National Wildlife Refuge Association Home of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) Mon, 21 Jul 2014 16:13:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Transportation Bill is Vital for Refuge System Success Fri, 18 Jul 2014 14:22:07 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Recently, a group of Friends members came to Washington D.C. to lobby in support of Refuge System funding and other issues. One of the issues they lobbied in support of is the reauthorizations of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) program, also known as the Transportation Bill. Reauthorization of the bill is also one of the National Wildlife Refuge Association’s Legislative Priorities for FY15. We are urging Congress to reauthorize MAP-21 with $100 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including Refuge System roads and transportation infrastructure.

What is MAP-21/Transportation Bill?

MAP-21 is a two-year surface transportation bill passed in 2012 that authorized transportation improvements funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, among other agencies, through September 2014. The Service Transportation Program supports improved public access to and within Fish and Wildlife Service lands. A robust, safe, accessible, multimodal transportation system is a fundamental component of achieving the Service’s mission.

Where does it stand in Congress?

Senator Wyden (D-Ore) recently called for a three month extension (until December 31) of the transportation reauthorization bill.  Although Senator Wyden has previously said he is opposed to a temporary transportation funding measure, he called his three-month proposal an “imperative first step” toward a long-term fix. His proposal calls for transferring around $9 billion from other areas of the federal budget to carry U.S. transportation funding until Dec. 31. The current transportation funding measure is scheduled to expire at the end of September.

Complicating matters further, the Department of Transportation has said that its Highway Trust Fund will run out of money in August if Congress does not act to prevent it.

The traditional funding source for transportation projects has long been revenue collected from the federal gas tax, which is currently priced at 18.4 cents per gallon. Receipts from the gas tax have been outpaced by infrastructure expenses by about $16 billion annually in recent years.

Why is this bill important?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service depends on transportation funding to provide safe access to refuges for almost 5 million visitors each year. The funding also allows staff, volunteers, and partners to protect, conserve, and restore habitats and wildlife populations.

Ocelot Male 279 found dead July 9, 2014 due to a vehicle strike. He could not get across State Highway 100 due to the concrete barriers.
Ocelot Male 279 found dead July 9, 2014 due to a vehicle strike. He could not get across State Highway 100 due to the concrete barriers.

At Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in southern Texas, transportation dollars could go towards saving one of the only two remaining breeding populations of ocelots known to occur in the United States. It is estimated that at least 20 ocelots have died in road accidents in recent decades – unfortunately, one just this week. Funds allocated to transportation would allow the refuge to build crossings for the endangered animal which could prevent further fatalities.

At Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, black bears, brown bears, caribou, and moose have all been hurt or killed as a result of road collisions. The refuge is working with Alaska Department of Transportation to develop wildlife-mitigation structures, partially funded by transportation dollars.

At Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge’s Nulhegan Basin Division, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, and many more, refuge staff are working with state agencies to develop transportation plans using funds from the MAP-21 to improve the safety of the wildlife and visitors to the refuge. Learn more here.

Clearly this bill is extremely important to the future of the refuge system, and the Refuge Association is doing all that we can to make sure it is reauthorized. Stay tuned for further updates.

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Florida Groups Meet to Discuss Protecting Rare Everglades Landscape Tue, 15 Jul 2014 18:59:28 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Last week the National Wildlife Refuge Association organized a meeting in Florida between U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director, Dan Ashe, Refuge System Chief Jim Kurth and several local groups to discuss science-based land acquisition within the Everglades landscape.

From left to right: Jim Kurth, Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System; David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association; Mike Oetker, Deputy Regional Director, Southeast Region; Dan Ashe, Director, USFWS
From left to right: Jim Kurth, Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System;
David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association;
Mike Oetker, Deputy Regional Director, Southeast Region;
Dan Ashe, Director, USFWS

Held at the Adams Family Ranch in central Florida, the meeting included representatives from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Northern Everglades Alliance, the Sportsmen’s Trust, private landowners and others interested in protecting the Everglades.

Participants discussed their common interest in conserving land in the region, and shared ideas about how to solve some of the complex conservation challenges facing the Everglades. Hosted by one of Florida’s longtime ranch families, the Adams’ Ranch was an ideal location to showcase the important cultural heritage that is being preserved in central Florida’s vast ranchlands.

Why the Everglades are important:

The Northern Everglades system is one of the largest, most complex natural systems in the world extending from the southern border of Orlando to the northern edge of Big Cypress National Park. The Northern Everglades provide clean water to more than 8 million people in South Florida. These wetland systems act as a large sponge that absorbs and cleans water, which reduces the need for billions of dollars in man-made water filtration infrastructure.

Not only do the Everglades provide clean water, they also provide habitat for wildlife as diverse as alligators, black bear, bald eagles, the Everglades snail kite, gopher tortoise, the endangered Florida panther and the critically endangered Florida grasshopper sparrow.

The Everglades also protect an American way of life. Cattle have been ranched in Florida since the 1500s. Large intact ranches in the heart of Florida’s Northern Everglades have conserved Florida’s natural and cultural heritage for hundreds of years. If these ranches fall victim to the long-range trend of commercial development in rural Florida, not only will America’s beef and farming industries suffer – a unique, rural American culture is also at risk.

Cattle ranching is a $4 billion industry in Florida, making it an important economic driver as well. Continuing a 500-year tradition, fourth and fifth generation ranch families manage over 1.7 million head of cattle on over seven million acres of land. Florida ranchers provide jobs, contribute to America’s food security with beef, citrus and other crops, and their lands provide habitat for the tropical wildlife that attracts sportsmen, birders and other wildlife enthusiasts.

During the meeting, Dan Ashe expressed strong support and commitment to the protection of the Everglades. He was impressed with the diverse groups that attended the meeting and said he is excited about the partnership between the states, federal government, as well as nonprofits and private landowners.


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House Interior Funding Bill is a Mixed Bag Thu, 10 Jul 2014 16:13:02 +0000

Continue reading »]]>

The Capitol Building | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The Capitol Building | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Yesterday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies marked up its Fiscal Year 2015 spending bill, which provides funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System and numerous important conservation programs.

The best news coming out of the subcommittee mark-up was a significant increase in the Refuge Fund budget from a usual $13 or $14 million up to $63 million. This is an enormous increase, and is very good news for the Refuge System. Because the federal government is exempt from taxation, the Refuge Fund is an annual appropriation designed to offset tax losses by annually paying the local unit of government an amount that often equals or exceeds that which would have been collected from taxes if in private ownership.

We’re also pleased to see the Refuge System operations and maintenance fund at $476.87 million, which is another step in the right direction and slightly above the President’s request. Many Refuge System budget items were funded at or close to what the Refuge Association requested, which is good news.

However, the bill contains some items that don’t belong in a funding bill:

  • A rider that removes the ability of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to establish new refuges; we oppose this rider, as we believe local communities, not Capitol Hill, should be actively engaged in these important decisions.
  • A rider that postpones the listing decision for one year on the Greater Sage-Grouse. This sort of decision should be made based on sound science, not tacked onto a spending bill.

Neither of these riders should be included in an appropriations bill, and we’ll be urging Congress to remove them.

Here is a breakdown of the Subcommittee’s Interior Appropriations Bill, along with the Refuge Association requests.

  • Refuge System Funding $476.865 million (Refuge Association ask: $476.4 million; it is  funded at $472 m for FY14)
  • Partners for Fish and Wildlife $52 million (Refuge Association ask: $75 million; it is funded at $52.07 for FY14)
  • North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) $34.145 million (Refuge Association ask: $75 million; it is funded at $34 m for FY14)
  • Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act $3.66 million (Refuge Association ask: $4 million; it is funded at $3.6 m for FY14)
  • Multinational Species Fund $10 million (Refuge Association ask: $9.1 million; it is funded at $9 m for FY14)

Click here to view the full list of the Refuge Association Legislative Priorities for FY15.


Here is a breakdown of the Land and Water Conservation Fund budget for FY15:

House FY15 Draft Bill Percent cut from FY14 enacted
BLM $4,816,000 75.3%
NPS $21,486,000 60.5%
FWS $14,500,000 71.0%
USFS $8,000,000 81.6%
Stateside $46,000,000 4.3%
Section 6 $27,145,000 0.9%
FLP $24,198,000 52.5%
OVS $6,000,000 50.7%
LWCF Total $152,145,000 50.3%


This bill now moves to the full committee for consideration. The Senate has not released their draft bill yet. Stay tuned for further updates.

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The Birding Community E-Bulletin July Tue, 08 Jul 2014 14:37:25 +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 (NWRA).



There were some wonderful rarities in Alaska last month (e.g., Common Greenshank, Temminck’s Stint, Common Cuckoo, Oriental Cuckoo, Common House-Martin, and Common Rosefinch), however most of them were at remote locations, like Adak, Gambell, and St. Paul. These are locations where birders could not readily catch up with the birds to see them.

With this in mind, we chose Berylline Hummingbird as our rarity pick of the month.

This species is a rare or casual summer visitor to southeastern Arizona (and very rarely to western Texas and New Mexico). There are about three dozen U.S. records of this Mexican species since it was first reported in the mid-1960s. Most U.S. records occur between June and August in mountain canyons, and often at feeders, in Arizona.

Last month’s Berylline Hummingbird was at The Nature Conservancy’s famed Ramsey Canyon Preserve. It was first reported in the preserve log book on 19 June, and was later photographed on 22 June when it was actively defending a pair of feeders about 400 feet upstream from the preserve headquarters. The bird was very aggressive and managed to chase off everything that came by, including even much larger Magnificent Hummingbirds.

In between bouts, it would sit in a maple tree immediately behind and slightly upstream from the feeders.

The rare hummingbird continued at least through 26 June, and although the preserve was officially closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, accommodations were made so that visiting birders wishing to see this hummingbird on those days were able to gain access.

For a short report on the bird and photos by Steve Lima, see here:



You never know what you’re going to find when you are doing a bird survey or working on a breeding bird atlas, covering assigned geographic blocks and recording evidence of breeding or possibly-breeding bird species.

Such was the case last month on 19 June when Nancy Price and Jane Wiewora were surveying localities in Palm Beach County as part of the effort for the second Breeding Bird Atlas (BBAII) for Florida.

While searching the north side of coastal Juno Dunes Natural Area, they encountered an unfamiliar small bird along a power line. It turns out that the bird was a Bananaquit, a species that is resident practically throughout the Caribbean region (with the exception of Cuba) and from central Veracruz, Mexico, southward to northeastern Argentina.

There are about 50 reports of Bananaquits for south Florida for, mostly between January and March. Almost all the Florida records are presumed to be of the race originating from the Bahamas.

“At the time we had no idea how rare a bird we were seeing,” wrote Nancy Price. “We did think it looked young just by how unsteady it was on the wire.”

Unfortunately, the bird was not relocated during subsequent days. Fortunately, Nancy Price photographed the Bananaquit and confirmed that it was an immature individual.

This raises a question: Given the late date of this observation (previous Florida records for Bananaquits are extremely rare after mid-May) and the fact that this bird was an immature, could this individual have been hatched and raised in Florida? However unlikely the possibility, it is an interesting question.



The current status of Northern Bobwhite in the U.S. is less than ideal. Once a common and prolific breeder in pastures, grassy roadsides, and farmlands across the eastern half of the country, the species has experienced a severe decline over a number of decades.

With this in mind, Northern Bobwhite experts from around the country will meet in West Des Moines, Iowa, at the end of this month for the 2014 meeting of the National Bobwhite Technical Committee (NBTC). The NBTC – comprised of representatives of state wildlife agencies, academic research institutions, and private conservation organizations – is the technical group guiding the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI).

Headquartered at the University of Tennessee, NBCI is intended to elevate Northern Bobwhite recovery from an individual state-by-state proposition to a range-wide, policy-level leadership endeavor. The NBCI goal is to restore wild populations of Northern Bobwhites in this country to levels comparable to those of 1980

Expected to be a central topic at the West Des Moines meeting is the new NBCI Coordinated Implementation Program, a plan that can be viewed here:

This plan was adopted in March by the NBCI Management Board – a group comprised of state wildlife agency directors, -The group laid out a specific, step-by-step roadmap for identifying and developing NBCI Bobwhite Focal Areas, along with identifying measures of success on a landscape scale.

Although the primary target is the Northern Bobwhite, the program’s impacts extend beyond bobwhites to include a suite of declining grassland songbirds, pollinators, and other species. Some of the other birds considered include Greater Prairie-Chicken, Henslow’s Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark, and Dickcissel. The NBCI conservation approach to species other than bobwhites is summarized here:

For more information on the NBCI, see here:



We have written about International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) in the past.

The IMBD’s annual conservation theme is, of course, critical to the program’s success. The official theme tends to drive the messages that people generally hear about birds, bird education, and bird conservation. Most importantly, the annual theme helps point to ways in which the public can participate in bird conservation activities. For 2015 and 2016, there are a number of widely differing suggested themes, including focusing on backyard habitats, invasive species, citizen science projects, and the mysteries of migration.

You can help direct the course of IMBD by making your opinion known.

The official ‘ballot’ for choosing a possible future theme should take under two minutes to complete. You can find the ballot here:



Douglas Tallamy’s breakthrough Bringing Nature Home (Timber Press, 2007) brought the value of native plants and insects to masses of readers and practitioners. Now, with Rick Darke, Tallamy has written a sequel, titled The Living Landscape (Timber Press, 2014), which takes readers to the next level.

This is a book about how native plants play important roles in gardens designed for multiple purposes, and about creating landscapes which support life without discarding traditional aesthetics. It is not simply about the “why” of reconciliation ecology, but rather the “how” of it all. While the book emphasizes the plants and insects that interact in the creative garden, the birds are also central to the design, both as indicators of successful landscape management and as beneficiaries of the entire process.

The book is sumptuously illustrated, and the last 80 pages of the 392-page book provide essential regional plant-charts to help organize the functionally balanced backyard. This is not just a “pretty book” about your backyard; it is a practical volume of how to create a successful and balanced landscape, and one that might prove to be exceedingly attractive at the same time.

If there is anything critical to say about this book, it is that the examples appear to favor the Mid-Atlantic States. Regardless, the background lessons are universal.



Wildlife conservation organizations and public land management agencies excitedly and optimistically reported in early June that a California Condor has apparently hatched in the wild in the state of Utah. This is a first for Utah since an experimental population of condors was released in Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in northern Arizona in 1996. While captive-bred condors have successfully nested in northern Arizona, the birds have been spending more time in Utah each succeeding year.

“It was only a matter of time before birds started nesting in Utah”, said Chris Parish, Condor Field Project Supervisor with The Peregrine Fund. “There is great habitat in Utah and the condors did not take long to find it.”

Recently observed parenting behaviors by the adult California Condors have been encouraging. But Parish reports that researchers are still waiting to visually confirm the existence of a condor chick. This would only happen when the young condor approaches the edge of the cave where it is being raised.

The Utah California Condor pair self-selected a nesting cavity in a remote canyon within Zion National Park, and the pair has been under observation by researchers since they began exhibiting courtship behavior this past winter. The nest cave, 1,000 feet above the canyon floor, was actually discovered by following radio and GPS signals from transmitters mounted on both parent birds. Earlier this year, the birds displayed behavior suggesting that they were incubating an egg, and they now exhibit signs that they are tending a chick. Usually, one adult will stay in the nest cave caring for the egg or chick while the other forages widely. They will trade these roles every 2-3 days.

“This is a significant milestone in the process of restoring a species to its historical habitat,” reported Keith Day, Wildlife Biologist with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “It proves that Utah still has suitable habitat for these magnificent birds and that the selection of the Arizona-Utah region for establishing a population was a valid choice.”

Currently, lead poisoning is the most significant obstacle to successful condor recovery in Arizona and Utah. Condors will ingest lead when feeding on the remains of animals shot with lead-based ammunition. Utah and Arizona both are working with hunters to reduce condor exposure to lead ammunition. “Our hunters have been very supportive of our lead ammunition reduction efforts,” said Day. “They have readily and voluntarily joined in our program.”

“The California Condors have become a very charismatic species and have been captured in many vacation photos in our area’s national parks,” adds Fred Armstrong, Chief of Resource Management and Research at Zion National Park. “Repeat visitors come to recognize them by their wing tag numbers and routinely ask about them.”

The presence of California Condors in what is today Utah is known through remains dating back to the Pleistocene, but there is only a smattering of old Utah reports from the 19th century for the species.

For more information on the California Condor recovery program, visit this site:



This “Access Matters” feature of the monthly Birding Community E-bulletin regularly showcases examples of birder access issues, usually positive but sometimes negative. Some of the positive stories offer unique circumstances where special access was made possible, if only because of some rare bird appearing, or in conjunction with some special event (e.g., a birding festival).

Examples of such cases include birders gaining special access to closed power plants, landfills, wastewater treatment plants, and golf courses. Other common examples may entail gaining access to a backyard feeder where a rare bird has been visiting. Some of these access examples sometimes overlap with the collection of a visitors’ log, a situation that was covered last month.

To review just such a situation, visit:

But what happens after the bird is gone, the event is over, and the birders have all returned home?

Will the feeder-host, the business owner, the landfill manager have good feelings about the visitors? Would such people invite birder-strangers back again?

One way to maximize positive birder relations is to make sure that the host, the owner, or the manager gets an official thank-you note, or even an official recognition certificate from the local birders’ or similar organization.

Some clubs or state ornithological societies have this response ready to go, with an official-looking framed certificate of thanks and/or framed photo of the rarity or event to present to the host. Indeed, this is “good standard birding practice” under these kinds of circumstances.

If your state ornithological society does not do this – and we know a number of fine ones that do – perhaps you should ask why not?



In a survey released last month, Tricolored Blackbirds in California were reported to have declined 44 percent since 2011. This year’s survey was completed with the help of more than 140 volunteers at 801 sites across 41 counties. The survey was led by UC Davis, in partnership with Audubon California, California Department of Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. There were 145,000 Tricolored Blackbirds counted; a figure that is down from 260,000 in 2011.

Tricolored Blackbirds, which once numbered in the millions, live almost entirely in California. The species has been of concern to conservationists for some time, with habitat loss and breeding colony disruption considered to be the main causes for the birds’ decline. The recent drought in California only served to worsen the situation.

We have previously written about this in 2006, and more recently in 2011:

Tricolored Blackbirds historically nested in vast wetlands of California’s Central Valley, but for decades the birds have established large nesting colonies in triticale, a plant that dairymen feed their cows. Unfortunately, the harvest season also coincides with the birds’ nesting season. When these fields are harvested before young birds have fledged, thousands of eggs and nestlings are lost.

The survey confirmed that Tricolored Blackbirds continue to live primarily in the southern portion of the Central Valley but their numbers are rapidly decreasing. The population also plummeted in Kern and Merced Counties. Only six birds were found in Fresno County, and none were observed in Kings, Santa Clara or Sonoma Counties. Still, relatively greater percentages of the birds were seen in Amador, El Dorado, and Sacramento Counties than in recent surveys.

“It’s California’s blackbird,” said UC Davis staff researcher Robert Meese, who led this year’s survey. “If we as Californians don’t care about the species, we can’t rely on any other state to come in and bail us out. It’s our responsibility, because it’s our bird.”

Some recent agreements have been struck with local dairy farmers to delay harvests, allowing young birds to fledge. These agreements have saved many thousands of blackbirds and may reveal an important way to address the problem.



Last month, President Obama announced his intent to protect a huge swath of the Central Pacific Ocean essentially off-limits to commercial fishing, energy exploration, and other expansive activities. After a stated comment period, this could create the world’s largest marine sanctuary. This is a breathtaking proposal.

Actually, it is President George W. Bush who holds the record for creating U.S. marine monuments, four during his second term, including the one which President Obama intends to expand. We first reported on the trend for Pacific monuments in our July 2006 E-bulletin:

Last month’s proposal would expand the Pacific Remote Island Marine National Monument from almost 87,000 square miles to nearly 782,000 square miles. The area is adjacent to seven islands and atolls, all controlled by the U.S. The islands are all uninhabited, and the area is one the few pristine regions of marine environment in the world, home to thousands of migratory seabirds, fish, and mammals.

This Administration’s plan envisions extending monument protection from the existing limit of 50 nautical miles around the islands to 200 miles; it could more than double the area of ocean protected by the U.S.

Seabird nesting areas, of course, are protected by the existing monument jurisdiction, but by expanding the limit of ocean protection around the island zones, vital feeding areas for the birds also become more secure.

Significantly, this effort does not require congressional approval. But that does not mean that Congress is out of the picture. Objections are being raised, and the public comment period over the summer is open.

For now, we will simply repeat what we wrote when George W. Bush, created such a wonderful Pacific monument:

We have little to add to this story, except to offer the following three observations:

  1. In this single move, millions of seabirds, including albatrosses, frigatebirds, terns, petrels, and a variety of other species will receive special protection.
  2. Congress ought to follow up the President’s initiative with a commitment of funds for the purpose of providing oversight and maintenance of this unique marine monument.
  3. This move is a reminder of a host of other possibilities, even in difficult times.



Last month we profiled the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA) as an important bird-funding mechanism that needs special attention this year:

This month, we focus on the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) and its importance in supporting on-the-ground bird conservation.

NAWCA was enacted in 1989 and provides federal cost-share funding to support the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. NAWCA’s success is driven by partnerships involving federal, state, and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and community groups. Every federal dollar provided through NAWCA must be matched by at least one dollar from non-federal sources. Because the program is so effective, NAWCA funds are usually tripled or quadrupled on the local level. The effort may be waterfowl-based, but it goes beyond that to secure wetlands and other closely associated habitats (e.g., grasslands and riparian wooded bottomlands) that favor other kinds of birds and a variety of other wildlife.

Over $1 billion in federal grants has been allocated for NAWCA projects, efforts that have leveraged an additional $3 billion from matching and non-matching funds. Since its start, more than 2,000 NAWCA projects have contributed to the conservation of almost 27 million acres of habitat across North America.

It’s a premier practical, bird-funding, and habitat-securing mechanism. It is no wonder that both Houses of Congress unanimously reauthorized NAWCA in September 2006. The appropriation authorization for NAWCA at the time was increased to $75 million for FY 2007 through FY 2012.

But just because Congress “authorizes” $75 million doesn’t mean that it “appropriates” anything close to that amount. Actual funding between 2007 through 2012 fluctuated from as high as $47.6 million to as low as $35.5 million.

And just because reauthorization sailed through Congress in September 2006 doesn’t mean that it will have such support today. Indeed, NAWCA program funding formally expired in September 2012, jeopardizing its very future. While funding miraculously continues, it is at much lower amounts, somewhere in the vicinity of $33-$34 million.

Despite its fine reputation and its successes, NAWCA is not faring as well as it should be in Congress. Ideally, it should be reauthorized at its previous amount $75 million, but with the current Congress, that’s not likely.

At the same time, the White House has only requested that NAWCA be funded at $34.1 million, which is functionally a flat number.



At the first International Ornithological Congress, held in Vienna, Austria, in 1884, there was a call to start bird observatories across the world to investigate migratory bird movements. Many bird observatories were subsequently created, especially during the first half of the 20th century and especially in Europe.

In North America, this began later, with the first, Long Point Bird Observatory, established in Ontario in 1960. Others soon followed (e.g., Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Manomet Bird Observatory, Cape May Bird Observatory) to the point where today there are about 50 such observatories in the U.S. and Canada, depending on how strictly you define “bird observatory.”

Now, the very first International Bird Observatory Conference (IBOC) will be held in Falsterbo, Sweden, from August 29 to September 1. Presentations and discussions will highlight the roles of bird observatories in research; environmental monitoring, conservation projects, and providing information and service to the public.

You can find out more about this effort here:


And while we are on the subject of bird observatories across the world, here is news from closer to home than Sweden.

Early last month, New Jersey Audubon announced that David La Puma will be joining the organization as the new director of the Cape May Bird Observatory (CMBO). David La Puma will bring more than a decade of experience in ecological research to the observatory – research that has focused on endangered species and the identification of important stopover habitats for migrating birds.

“We are very excited to have David join CMBO. His experience in bird conservation and research, educational skills, and leadership in the birding community will allow us to grow and promote CMBO; maintain its excellent reputation; and further establish it as a top bird observatory in North America,” said Eric Stiles, NJA President and CEO.

La Puma moves in as CMBO Director as Cape May’s Pete Dunne transitions from Chief Communication Officer and Director of the observatory into a new role as New Jersey Audubon: Birding Ambassador At-Large.

For more information, see here:



Summer has officially begun, and it’s the season when sunscreens and sunblocks regularly appear. Of course, it’s not just summertime when these products should be used, but it’s the season when the discussion most often comes up.

The two products are different: sunscreen is a cream or lotion with an “SPF rating” that reacts with the skin to creating an invisible barrier against the sun; sunblock is usually a thick cream, often with zinc oxide, that protects the body from all UV rays.

Application is best when made 20 minutes before heading out.

The SPF number estimates how long one can stay in the sun when the product is applied compared to going out with bare skin. The system is imperfect, but a smart approach is to go outside with a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30. (That rating blocks about 97% of the harsh rays that cause serious damage; a rating of SPF 45 may sound much better, but it only improves the protection about 1%.)

Some of the ingredients used for SPF can cause eye irritation or even skin irritation, depending on one’s sensitivity or responsiveness to an allergic reaction. It’s best to inquire and investigate before using these products.

It’s also a good idea to wash sunscreen off your palms and fingers before handing your optics. The elements in the mix might just interact with the synthetic rubber of the armor. In the odd chance that the interaction might be damaging, it doesn’t hurt to clean your binoculars after use, especially the eyecups if you use a lotion on your face. In any case, the lotion should have no effect on your optical surfaces or coatings.

And while you’re at it, also wear a hat!

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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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Mike Boylan Hired as Regional Representative for Region 7 Wed, 02 Jul 2014 15:25:43 +0000

Continue reading »]]> MikeBoylanThe National Wildlife Refuge Association is pleased to welcome Mike Boylan to the staff as the new Regional Representative for Region Seven. Boylan is based in Eagle River, Alaska and will be facilitating communication between the Region, local NGOs, other nonprofits, the local community, and the Refuge Association about issues dealing with Government Affairs and Conservation Programs.

“Mike’s extensive background working with the Refuge System, and his expertise in the challenges that Alaska refuges face make him the perfect fit as our Region 7 Representative,” said David Houghton, President of the Refuge Association. “Mike has a unique understanding of the refuge system and will be an outstanding asset to the Refuge Association team.”

After a 35-year career working for the National Wildlife Refuge System in Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, California, Alaska, and the D.C. Headquarters, Mike retired as Refuge Supervisor in Alaska in December 2012. In his 12 years as Refuge Supervisor, Mike provided guidance on management strategies, policies, budgets, and personnel decisions to 12 of Alaska’s 16 refuges. Boylan also helped form a consortium of federal and state agencies to support the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) of the University of Alaska to recruit and educate Native students in wildlife biology leading to careers in the Service and other agencies, businesses, and organizations.

“I am looking forward to taking on this new challenge with the Refuge Association while continuing to support and advance the National Wildlife Refuge System in a Region that I am already so connected with.”

Click here to read the full press release.

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Federal Duck Stamp On Sale Tomorrow! Thu, 26 Jun 2014 18:14:35 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Tomorrow is the first day of sale for the 2014-2015 Federal Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp, also known as the “Duck Stamp” and Junior Duck Stamps. What started out as a simple hunting license has turned into one of the most efficient and successful conservation tools that is recognized all around the country.

The 2014-2015 winning art done by Adam Grimm, of Burbank, South Dakota. His oil painting of a pair of Canvasbacks.

The Stamp that isn’t actually a Stamp

The Duck Stamp isn’t actually a stamp at all! Although it is produced by the U.S. Postal Service,  it is not valid to use as postage. The Duck Stamp is actually a federal license required for hunting migratory waterfowl that also provides free entrance into any national wildlife refuge.

A whopping 98 cents out of every dollar generated by the sale of the Federal Duck Stamps goes directly to purchase or lease wetland habitat in the National Wildlife Refuge System. It has been called one of the most successful conservation programs ever initiated.

Duck Stamp Benefitting Wildlife

Since it’s introduction in 1934, Duck Stamp sales have generated more than $800 million which has been used to purchase or lease over 6 million acres of wetland habitat in the United States.

Waterfowl receive enormous benefits from the stamp, but they are not alone. Countless other bird, mammal, fish, reptile, and amphibian species that rely on wetlands have also prospered due to the acreage obtained. In addition, an estimated one third of the nation’s endangered and threatened species find food or shelter in refuges established using Federal Duck Stamp dollars.

Duck Stamp Benefitting People

Although the protection of waterfowl is the main purpose of the Duck Stamp, people benefit from it as well. Duck Stamp funds provide a place for people to enjoy pastimes beyond just hunting such as hiking, bird watching, and photography. In addition, the protected wetlands provide ecological benefits such as water purification, storage of flood water, reduction of soil erosion and sedimentation, and spawning areas for fish that play a vital role in sport and commercial fishing.

The Art Behind the Stamp

J.N. “Ding” Darling designed the very first federal Duck Stamp in 1934. Beginning in 1949, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has sponsored a stamp-design contest featuring wildlife artists from across the country– the only juried art competition sponsored by the federal government. The winning art is then used on the following year’s stamp.

The 2014-2015 winning art was done by Adam Grimm, of Burbank, South Dakota. His oil painting of a pair of Canvasbacks was judged as the best of 201 entries. Each year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chooses five species for artists to choose from that may be painted. The species in 2013 were: blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, and Canvasback. The 2014 species are: Brant, Canada Goose, Northern Shoveler, Red-breasted Merganser, and Ruddy Duck. The deadline to submit artwork is August 15, 2014.

Junior Duck Stamp

The first Junior Duck Stamps were produced in 1989. They are now the capstone of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Junior Duck Stamp environmental education program, which teaches students across the nation about “conservation through the arts”. Sales of the Junior Duck Stamps go towards environmental education programs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several territories.

How Can I Purchase a Federal Duck Stamp or Junior Duck Stamp?

The Federal Duck Stamp, sold for $15, and the Junior Duck Stamp, sold for $5, can both be purchased at many post offices around the country. The stamps can also be purchased online, and at many national wildlife refuges, sporting goods stores, and outdoors stores. And although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Duck Stamp Office does not sell Duck Stamp products, they do allow licensed vendors to make and sell products bearing the images of Federal and Junior Duck Stamps. Click here to see the list of current vendors.

Clearly the Federal and Junior Duck Stamps are an extremely effective conservation tool and provide many benefits to wildlife and the American public. Click below for more information:


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CARE Releases “America’s National Wildlife Refuges: Home for Wildlife, Haven for Wildlife Enthusiasts” Tue, 24 Jun 2014 13:35:58 +0000

Continue reading »]]> This morning, the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE)  released a new report, “America’s National Wildlife Refuges: Home for Wildlife, Haven for Wildlife Enthusiasts.” According to the report, the steady decline in congressional funding is threatening the economic vitality of hundreds of local communities that rely on the tourism and recreation dollars that refuges provide. Without adequate funding for basic maintenance and repairs, refuges will be forced to reduce visitor services and wildlife habitat management, which will reduce opportunities to hunt, fish, and view wildlife on refuge lands.   “More than $2.4 billion generated in local economies is at stake,” said David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, which leads CARE. “National wildlife refuges are economic engines, but without sufficient funding from Congress, those engines are going to stall.” The CARE coalition is comprised of 23 wildlife, sporting and conservation organizations that span the political spectrum, representing 16 million Americans who value outdoor recreation, scientific research and wildlife conservation. The report notes the benefits wildlife refuges provide, and also what is at stake if funds were to be cut. Among the report highlights:

  • In FY 2013, more than 38,000 people spent 1.4 million hours volunteering on refuges, a contribution worth an estimated $31 million, or the equivalent of 702 full-time employees;
  • Volunteers at Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, WV | USFWS
    Volunteers at Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, WV | USFWS

    Nearly 47.5 million people visited national wildlife refuges last year, and their spending supported 35,000 private U.S. jobs;

  • The jobs created by and around refuges generate an estimated $800 million in employment income and adds nearly $343 million in local, state and federal tax revenue;
  • Nearly 31 million refuge visitors participated in wildlife watching in FY2013—representing about 65-percent of all visits to the Refuge System;
  • The 364 refuges open to hunting and 303 open to fishing, as well as all 38 wetland management districts open to both activities are some of the best places for these sports, which generated a combined $89.8 billion spent on hunting and fishing;
  • The ‘ecosystem services’ that refuges provide, such as clean drinking water and storm buffers, are worth an estimated $32.3 billion, or $65 for every dollar Congress invests in the Refuge System.

The report also noted several examples of how budget cuts are taking a toll:

  • In Alabama, Choctaw National Wildlife Refuge is expected to experience a drop of at least 80-percent in volunteer support due to the loss of coordinating staff, and Bon Secour Refuge has already seen its volunteer contribution annually decline by 2,000 hours—a loss of about $44,000 in donated time;
  • In South Carolina, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge was forced to cancel its December archery hunt last year because of staff shortages and budget reductions;
  • Disabled hunt at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge | USFWS
    Disabled hunt at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge | USFWS

    Cokeville Meadows Refuge in Wyoming was unable to open a long-awaited hunting season this year due to a lack of adequate staffing to process hunting regulation updates, resulting in strained relationships with state and local partners;

  • At Fish Springs Refuge in Utah, staff fell two weeks behind on refilling a major refuge wetland unit, which significantly reduced the area available for waterfowl hunting;
  • At Aransas Refuge in Texas, a fishing pier is one of 12 public facilities shut down because the loss of maintenance staff has left the refuge unable to ensure such structures are safe.
  • At Virginia’s Chincoteague Refuge, the number of environmental education participants in FY 2013 was 1,700—less than half what it was just five years prior due to budget cuts.

Click here to view the full press release.

Click here to view the full report.

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National Pollinator Week Thu, 19 Jun 2014 14:09:38 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Can you imagine a world without watermelon, coconut, apple, coffee, or chocolate? Who would want a world without chocolate?! The world you just imagined is a world without pollinators.

This week is National Pollinator Week to bring awareness about the decline of our ever important pollinators. Birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other insects and small mammals are responsible for transferring pollen from one plant to another, facilitating the fertilization process. Without these insects and animals, the plants would not be fertilized and would not survive; as a result, our agriculture industry would crash. In fact, pollinators provide one out of every three bites of food we take.

This video shows what your Thanksgiving dinner might look like without pollinators:


Bad News for Pollinators

Unfortunately, pollinator populations are declining and have been for decades. It is believed that the decline is due to a combination of pesticide misuse, the rapid spread of pollinator diseases and parasites, and the destruction of habitat.

National wildlife refuges help combat these issues by providing habitat for these pollinators, educating the public about the issues, and by providing active management to help regulate disease, parasites, and pesticide use. Contact your local refuge or Friends group to see what kinds of pollinators they support.


You Can Help!

One thing you can do to help is to plant a pollinator garden. Even if you don’t have space or a backyard, you can try a community garden, help out a friend, neighbor, or family member, or even check out your local refuge. Here are some important tips when choosing which flowers to plant:

  • The most important thing is to plant native species to promote local pollinators in your area.
  • It is best to plant the flowers in clumps to better attract the birds and the bees.
  • It’s helpful to choose plants that flower at different times of the year to ensure pollinators will come by during each season!
  • It’s important to choose a variety of different shapes and colors of flowers to attract a variety of pollinators.

One afternoon spent planting this garden could make a world of a difference to our pollinator communities, and in turn to our food economy.

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The Refuge Association is Now Part of AmazonSmile! Tue, 17 Jun 2014 16:02:48 +0000

Continue reading »]]>

National Wildlife Refuge Association

The National Wildlife Refuge Association is now part of AmazonSmile! AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support the Refuge Association every time you shop, at no cost to you. Simply start at, and shop as you normally would! When it comes time to choose a charity or organization to donate to, just type in “National Wildlife Refuge Association,” and a portion of the purchase price will be donated to help protect America’s wildlife and habitat. It’s as easy as one, two, three and will help support our work to promote the world’s largest wildlife  conservation network – the National Wildlife Refuge System.



For more information about AmazonSmile, click here.


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Potential Solution to Invasive Carp at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Thu, 12 Jun 2014 16:26:13 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Many national wildlife refuges deal with invasive species on a daily basis. At Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Southeast Oregon, the species they are dealing with is the common carp (Cyprinus carpio).

Impressive Invaders

Fisheries biologists remove invasive common carp from a net prior to implanting radio tags for telemetry tracking studies. | USFWS
Fisheries biologists remove invasive common carp from a net prior to implanting radio tags for telemetry tracking studies. | USFWS

Carp are an aggressive generalist species that eat almost anything, can tolerate extreme heat and extreme cold, and can survive with very poor water quality; all of which make them perfect invaders. Carp are bottom feeders meaning they sift through mud searching for insects and aquatic plants to eat. As a result, plants are uprooted, and silt plumes in the water column preventing plant photosynthesis and insect production.

Subsequently, Malheur Lake is void of the plants that provide food, shelter, and nesting grounds for waterfowl and other migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway. Historically, Malheur Lake was utilized by up to 35% of the Pacific Flyway’s canvasback population, was the second most important redhead production site in the West, and at its peak produced, over 100,000 ducklings annually. Currently the refuge has only 5-10 percent of the productive bird habitat it provided before carp were introduced. Migrating birds of the Pacific Flyway only have a few refuge options, and because Malheur is in such poor condition, and nearby Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge is suffering from dried up marshes due to a policy change, the birds have less options and are strained for resources.

Commercial Fishermen Assisting with the Problem

A team of commercial fishermen were brought in from the Midwest where carp fishing is an established industry to help eradicate the species on a $35,000 contract paid for by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation, and Pacific Foods. By overfishing the carp, the hope is that they will reduce the population in Malheur Lake. These fishermen sell their catch to food processors which then send the fish to U.S. cities with immigrant populations from countries where carp is a dietary staple; the overabundance of invasive fish can benefit other communities.

Other Solutions

In the past, chemical treatments, barriers and traps, and water management have been used in an attempt to eradicate the carp. Unfortunately they only resulted in very short term habitat improvements, and the carp continue to return.

Invasive carp are measured and weighed before tissue samples are removed for bacterial analyses | USFWS
Invasive carp are measured and weighed before tissue samples are removed for bacterial analyses | USFWS

The commercial fishermen removing carp from the lake is a great start, however determining what to do with the fish once they are removed for the long term will be the key to determining if commercial fishing is the solution. Currently the closest processing plants are in the Midwest which is too far to ship from Eastern Oregon. The other option would be to build a processing plant in Oregon or find a coastal fishing operation that will accept carp.

Another way the refuge is addressing the carp problem is by working with local landowners. The fish populate and reproduce in streams that run through private lands. The High Desert Partnership and the Oregon Consensus Project worked with refuge staff to help develop a comprehensive management plan for the refuge that involves the private landowners.

Robo-carp is a third method that is being attempted. The Robo-carp is an autonomous underwater vehicle, about 5 feet long that is capable of traveling apace with carp that have been fitted with tags and emit radio signals. The Robo-carp will help track and locate schools of fish.

Refuge employees are hopeful that the carp populations can be reduced down to a manageable level with significantly more aquatic vegetation and millions more birds within the next ten years. With enough money, sweat, and effort, this goal is definitely achievable.

If you work at a refuge, what is one main invasive species you have to deal with?


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