National Wildlife Refuge Association Home of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) Tue, 24 Nov 2015 22:50:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Public and Private Groups Join to Accomplish Community Improvement and Skills Training at Laguna Atascosa Mon, 23 Nov 2015 22:35:17 +0000
Equipment operator training at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Texas
Equipment operator training at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Texas | Credit: CASE Construction Equipment

CASE Construction Equipment, the National Wildlife Refuge Association, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Team Rubicon teamed up for an equipment operator training and erosion abatement project at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Los Fresnos, Texas. The project achieved two primary goals: Certify equipment operators with Team Rubicon to work on national wildlife refuges, and perform much-needed erosion control at Laguna Atascosa, which sits on 97,000 acres bordering the Gulf of Mexico.

CASE provided six machines to the effort – three full-sized excavators and three skid steers – and Team Rubicon brought in 18 operators from across the U.S. for the training.

For CASE, the project is an extension of its Dire States infrastructure advocacy and awareness campaign.

“Public parks and recreational areas are a critical and often overlooked part of American infrastructure,” says Brian Weisbaum, project manager – Dire States, CASE. “Refuges and green spaces like Laguna Atascosa are important for wildlife habitat preservation while also bringing in billions of dollars nationally to the American economy via tourism and support.”

“Our hope is that this project serves as an example for ways that private organizations such as CASE can work with public entities and nonprofits to improve important community infrastructure such as the National Wildlife Refuge System.”

“This partnership could not have come together at a better time,” said Jared Brandwein, director of conservation programs for the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “We identified a wildlife refuge in need of help completing a conservation project, and CASE and Team Rubicon stepped up to volunteer their time, equipment and people-power to get it done. The fact that the Refuge System could also provide training to Team Rubicon’s disaster volunteers makes this partnership even more meaningful.”

For Team Rubicon – an organization that unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams for disaster relief – the training preps their members for operating heavy equipment in the field and makes them eligible to assist the National Wildlife Refuge System on future projects.

Equipment operator training at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Texas
Equipment operator training at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Texas | CASE Construction Equipment

“For our team, this kind of training partnership with the Refuge System is invaluable,” says Jason Ferguson, deputy director of training and exercise, Team Rubicon. “Whether hurricane, earthquake, or flood response, the ability to safely operate heavy machinery bolsters our disaster relief efforts in communities across the country. This partnership also allows us to engage our members through service projects to mitigate known environmental hazards and lessen the impact of future disasters.”

Operator training was performed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in conjunction with the National Wildlife Refuge Association and CASE, and covered everything from basic operation to the latest in engine technology, controls and equipment management. Projects tackled included re-building a boat launch, culvert installation and hauling stone for other erosion control efforts on the refuge.

Read the full press release.

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Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Narrowly Avoids Major Environmental Catastrophe Mon, 16 Nov 2015 23:24:26 +0000
Derailed tanker cars. | Credit: EPA
Derailed tanker cars. | Credit: EPA

On the morning of Nov. 7,  a southbound Burlington Northern Santa Fee freight train derailed on a manmade embankment located within the backwaters of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. The derailment occurred approximately two miles north of the City of Alma, Wisc. Thirty-two cars of the 112-unit train derailed at this location. Fortunately, six of the derailed units were tanker cars containing ethanol rather than crude oil. Four of the derailed tankers leaked between 5 and 500 gallons of ethanol. One of the remaining tanker cars ruptured and an estimated 18,500 gallons of ethanol spilled into the Upper Mississippi River. Ethanol is combined with gasoline to produce ethanol fuel. Although ethanol is toxic when concentrated, it is water-soluble which precludes its direct removal from aquatic environments following a spill.

Measurable impacts of this ethanol spill upon wildlife use of the refuge are difficult to quantify. However, it occurred in an area of the refuge closed to hunting and designed to provide food, seclusion and resting areas for migrating waterfowl and waterbirds. The activity associated with the derailment, spill and associated cleanup certainly decreased the wildlife use of this valuable habitat.

Long-term effects of this spill upon wildlife and its aquatic habitats are yet to be determined. Upon decomposition ethanol can deplete oxygen in aquatic systems, which may contribute to long-terms negative impacts including fish kills. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources are working together to obtain water samples and monitor the effects over the next several months. Initial water samples collected shortly after the spill did not contain elevated levels of ethanol but more work is yet to be done.

One can only speculate how devastating this train derailment would have been had the tankers been carrying crude oil. Without question, immediate impacts would have included oiled, dying and dead waterfowl and waterbirds including ducks, geese, swans and herons. Cleanup efforts would have been very costly, time consuming and not completely effective. Long-term environmental effects of a crude oil spill into the Upper Mississippi River during migration would have been immeasurable.

What is known is that the tankers involved in this derailment were old style DOT-111 tanker cars that are prone to leakage upon derailment. What we also know is that thousands of these old style tankers are used to transport hazardous liquids on railways adjacent to or within some of the most sensitive wildlife habitats in our Nation.

Ariel view of derailment site. | Credit: EPA
Ariel view of derailment site. | Credit: EPA

Following this derailment, 70 freight trains were backed up waiting for the rail line to be repaired. Within 68 hours, the track was repaired and rail service was restored. For the next several hours, a train passed through the site of the derailment on average every two minutes. Most of these trains consisted of over 100 units and many of these units were DOT-111 tanker cars transporting crude oil, ethanol, and other hazardous liquids.

What we also know is that railways are located on the east and west boundaries of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge for nearly its entire length of 261 miles.

Since February 2015, three train derailments have occurred on or very near sensitive wildlife habitats of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. Two of these derailments resulted in ethanol spills into the Mississippi River and the other spill involved crude oil that was contained on lands immediately adjacent to the Refuge.

Firefighters assessing derailed tanker car. | Credit: EPA
Firefighters assessing derailed tanker car. | Credit: EPA

What we don’t know is what caused the latest train derailment and when orwhere the next spill will occur. While we understand that the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association and all its partners are making progress on developing hazardous spill response plans and associated handbooks, perhaps


more should be done by railroad companies themselves to avoid spills all together by replacing DOT-111 tankers with modern tankers, and by ensuring railways are maintained and replaced to conform to higher safety standards.

Replacing these tanker cars is an added expense, but the cost if we don’t is too high for people and wildlife living along these railways.

Rick Schultz is the Midwest regional representative for the National Wildlife Refuge Association. Learn more about Rick.

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We’re Hiring: Restoration Monitoring Data and Information Specialist Mon, 16 Nov 2015 21:43:36 +0000 Organization Background

The National Wildlife Refuge Association (Refuge Association) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting America’s wildlife through programs that support the National Wildlife Refuge System and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Refuge Association is an independent and nonpartisan organization that works in cooperation with a federal agency, and its sources of funding include foundations, corporations, individuals and government funds. The organization is headquartered in Washington, D.C. with nine Washington-based staff and six field-based staff.

The Position

The Refuge Association, in partnership with Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Pacific Region Inventory and Monitoring Program, seeks an individual with strong restoration ecology, database development and ecological monitoring design skills for an 18-month period to help Refuge staff meet scientific information needs associated with expanding habitat restoration and weed control programming.

The selected individual will be an employee of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and will work closely with Refuge staff and volunteers to develop robust data collection procedures, design databases, and data management systems for currently implemented weed control, native plant propagation and habitat restoration activities. The primary goal of this position is to set-up a robust habitat restoration monitoring system that can be utilized and maintained by USFWS staff to holistically evaluate the success of restoration efforts, encompassing and integrating complex and large-scale weed control and native plant propagation programs.

Duty Station:
Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge is a remote site and accessible by plane twice a month. Because of the isolated nature of this work, safety and the ability to live and work closely with a small group of people for extended periods of time is of the utmost importance. Evacuation for family emergencies or medical issues can typically take at least 24 hours and be potentially very expensive. The selected individual will need to carry medical-evacuation insurance.

A current passport is required for travel to and from Midway. Employees are responsible for their own travel to Honolulu. Two round-trip flights between Midway and Honolulu are provided. This includes travel at the start and end of the contract, as well as a break in middle. Housing is provided at no cost to the employee. An office space at Refuge headquarters with computer, telephone, internet connection and office supplies will also be provided. The position requires access to USFWS networks and a full Federal background check (cost covered by the Refuge) will be required of the selected individual.

Meals are provided on-site at the “Clipper House” which serves cafeteria-style food with a wide variety of dishes, including vegetarian options and a full salad bar, courtesy of Midway’s hydroponic garden. There is a small convenience store on Midway that provides some basics: toiletries, refreshments, etc. Because Midway is a small community where employees work and live with FWS employees, volunteers and resident base operations contractors, there is a zero tolerance policy for harassment or abuse of any kind, including alcohol or drug abuse.


  • Apply knowledge of relational databases and database design to design and develop data management, visualization, and analysis applications. The design and development of these customized applications will be tailored to allow end users (Refuge staff and volunteers) to access and manipulate survey information that would minimize user training.
  • Apply statistical concepts, advanced GIS skills, and other innovative techniques to track all aspects of plant propagation performance, herbicide efficacy, outplanting success, and large-scale achievement of habitat rehabilitation and restoration objectives. Work closely with Refuge staff in the field and office to ensure that products are user-friendly and sustainable for long-term implementation.
  • Work closely with Refuge staff to develop robust field and greenhouse data collection procedures and ensure that data is collected and managed in a way that facilitates analysis and development of propagation and outplanting SOPs. Work with Refuge staff and Honolulu-based Inventory and Monitoring Biologists to ensure designs meet project objectives and are statistically valid.
  • Perform as a lead analyst in researching and adapting new techniques for complex data management, GIS and data visualization. Subject area expert defining database structures, processing algorithms, version control and other transactions, interfaces to external databases, functionality and product design.


  • Knowledge of advanced biometric principles and statistical methods to design scientifically sound ecological monitoring frameworks and interpret results.
  • Ability to identify and use statistical methods to analyze complex data sets including but not limited to Excel, MS Access, ArcGIS, R and SAS.
  • Knowledge of principles and practices of biology (i.e. ecological principles; ecosystems, plant, wildlife and fish population dynamics and surveys for natural resource management) used to identify critical data needs to support surveys for resource conservation and management.
  • Broad knowledge of advanced literature and theory in the fields of biometrics, statistics, restoration ecology, ornithology and resource management, especially as it pertains to refuges.
  • Extensive knowledge of database management concepts, principles, and methods including database logical and physical design sufficient to design, develop and maintain data management systems that meet current and future monitoring program policy requirements for natural resource management.
  • Ability to comprehend and evaluate developments in data management, spatial data collection and analysis and related fields and apply them to refuge-based projects.
  • Skills and experience using Trimble GPS units or similar mapping grade GPS units and ability to train others.
  • In good health with no physical or mental conditions that require regular access to medical facilities. Moderate to good physical fitness in order to access off-road field sites situated in sandy, rugged terrain.

Desired Qualifications:

  • Experience managing large scale plant propagation programs and facilities, including inventory management and tracking from potting to outplanting
  • Experience in invasive plant control, including geospatially-based tracking and monitoring of control effort
  • Experience and knowledge of herbicide types, calibration, and application techniques used in a natural resources management setting

Hours, Salary and Benefits:

  • Hourly rate: $20-$25/hour, depending on experience.
  • At this time there is funding for 78 weeks of work (18 months at 40 hours/week). The employee will be expected to work a standard 40-hour work week, with occasional weekend or evening work, depending on specific project needs and time of year.
  • Lodging will be in private staff quarters (a remodeled duplex), which includes a bedroom, living room, full kitchen and bathroom. The house is furnished with all appliances, beds and bedding, furniture and basic kitchen utensils. Residents are responsible for the proper upkeep of their living quarters, as well as purchasing basic supplies (detergent, toilet paper, etc.).
  • The employee will be billed the resident meal rate ($3 for breakfast, $4 for lunch and $5 for dinner) for all meals eaten at the Clipper House.

The National Wildlife Refuge Association offers a full health and retirement benefits package.

To Apply:

Qualified candidates should submit a cover letter,  resume or CV and list of at least three professional references to Anne Truslow,, and Meg Duhr-Schultz, In the subject line, note “Restoration Monitoring Data and Information Specialist.”

Please submit application packages as a single .pdf file with your last name in the document title.

Schedule and Application Process:

  • Application deadline: Dec. 11
  • Interviews: Dec. 17-22
  • Selection made by: Jan. 15, 2016
  • Project underway at Midway Atoll: April 12, 2016-Sept. 2017

To receive a copy of the work plan or to ask project and location-specific questions, please email Meg Duhr-Schultz or call (808) 954-4819.

For salary and benefits questions, please email Anne Truslow.

The National Wildlife Refuge Association is an equal opportunity employer, which includes providing equal opportunity for protected veterans and individuals with disabilities.

Download a PDF of the job description.


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We’re Hiring: Urban Wildlife Refuge Program Manager Mon, 16 Nov 2015 21:03:33 +0000 Organization Background

The National Wildlife Refuge Association (Refuge Association) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting America’s wildlife through programs that support the National Wildlife Refuge System and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Refuge Association is an independent and nonpartisan organization that works in cooperation with a federal agency, and its sources of funding include foundations, corporations, individuals and government funds. The organization is headquartered in Washington, D.C. with nine Washington-based staff and six field-based staff.

In 2014, the National Wildlife Refuge System launched its Urban Wildlife Conservation Program, which places new emphasis on building the stature, profile and accessibility of wildlife refuges in urban areas. The Refuge Association, as an independent nonprofit, is working in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop outstanding urban refuges in flagship communities across the nation by providing assistance with program development, partnership building, community outreach and engagement, and private fundraising to leverage federal and state investments in urban refuges and surrounding communities. Our goal is to build great programs on urban refuges that engage a broad constituency of wildlife refuge supporters as leaders and advocates

The Position

The Refuge Association is seeking an urban wildlife refuge program manager who will be the Refuge Association’s national point-person on urban wildlife refuges. The present work plan includes engaging with 14 urban refuges around the nation, building and implementing their visions for the future, and providing technical assistance both on the ground and at the national level. This position will supervise locally-based staff and consultants in several metropolitan areas across the nation. The position can be based in Washington D.C., but that is not mandatory.


  • Lead the Refuge Association’s Urban Refuge program by coordinating program, fundraising and communications work associated with urban refuge program.
  • Develop, implement and oversee multi-phased work plans at 14 wildlife refuges – tiered in priority. This includes synching up with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “Standards of Excellence” and evaluation criteria for urban wildlife refuges while also focusing on the niche, skills and services that best allow the Refuge Association to add value.
  • Coordinate and conduct workshops and meetings
  • Hire, supervise and manage field-based staff and consultants
  • Identify and build partnerships with community organizations, strategic partners and funders
  • Monitor, evaluate and report on program milestones and accomplishments
  • Serve as primary liaison with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service national urban team, as well as relevant sub-teams
  • Foster good internal communications with leadership, other program staff, communications and admin staff


  • Minimum 5-8 years experience in urban park programming, urban community development related to environmental issues, public relations, fundraising or related fields
  • Experience and skill working with diverse communities in an urban setting
  • Proven track record building innovative partnerships, setting and achieving program goals, and monitoring outcomes and impact
  • Proven success raising funds through philanthropy and corporate partnerships
  • Proven success developing and implementing public relations and outreach strategies
  • Experience with strategic planning, program analysis and evaluation, use of logic models
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills, experience with public speaking as well as proposal and report writing
  • Creative and energetic approach to working with both community interests and a federal agency – experience working with government agencies will be helpful
  • Excellent judgment, ability to take initiative and captain a team in a fast-paced environment
  • Must enjoy facilitating among many partners and problem-solving while advancing goals on the ground
  • College degree in related field and relevant experience
  • Ability to travel

Salary commensurate with experience. Full benefits package.

To Apply:

Qualified candidates should submit a cover letter and resume or C.V.  to Anne Truslow. In the subject line, note “Urban Wildlife Refuge Program Manager.” No phone calls please.

Position is open until filled. Resume review will begin Nov. 23.

Location is flexible: either the Refuge Association’s Washington, D.C. office or remote.

The National Wildlife Refuge Association is an equal opportunity employer, which includes providing equal opportunity for protected veterans and individuals with disabilities.

Download a PDF of the job description.


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Birding Community E-Bulletin: November 2015 Thu, 12 Nov 2015 22:34:47 +0000

Continue reading »]]> This Birding Community E-bulletin is being distributed to active and concerned birders, those dedicated to the joys of birding and the protection of birds and their habitats.

This issue is sponsored by the producers of superb quality birding binoculars and scopes, Carl Zeiss Sport Optics.

You can access an archive of past E-bulletins on the website of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (the Refuge Association).

Rarity Focus
Surprise Shorebird and a Lesson
Book Noted: The Santa Ana Story
IBA News: Saving Piping Plovers
Limited Lead Shot Ban Proposed in Minnesota
Access Matters: Magee Boardwalk Again
Hog Island Registration

Tip of the Month:  More on Footgear
Yes, LWCF Expiration
This Month’s Sage Grouse News




Rarity Focus

There were some striking rarities last month in the U.S. and Canada, and we might have chosen to profile any one of them here. For example, there was a Dusky Warbler from East Asia that appeared at the Golden Gate National Recreation area at Muir Beach, California, from 15 to 20 October. There was also a Variegated Flycatcher from South America that was discovered at the Evergreen Cemetery in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a bird that remained there between 25 to 31 October.

But we chose another bird from an area less likely to draw a mega-rarity.

On Saturday, Oct. 3, an immature Brown Booby was reported as a fly-by past Jekyll Island, Georgia. A few days later however, on Oct. 6, Tim Keys reported and photographed an immature Red-footed Booby perched on nearby St. Simons Island Pier.

Same bird? Possibly. The good news was that the Red-footed Booby remained in the general area through Oct. 13where many observers had a chance to see it. The booby was last seen that day perched on a shrimp boat leaving the harbor.

Red-footed Booby is a species that ranges and breeds widely throughout tropical oceans, but occurs only very marginally in U.S. waters. It is rare, but regular, at the Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida, mainly from March to October. The species is casual elsewhere in Florida and accidental north to South Carolina and in the western Gulf of Mexico. The species is also very rare from late spring to late fall onshore and offshore in southern and central California. In fact, in September, the Redondo Beach Animal Control in California found a Red- footed Booby at the Redondo Beach fishing pier that was emaciated, molting with poor feather quality, and with some mild eye trauma. The bird was taken in for recovery, and was said to have done well.

Fortuitously the Georgia bird was observed by many delighted birders and photographers. Some photos by Robert Sattelmeyer from the first day at the St. Simons Island Pier can be seen here:






A Surprise Shorebird and a Lesson

Eurasian Dotterel is a plover that, reflective of its name, breeds across northern Eurasia, from Scotland, across northern Scandinavia, and eastward across northern Russia to Chukotka. The species’ breeding in northwestern Alaska is also interesting, if not conjectural. In Alaska in fall, it is very rare in the northern Bering Sea mainland area and in the Aleutians. The species normally winters from North Africa to the Middle East.

South of Alaska, the species has occurred only a handful of times in California, four times in Washington, and once in British Columbia. These West Coast records are mostly in fall from late August to late November, with an April British Columbia record as an exception. Almost all these records pertain to first-year birds.

This is a rare bird anywhere in North America, even in the West. Therefore, when one appears somewhere in the East it is truly extraordinary.

Well, it happened.

On Saturday morning, Oct. 3, Michael Butler came upon an interesting plover in Bruce County, Ontario. Specifically, it was in Oliphant, Ontario, on the shores of Lake Huron, on mudflats near the T-intersection of Spry Lake Road and Shoreline Avenue. It was “somewhat smaller and more pot-bellied than nearby Black-bellied Plovers” with “pale supercilia converging at the back of the neck, yellow-green legs, pale ring on breast, and buffy underparts.” Nearby were other shorebirds, including Greater Yellowlegs, Hudsonian Godwit, Black-bellied Plover, Dunlin, and White-rumped Sandpiper.

This is not only a first record for Ontario, but a first for eastern North America as well.

Where did this juvenile come from? Was it from Europe, perhaps Norway? Or could it have arrived from another direction, possibly Siberia?

It’s all speculation.

Fortunately, Butler photographed the bird, because despite diligent searches by many birders over the next few days, the Eurasian Dotterel was never relocated.

Check out the original report and photos of the bird.

There are two important lessons that emerged from this rare sighting:

Lesson #1: Be prepared for anything. Remember that when you are birding, almost anything is possible. Some fairly recent and extraordinary northeastern-U.S. sightings – without comment on their provenance – include Gray-tailed Tattler in Massachusetts; Bahama Woodstar in Pennsylvania; Hooded Crow and Gray-hooded Gull in New York; Southern Lapwing in Maryland, and Whiskered Tern in New Jersey. And that’s just for one section of the country.

Lesson #2: It is a good idea to have a decent camera at hand!






Book Notes the Santa Ana Story

To make clear, M. J. Morgan’s book Border Sanctuary (2015, Texas A & M University Press) is not about birds. It is about one of the “birdiest” places in North America however, the borderlands in the Santa Ana region of Texas. In fact, the book has as its explanatory subtitle, the “Conservation Legacy of the Santa Ana Land Grant.”

Central to this location is the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge that was established in 1943. It was because of the case made by Hidalgo County birders and naturalists belonging to the Rio Grande Nature Club that the area was acquired in the early 1940s by USFWS and preserved for future generations. The book touches on some of the main characters during that period, including Irby and Anna May Davis.

The book is a history of the land grant going back centuries, the Mexican and Tejano families who lived on, worked, and ultimately helped preserve the area, and the northern immigrants and investors who sought to make a living off the land from crops and livestock.

The book follows the use and abuse of three habitats running northward from the lower Rio Grande area: the dense forest directly along the river, the brush country serving as a transition zone, and the nutritious grasses that extended beyond the floodplain. Morgan’s work is admirable, as she follows the pulse of floods from the Rio Grande, the sequence of agricultural efforts by cycles of inhabitants, and most importantly, the fate of the remnant forest that was preserved along the Rio Grande.

The core forest area–whose heart is at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge–would not have been saved were it not for the management of past generations prior to the 20th century, the impact of the Depression which actually prevented clear-cutting, and the passion of the Rio Grande Valley Nature Club.

This is not a naturalist’s page-turner, but if you have an intimate connection with this region, and with Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in particular, you will want this book. Otherwise, it is simply good to know that this sort of source book exists, reminding us of the deep connection between both the region’s human and natural history.



IBA News Saving Piping Plovers

The Joulter Cays in the Bahamas host about 10% of the wintering population of Piping Plovers that breed along the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. and Canada. This was discovered in 2012, when surveys were conducted of these mangrove-covered cays connected with miles of sand flats on the edge of the Bahama Bank in the northwest of the Bahamas.

The Joulter Cays are also important for other shorebird and at-risk species, such as Red Knot, Semipalmated Plover, and Short-billed Dowitcher, and for wading birds like the Reddish Egret.

Since these initial shorebird discoveries, the Joulter Cays and their surrounding areas have been identified as globally significant Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas by BirdLife International. At the end of August, the Bahamas National Trust and the Bahamian government announced that the site would be designated as a national park. This designation will hopefully protect this critical area from development and ecologically damaging activities like sand mining.

Later this month, researchers will again travel to the Joulter Cays to survey birds and map crucial roosting sites.

Find more information on this Important Bird Area (IBA).

For additional information about worldwide IBA programs, including those in the U.S., check the National Audubon Society’s Important Bird Area program web site at:



Limited Lead Ban Shot Proposed in Minnesota

If you are interested in the ongoing debate about the toxicity of lead in the environment, you will be interested in knowing that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) proposed a limited restriction in mid-October that would require hunters to use nontoxic shot on state Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in Minnesota’s farmland zone.

This would not impact hunting on WMAs in the forest region or private land, state forest, and county forest land. Yet, it would cover about 46% of the state’s 1.3+ million acres of WMAs. If approved, the lead-shot ban will begin in 2018.

The rule would mostly impact the state’s 70,000 pheasant hunters using shotguns with shot, many of whom hunt on WMAs in southern Minnesota. The lead shot restriction also would affect those who hunt Wild Turkeys, Ruffed Grouse, American Woodcock, and small game, such as rabbits, on these state wildlife areas.

Lead shot has been federally banned for waterfowl hunting since the early 1990s. And since 1999, it also has been banned for upland hunters, on federal hunting lands in Minnesota, including waterfowl production areas (WPAs), some of which abut state WMAs.

“Reducing lead in the environment is a good thing,” DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said: “It seems like it’s time to make the switch.”

The Minnesota DNR has considered restricting the use of lead shot since 2006, but legislative support was not forthcoming. The DNR will now attempt to ban lead shot by applying a rule-making process.

For more details, see the story in the Twin Cities paper, The Star Tribune and read information  on the public input process.



Access Matters: Magee Boardwalk Again

Birders familiar with well-known Magee Marsh Wildlife Area in northwestern Ohio know that the very core of the site is its famous “boardwalk,” extending over 3,000 feet through the site’s moist woodland in an area which is a veritable migrant magnet on the edge of Lake Erie. Frankly, without the boardwalk, there would be no easy access to the migrant-loving woodlot, so access really matters here.

There has been an ongoing campaign to repair large parts of the boardwalk in order to facilitate access to this outstanding birding area. We even mentioned this issue last December.

The third phase of the effort was completed last summer.

The original assessment for the boardwalk repair, however, was made in February 2014 when the site was piled with snow. The original cost estimate was off, and a serious recalculation was recently made. The remaining 60% of the boardwalk still needs renovation, thus adding an additional $294,000 to the original estimate.

This “phase-four” campaign is now underway. You can find more details here, including ways to help with access at this vital birding site and here.



Hog Island Registration

Since 1936, the famous Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine has offered environmental education programs for adults, teens, families and conservation leaders in the Muscongus Bay region of Maine. The facilities are situated on a 330-acre spruce-covered island in the mid-coast area of Maine.

The registration for next summer’s program (beginning in late May and ending in early September) just opened a few weeks ago. The selection includes the following:

  • Maine Seabird Biology and Conservation
  • Breaking into Birding
  • Joy of Birding
  • Field Ornithology
  • Coastal Maine Bird Studies for Teens
  • Hands-on Bird Science
  • Arts and Birding
  • Raptor Rapture
  • Sharing Nature: An Educator’s Week
  • Family Camp (ages 8-12 years old)

It’s not too early to look into the full schedule and the array of fine instructors for Hog Island. Indeed, now is a fine time to consider next-year’s warm-weather options.



Tip of the Month: More on Footgear

Last month, under “tip of the month,” we suggested that you toss extra shoes and socks in your car when you’re out for a day’s birding.

That’s fine for a back-up, but what about your basic birding footgear, equipment that should match the time and place of your field trip, as well as your own personal needs?

Here we cover hints on hiking shoes, hiking boots, and backpacking boots for birding use.

First, hiking shoes are usually lighter and more flexible than hiking boots. Think about a hiking shoe if you will be:

  • Staying on well-defined trails and shorter hikes
  • Not carrying a lot of weight
  • Or if you’re carrying some weight or going on a longer hike but have already built up strength in your feet and legs, relying less on your footgear for a lot of support

Among hiking shoes, you’ll find footgear that is usually made of textile with leather, suede, or synthetic reinforcements, providing support and abrasion-resistance. Some hiking shoes will look a lot like trail running shoes, while others appear to be low-cut versions of more traditional hiking boots. The former tend to be lighter and more flexible, which allows you to move quickly, but you’ll be sacrificing some support and protection.

Consider the weather. For summer use or in dry, warm weather, think about a well-ventilated, lightweight shoe with a lot of mesh in the upper, allowing your foot to breathe. In damp or cold weather, waterproof hiking shoes could be better. Better in rain, snow, or mud, there will be a slight tradeoff in the way of weight and breathability in warmer temperatures.

On the other hand, go for hiking boots, with more support and protection than hiking shoes, if you are considering:

  • Taking longer hikes over rougher terrain
  • Bringing a moderately heavy load
  • Your needs as an occasional hiker who needs more support to help out less-developed muscles, or who is prone to rolled ankles

Sometimes hiking boots are simply higher-cut versions of hiking shoes, and sometimes they feature slightly stiffer construction, both of which will offer more support. The tradeoff, of course, is that they’re going to be heavier than shoes.

Most hiking boots are also composed of the same materials as hiking shoes. More hiking boots are waterproofed as well, useful if you are out for a long time.

The final category is in the area of backpacking boots, taller and stiffer than hiking boots, also offering more support and surer footing with thicker, more aggressive outsoles and more protection all around. These are heavy-duty and heavier, and these backpacking boots usually require a break-in period. Frankly, you really don’t need them unless you’re involved in long or multi-day trips, carrying heavy loads.


Yes, LWCF Expiration

In the September issue we warned about the impending expiration of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

In a consistent behavior of inaction (if not dysfunction!) Congress let the LWCF expire after 50 years of remarkable achievement.

The Wildlife Management Institute’s most recent Outdoor News Bulletin summarizes the issues soberly and quite well: and the LWCF consequences are also covered in E&E News:


This Month’s Sage Grouse News

There is always news from the sage-grouse scene, and this month is no exception. Last month we mentioned the continuing threat of Congressional interference in this conservation effort, despite the achievement of the efforts to save these birds.

Some members of Congress had aimed to stop sage- grouse conservation by including an amendment – or rider – to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have stopped crucially important plans from being implemented.

Thanks to the concerns of bird conservationists across the country, the harmful rider has been dropped from the Defense Bill.


You can access all the past E-bulletins on the National Wildlife Refuge Association (Refuge Association) website:

If you wish to distribute or reproduce all or parts of any of the monthly Birding Community E-bulletins, we simply request that you mention the source of any material used. (Include a URL for the e-bulletin archives, if possible.)

If you have any friends or co-workers who want to get onto the monthly e-bulletin mailing list, have them contact either:

Wayne R. Petersen, Director
Massachusetts Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program
Mass Audubon
(781) 259-2178
Paul J. Baicich
Great Birding Projects
(410) 992-9736

We never lend or sell our e-bulletin recipient list.

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Celebrate Tiger Awareness Week! Tue, 10 Nov 2015 00:02:49 +0000

Happy National Tiger Awareness Week (TAW)!

Today marks the beginning of the annual, student-led initiative aimed at raising awareness about tiger conservation. Students will celebrate with fun activities and fundraisers on tiger mascot campuses across the country.

TAW posterAwareness is a critical step in university’s continuous fight to #SaveOurMascot. Each year, thousands of new freshman enroll at tiger mascot schools ready to embrace their tiger identity that will remain with them for life. However, many incoming students are unaware of the plight that faces their wild mascot.

Tiger Awareness Week provides a fantastic opportunity to educate students about tiger conservation and promote the great work of each T4T club.

This year, T4T clubs will partner with their university mascot to host a skit on their campus increases awareness about T4T and their mascot. On Wednesday, Nov. 11, schools will have a poacher chase their mascot through classrooms, dining halls and other highly visited areas of campus, encouraging students to raise awareness by using the hashtag #SaveOurMascot on social media, donating to their conservation efforts or attending an upcoming T4T meeting.

Students will also be fundraising to support The National Tigers for Tigers Coalition’s Pench-Kanha Corridor conservation project in central India. Working together with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the World Wide Fund for Nature-India, we will raise funds to restore habitat within the Pench-Kanha Corridor, home to 120 endangered Bengal tigers, 5 percent of India’s tigers.

This week, T4T’s goal is to raise $6,500 to secure the first square kilometer of land that will be restored to critical tiger habitat.

Get involved! Show your support by:

  1. Donating to Tigers for Tigers

  2. Sharing the T4T Flyer

  3. Get social. Tag your posts with #SaveOurMascot on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

2015 Tiger Awareness Week is shaping up to be bigger and better than last year. To stay updated on all the great work of T4T students, follow the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Go Tigers!

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New Draft House Bill Would Gut The Land And Water Conservation Fund Thu, 05 Nov 2015 22:03:23 +0000
Birding by boat at Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon | Credit: USFWS
Birding by boat at Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon | Credit: USFWS

Today a draft bill was released to re-write one of the most successful conservation programs in U.S. history, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and if enacted, would essentially end the federal side of the program that almost every American takes for granted in the form of new lands for national wildlife refuges, national parks, and other public lands. The federal land acquisition program expired on September 30 and efforts have been underway for months to permanently reauthorize it.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Rob Bishop, R-Utah, unveiled his own draft of a bill today to reauthorize LWCF. Bishop calls it the ‘Protecting America’s Recreation and Conservation Action’ (PARC), but if you read the fine print, it does anything but!

LWCF currently uses proceeds from offshore oil and gas drilling to acquire and conserve land from willing sellers, and to date is responsible for some of the most successful efforts to conserve critical wildlife habitat and recreation lands across the nation. From the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Chairman Bishop’s own back yard, to the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area in Florida to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia, the LWCF provides access to sportsmen, birders, educators and anyone who values wild places.

The program is supposed to use $900 million annually from oil and gas leases to purchase federal lands to create or expand wildlife refuges, parks or other public lands set aside for wildlife, recreation or conservation.

Bishop’s bill, which has yet to be formally introduced, would effectively end federal land acquisition and even send 20 percent of the proceeds from oil and gas leasing BACK to the oil and gas industry!

Under Bishop’s plan, only 3.5 percent of all LWCF funds would go towards federal land acquisition, which has helped conserve millions of acres of refuge lands across the country.

Here’s the thing – back in April Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., introduced a bipartisan bill (HR1814) to reauthorize LWCF that now has 195 co-sponsors from both parties. That’s the legislation Congress should be focused on passing, not a new bill that Mr. Bishop is unveiling at the last hour in attempt to gut a program he personally doesn’t like.

Frankly, it’s insulting. A broad, bipartisan coalition of recreation, sporting and conservation groups supports the Grijalva bill, and Bishop’s announcement today flies in the face of the desires of the millions of Americans this coalition represents.

It’s no secret that Chairman Bishop is not a fan of LWCF or of public lands, for that matter. He has persistently demanded Interior Secretary Sally Jewell hand over any documentation that could help him build a case against LWCF. To her credit, she has responded with overwhelming evidence to illustrate successful projects in every state made possible by funds provided through LWCF.

Let’s be clear – the Bishop bill is not the answer to how we move forward with land conservation in America.

We will continue to urge Congress to support HR1814, a bill that has wide bipartisan support, and oppose Chairman Bishop’s attempt to destroy a wildly successful land conservation program supported by millions of Americans.

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A New Era of Collaborative Conservation Wed, 28 Oct 2015 14:44:06 +0000

Continue reading »]]> The recent announcement by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that the greater sage-grouse is not warranted for protection under the Endangered Species Act was welcomed with a collective sigh of relief across much of the Western U.S. The much-anticipated decision, prompted by a court-ordered deadline, represents a pivotal moment in conservation that cannot be overstated.

Sage-Grouse | Credit: USFWS
Sage-Grouse | Credit: USFWS

Those who have followed the saga of the greater sage-grouse can appreciate the significance of this moment: the collaborations that have sprung up among ranchers, environmentalists, sportsmen, landowners and government officials is unprecedented; and the cooperation between federal agencies with a stake in the decision, too, is extraordinary.

As president of an organization that helped bring would-be foes to the table to develop a way forward for sage-grouse, I have to express my deep appreciation for the enormous dedication to conservation I witnessed by everyone involved. People who didn’t believe they had much in common were willing to listen to one another and solve a problem together. Even federal agencies that often are at odds with each other were able to set aside their bureaucratic tendencies and roll up their sleeves with the rest of us.

Was this easy? Hell no! It was hard. And making sure the greater sage-grouse survives and thrives in the future will continue to be hard. The bird has a lot going against it, the least of which are bureaucrats and cattle. Drought, wildfires and a rapidly changing landscape is what we should collectively fear the most for this bird. So focusing our combined energy around shoring up the best habitat left is the right way forward – perhaps the only way forward.

And this is where the real work begins.

Thanks to solid science and collaboration by many stakeholders, we’ve discovered places – strongholds – that are critical for sage-grouse survival. So instead of a blanket approach to protect the bird’s entire range, we’ve decided to take a more strategic approach that is good for the bird and good for the communities that depend on a healthy sagebrush steppe.

It is a realistic approach that factors in the contribution of both private and public lands, modern-day needs and desires, as well as modern-day science and technology. It appreciates that whether you are a ranch hand, an environmentalist, a landowner or a wildlife biologist, you share an appreciation of the natural world, and a desire to conserve it.

If there’s one thing we’ve all discovered during this epic effort to save the greater sage-grouse, it’s that what happens to the bird is a foreshadowing of what will happen to the sagebrush steppe and the uniquely American heritage it encompasses. Are we prepared to let this bird decline to the point of near extinction? No. And neither are we prepared to let the working landscapes of the West go the way of the passenger pigeon.

By working together with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to map out these ‘strongholds’ where sage-grouse are most abundant, and knitting together a landscape that benefits sage-grouse, we now have an opportunity to improve rangelands, both public and private, and increase wildlife habitat for hundreds of other sagebrush dependent species.

Some would have preferred we use the Endangered Species Act to protect the greater sage-grouse. I would argue that we did. Now that the listing decision is behind us, we can focus our collective energy on efforts to protect the sagebrush steppe together.

The truth is, along this difficult road we discovered a new conservation strategy, and the Secretary’s decision not to list the greater sage-grouse under the ESA is testament to the Department’s recognition that a new day is dawning in American conservation. It’s a day that begins with people coming together to solve a problem, not sitting on the sidelines hoping or fearing that a single law or a single agency can save a single species.

I firmly believe that a generation from now, we will be proud of the work we did to avoid listing the greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act. I believe we will see a healthier sagebrush steppe, more sage-grouse and the continuation of our Western ranching heritage. And perhaps, we will wonder how it was ever possible to conserve wildlife habitat any other way.

David Houghton is president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, a nonprofit that works closely with the National Wildlife Refuge System and other partners to develop landscape scale conservation strategies.

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Birding Community E-Bulletin: October 2015 Fri, 16 Oct 2015 20:32:04 +0000

Continue reading »]]> This Birding Community E-bulletin is being distributed to active and concerned birders, those dedicated to the joys of birding and the protection of birds and their habitats.

This issue is sponsored by the producers of superb quality birding binoculars and scopes, Carl Zeiss Sport Optics.

You can access an archive of past E-bulletins on the website of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (the Refuge Association).

Rarity Focus
Access Matters: Baltimore Booby Viewing
Bird Friendly Convention Center in NYC
IBA News: Izembek Upheld
Three Brothers Make Stamp History 
Seabird Information Central
Tip of the Month: Footgear
Sage-Grouse Decision



Rarity Focus

Last month we mentioned a Slate-throated Redstart found in Arizona. It was originally reported on 21 August by a group of birders from Louisiana State University who briefly and distantly saw the bird, and the next day it was confirmed by Ron Beck. It was found about 0.6 miles up the Hunter Canyon trail in the Huachuca Mountains of Arizona. Fortunately, the warbler pretty much remained in the same area, although it was not reported every day. Though it was often difficult to find, it was positively reported through the end of September.

This species is largely resident from northern Mexico (s. Sonora and s. Tamaulipas) to southern Bolivia. Over the years, there have been fewer than 20 U.S. records of this bird, mostly from Arizona and Texas.

The most surprising thing about the Hunter Canyon Slate-throated Redstart is that it stayed in place as long as it did. Previous U.S. sightings of this species have been of much shorter duration, mostly only a day or two. (One exception was a bird that stayed for two weeks in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park, Texas, in 1990.) The Hunter Canyon bird had a relatively long visit and a late one, too, since most observations of this species in the U.S. have been made between March and June. The Hunter Canyon redstart could have been present since late July, however, when there was an unconfirmed possible sighting.

Read more details on the bird with photos by Bettina Arrigoni.






Access Matters: Baltimore Booby Viewing

What follows is a report on a rarity that almost topped our front-running Slate-throated Redstart this month. This particular story, however, has an additional happy access lesson.

On Sept. 5, a Brown Booby was reported by Nico Sarbanes near the famous Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. Then, nothing. But almost two weeks later, two Brown Boobies – an adult and an immature – were discovered elsewhere in the harbor, by birder and water-taxi captain, Deborah Rowan. The pair of Brown Boobies could be observed from shore, perching alongside cormorants on a rope between two ships, the Denebolla and the Antares, at Locust Point. One problem was that the two cargo ships were part of the U.S. Maritime Administration’s Ready Reserve Fleet, and security issues were involved. Another problem was that the ships were about a half-mile away from the closest land-based point of observation!

Soon however, birders came up with ways to obtain better views of the boobies. Access was able to be gained via regular local harbor taxis, some of which would make slight detours to allow birders some better looks. Other birders used kayaks to get closer or even obtained rides on boats belonging to generous strangers! This story – with fine photos – is recounted in The Baltimore Sun.

On Sept. 20, arrangements were also made to transport visitors through the Downtown Sailing Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing sailing to those who would normally not be able to experience sailing due to a lack of means, disability, or other factors. The DSC made a number of trips to show visitors the boobies in exchange for contributions to support their work.

The two Brown Boobies remained through Sept. 27. And the adult, at least, was observed through the end of the month.

This is another fine example of a way to facilitate birder access in a way that works for everyone.






Bird Friendly Convention Center in NYC

Jacob K. Javits was a well-respected politician who served as a United States Senator (R-NY) from 1957 to 1981. In his day, he held an admirable environmental voting record.

Unfortunately, the building which bears his name, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on the west side of Manhattan, has a less-than-stellar environmental record. With severe angles and a mirror-like facade, this NY State-owned building has been a major site for bird fatalities.

The center’s five-year renovation, finished exactly one year ago, cost a half-billion dollars. An assessment is probably in order, and the center – the Big Apple’s largest venue for conventions, trade shows, and special events – is today far more welcoming to birds.

Reportedly, the new glass panels imprinted with tiny patterns have reduced bird collisions and deaths by 90 percent. Additionally, the building’s new green roof – the second-largest green roof on a single, free-standing building in the U.S. – has attracted many bird species as well as five species of bats.

The new glass panels, covered with tiny dots, or “fritting,” were the final choice after considering 15 eco-friendly alternatives. The choice to use glass paneling sprinkled with small white dots is because apparently the dots are more easily seen by flying birds than they are by people. This feature can also naturally cool the building and, with other improvements, the energy consumption has been reduced by a reported 26 percent.

The green roof also captures rainwater, helping to deter the potential discharge of 6.8 million gallons of runoff per year into NYC waterways. The roof also apparently moderates air temperatures being drawn into the rooftop HVAC units and helps reduce temperature extremes inside the building. Beyond the songbirds that visit the roof “habitat,” Herring Gulls have nested there. Last year there were six nests; this year there were 12. (Oh, yes, Canada Geese nest on the roof, too.)

New York City Audubon has even located two American Kestrel nesting boxes on the roof, along with mounting an ultrasonic acoustic recording unit, a specialized microphone, to detect bat sounds. Since this installation, five of the nine possible bat species found in New York have been recorded over the Javits Center roof. There are also three bee hives on the roof.

The building’s renovation was undertaken by FXFowle Architects, whose principal, Bruce S. Fowle, is a bird enthusiast. His wife, Marcia T. Fowle, also sits on the board at New York City Audubon.

Mr. Fowle said that the New York State owners did not necessarily want to spend extra money simply for bird protection. But the same creative features that made the building more economical and environmentally sound had the added bonus of being bird-and-nature friendly.

You can read more on the project, with an emphasis on the roof, here:




IBA News: Izembek Upheld

In early September, U.S. District Court of Alaska Judge H. Russel Holland upheld U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell’s decision to not build a gravel road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. This has been an ongoing issue, and we covered it in January 2014:

The threatened road would have cut through a federally designated Wilderness Area, risking hundreds of thousands of “Pacific” Brant, Emperor Geese, swans and other migratory birds that rely on this refuge, as well as other wildlife living there.

Izembek, Moffett, and Kinzarof lagoons are marine bays located on the Alaska Peninsula close to the southwestern tip. The lagoon and intertidal habitats are managed by the State of Alaska as Izembek State Game Refuge, while the surrounding uplands are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

To learn more about the ruling, read the joint press release by many concerned partners:

For more information on the lagoon complex IBA, see here:

and on the Izembek NWR, see here:

For additional information about worldwide IBA programs, including those in the U.S., check the National Audubon Society’s Important Bird Area program web site at:








Three Brothers Make Stamp History

In our June issue, we mentioned the recent Migratory Bird Conservation Commission investment of MBCF/Stamp dollars at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, in Texas, a bargain acquisition of 1,778 acres:

Last month, there was another important announcement concerning this NWR and the RESTORE Act, with funding from federal penalties paid by BP and additional companies after the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil blowout of 2010.

RESTORE funding will be used to buy land or secure conservation easements between the main unit of the refuge and the Bahia Grande unit. This $4.4 million “Bahia Grande Coastal Corridor Implementation” project will involve the acquisition of land for restoration and enhancement of coastal prairie, as well as saline and brackish marsh habitats. This project will help create new habitat and will provide vital connectivity for wildlife. These fee-title properties and conservation easements will be held by either the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or The Nature Conservancy.

The Bahia Grande, located between Brownsville and Laguna Vista, was once a wildlife-rich wetland, at least until construction of the Brownsville Ship Channel in the 1930s and Highway 48 in the 1950s cut off the natural tidal flow between it and the vital Laguna Madre, one of the most significant lagoon ecosystems in Texas.

Most birders know Laguna Atascosa NWR as the prime location for the reintroduction of Aplomado Falcons in the U.S. and a major wintering area for waterfowl, especially Redheads. The general public also knows the NWR as the site of a major Ocelot recovery effort.

See details on the funding from the local Brownsville Herald here:





Seabird Information Central

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is under a court-ordered deadline to make a decision on whether the Greater Sage-Grouse should be included under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). That decision must be transmitted to the Federal Register by 30 September.

While the Service is now limited by Congress from publishing rules regarding sage-grouse conservation, it is not relieved of the obligation to determine whether ESA protection is still warranted. (A warranted/not-warranted finding is not considered a final rule.) Current congressional roadblocks would also prevent the Service from taking the next step: to evaluate a Threatened vs. Endangered status. (In the event of a warrented finding, the species would remain on the “candidate list.”)

Still, the concern over an ESA listing for the Greater Sage-Grouse in 11 states is deepening in anticipation of the decision, with multiple western-state officials urging that ongoing state plans be allowed to prove their conservation successes, if not supersede the BLM and USFS plans..

According to a recent report from the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA), the number of male sage grouse in the western U.S. has increased by 63 percent over the last two years. Sage grouse used to number in the millions, but the bird’s population has taken a disturbing plunge over the last century.

Everyone engaged in this 11-state drama is aware of the stakes. If the Greater Sage-Grouse is ultimately listed, it could have huge impacts on ranching, oil drilling, mining, suburban growth, and habitat fragmentation (e.g., roads, transmission lines, fences, and other potential barriers).

But despite the population boost shown in the recent WAFWA report, that particular data was collected before this year’s fire season. With wildfires gobbling up chunks of key sage-grouse habitat in a number of states (e.g., Idaho and Oregon), it is not clear yet how many birds may have been impacted.

In the meantime, Congress is continuing to interfere with the process, even considering an unlikely but disturbing congressional rider to suspend the Service’s authority to propose any listing rule under ESA for Greater Sage-Grouse for a decade, and to prevent the implementation of new federal grouse conservation plans.

Regardless of the decision, the sage-grouse story will not end with the 30 September deadline; it will just start a new chapter in the ongoing saga. It will take a long-term and concerted effort to restore the health of the sagebrush sea on which this species and so many others rely.






Tip of the Month: Footgear

The Big Sit! is an annual, international, noncompetitive birding event founded by the New Haven (Connecticut) Bird Club and hosted by Bird Watcher’s Digest. This year, it’s being run on the weekend of 10-11 October, so there is still time to consider plans.

Some people have called it a “tailgate party for birders.” Here’s how it works: Find a good spot for bird watching, preferably one with good views of a variety of habitats and lots of birds. Next, create a circle 17 feet in diameter and sit inside the circle for up to 24 hours, and count all the bird species you see or hear. Then submit your findings at the end of your vigil.

You can find rules and submission details here:

It’s free, open to everyone, makes a great fundraiser and recruiter, and can be combined with an outdoor party. For more information read Bill Thompson’s excellent top 10 reasons to participate in the event here:

Every year, bird watchers from around the world participate in this special free birding event, open to any person or local organization in any country. Plan now for next month’s Big Sit!






The Sage-Grouse Decision

On the odd chance that you missed the news last month, the USFWS announced that the Greater Sage-Grouse need not be protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), that such coverage is “not warranted.”

Much of the decision rested on the record of recent cooperation among federal agencies, states, ranchers, industry, and environmental groups to make such a listing unnecessary. These forces point to the evidence that conservation and restoration of the species has already begun or is on its way.

Depending on whom you ask among conservationists, the sweeping cooperation in this effort to save the Greater Sage-Grouse and its habitat is either proving more positive every day, or else with the absence of an ESA listing it can mean that current conservation plans will now lose steam.

Most of the conclusions fall in the former camp. Still, there were even attacks on the decision from some conservative quarters, such as Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s “deep concern” that the Department of the Interior’s “actions constitute the equivalent of a listing decision outside the normal process” And congressional interference could also prevent the new grouse conservation plans from going into effect.

It will take time to tell if these ongoing plans create enough habitat protection and effective controls on future negative developments to make future ESA protection unnecessary. But how much time is really available? There is still serious concern over continued habitat loss from oil and gas drilling and new power-line construction. In addition, continued objective population monitoring will be absolutely necessary to accompany the mix of conservation plans.

If you would like to see a summary of this situation, you may be interested in this story from The Washington Post:

This milestone has been passed, but the sage-grouse issues will continue. In the words of the late, great Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”



You can access all the past E-bulletins on the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) website:

If you wish to distribute or reproduce all or parts of any of the monthly Birding Community E-bulletins, we simply request that you mention the source of any material used. (Include a URL for the E-bulletin archives, if possible.)

If you have any friends or co-workers who want to get onto the monthly E-bulletin mailing list, have them contact either:

Wayne R. Petersen, Director
Massachusetts Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program
Mass Audubon
Paul J. Baicich
Great Birding Projects

We never lend or sell our E-bulletin recipient list.

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The Flyer E-Newsletter: October 2015 Fri, 16 Oct 2015 19:48:01 +0000



David Headshot

Dear Friends,

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,


David Houghton


Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, Texas

Fossilized Oysters | Credit: Tracey Adams

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.



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.

Endangered golden-cheeked warblers next in oak-juniper woodlands   | Credit: Tracey Adams
Scrubland provides habitat for the endangered Black-capped vireo | Credit: Tracey Adams
Shrubland provides habitat for the endangered black-capped vireo. | Credit: Tracey Adams


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:



Now Open: 2016 Refuge System Awards

RefSystemAwardsHeaderAnnually, 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.


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.

For more information or to submit a nomination, read the Awards overview. If you have additional questions, feel free to email Debbie Harwood or call (202) 417-3803 x16.




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.



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.


Community Joins Together to Improve Water Quality

Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge | Credit: Robin Lloyd

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.




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.

If you are a Friends group interested in having a positive impact like this on your local community, click here for more information or email Joan Patterson.


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!




FWS Videos Debut at Telluride Photo Festival

Birding Community E-Bulletin October

Golf Tournament Raised Thousands of Dollars for Refuge Association

Recognize the Outstanding Contributions of an Individual or Group

Wiley ‘Dub’ Lyon Receives 2015 Refuge System Volunteer of the Year Award


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 SecretThis 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 RefugeAssisting 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 graphic 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: 

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


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: Kayak tours, nature talks and more during Ding Darling Days at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge (Fla.)

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.)


National Wildlife Refuge Association


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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

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