National Wildlife Refuge Association Home of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) Tue, 01 Sep 2015 16:34:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Refuge Photo Contest Opens Sept. 15 Tue, 01 Sep 2015 16:18:38 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Birds at SunsetAnnouncing the 2015 Refuge Photo Contest! We invite you to show us your photographs of the habitats, wildlife and people that make our national wildlife refuges such incredible places.

Our nation is home to more than 560 national wildlife refuges which provide habitat for 700 bird species, 220 mammal species, 250 reptile and amphibian species, and over 1000 species of fish. Landscapes range from the arctic tundra in Alaska to tropical coastlines along the U.S. Virgin Islands. Enter our contest and share the sights you’ve photographed while visiting a wildlife refuge.

Photo submissions will be accepted from September 15 to November 15. Enter for your chance to win $1,000 cash prize or items generously donated by our contest sponsors:

All entrants will receive a complimentary one-year membership to the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

For complete contest rules and to enter, visit our contest page. Questions? Email Tracey Adams.

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Obama to Visit Alaska Arctic Region Fri, 28 Aug 2015 19:50:01 +0000

Continue reading »]]> President Barack Obama is visiting Alaska Aug. 31 – Sept. 2.

In advance of his trip, the White House released this video, highlighting the reasons he believes Alaska is overdue for some attention paid to its front-line status in the fight against climate change. Also prior to the trip, Mount McKinley, the tallest peak in North America, was reverted back to its native Alaskan name, Denali. Secretary Sally Jewell signed a secretarial order on August 30, with the approval of President Barack Obama, to change the name.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge | Steve Chase
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge | Steve Chase

The visit is meant to give the president a first-hand look at the effects of climate change in a state where warming is changing everything. Follow the trip on a live blog which includes President Obama’s photos and more.

The president plans to visit Seward and two rural communities, Kotzebue and Dillingham, where he will see the impacts of climate change on the Alaska Natives, including a local fishing community, and the effects of coastal erosion.

President Obama may also visit two national wildlife refuges during his tour: Selawik National Wildlife Refuge and Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, both of which offer stark illustrations of what climate change looks like in real time. The arctic sea ice that provides a buffer for coastal communities from severe storms is melting away and, as a result, communities are seeing more flooding and erosion.

Over the past 50 years, Alaska has warmed faster than the rest of the United States, and it has experienced record heat this past year. 2015 will likely be the worst wildfire season in the state’s history.

The Refuge Association held its August board meeting at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. President David Houghton has been traveling the state in advance of the meeting and reported back that the signs of climate change in Alaska are unquestionable.

“If you live in Alaska, there’s really no denying that the climate is changing,” Houghton said. “Wildlife species in the Arctic are facing significant challenges including shorter migration seasons. ”

President Obama’s trip will help shine a spotlight on places where the evidence of climate change is obvious; places where Alaskans struggle to address rapid land loss along its coasts and the ripple effect of warming temperatures on people and wildlife.

Here are of how climate change is impacting Alaska’s national wildlife refuges:

The Selawik Slump

Selawik National Wildlife sits in the remote northwest corner of Alaska, described as “a special place of extreme climate, free-flowing rivers and abundant wildlife. Here where the boreal forest of interior Alaska meets the arctic tundra, thousands of waterfowl, shorebirds, fish, insects and other creatures rest, breed and feed in the vast wetlands complex that is the heart of the Selawik Refuge.”

Aerial view of the so-called Selawik Slump|FWS
Aerial view of the so-called Selawik Slump | FWS

The 2 million-acre refuge is also home to the Iñupiat, who depend on the refuge’s Selawik River as a primary spawning ground for Sheefish, a native fish used in subsistence fishing.

More than a decade ago, staff at Selawik National Wildlife Refuge discovered a plume of sediment entering a section of the Selawik River and traced it to an area in the boreal forest that was eroding due to thawing permafrost.

Today, it is one of the largest “thaw slumps” in Alaska, and is a stark reminder that the ground is literally falling away in parts of state due to warming temperatures.

Sea Ice Melting at Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

The president is also expected to visit areas near Seward, Alaska, so he is likely to pass by parts of Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, where he’ll see first hand the results of melting sea ice.

Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge was established “to conserve marine mammals, seabirds and other migratory birds, and the marine resources upon which they rely.”

Today, climate change is shifting marine habitat faster than some species can adapt. This could spell disaster for species that depend on sea ice, such as polar bears, walrus and certain species of seals.

These are but two stark examples of climate change in action in Alaska’s national wildlife refuges, but the list of examples goes on.

The Refuge Association is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska to protect these and other valuable public lands and waters. In particular, we are working to ensure permanent wilderness status for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain and other sensitive areas of the refuge. In January, President Obama announced new protections for the area, and followed it up by formally recommending Congress that the coastal plain be permanently declared wilderness. The announcement accompanied a final Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) that also calls for the area to be managed as wilderness.

And in Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, we strongly support Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s decision to uphold FWS’s decision to forbid the construction of a road through a federally designated wilderness area in the refuge. The federal government has twice rejected the road proposal after extensive studies and would set a bad precedent of undesignating a congressionally designated wilderness area to build a road. We continue to oppose efforts by some in Congress to override the decision.

Click here to learn more.

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Calling All Golfers! Mon, 24 Aug 2015 20:01:57 +0000

Continue reading »]]> How can a round of golf help protect wildlife habitat?

When the golf outing is a benefit for the National Wildlife Refuge Association, of course!

Thanks to the generosity of our board member Larry Ross, the Refuge Association is again the beneficiary of a golf tournament at the exclusive Fishers Island Club to be held on September 21.

What could be more fun than a day golfing on one of the top golf courses in the world with friends on this beautiful island off the coast of Connecticut?

Golfers will be shuttled from Groton, CT to Fishers Island by chartered boat and start the day with a beautiful brunch, followed by a round of golf. The day concludes with cocktails, dinner and awards.

Our last benefit golf tournament in 2013 raised more than $100,000, and we are hoping to exceed this goal this year! A portion of the $2,000 per golfer fee is tax deductible.

Please join us to help raise money that supports our work to enhance America’s national wildlife refuges through advocacy, grassroots engagement and on-the-ground assistance to the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Click here to sign up for the 2015 Fishers Island Golf Tournament!

As the only non-profit exclusively focused on supporting America’s national wildlife refuges, we depend on generous donations to help us:

  • Ensure permanent wilderness protections for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska;
  • Expand critical wildlife habitat in the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge that follows the Connecticut River through Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut;
  • Establish a thriving wildlife refuge in the Northern Everglades to protect the last stand of the endangered Florida Grasshopper Sparrow and Florida Panther while providing clean, abundant drinking water to 8 million Floridians downstream.

And so much more! America’s National Wildlife Refuges are a national treasure, and your support can help us ensure they remain a world-class conservation network enjoyed by millions of Americans today and in the future.

Sign up today for a fun-filled day of golf for a great cause!

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The Flyer E-Newsletter: July 2015 Thu, 20 Aug 2015 21:49:49 +0000

Continue reading »]]>



David Headshot

We’re entering those dog days of summer, when parts of the country get hot and muggy and others are parched. While kids and families spend some much-deserved summer vacation days visiting wildlife refuges and other public lands to explore nature, the men and women of the National Wildlife Refuge System are still hard at work maintaining healthy habitat for wildlife.

This hard work was celebrated in a few ways this month – at St. Croix Wetland Management District, where Tom Kerr received our Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award, and on Capitol Hill during the first-ever Refuge Expo, where members of Congress and their staffs were treated to fishing and hunting demonstrations, outdoor photography displays and even Nate the K9, a member of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement unit. These and other great stories are highlighted in this month’s Flyer.

We also explore Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, a remote and beautiful refuge in central Oregon our board of directors visited recently to learn about efforts to protect the fragile sagebrush steppe ecosystem of the West. We also explore the new Discovery Center at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, and what the Friends group there has done to make this center a reality.

And finally, we take a look at the Partners for Wildlife Program through the eyes of conservation intern Sara Mason, who took a tour out west to see this important program in action.

We have so much to celebrate during this, our 40th year, and we look forward to continuing that celebration with the launch of our 2015 Refuge Photo Contest, coming this fall. Stay tuned to our website for updates, and get those cameras pointed at the incredible scenes of wildlife and nature at your nearest national wildlife refuge.

Enjoy the summer, and I’ll see you on a refuge,


David Houghton


Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge, Oregon

Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge | Credit: Richard Schock

Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge is not the sort of place you just happen upon along your travels, unless you find yourself deep in the remote Sagebrush Steppe of south central Oregon. But those who make the trek are rewarded by open skies, sweeping vistas and herds of pronghorn antelope.

Hart Mountain, a 270,000-acre refuge established in 1936, is part of a larger refuge complex that includes the 575,000-acre Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in northern Nevada. Recently, National Wildlife Refuge Association staff and board members visited Hart Mountain refuge to learn about efforts to protect habitat for greater sage-grouse, pronghorn antelope and other sagebrush species that rely on this vast area to survive and thrive.

John Kasbohm, project leader for the Sheldon-Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex, showed our staff and board around Hart Mountain, highlighting some of the refuge’s recent conservation efforts. Joining him were Jeff Mackay, Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge Manager, Gail Collins, Wildlife Biologist and Aaron Collins, Park Ranger, all of whom shared their knowledge and passion with our group.

The last few years have been consumed by an effort to remove feral horses from refuge lands in the complex, Kasbohm said. The horses damage the slow-growing, sensitive sagebrush. An earlier effort at Hart Mountain in the 1990s was a success, and after two years of consistent effort on Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, fewer than 30 feral horses remain there.

Today, refuge staff is working with the Bureau of Land Management and states, as well as private landowners, to make sure remaining feral horses roaming between Hart and Sheldon refuges don’t make their way back onto refuge lands. Read more...

Meanwhile, conservation efforts at Hart Mountain now center on maintaining excellent habitat for sage grouse and pronghorn, among other species. Hart Mountain has some of the best remaining sagebrush habitat left, but it is threatened by fire and the resulting invasion of cheatgrass, a non-native grass that has a tendency to overtake areas hit by fire.

Kasbohm explained that when cheatgrass has an opportunity to invade after fire hits an area, it quickly outpaces and displaces sagebrush, thus fundamentally changing habitat that historically supported sagebrush dependent species like sage grouse.

“The goal is to build more quality resilient habitat,” Kasbohm said.

Of late, the refuge has been working to remove juniper trees from areas that attract sage-grouse. While juniper is native to the area, it can hinder sage-grouse reproduction and also help fuel more intense fires.

“The more fuel, the more intense the fire,” he said. And, the trees hinder sage-grouse.

“Sage-grouse don’t use habitat with trees,” Kasbohm said, noting that raptors use the trees as perches, so sage-grouse keep their distance. On a recent visit, the Refuge Association group saw one such stand of juniper not far from an area biologists have identified as a popular lek where males gather to impress potential mates.

Kasbohm said the goal is to prevent the juniper from encroaching into these prime sage-grouse areas, so the refuge is taking on a 5-year effort to remove juniper from those spots.

On another stop along the tour, our group heard about a recent effort to collar and track 39 female pronghorn antelope to learn more about their travel patterns and range. What refuge biologists discovered was that the animals use an enormous area that spans from Hart to Sheldon refuges, and often use lands off the refuges as wintering habitat.

Despite the hundreds of thousands of acres protected as part of the Sheldon Hart complex, “it’s not big enough,” Kasbohm said, noting that the data show the need to work with partners on the ground to provide a connected corridor of ideal habitat for species such as pronghorn to travel.

Anna Flook Homestead, Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge | Credit: USFWS


These efforts have been supported by the Refuge Association’s Beyond the Boundaries program in the sagebrush steppe region, which is developing a vision and long-range conservation plan for protecting this landscape.

Kasbohm said they intend to expand the surveys beyond the refuges to learn more about movement patterns off refuge, and they plan to hire a private lands biologist to assist private landowners with their conservation efforts.

Anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 people visit Hart Mountain annually. Some choose to camp overnight at one of two primary campgrounds, and others drive through the refuge to witness the rugged cliffs, steep slopes, and knife-like ridges. Visitors are almost sure to see pronghorn, and could also spot California bighorn sheep, sage grouse and mule deer.

Regardless of whether you are seeking majestic scenery, back-country exploration or excellent wildlife viewing, Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge has it all.


The Partners for Wildlife Program: A Modern and Effective Conservation Tool
By Sara Mason, Conservation Intern

While wildlife refuges and other protected areas play an essential role for wildlife conservation, huge expanses of land outside of the refuge system exist with enormous, and sometimes critical, conservation value. Due to the relatively small proportion of land that national wildlife refuges actually cover, the National Wildlife Refuge Association is highly invested in its ‘Beyond the Boundaries’ program, which aims to develop creative and collaborative methods by which we can help protect areas outside of America’s wildlife refuges.

bearriver_Vicky Groskinsky
Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge | Credit: Vicky Groskinsky

The variety of land ownership surrounding wildlife refuges almost always includes privately owned lands, and that is where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Wildlife program comes into the picture. This program exists to establish meaningful relationships between Service staff and local landowners in order to help these landowners execute projects that improve wildlife habitat on their properties. The Refuge Association fully supports the Partners Program model, and often engages with Partners staff in our Beyond the Boundaries work.

Working as a Refuge Association conservation intern for the summer, I have been fortunate enough to focus a large portion of my work on researching and promoting the Partners program. The Refuge Association views this program as an essential and modern conservation tool; creating partnerships and working with stakeholders from all different perspectives makes ultimate conservation outcomes more likely to remain successful in the long-run. Read more...

While on a trip to Utah and Wyoming for the Refuge Association, I was able to see Partners staff in action and truly appreciate the importance and scope of the work they are doing. Near Cokeville Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Wyoming I toured various sites of Partners projects with two Partners staff, Mark and Dave. In some areas they were working with landowners to create grazing plans that would allow for healthy sagebrush habitat maintenance, while in others the Partners program had helped to restore wetlands or stream reaches where waterfowl, migratory birds, or trout could safely stop over or sustain healthy populations. While bouncing around in the back of a truck driving through ranchlands I witnessed landowners slowing down to wave as we went by. The Partners biologists are truly a part of the communities they work in, and they know landowners not just by the acreage of their ranches or the number of ducks that their ponds can support. Partners staff know these ranchers by name, by their families, and they understand the perspectives on how habitat conservation work can coexist with their lands and their livelihoods.

The next day I visited the landscape surrounding the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah, and was lucky enough to get a tour of a private ranch where the landowner, Joel, has been working with Partners for more than 8 years. Joel and Karl, a Partners biologist, showed me numerous project locations, the whole time reminiscing about the circumstances under which they had completed each project. Joel is very conservation-minded, so when he thinks of a project he believes could benefit wildlife he discusses possibilities with Karl. Joel, with the help of the Partners program, has created a huge network of seasonal wetlands on his property, which are great habitats for migratory birds. During a quick drive through his ranch we saw more than 10 different species, and quite a few of them with chicks. Joel made sure to mention how much he appreciates the flexibility of the Partners program and the fact that projects could be small yet sensible— these projects might not always be flashy, but they do important things that allow him to have a multi-purpose ranch compatible with wildlife conservation. (That is not to say that Partners projects can’t be large-scale!)
Partners for Wildlife can assist landowners by providing funds and technical expertise. The program is a critical link between the government and private sectors and helps to accomplish shared conservation goals. Wildlife doesn’t acknowledge borders between public and private lands, and healthy habitats don’t solely exist behind park or refuge boundaries. But by working with and supporting Partners for Wildlife we can help make sure that habitats on private lands can sustain healthy wildlife populations.



By Justin Jacques, Communications Intern


This week the National Wildlife Refuge Association helped co-sponsor the first-ever Refuge Expo 2015, an event on Capitol Hill to help kick off the newly resurrected National Wildlife Refuge Caucus.

The caucus, co-chaired by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), successfully brought together conservationists, craftsmen and Congressional staff towards a common goal of wildlife advocacy on Tuesday.

The Expo featured remarks by the four Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus leaders, as well as Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Cynthia Martinez, Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

“Every one of us grew up with these wildlife refuges in our communities, our districts, our states,” said Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI). “We have a responsibility to make sure these incredibly important spots continue to be preserved and enhanced.”

The event was co-sponsored by the 23 environmental groups that comprise the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE). Mamie Parker, a former refuge manager and board member of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, was master of ceremonies. The Refuge Association chairs the CARE coalition.

“We’re here today because we love our national wildlife refuges, and because we love the people who protect our natural resources even more,” Parker said to a crowded room at the historic Cannon Caucus Room. Read more...

Exhibitors included conservation groups such as the National Wildlife Refuge Association, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and the American Birding Association. Also on display were presentations by the Mule Deer Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Izaak Walton League of America. This week the National Wildlife Refuge Association helped co-sponsor the first-ever Refuge Expo 2015, an event on Capitol Hill to help kick off the newly resurrected National Wildlife Refuge Caucus.

While free refreshments were served, the event’s main attractions were the many special guests in attendance. Ian Shive, celebrated wildlife photographer and recent host of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, displayed breathtaking footage of his work on wildlife refuges, and local craftsman Bryon Bodt showed passersby how to carve wooden duck decoys.

Among other demonstrations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Department of Law Enforcement brought two of its K-9 officers to happily greet guests, and Puddles the Blue Goose, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mascot, spent the day posing for photos. In one corner of the room, Service representatives taught visitors how to properly cast a fishing rod.

Refuge Expo 2015 marked a resurrection of the Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus, a bipartisan group of representatives dedicated to conserving America’s wildlife and habitat. With annual appropriations for the National Wildlife Refuge System still under debate, the event was held in part to raise awareness for the types of recreation that wildlife refuges can offer and to garner support for the enhancement of public lands.

“We all know the challenges before us,” said Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA). “We want to make sure our national wildlife refuges have the resources to meet those challenges.”

Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) echoed the sentiments of Dan Ashe and Cynthia Martinez, who praised the leadership of the groups in attendance as well as sympathetic voices within Congress. All speakers commended a recent increase in the cost of Federal Duck Stamps, which will provide more funding to acquire land for national wildlife refuges.

“We’re relying on all of you to spread the word,” said Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA). “Some of the most beautiful and expansive land in the world is our birthright as Americans, but that right comes with great responsibility.”


Kindergartners Visit New Discovery Center
By Justin Jacques, Communications Intern

Dragonfly at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge | Richard Henry
Dragonfly at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge | Credit: Richard Henr

As 25 kindergarteners walked along a trail at Minnesota’s Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge earlier this month, many yelling, running and generally enjoying not being in school, one young girl took the hand of Ron Jenson, President of the Friends of Tamarac. Looking up at him with an ear-to-ear smile, she said, “You know, I’ve never been in the woods before.”

One of the first groups of schoolchildren to take advantage of a new Discovery Center on the refuge, financed and overseen almost solely by the Friends of Tamarac, the kindergartners affirmed the Friends Group’s long-held belief – that introducing a child to nature at an early age can be life changing.

“If we expect these young kids to be the stewards of our environment tomorrow, we need to engage them today,” Jenson said.

The 2,000 square-foot Discovery Center, which opened to the public on June 27, revolutionizes the educational capabilities of the refuge. Between 50 and 70 children can be taught indoors, and the addition of a large amphitheater outside can fit an additional 50. Before the Discovery Center’s construction, the refuge’s makeshift classroom was simply a maintenance shed.

“We kept getting so many kids out here interested in our programs, over 3,000, and just had no place to put them,” Jenson said. Read more...

The Friends of Tamarac coordinated all financing for the Discovery Center’s construction independently of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, totaling about $580,000. Though actual construction costs came out to around $605,000, the Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation has agreed to offer a 10-year loan for the $25,000 deficit, with no interest rate. The Friends of Tamarac expect to repay the loan well before its due date.

A wide range of outside donations from people unaffiliated with the Wildlife Refuge System went a long way towards the final funding amount raised, from values of $25 up to an incredible $60,000. Representatives of the Friends of Tamarac contacted all donors on a personal basis, and 12 donors offered amounts of over $10,000.

While the program currently partners with three local school districts accommodating kindergartners and third-graders, staff is exploring the possibility of partnerships with a broader range of schools. If volunteer numbers, ideas for programming and activity space all prove sufficient, fifth-graders may be the next population to enjoy the new Discovery Center.

“It’s all about making the best use of the space possible,” Jenson said.

Albino wood frog discovered at Tamrac National Wildlife Refuge | Credit: Kelly Blackledge/USFWS
Albino wood frog discovered at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge | Credit: Kelly Blackledge/USFWS

Because of its status as a non-profit organization, the Friends of Tamarac were able to avoid many of the fundraising restrictions that hinder the US Fish and Wildlife Service from undertaking such sweeping construction efforts, and Ron Jenson estimates that the Friends Group’s management of the project likely saved Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge over $200,000.

Now under the official ownership of Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, the Discovery Center’s doors are open, in validation of over six years of planning by the Friends of Tamarac. The refuge’s next step is to hire an environmental education coordinator that would facilitate partnerships with a wider range of local schools, ultimately allowing more students to take advantage of the Discovery Center’s educational opportunities.

The Discovery Center’s construction is a vivid example of the indispensable help that Friends’ Groups offer to the National Wildlife Refuge System every day. Because of the ceaseless work of the Friends of Tamarac, more Minnesota children will experience the serenity that nature offers. With time and with luck, these same children could well be the adults who protect our environment tomorrow.

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


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!



Refuge Association Approves Six New Board Members

Students Plant 50 Trees at Iron River National Fish Hatchery

Birding Community E-Bulletin July

Global Anti-Poaching Act Seeks to Restrict Illicit Wildlife Trade

Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge Staff Seeks Cause Behind Rookery Abandonment

Tom Kerr Receives 2015 Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award




 John Kasbohm, Project Leader at Sheldon-Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Oregon
John Kasbohm, Project Leader at Sheldon-Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Oregon

John Kasbohm is the Project Leader at Sheldon-Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Oregon

The Refuge is Best Known For: Hart Mountain is a sought-after destination for hunters; it can take 15 years to get a bighorn sheep tag.

The Refuge’s Best Kept Secret: That Hart Mountain is one of the best remaining examples of sagebrush steppe left. It’s just really cool.

The Most Interesting Species on the Refuge: I think it’s the pronghorn antelope. It’s so distinct looking.

My Favorite Activity on the Refuge: Exploring, whether it’s the geology, petroglyphs, or just being alone in the wilderness.

The Best Time to Visit the Refuge: Early summer, when everything is still green and it’s before fire season.


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

August 7-9 – Peer to Peer Workshop, Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

August 17-19 – Friends Academy, National Conservation Training Center, West Virginia

August 26-27 – Friends of Alaska Workshop, Homer, Alaska

August 28 – National Wildlife Refuge Association Board of Directors Meeting, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

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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Birding Community E-Bulletin: August 2015 Fri, 07 Aug 2015 20:13:34 +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
Book Notes: Cuba Opening
Gulf Coast Voters Want Habitat Restoration
IBA News: Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge Shorebird Survey
Where Did This Florida Colony Go?
Tip of the Month: Favoring Field Guides
More Carbon Offset Birding
MBTA Saved From Recent Assault




Rarity Focus

The Little Egret is an Eastern Hemisphere species, ranging from western Europe, Africa, and southern Asia and Japan south to Australia. This species was first seen in North America in Newfoundland in the spring of 1954, but it was the 1980s before a few others were reported in Atlantic Canada, and 1989 and the 1990s before multiple birds were reported in New England. Most have appeared in spring and summer, including birds south of New England (e.g., Delaware and Virginia), and about a dozen records possibly involve returning individuals for multiple years. (The species has also occurred on some Caribbean islands, most notably Barbados, where it has actually established a breeding toehold. There was also a May 2000 record for the western Aleutian Islands.)

Since the mid-1990s, the Little Egrets have become almost annual in the Northeast – in Atlantic Canada and New England. But from where do these birds originate? Are they from northwestern Europe (where their numbers have recently increased)? Might some have overshot sub-Saharan wintering areas to make initial landfall in northeastern South America and the Caribbean? (Records for Suriname, Trinidad, Martinique, Barbados and Antigua support this hypothesis.) Are summer observations in the Northeast a result of northward post-breeding dispersal of egrets from the Caribbean? Was the single Aleutian record an overshoot vagrant from Japan? Unfortunately, these questions remain unanswered. And the fact that Little Egrets are very similar to Snowy Egrets in appearance makes the collection of reliable field records especially troublesome.

In any case, the first Little Egret to ever appear in Maine was in June-July 2011 in Scarborough Marsh. It may be the same bird that also appeared there in August of 2012. So, when a Little Egret appeared in nearby Falmouth, Maine, on 8 June of this year, there was considerable interest. The bird, found by Doug Hitchcox, was photographed at the south end of the West Meadow at Gilsland Farm, and later in a marsh area off Presumpscot Street. After seemingly having disappeared for a while, it reliably showed up again on 18 June, often accompanied by two Snowy Egrets. Then, from late June through the end of July, it remained in the area, often frequenting Tidewater Gardens Farm and sometimes behind the local Walmart.

It often took persistence to find the bird, but many birders from New England and beyond were rewarded with views of this Little Egret last month.

A series of fine photos of the bird by Rob O’Connell are available here.

The photos show how similar-looking this species is to a Snowy Egret, too. At this season, interested birders should be on a sharp lookout for more of these look-alike birds!





Book Notes: Cuba Opening 

Last month’s official re-opening of mutual embassies in Havana and Washington D.C. potentially signals the start of a new post-Cold War era in U.S.-Cuba relations. Coincidentally, this diplomatic event was preceded by a few weeks with the distribution of a Field Guide to the Endemic Birds of Cuba by Nils Navarro.

With his Field Guide to the Endemic Birds of Cuba (2015, Ediciones Nuevos Mundos), Nils Navarro, Cuban artist and field biologist, has produced a small but exceedingly power-packed and attractive publication. At first, one might suppose that a 168-page book is merely a rundown of the birds unique to the island, along with a few accompanying notes, but, in fact, it is much more. Simply opening up the book will at once dispel any doubts: this little gem has about everything one could want to know about Cuban birds in a book of its size.

The book has essential introductory sections on “getting to know Cuba” and “frequently asked questions on birdwatching in Cuba.” This is all followed by individual ID accounts on Cuba’s 26 endemic species each accompanied by Navarro’s excellent artwork along with details on voice, geographic variation, status, distribution, habitat, feeding, nesting and reference localities. There is also space allotted at the end of each species account for the user to add personal notes.

The book not only describes the 26 Cuban endemics, it also covers another 22 uniquely West Indian species that also reside in Cuba. All of these birds are illustrated with Navarro’s skillfully executed paintings. Basically, any birder traveling to Cuba needs only this book and a favorite accompanying North American field guide to have all the birds of Cuba fully illustrated and described.

Other features of the book include sections on bird habitats (with accompanying photos), individual bird photographs, conservation needs in Cuba, essential maps and a handy checklist.

Most appropriately, the book is being made available in two versions: English and Spanish.

Perhaps best of all, this book could hardly be released at a better time in terms of U.S.-Cuban developments. Also, in the spirit of its timely release, the illustrations and photographs in the book are available, upon permission, for other non-profit conservation projects. Thus, Nils Navarro has produced a much-needed contribution, using his personal rare combination of artistic skills, sensitivity, and warmth that make him both a national treasure and a significant inter-American player as well.





Gulf Coast Voters Want Habitat Restoration 

A poll released last month by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and The Nature Conservancy shows that Gulf Coast voters remain very concerned about the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and overwhelmingly support using the fines resulting from that disaster for Gulf restoration and conservation projects. These are funds mostly distributed through the RESTORE Act and its related Gulf Coast Restoration trust Fund.

The dramatic 2010 blow-out has had a lasting impact on coastal habitats, including the birds and fish of the region.

A bipartisan research team of liberal-leaning Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates and conservative-leaning Public Opinion Strategies partnered to complete this survey of registered voters along the Gulf Coast. The results show that voters place a lasting value on the health of the Gulf as contributing to the region’s economy and culture.

More than three in five voters (61 percent) say that the “after-effects of the BP oil spill on natural areas and wildlife along the Gulf Coast” are an “extremely” or “very serious” problem for the region. That figure is up from 57 percent in 2013 and ranks among the top concerns of the region: the economy (67 percent), education (66 percent) and crime (62 percent).

“This poll reveals continued strong concern by the people of the Gulf region for the health of the Gulf of Mexico and the strong belief by a broad cross-section of the population that funds from the recently announced settlement with BP should be invested in restoring and conserving the natural features that make the Gulf such a beautiful, biologically rich, and productive place,” said Robert Bendick, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Gulf of Mexico Program.

Nearly seven in ten (68 percent) voters said RESTORE Act funds “should be used mainly for restoration of our beaches, wildlife habitat, coastal areas, rivers and other waters that affect the Gulf Coast.” Just 17 percent preferred that funds “be used mainly for construction of roads, convention centers, school buildings, and other projects on the Gulf Coast.” Republicans (68 percent) were even more likely than Democrats (58 percent) to prioritize restoration projects over construction.

You can read more from the Alabama Media Group website.





IBA News: Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge Shorebird Survey

The Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in western Alaska is so large – more than 19 million acres – that it contains at least seven individual Important Bird Areas (IBAs). One can only imagine the difficulty in doing an accurate survey of shorebirds across the refuge.

This expansive NWR was also designated as a WHSRN (Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network) site of Hemispheric Importance in 2000. The refuge is celebrating its 15th anniversary in the network this year.

Based on data from aerial surveys conducted during post-breeding seasons, the Refuge has been known to host more than three million shorebirds annually. Among them are virtually all the world’s population of Black Turnstone, and more than 30 percent of the global population of Bar-tailed Godwit and more than 66 percent of the global population of Bristle-thighed Curlew. The latter two species breed on the NWR and then fly non-stop over the ocean to wintering grounds in the South Pacific; the godwit then migrates north up along the western Pacific Rim and the curlew returns across the ocean.

In October 2012, the Refuge became the first U.S. site in the East Asian – Australasian Flyway Partnership’s bird conservation network because of its importance to these “bi-hemispheric” species.

Recently, and after months of intense coordination and preparation, a team of shorebird researchers completed one of the largest shorebird breeding-ground surveys ever conducted. From 15 May to 10 June, they gathered data from more than 300 plots across the expansive Yukon Delta National NWR to more accurately delineate breeding areas and estimate population sizes for several species.

Accomplishing such a task at this unprecedented geographic scale – in less than four weeks – required intense logistical planning. Three teams of researchers were needed to move in and out of remote and roadless areas using a combination of helicopters, planes and boats. Following the Program for Regional and International Shorebird Monitoring (PRISM) protocol, the 400m x 400m survey plots (approx. 40 acres, or 16 hectares) were randomly selected and each researcher had 1.5 hours to traverse a plot on foot, noting all signs of breeding shorebirds, before traveling to the next plot.

The basic advantage of breeding surveys, versus nesting surveys, is that shorebirds are most obvious when they are singing and displaying during courtship. Once these birds are on their nests, the tundra grows quiet as they hunker down, blending seamlessly into the tundra landscape.

“Baseline data from this survey will help us to measure not only the impacts of stressors such as climate change and energy development on Arctic breeding birds and their habitats,” explains Stephen Brown, Director of the Shorebird Recovery Program at Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences – a lead partner in this effort – “but also the difference that our conservation efforts are making over time.”

Generally, the most common species was Western Sandpiper, and the coastal zone had impressively high densities of Black Turnstones and Rock Sandpipers.

A second round of surveys is scheduled to take place at the Yukon Delta NWR in 2016. This project’s success is due in large part to the cooperation among funders and dedicated scientists, with support from their public and private organizations, including Manomet, the USFWS and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

More details on the survey effort can be found here.

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





Where Did This Florida Colony Go?

One of Florida’s largest wading-bird rookery on the Gulf coast has been at 150-acre Seahorse Key. Seahorse Key is part of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge.

The Seahorse Key rookery has traditionally held between 2,000 and 15,000 pairs of nesting Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons, White Ibises, Roseate Spoonbills, Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants and lesser numbers of other birds. Notice, we write that these colonial birds “traditionally” nested on Seahorse Key, but they no longer do.

In May, nearly all the birds in this giant colony left, practically overnight, leaving empty nests in trees and shrubs and broken eggs on the ground. A small fraction of the colony relocated to Snake Key, a few miles away, and a few Ospreys remained on their nesting poles, but the multi-species colony virtually vanished.

More disturbing is the fact that Federal, State, and NGO investigators don’t know why this happened. “It’s a dead zone now,” said Vic Doig, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist. “I’ve never seen an abandonment quite like it,” said Peter Frederick, a wildlife biologist at the University of Florida who has studied the state’s birds for nearly three decades.

“We’ve seen a lot of abandonments in the Everglades and in some seabird colonies, but there’s never been such synchronicity involving so many species at once,” Frederick said. “Nothing seems to fit together.”

“The jury’s still out,” said Julie Wraithmell, director of wildlife conservation for Audubon Florida. Mass abandonment, she said, “is always a result of some kind of tragedy. With that number of birds having invested in courting and having built nests and laid eggs, some kind of change happened.”

Possible explanations for the abandonment include: disease or contaminants, parasitic infestation of nests, roving predators, aircraft flyovers, climate change, boaters coming too close to shore and people trespassing on the restricted island.

So far none of these seem to provide an adequate answer. Abandoned carcasses were tested for diseases or contaminants with no positive results. Abandoned nests failed to show evidence of parasites. The few raccoons trapped could not have created such wholesale abandonment, nor were there signs of Great Horned Owls on site. Night-flights over the area by surveillance planes and helicopters are considered a remote possibility. But climate-change doesn’t seem likely to have singled out this particular island rookery. There was no solid evidence of boater or human visitor interference, although there have been abandonments at similar localities due to single visits by beach-goers.

Refuge manager, Andrew Duge, surmises that a combination of some of these factors “added together,” might be to blame, but it’s unclear what that mix might be.

Whatever the explanation, if these colonial species do not return next year, it may mean that this critical island refuge nesting-area has been lost.





Tip Of The Month: Favoring Field Guides 

We live in a time when field guides for birds come in a variety of sizes and shapes, in printed format or in hand-held versions.

As far as the much-valued and traditional books are concerned, the options for the field are varied, indeed. The choices are almost mind-boggling: Eastern? Western? State-based? Photo-oriented? Color-illustrations? Family groups? Today, you have your pick.

Consider, however, that there is no “one best birding field guide.” It’s simply a matter of taste and circumstances.

Your favorite printed field guide may be ideal for you, but it may not be the best for everyone! Some bird watchers will only use photo-guides; some will avoid them.

Some birders want finely detailed text; some simply look for great illustrations. Some newer birders get overwhelmed with one format and are more comfortable with another. Some birders will insist on guides with details on mega-rarities; other birders will regard such coverage as distracting or confusing. Some birders will agonize over the size of the lettering; some simply don’t care. Some birders will collect and use every specialty book on families – e.g., shorebirds, raptors, warblers – while other birders don’t want to be bothered. Some birders insist on large and detailed distribution maps; some birders will settle for small or generalized ones.

What is best for you may not be best for all. And what is best for you now, may be inadequate for you in a couple of years. Realize that one size does not fit all, and it’s probably best to let the guide fit the birder!





More Carbon Offset Birding

In the June issue, we mentioned the efforts to connect local birding festivals with specific conservation projects.

One such conservation option is carbon-offset birding, and this month’s Tucson Bird and Wildlife Festival has adopted another creative example, with their own Carbon Offset Bird Project (COBP).

To see how the festival organizers are handling this approach, aimed at one of their restoration mitigation sites, the Simpson Farm, and involving native planting, seeding and invasive removal to favor the birds, see here.

Also of interest was the resolution passed at last month’s BirdsCaribbean meeting in Jamaica. There, the members voted to pursue a bird-oriented carbon-offset project for their future meetings.





MBTA Saved From Recent Assault 

Last month, we mentioned the effort to eviscerate the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in the U.S. House of Representatives:

Since then, efforts by Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-SC) have not been successful in terms of amendments on weakening the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

There were many letters that went to Congress over this issue, including this one sponsored by the American Bird Conservancy and signed by over 100 concerned organizations, listed on the bottom of this page.

This particular offensive may be over, but more may still emerge.



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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Tom Kerr Receives 2015 Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award Mon, 27 Jul 2015 17:13:10 +0000

Continue reading »]]> On July 25, 2015, Tom Kerr received the prestigious 2015 Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award from the National Wildlife Refuge Association. Mr. Kerr, a 25-year employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the Refuge Manager of central Wisconsin’s St. Croix Wetland Management District. Jared Brandwein, Director of Conservation Programs for the Refuge Association, had the honor of presenting the award to Mr. Kerr.

Tom Kerr humbly accepted the award before an audience of his colleagues | Caitlin Smith, USFWS
Tom Kerr humbly accepted the award before an audience of his colleagues | Caitlin Smith, USFWS

Kerr earned this distinction through his artful and inspiring efforts to purchase, restore and manage important waterfowl and wildlife habitats in the eight-county wetland management district. Since he began his tenure at St. Croix Wetland Management District in 2007, Kerr has demonstrated an eagerness to work on behalf of his neighbors, seeking and receiving valuable input towards the betterment of his projects from citizens, community leaders, as well as local and higher levels of government.   Under his leadership, the Friends of St. Croix Wetland Management District was established for the purpose of creating interpretive, scientific, educational, and recreational activities within the wetland management district.

In cooperation with seven private landowners, Kerr played a key role in acquiring 644 acres to be managed as waterfowl production areas by the Service. With the support of The Conservation Fund, Kerr facilitated the donation of an additional 40 acres to the Service and 70 acres to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Under Kerr’s tenure, grants totaling nearly $3 million have been generated for habitat protection, restoration, and management in west central Wisconsin.

With the support of staff, Kerr and St. Croix Wetland Management District have become leaders within the conservation community in the restoration of rare oak savanna habitat. Through the use of a local biofuels market, 700 acres of oak savanna have been restored on both public and private lands in the last seven years with minimal or no cost to the government.

With the assistance of the Friends of St. Croix Wetland Management District, Kerr initiated “Conservation Day on the WPA” (Waterfowl Production Area), an annual volunteer effort meant to improve local habitats, which has introduced nearly 2,000 youth and families to public lands and has resulted in the donation of 15,000 volunteer hours. Collectively, Kerr and the Friends routinely conduct congressional canoe tours that serve to inform congressional offices of St. Croix Wetland Management District activities and accomplishments.

Kerr poses with Jared Brandwein, NWRA, who presented the award | Caitlin Smith, USFWS
Kerr poses with Jared Brandwein, NWRA, who presented the award | Caitlin Smith, USFWS

Several notable guests attended the celebration, including Cynthia Martinez, Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, Tom Melius, FWS Regional Director, Briggs LeSavage, Director of Communications for U.S. Representative Sean Duffy, several members of the Friends of St. Croix Wetland Management District, Kerr’s wife, Mary and their three daughters. Bob and Sharon Waldrop, recipients of the Refuge Association’s 2014 Refuge Volunteer of the Year Award, were also in attendance.

Through hard work and dedication, Kerr has effectively woven St. Croix Wetland Management District into the fabric of the New Richmond and west central Wisconsin communities. It is for this reason and more that we proudly present the 2015 Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award to Tom Kerr.





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Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge Staff Seek Cause Behind Rookery Abandonment Wed, 22 Jul 2015 13:43:53 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Seahorse Key, one of 13 small islands along the Gulf Coast of Florida that make up Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, has long been known as the largest bird colony in the area.

Yet the island’s rookery, closed to the public and considered a sanctuary for mangrove forest-dwelling birds, has gone mysteriously quiet.

Refuge staff is still looking into the causes behind the island’s sudden abandonment, which occurred seemingly overnight in late April. While many birds that previously nested on Seahorse Key have been found on surrounding islands, at least 7,000 white ibises remain unaccounted for – a species that has spent at least the last 20 summers on Seahorse Key.

A wide variety of birds thrive on Cedar Keys' islands, covered in mangrove forests and dunes. | Sandra Muldrow, NWRA
A wide variety of birds thrive on Cedar Keys’ islands, covered in mangrove forests and dunes. | Sandra Muldrow, NWRA

Biologists with the US Fish and Wildlife Service have been able to rule out disease, contaminants and a wave of new predators as possible causes for the birds’ departure from Seahorse Key. With long-standing cooperation between Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge and several local universities, a lab facility on the refuge has focused its attention on looking into possible causes outside the habitat. Researchers looked into the possibility that the noise of low-flying aircraft may have disturbed the birds enough to leave the island, but finding no recent increase in local air traffic, they continue to seek other explanations.

“Whatever happened on Seahorse Key, we’re thankful that there are twelve other refuge islands nearby where these birds can re-settle,” said Peg Hall, who heads the communications team for the Friends of the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges. “The mystery of what will happen during next year’s nesting season is almost as interesting at this point as the question of what caused them to relocate in the first place.”

Unfortunately, the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges have been understaffed in recent years. In less than a decade, the refuges have lost no less than half of their 14 total full-time employees to retirement or other positions, and remaining staff has had to adapt accordingly.

Despite fewer hands available to work, the land of the refuge itself has proven as resilient as those who work it – while close to 25,000 birds have abandoned their nests on Seahorse Key, many herons, egrets, ibises and other species have re-settled on nearby Snake Key, which sports a similar habitat. Particularly interesting is the fact that very few birds have ever nested on Snake Key in the past.

Thousands of white ibises are still "missing" at Cedar Keys Refuge. | Steve Hillebrand, USFWS
Thousands of white ibises are still “missing” on Cedar Keys Refuge. | Steve Hillebrand, USFWS

While Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge does not charge an entry fee to visitors and the birds’ disappearance will not impact the refuge financially, the mystery behind its cause persists both for refuge staff and Friends Group members. Locals in the community have provided information to the Friends about what they’ve seen and heard that might shed light on the Seahorse Key mystery, and the Friends Group relays those leads to refuge staff.

“This event shows how important it is that the refuge has adequate staffing. Otherwise, there would be no way to monitor the wildlife and maintain the habitat they depend on,” said Hall. “We’ve been watching with interest, and we’re happy that so many people around the world have too.”

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Global Anti-Poaching Act Seeks to Restrict Illicit Wildlife Trade Thu, 16 Jul 2015 13:53:55 +0000

Continue reading »]]> As the Global Anti-Poaching Act (H.R. 2494) remains open to amendments on the House of Representatives floor, wildlife advocates are clamoring to have their voices heard – and with good reason.

Though international resolutions against the trafficking of threatened and endangered species have been in place since 1900, in recent years the wildlife black market has seen an unprecedented surge – according to data from the World Wildlife Fund, ivory from more than 2,500 elephants was seized in 2011 alone. Poaching of rhino horns has increased by a staggering 7,700% between 2007 and 2013. Only about 3,200 tigers remain in the wild, and poachers are causing that number to drop with each passing moment. Without stronger regulation, increasingly rare rhinoceroses, elephants and tigers stand to lose not only their lives, but also perhaps their entire species.

Further still, the black market trade of wildlife parts and derivatives is a very real problem for humans – eco-tourism in Africa accounts for up to 5 percent of the total GDP of several countries, and the inevitable extinction of these rare species if poaching continues at this rate could be disastrous for local economies. Profits from the sale of poached items have also been proven as major sources of funding for organized crime organizations in the region, such as Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, which gained worldwide infamy in 2012 after being featured in a documentary by Invisible Children. In that sense, to address the issue of wildlife trafficking is to address such atrocities around the world.

The bi-partisan bill, introduced by Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Edward Royce (R-CA) and the Committee’s ranking member, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), would improve the tools and techniques used to strengthen enforcement, rank the list of countries considered major sources or transit points for wildlife trafficking, strengthen existing anti-wildlife trafficking networks and establish new ones where none exist in countries on every continent. If approved, the bill would place the crime of international wildlife trafficking on the same level of severity as international weapons and drug trafficking.

Additionally, the bill would authorize the Secretaries of State, Commerce and the Interior to compile a list of countries believed to be major sources, major transit points or major consumers of illegal wildlife products and derivatives. If those countries fail to make efforts to adhere to international agreements protecting endangered and threatened species, the Secretary of Interior would be able to withhold aid money from offending nations.

Among other proposed measures, the bill would establish higher standards for professional wildlife law enforcement training and provide insurance to rangers and their families in the rare and tragic case that a ranger is killed in action. The bill would also allow the President to provide security assistance to African countries that are actively engaged in combating poaching and wildlife trafficking.

Sen. Edward Royce (R-CA) delivered a keynote address to a CSIS forum on Wednesday. | Sean Carnell, NWRA
Sen. Edward Royce (R-CA) delivered a keynote address to a CSIS forum on Wednesday. | Sean Carnell, NWRA

On Thursday, July 16, the Senate Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy will hear testimonies from conservationists with firsthand experience on the dire situation for endangered wildlife in Africa. Among those making an appeal is Mr. Ian Saunders, Chief Operations Officer for the Tsavo Trust in Kenya. The Tsavo Trust professes an approach of “stabilization through conservation” to the poaching epidemic, seeking to create a local interest in protecting natural resources – working from “the inside out” rather than “the outside in.”

“The basis of what we’re trying to deliver on the ground in Africa is what will be conducive to humans and natural resources,” said Saunders, serving as a panelist during a forum held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Wednesday.

Because poachers are driven by a monetary incentive that is directly a result of few legal career options available for locals in some African countries, organizations like the Tsavo Trust are invested in enriching local communities as an indirect way of combating poaching. In Kenya, Saunders and the Tsavo Trust are leading plans for increased security for natural resources through the Malkahalaku Community Conservancy.

“ISIS and Al-Shabaab are competing for manpower in Central Africa,” said Saunders. “At Malkahalaku, we’re taking people out of dangerous terrorist organizations and giving them new jobs.”

Tigers for Tigers, a national coalition of university students raising awareness around the issue through school mascots, is hosting Global Tiger Day on July 29 in anticipation of the bill’s debate. Tigers for Tigers has also launched a sweeping #WhereRTheTigers social media campaign in an effort to pressure the international community towards meaningful change in poaching policy.

The Tsavo Trust, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Wildlife Refuge Association and Tigers for Tigers stand among countless others united in support of the Global Anti-Poaching Act. Only through maintaining open lines of communication, strengthening anti-trafficking networks and actively enforcing international legislation can we show that the illegal trade of endangered species products will not be tolerated.

For more information on the Global Anti-Poaching Act, click here.

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Students Plant 50 Trees at Iron River National Fish Hatchery Mon, 13 Jul 2015 20:32:13 +0000

Continue reading »]]> At the Iron River National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin, a group of school children from nearby South Shore Elementary volunteered their time to perform maintenance, learn about their environment, and improve the local habitat – all in a single day’s work.

The hatchery has been in growth since the 1970s as staff continues to improve its facilities and landscape. Most recently, a new hiking trail was unveiled. The three-mile Simpson Trail system, completed in 2012, can today be accessed year-round. Visitors can begin their exploration on either of two loops accessible from the hatchery parking lot, complete with trailheads. The trails can be used for just about anything done on foot including hunting, hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and bird watching.

Unfortunately, these trails can be quite a challenge to maintain in the winter months. Located in an open area of Wisconsin, the Iron River Hatchery faces snow that blows and drifts over the path, making it nearly impossible for visitors to follow trailheads and find their way.

For the second year in a row, South Shore Elementary sent students to the hatchery in late May in direct address to the problem. The second grade class spent the morning assisting hatchery staff in planting trees along the trailheads located at the parking lot.

About 50 spruce trees were planted in holes prepared by hatchery staff. They and the students hope that in a few years, the trees will provide enough of a buffer to protect the trail from the influx of snow coverage, allowing the trail to be used all year long. These trees also act as a carbon sink, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing more visual appeal surrounding the parking lot.

As a bonus, the children also got to pot their own trees and take them home as souvenirs. During the day, the students

Iron River National Fish Hatchery supports over 1.5 million trout. | Katie Steiger-Meister/USFWS
Iron River National Fish Hatchery supports over 1.5 million trout. | Katie Steiger-Meister/USFWS

took a break from planting to take a hiking tour of the grounds. On their journey, students gained awareness of the functions of the hatchery and viewed a portion of the 1.5 million lake trout and coaster brook trout that are raised there annually.

The students came, planted and learned, all while helping the hatchery. The school and hatchery hope to continue the effort as an annual event to improve the trail system and provide an outdoor learning opportunity for local students.

To learn more about the event, click here.

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National Wildlife Refuge Association Approves New Board Members Mon, 13 Jul 2015 17:36:26 +0000

Continue reading »]]> The National Wildlife Refuge Association recently welcomed six new board members: Maya Kepner, Marc Meyer, Chad Brown, Marge Kolar, Don O’Brien, Andy Woolford. The board also bid farewell to three board members and our board Chair whose terms expired: Stuart Watson, Bill Buchanan and Larry Ross.

Maya KepnerMaya Kepner gained substantial knowledge of ecosystem functions and their importance in habitat management during her time working for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Black Bear, Wild Pig and Mountain Lion Program. She worked collaboratively with the Tule Elk Program, participating in helicopter elk captures as well as conducting aerial surveys using radio telemetry to monitor Tule elk populations throughout Cache Creek, East Park Reservoir and Lake Pillsbury, California.

After gaining considerable experience working in the field, Ms. Kepner partnered with Steve Thompson of Steve Thompson, L.L.C. to work with private landowners and business interests for the conservation of land, water and wildlife.  She currently specializes in regulatory issues at local, state and federal levels, relative to challenges pertaining to land, water, and endangered species.

Marc MeyerMarc Meyer is the Robert J. Shillman Professor of Entrepreneurship and the Matthews Distinguished Professor of Business at Northeastern University, known as the leading Cooperative Education academic institution in the U.S. He is the founder of Northeastern’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group in the D’Amore McKim School of Business, ranked a top 10 undergraduate program in the U.S., and serves as a founding Co-Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship Education, a university-wide resource of student and alumni startups. He is also the lead faculty on a number of executive education programs for industry and is an internationally recognized scholar in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship, the author of numerous books and academic journal articles for both academics and practitioners.

Dr. Meyer is a graduate of Harvard College and holds graduate degrees from M.I.T. While a PhD student in his mid-20s, he left MIT for five years to build his first software company, a leader in real-time embedded operating systems and development tools. Since then, he has been a Visiting Professor and a Scientist at M.I.T, a Visiting Professor at Delft Technical University in the School of Industrial Design and is presently part of Climate Kic, an EU-sponsored program to deliver energy and environmental entrepreneurship courses for universities in member countries. Dr. Meyer has worked on a number of sustainability initiatives with corporations and startups and using these as base level material for this initiative.

Chad BrownChad Brown joined the U.S. Navy in 1991, a decorated Navy veteran who received multiple honors. After serving, he received a BFA in Communication Design at the American Intercontinental University in Atlanta, Georgia, received his MSc in Communication Design at Pratt Institute, and went onto receive the American Association of Advertising Award through the Multicultural Advertising Internship Program.

While building his career in freelance design, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was a daily reality and struggle. Then, Chad was introduced to the sport of fly fishing and he found solace in the sport. He still recalls the feeling of the first time he hooked in on a fish where he felt himself filled with happiness, smiling for the first time in months. This was his sign to connect with the outdoors, as well as to advocate for all people to have access to the outdoors. Out of this healing experience came Portland’s first outdoor lifestyle apparel brand inspired by fly fishing, Soul River Runs Deep.

With Soul River, Chad infuses style and substance into outdoor apparel. The apparel line is inspired by fly fishing and aims to promote environmental advocacy as well the healing powers of the river. It aims to reach a younger diverse demographic, with the intention of promoting a love of and investment in the outdoors. Alongside the apparel company, Chad created the nonprofit Soul River Inc. to work in tandem with his retail business, with 15% of profits from sales going to the outdoor, water-based organization that brings youth and veterans together to the river and home to themselves and their communities as inspired ambassadors of nature.

Marge KolarMarge Kolar recently retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the Pacific Southwest Regional Refuge Chief with oversight of 50 National Wildlife Refuges covering about 2.5 million acres of habitats in California and Nevada. During her 37-year career with the Service, she worked at National Wildlife Refuges, Ecological Services field stations, area offices and regional offices in Michigan, Washington state, and California, as well as the national office in Washington, DC.

Prior to working for the Service, Marge was employed by several private consulting and manufacturing firms in Ohio, Washington state, Washington, DC and Maryland, She also taught high school physics and math in West Africa with the Peace Corps. Marge has a B.S. degree in Physics and Math from the University of Detroit, and a Masters degree in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University.

Marge is now Vice-Chair of the Yolo Basin Foundation, on the board of directors for the California Institute of Environmental Studies, and is an active volunteer environmental education docent at a state wildlife area near her home in Davis, California.

Donal O'BrienDon O’Brien is the Managing Principal of Entry Point Capital, a private real estate investment and management company based in Stamford CT, which he co-founded in 2009.

Entry Point applies a value-oriented investment discipline with hands-on real estate expertise in purchasing and managing office, retail, industrial and multi-family products nationwide. The firm approaches its investments on a non-discretionary basis with financial partners who are comprised of institutional and individual investors. Donal has over 25 years of experience in development, investment, asset management, brokerage and finance. His prior positions include: Senior Managing Director & Co-Head of CIT’s Commercial Real Estate Group, Executive Vice President of Acquisitions with Collins Enterprises, Senior Vice President & Regional Manager for Heitman Properties, Managing Director of Cushman & Wakefield’s Transaction Consulting Group and Project Manager with the Trammell Crow Company.

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Donal majored in Environmental Studies and Art, and holds an MBA from New York University. A life-long student of nature and the outdoors, he’s the past Board Chair of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and currently serves on the National Council of the American Prairie Reserve.

Andy WoolfordAndy Woolford is currently Managing Director and Co-Head of Leveraged Loan Sales and Syndications for Jefferies & Co. in Stamford, CT, where he has worked since 2004. He has extensive experience in Private Placements, dating back to 1989, with BT Securities, followed by Morgan Stanley, and most recently with CIBC World Markets, all in New York, NY.

Mr. Woolford majored in English Literature at Middlebury College in Vermont and holds an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. His varied community service includes service as board member for the Norwalk community College Foundation, coach and judge for the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, and founder and former treasurer of Shakespeare on the Sound.

A resident of Norwalk, CT, for more than 20 years, Mr. Woolford is a life-long enthusiast of the outdoors.  His hobbies include ice hockey, boating, biking, skiing, hiking, fishing, beekeeping, gardening, and guitar.


The departing board members were given commemorative Apple books featuring some of their favorite wildlife and refuge scenery photographs. They will be missed on the board, but will remain close friends of the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

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