day focused on conservation and the environment, this new refuge reminds us of the importance of our National Wildlife Refuge System in preserving our nation’s spectacular biodiversity for future generations of Americans.

The establishment of Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge provides a focal point for mountain bog conservation in the area. Although the region has large swaths of conserved public land, mountain bogs, which are home to several endangered species, are widely unprotected. The establishment of this refuge has been years in the making.

Mountain bogs are small, isolated ecosystems widely scattered across landscapes. They are important to many species of plants and wildlife, but are especially important to five endangered species: bog turtles, green pitcher plant, mountain sweet pitcher plant, swamp pink (a lilly), and bunched arrowhead. Wood duck, turkey, ruffed grouse, woodcock, mink, and other migratory birds and game animals also call these ecosystems home.

Mountain bogs also benefit humans by regulating water flow, holding floodwaters like giant sponges, and slowly releasing water to nearby streams decreasing the impacts of floods and droughts.

The refuge has the potential to grow to 23,000 acres. To guide acquisition and bog conservation in general, the Service has identified 30 sites, known as Conservation Partnership Areas, containing bogs and surrounding lands. The Service will primarily look at these Conservation Partnership Areas to acquire land and/or easements. For the acres that cannot be acquired, the Service will work with local landowners to enter into conservation easements. The funds for these will likely come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund which is funded by fees collected from the sale of federally owned offshore oil and gas drilling leases.


Click here for the full press release.

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Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan Area are Next to Receive $1 million in Additional Funding for Urban Wildlife Conservation Program http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/portland-vancouver-metropolitan-area-are-next-to-receive-1-million-in-additional-funding-for-urban-wildlife-conservation-program/ http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/portland-vancouver-metropolitan-area-are-next-to-receive-1-million-in-additional-funding-for-urban-wildlife-conservation-program/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 21:13:56 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=11567

Continue reading »]]> This afternoon at the Intertwine Alliance Spring Summit, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe announced that the National Wildlife Refuges of the Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan Area will receive an additional $1 million in annual funding to reach new audiences and engage local communities and youth in conservation and outdoor recreation. The Portland-Vancouver National Wildlife Refuges are the second among the nation’s urban National Wildlife Refuges to receive this new award through a nationwide competition, known as the Urban Challenge, the first being the Southern California Urban Wildlife Refuge Project.

“Children across our nation are increasingly disconnected from nature, yet playing outside and learning about the natural world is fun, healthy and builds confidence in kids.” said Ashe. “The Portland-Vancouver area is blessed with spectacular outdoor spaces, and a strong network of public and nonprofit leaders committed to getting kids and families outdoors, active and connected to nature. Congratulations to the Refuge and its amazing partners for nurturing a movement to foster the next generation of leaders and outdoor stewards while helping people connect to nature in their community – particularly in urban areas.”

With 80 percent of the U.S. population now living in large cities, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is focusing efforts on reaching people where they are: in cities. Hundreds of wildlife refuges are in or close to America’s cities, and the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program shines a spotlight on the relevancy of the Service’s conservation work to the daily lives of the communities surrounding wildlife refuges. Click here to learn more about the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program.

The Portland-Vancouver Metropolitan Area footprint includes Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Wapato Lake National Wildlife Refuge, a National Fish Hatchery, the Northwest Regional Office, and hundreds of Service employees.

Left to Right: Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe, Project Leader at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge Complex Erin Holmes, and Acting Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System Cynthia Martinez at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge where Dan Ashe announced the additional $1 million | USFWS
Left to Right: Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe, Project Leader at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge Complex Erin Holmes, and Acting Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System Cynthia Martinez at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge where Dan Ashe announced the additional $1 million | USFWS

The Portland-Vancouver Urban Wildlife Conservation Program is a long-term investment of effort, passion, people, and dollars in the surrounding metropolitan area to ensure that sustainable treatment of our shared natural resources becomes an intrinsic value across the entire community. The wildlife refuges in this area already have partnerships in the community – Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge was actually proposed by a group of citizens and the local municipality. The Urban Program they have established will strengthen these relationships and create new programs within the community.

As Erin Holmes, Project Leader at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge Complex put it, “We get to think outside the box and consider projects we wouldn’t have even thought of before. It’s a challenge, but I am really hopeful and excited about it.”

This standout program was chosen because it clearly highlighted the type of innovation and public involvement the Service is looking for to make this investment go beyond the refuges themselves. The Service is confident that the Portland-Vancouver community will be an exceptional model for other cities in tackling the conservation challenges in the 21st century.

“The wildlife refuges within the Portland and Vancouver region are already standouts in the Refuge System for the relationship they have with the community, and all of the incredible wildlife conservation they are doing on the ground,” stated Refuge Association President David Houghton. “I can’t wait to see the great things that will come out of the additional $1 million they have just received.”

The Service sees the Portland-Vancouver area as a region that is already taking an innovative approach to dealing with many of the issues they are already interested in addressing, including youth engagement and employment, equitable access to nature, and viewing nature as a vital part of a healthy community and lifestyle. It is also a place that is serious about solving major social issues through partnerships. Portland is modeling the future by bringing together wildlife refuges, youth, diverse communities, healthcare providers, and private industry to really move the needle. The Urban Wildlife Conservation Program funding will only increase and enhance these existing initiatives to make the Portland-Vancouver region even more of an example for other cities to follow.

Congratulations to the Portland-Vancouver Urban Wildlife Conservation Program! Click here to read the full press release.

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Why Today’s Bi-State Sage-Grouse Decision is an Encouraging Sign http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/why-todays-bi-state-sage-grouse-decision-is-an-encouraging-sign/ http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/why-todays-bi-state-sage-grouse-decision-is-an-encouraging-sign/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 21:10:30 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=11634

Continue reading »]]> The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced that a sub-population of greater sage-grouse found only in California and Nevada does not require protection under the Endangered Species Act.

sage-grouse2FWS-web
Greater Sage-Grouse | USFWS

Big deal, right? Actually, yes. While this decision only concerns the distinct “Mono Basin” population of the Western ground nesting bird, the decision demonstrates that collaborative conservation efforts among agencies, private landowners and communities really can make a difference.

This is especially important as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers whether the greater sage-grouse requires protection across its 11-state range. With such an expansive range across the West, the bird has attracted a great deal of attention. Under court order, the agency must make a determination on the greater sage-grouse by September 30, 2015 – despite the fact that last year Congress voted to prevent the agency from spending any money on implementing a listing decision for at least a year.

These are tough decisions, with many complex factors to consider. The sage-grouse is a bellwether species that indicates the health of our vast sagebrush and grasslands across the West. Stressed by drought, fire, fragmentation and many factors, sage-grouse productivity has been declining for decades. Fortunately, we also know that there are key places where conservation can have a positive impact on the species range-wide. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rightfully takes a measured approach to any action that could affect not only wildlife, but also the communities impacted by an Endangered Species Act listing.

So today’s announcement that the California-Nevada sub-population of greater sage-grouse does not require an ESA listing is significant. Here’s why:

  • It shows that collaborative conservation is a successful model. The Bi-State Local Working Group, which included federal, state and local agencies and private landowners, created an action plan that identifies a series of conservation measures – and secured $45 million to implement those projects over the next ten years. The fact that the agency has decided this population does not require listing indicates this science-based collaboration is paying off.
  • It proves that targeted efforts to conserve sagebrush habitat are working. The Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has led the way by placing more than $20 million in conservation assistance in this landscape and jump starting cooperative work with private landowners. It takes many agencies and interests working together – Forest Service, state agency counterparts and the Department of Interior agencies as well. In prepared remarks for the announcement in Reno today, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said, “The collaborative, science-based efforts in Nevada and Californian are proof that we can conserve sagebrush habitat across the West while we encourage sustainable economic development.”

While entirely unrelated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s impending range-wide decision on the greater sage-grouse, today’s announcement indicates that the agency is considering all of the evidence, including the important collaborations happening on the ground between federal, state and private landowners to protect sagebrush steppe species.

Duane Coombs, ranch manager at Smith Creek Ranch in central Nevada, wrote an eloquent op-ed in the Las Vegas Sun in December, 2013 when comments were still being taken on the bi-state population of sage-grouse. In it, Coombs, a board member of the nonprofit Partners for Conservation, noted that the sage-grouse can teach us all a lesson. “This bird flies across public and private lands and sees one landscape,” Coombs wrote. “The bird knows instinctively what Aldo Leopold coined as the land ethic.”

Coombs’ point is well-taken. Only time will tell whether the greater sage-grouse merits listing under the Endangered Species Act. Meanwhile, today’s announcement is a great reminder that by working together, the many, many stakeholders across the 11-state range of the greater sage grouse can be part of the solutions that balance wildlife habitat and working lands for the benefit of all.

 

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Tigers for Tigers Summit Full of Passion and Excitement http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/tigers-for-tigers-summit-full-of-passion-and-excitement/ http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/tigers-for-tigers-summit-full-of-passion-and-excitement/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 19:01:35 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=11629

Continue reading »]]>

Some of the participants at the 2015 Tigers for Tigers summit at Louisiana State University | National Tigers for Tigers Coalition
Some of the participants at the 2015 Tigers for Tigers summit at Louisiana State University | National Tigers for Tigers Coalition

What do you get when you combine wild tigers and a bunch of smart, passionate college students?

A whole lot of “potential to take tiger conservation outside its box and into game-changing new territory,” said author and conservationist Judy Mills, a keynote speaker at this year’s National Tigers for Tigers Coalition Summit held at Louisiana State University last week.

“Students kept saying how inspired they were by the speakers; the amazing thing was that I kept hearing the speakers say the same thing about the students,” said Carrah Lingo, Communications Associate at the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition.

More than 70 students from Clemson University, Auburn University, Louisiana State University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Towson University, Trinity University, and the University of Missouri attended the summit where they heard from prestigious speakers, participated in a variety of training activities, and left energized and full of ideas to bring home to their respective Tiger schools.

Tigers for Tigers is a network of college students from across the United States whose schools boast the tiger as their mascot. Their purpose is to improve the status of tigers, both captive and wild.

Mills is the author of Blood of the Tiger, and used to work with World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, Save the Tiger Fund, and the MacArthur Foundation. She spoke about her experiences investigating wildlife trafficking, and left the students even more motivated to make a difference.

The students also heard from Bryan Arroyo, Assistant Director for International Affairs at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Arroyo shared his story about how he became involved in conservation and spoke from the heart about his passion, and how refreshing it is to see the students in Tigers for Tigers taking the lead in tiger conservation.

“It is extremely encouraging that students from all over the US can come together for a weekend and create such a passionate energy for wanting to save tigers; no matter how different we seemed to be it didn’t matter-because we all were tigers,” said freshman at Auburn University, Jessie Schieler.

Students participated in a variety of training activities to better their local Tigers for Tigers chapter. Topics included recruitment, awareness, and fundraising. They learned from each others’ strengths and weaknesses to improve the capacity of each group.

In addition, a group of students worked together to create a video for a social media campaign for Earth Day. The campaign asks for people to use #RUATiger on instagram to show their Tiger spirit and Pride.

Click here to learn more about the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition.

 

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The Land and Water Conservation Fund Vital in the Face of Climate Change http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/the-land-and-water-conservation-fund-vital-in-the-face-of-climate-change/ http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/the-land-and-water-conservation-fund-vital-in-the-face-of-climate-change/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 12:40:28 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=11609

Continue reading »]]> President Obama will be traveling to the Everglades on Wednesday to make an Earth Day announcement about efforts to combat climate change and sea level rise at four landscapes throughout the nation.

While his message focuses on parks in honor of National Parks Week, we know that wildlife refuges, too, are on the front lines of climate change. In fact, wildlife refuges often play a critical role protecting water and other vital natural resources, as they protect habitat for wildlife. And importantly, as sea levels rise and storms become stronger, our coastal refuges are often a much-needed speed bump to slow down these storms before they harm communities.

The president’s trip comes on the same day the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is set to hold an oversight hearing on the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a law that authorizes up to $900 million annually from proceeds of offshore oil and gas drilling to acquire land – through outright purchase or more increasingly, to enter into easements with landowners on private land.

LWCF has been perpetually underfunded, as Congress often raids it for other priorities. The law authorizing this fund expires at the end of September, and efforts in both the House and Senate could derail its reauthorization.

Northern Everglades Landscape | Reed Bowman
Northern Everglades Landscape | Reed Bowman

While nearly everyone agrees LWCF should be reauthorized, the real question is what the money should be used for.

At an oversight hearing last week, House Natural Resources Committee leaders suggested at least some of the fund should be used to address maintenance of existing national parks and other public lands, and questioned whether states should assume control over some federal lands. The line of thought is that the federal government can’t manage what they have and thus shouldn’t have any more.

But here’s the problem with that line of thinking: our federal public lands are meant for the use and enjoyment by all Americans, and the money to maintain them comes from our tax dollars. The federal government purposely keeps entrance fees low – and in many places free – but keeping these places well maintained is not free. Our tax dollars support maintenance and operations to make sure our parks, forests and wildlife refuges meet their missions and remain accessible to the American people.

Some in Congress don’t understand that the real cause of rising operations and maintenance expenses is, in fact, the rise in visitation to America’s parks, forests and wildlife refuges. The National Park Service gets by far the largest appropriation each year, even though it manages a fraction of the acreage that, say, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does. But it’s true that the more people visit, the more need for infrastructure: trails, parking, roads, visitor centers, and their associated upkeep. In the past 20 years, when not factoring in the Pacific Monument waters added by President Bush in 2006 and 2009, the Refuge System has only grown by 5.2 million acres (5.6%) while at the same time, visitation has grown from 33 million to 47 million, a nearly 30% increase.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund, on the other hand, takes royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling and uses it to mitigate these activities and conserve land and water. It is a highly effective program, requiring matching funds from states and a collaborative approach to conservation.

The Everglades is as good a place as any to illustrate the importance of LWCF.

Climate change is quickly changing the face of the planet. In a place like Everglades National Park, it is not out of the question that in the lifetime of a child born today, the park will become a marine sanctuary where boats may replace trams as the primary means of transportation within the park. So the need to conserve more land north of the park is becoming even more critical to ensure the protection not only of valuable wildlife habitat, but also the drinking water supply for more than seven million Floridians.

It would be a huge mistake to use LWCF funds for maintenance projects and it would be a huge mistake to halt all land acquisitions just because some in Congress don’t want to fund American’s right to hunt, fish, watch wildlife and bring our children to our public lands. Instead, Congress should adequately fund federal land agencies so they can maintain these places so cherished by the American public, and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund so we can continue to protect vital natural resources for the future.

Help us protect the Land and Water Conservation fund, and let your U.S. Senators know that you support reauthorizing and fully funding this important conservation law.

What better gift could we give our planet on Earth Day than to continue this groundbreaking and vital legacy?

Take Action Now!

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Celebrating Continental Cooperation for Wildlife in San Diego http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/celebrating-continental-cooperation-for-wildlife-in-san-diego/ http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/celebrating-continental-cooperation-for-wildlife-in-san-diego/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 12:30:36 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=11544

Continue reading »]]> Last week, the Trilateral Committee for Wildlife and Ecosystem Conservation and Management held its 20th annual meeting to promote cooperation between Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The leaders of the three nations’ wildlife agencies convened this year at San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex, where they identified common priority actions to conserve wildlife that migrates across borders  – and inevitably, the focus turned to monarch butterflies.

The monarch is perhaps the most well-known and beloved backyard butterfly – whether your backyard happens to be in Mexico, the United States, or Canada. From chrysalis to caterpillar to butterfly, many of us first learned about metamorphosis by watching the green and golden chrysalis crack open in our elementary school classrooms, and today there are many cross-border educational collaborations that highlight the incredible migratory journey that these insects make across the hemisphere.

But climate change, habitat loss, and many other factors are threatening the monarch. Twenty years ago, the eastern population of monarchs that winter in Mexico was estimated at more than one billion. Last year, the count was estimated at about 50 million butterflies. The western population that winters along the California coast, including at San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, has declined steeply, with the overwintering population now about half the size of it’s long-term average.

The good news is there is a lot we can do for monarchs, both individually and collectively.  A centerpiece of the Trilateral Meeting was led by a group of San Diego Girl Scouts, who formed a color guard to welcome leaders from Canada, Mexico and the US to the refuge, and then they joined with these dignitaries to get dirty – together they planted 90 native milkweed plants that will habitat for monarchs for years to come.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe noted, “Digging in the dirt with these young ladies, I saw the future of conservation. Their passion and enthusiasm were obvious as they learned about the importance of milkweed. Their pride when they looked out over a field of newly-planted habitat was a moving reminder of why I decided to make conservation my career.”

Director Ashe was joined by Bryan Arroyo, Assistant Director for International Affairs, as well as our own Refuge Association President David Houghton and National Tigers for Tigers Coalition Coordinator Sean Carnell.

Houghton added “Girl scouts, monarchs, urban refuges and international conservation cooperation – this is work worth celebrating. Andy Yuen and his crew at the San Diego National Wildlife Refuges are great leaders in bringing community and conservation together for the benefit of all.”

In recognition of their groundbreaking work, San Diego National Wildlife Refuge was awarded the first $1 million investment in the new Urban Wildlife Refuge Program. Also last year, San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex Project Leader Andy Yuen was awarded the 2014 Refuge Manager of the Year award from the Refuge Association.

Click here to learn more about the Trilateral Committee Conference. 

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762 Acres Added to Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/762-acres-added-to-silvio-o-conte-national-fish-and-wildlife-refuge/ http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/762-acres-added-to-silvio-o-conte-national-fish-and-wildlife-refuge/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 17:09:11 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=11513

Continue reading »]]> The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with help from the National Wildlife Refuge Association, recently established the Mascoma River Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Canaan, New Hampshire. The 762-acre conservation easement was acquired through a combination of funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund and a donation from the landowner, Bear Hill Conservancy Trust.

The Mascoma Clark Pond | Daryl Burtnett, former state director of the New Hampshire Branch of The Nature Conservancy
The Mascoma Clark Pond | Daryl Burtnett, former state director of the New Hampshire Branch of The Nature Conservancy

The Service purchased a conservation easement on 692 acres of the property with $1,059,000 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and a donation of land from the Bear Hill Conservancy Trust. The Bear Hill Conservancy Trust was established to conserve the highest priority habitats identified in the State of New Hampshire’s wildlife action plan.

The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge protects nearly 37,000 acres of land within the Connecticut River watershed in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. The forests within the new Mascoma River Division provide breeding areas for songbirds and habitat for wide-ranging mammals such as bobcat and black bear. The Mascoma River, a tributary of the Connecticut River, flows through the easterly portion of the property and supports brook trout. Clark Pond, at the south end of the property, is home to common loons and is a popular fishing destination.

The project is considered a priority by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, and is supported by the local community. The area is home to a healthy population of black bears, and world-renowned bear expert Ben Killiam has been studying black bears at Bear Hill for 30 years.

This project is a wonderful example of collaboration. The Bear Hill Conservancy Trust team had the vision, and have displayed great generosity to conserve this extremely important New Hampshire woodland. Andrew French, Refuge Manager at Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge and the staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked very hard to make sure this project was a success.

Click here to read the full press release.

 

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Community Give – a 24-Hour Day of Giving http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/community-give-may-5/ http://refugeassociation.org/2015/04/community-give-may-5/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 15:13:59 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=11495

Continue reading »]]> Community_Give_logo_leftMay 5 is the Fredericksburg Community Give, a 24-hour day of giving for the region in and around Fredericksburg, VA, and this year, the National Wildlife Refuge Association is among the nonprofit recipients of this generosity, thanks to board member and Fredericksburg resident and business owner Rebecca Rubin.

According to its website, “The Community Give is about working together for a single day, celebrating our spirit of generosity and making a significant and heartfelt impact on each of the lives touched by the hard-working nonprofit organizations serving our region.”

Rubin, CEO of Fredericksburg-based Marstel-Day, generously offered to help us set up our profile so we could feature the important wildlife conservation efforts happening in the Rappahannock River region.

Funds raised from donations will be used to hold an outreach and educational event in Fredericksburg led by one of our conservation program team members. This event will highlight the critical role of bringing nature to children through the urban wildlife refuge program and help raise awareness about the importance of the National Wildlife Refuge System’s wildlife conservation efforts in the Rappahannock River region – a region with critical natural resources and habitat. Our speaker will discuss local conservation priorities and why the region is so important to wildlife conservation for the future.

Please consider a donation the the Refuge Association during this year’s Community Give!

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