National Wildlife Refuge Association Home of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:34:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Partners for Conservation Hosts First Working Landscapes Regional Collaboration Workshop Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:34:42 +0000

Continue reading »]]>

Members of Partners for Conservation | Joe Milmoe USFWS
Members of Partners for Conservation | Joe Milmoe USFWS

Recently, Partners for Conservation along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program as well as the Intermountain West Joint Venture hosted the first “Working Landscapes Regional Collaboration Workshop” in Susanville, CA with the goal of bringing together private landowners, state, county and federal agency officials and others to discuss how best to create a regional collaborative network to achieve shared conservation goals.

Partners for Conservation embodies a grassroots movement of private landowners working with agencies, non-profit organizations, and policymakers to collaborate on conservation projects for present and future generations. It represents the voices of 21st century conservation and the collective effort to support working landscapes through voluntary, incentive-based public and private programs.

Landowners listening at Workshop | Joe Milmoe
Landowners listening at Working Landscapes Regional Collaboration Workshop | Joe Milmoe, USFWS

With about 80 people in attendance at the workshop, half were private landowners, and half were agency employees from the state, county, and federal governments and nongovernmental agencies. The day and a half workshop consisted of sharing stories of how to work collaboratively with public and private partners, networking, and relationship building. Most of the time was spent talking about what it takes to work together across the public and private divide.

Susanville, California was selected as the workshop location because it is surrounded by an area facing conservation challenges that need collaborative solutions. The region, known as Southern Oregon-Northeast California (SONEC) is one of the most important regions in the western United Stated for migratory waterfowl since it is crucial breeding grounds. More than 18 percent of the Pacific Flyway Population of mallards and redheads breed in this region as well as more than 20 percent of North America’s entire breeding population of Cinnamon Teal. Up to 70% of the Pacific Flyway’s migrating birds pass through this region.

This region is a compilation of private and public lands owned by different agencies making collaboration vital for the conservation and protection of this region. The region also supports greater sage grouse which are being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act and is also home to endangered fish. Click here for more information about the SONEC region.

The participants left armed with stories of successful partnerships, how to move through roadblocks, best practices to establishing a productive partnership, and a model on which to base their own local partnerships. If the participants decide to pursue a partnership and network modeled after Partners for Conservation, PFC will be there to support them through the process. Partners for Conservation would serve as a pool of expertise for the new network and could provide counsel when collaborations face challenges.

Partners for Conservation hopes to host more of these workshops in the future, continuing to help encourage public and private partnerships in the name of landscape conservation across the country. PFC will continue to bring private landowners together with public agencies to keep working lands working while also conserving sensitive land and species.

Click here to learn more about Partners for Conservation. 

]]> 0
CARE Releases “America’s National Wildlife Refuges: Good for Wildlife and for Business” Tue, 24 Mar 2015 12:51:36 +0000

Continue reading »]]> This morning, the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement released America’s National Wildlife Refuges: Good for Wildlife and for Business that highlights the “Big Six” wildlife dependent uses on wildlife refuges.

National wildlife refuges not only provide a haven for wildlife, they are also where millions of Americans go to enjoy outdoor recreation. This report shows that with more than 47 million visitors each year, the National Wildlife Refuge System also provides a boost to local economies providing a 388% return on investment: for every $1 appropriated, $4.87 is returned.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 1.30.35 PMThe report highlights the wildlife conservation benefits of the refuge system and the “Big Six” wildlife-dependent recreational uses offered on most refuges:

  • Environmental Education;
  • Interpretation;
  • Photography;
  • Wildlife Observation;
  • Hunting; and
  • Fishing.

“America’s wildlife refuges are incredible resources for local communities, driving tourism and stimulating economic activity,” said David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, which leads the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE). “More than $2.4 billion is generated by the ‘Big Six’ recreational endeavors on wildlife refuges.”

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 and wildlife conservation.

CARE estimates that the refuge system needs at least $900 million each year in operations and maintenance (O&M) funding to properly care for the 468 million acres of lands and waters it is responsible to manage. At its highest funding level in FY 2010, the system received little more than half the needed amount—$503 million.

The National Wildlife Refuge System has a total of 562 refuge units. Of those:

  • 65% are open to hunting;
  • 54% are open to fishing;
  • All 38 wetland management districts are open to both hunting and fishing;
  • 82% are open to photographers;
  • 70% have environmental education programs for the public.

In a nutshell, these are places where Americans go to connect with the outdoors.

The refuge system is also critical for wildlife – in fact its primary mission is the conservation of the nation’s wildlife:

  • 98% of all wildlife refuges are home to at least one threatened or endangered species;
  • 59 wildlife refuges were established specifically to protect endangered species; and
  • More than 200 wildlife refuges were created specifically for migratory birds.

For CARE’s full report and additional information, please visit


]]> 0
Friends Come to Washington for Public Witness Day Thu, 19 Mar 2015 13:32:39 +0000

Continue reading »]]>

Friends testifying at Public Witness Day | U.S. House of Representatives
Friends testifying at Public Witness Day | U.S. House of Representatives

Yesterday, March 18, was Public Witness Day. Hosted by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, Public Witness Day is an opportunity for Americans from all over the nation to speak to decision-makers about funding priorities for natural resources. This year, the National Wildlife Refuge Association, along with three individuals representing Friends groups are testifying on behalf of the Refuge System. They are Bill Durkin of Friends of Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine, Daniel Price of Friends of Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge in Washington, and Mary Dolven of Friends of Camas National Wildlife Refuge in Idaho.

Desiree Sorenson-Groves, Vice President of Government Affairs at the National Wildlife Refuge Association testifying at Public Witness Day | U.S. House of Representatives
Desiree Sorenson-Groves, Vice President of Government Affairs at the National Wildlife Refuge Association testifying at Public Witness Day | U.S. House of Representatives

Public Witness Day gives American citizens the opportunity to come to Washington to request funding for programs they consider a priority, such as public lands, the arts, and Native American issues. It is democracy in action, giving organizations and individuals the ability to speak directly to the lawmakers who write the funding bills for all programs within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as numerous other natural resource agencies. Any American citizen may submit testimony and apply to testify in person. Click here to see the written testimony submitted by the Friends and the Refuge Association.

Desiree Sorenson-Groves, vice president of government affairs for the Refuge Association, testified during the morning hearing. She emphasized to the committee that the Refuge System is the largest system of lands and waters dedicated to wildlife conservation with 568 million acres of lands and waters. And yet, it is routinely underfunded.

Bill Durkin of Friends of Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge testifying at Public Witness Day | U.S. House of Representatives
Bill Durkin of Friends of Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge testifying at Public Witness Day | U.S. House of Representatives

With a total of 364 wildlife refuges open to hunting and 303 refuges open to fishing, 394 refuges offering environmental education programs, 8.4 million visitors participating in photography on refuges, and 31 million wildlife refuge visitors participating in bird watching, “in a nutshell, this is where Americans go to recreate,” said Sorenson-Groves. “Spanning across 12 time zones, the sun literally never sets on the Refuge System.”

Sorenson-Groves noted that the current funding level is $72 million lower than the FY10 level accounting for inflation. Currently, the Service is down 500 staff positions, hunting and fishing visits are down 5 percent and 7 percent respectively, and volunteer numbers have declined by 15 percent.

The Friends members who testified all agreed they are feeling these budget shortfalls on the ground.

Dan Price of Friends of the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge testifying at Public Witness Day | U.S. House of Representatives
Dan Price of Friends of the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge testifying at Public Witness Day | U.S. House of Representatives

Bill Durkin, a 26-year member of the Friends of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine, stressed the importance of Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) funding for his local refuge. The community surrounding Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is growing at a rapid pace, closing in on the refuge, he said. Durkin noted how the LWCF enabled the acquisition of Timber Point, a 157-acre parcel around the refuge, offering a buffer. He testified that full funding is needed for LWCF.

Dan Price, vice president of the Friends of the Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge in Washington State, testified in favor of increased funding for fuel reduction to prevent wildfire. From 2000-2010, the refuge was able to burn an average of 1000 acres per year with prescribed fire. In the past four years, the refuge has only been able to burn about 100 acres per year.

Mary Dolven of Friends of Camas National Wildlife Refuge testifying at Public Witness Day | U.S. House of Representatives
Mary Dolven of Friends of Camas National Wildlife Refuge testifying at Public Witness Day | U.S. House of Representatives

“If the Refuge does not have the resources for Fire and Fuels Reduction to keep up pace we risk the loss of habitat and we increase the chance of a large catastrophic fire.”

Finally, Mary Dolven, from Friends of Camas National Wildlife Refuge in Idaho, testified in favor of increased operations and maintenance funding for the Refuge System. She told the committee that the Friends of Camas National Wildlife Refuge started a tours program at Camas National Wildlife Refuge in 2009, and have since hosted more than 1,000 visitors, mostly children, from the nearby rural communities. Dolven said that with more funding, the local refuge could provide more and better environmental education opportunities for local school children at a time when the local schools don’t have the resources to provide it.

Now is the time to let your members of Congress know how important the Refuge System is, and why it needs a robust annual budget. To take action on this and other refuge issues, click here to visit our Action Center.

Click here to see a video of the testimonies. 

]]> 0
40 Species in the Refuge System – Part 1 Tue, 17 Mar 2015 15:03:24 +0000

Continue reading »]]> To continue the celebration of our 40th anniversary, we will be doing a four part series that will highlight 40 different species found throughout the Refuge System. Some will be common species, others are endangered or threatened, some are birds, others are mammals – all have one thing in common: they are protected by the world’s largest network of public lands and waters, the National Wildlife Refuge System. Part one of this series highlights species with refuges named after them, species that are currently endangered, and others that have been successfully recovered.

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican at Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge | Roy W. Lowe, USFWS

The species that started it all. In the late 1800’s, a man named Paul Kroegel recognized that these bird populations were declining because they were being harvested for their feathers for use in women’s hats. In 1901, a successful petition was signed to protect these birds, and in 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt signed an executive order to create the nation’s first national wildlife refuge: Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.

Unfortunately even after the creation of the refuge and reduction of hunting, their populations declined further because they were being slaughtered in fear that they were ruining the commercial fishing industry and their reproduction rates took a deep nosedive due to the use of DDT. In 1970, before the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared them endangered. DDT was banned, and studies showed that the birds were no threat to the commercial fishing industry, and in time the populations recovered. Today it is estimated that the worldwide population is over 650,000. For more information, see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service brown pelican fact sheet.

Florida Panther/Mountain Lion

Florida Panther | Connie Bransilver, USFWS
Florida Panther | Connie Bransilver, USFWS

Mountain lions and Florida panthers are both found in the Refuge System. Florida panthers are a subspecies of mountain lion. Mountain lions are found in the western United States and their range stretches up to Canada and down to South America. They used to roam into the east of the U.S., but are no longer found there due to habitat destruction – the endangered Florida panther is the only remnant.

Today, the Florida panther is highly endangered. By the late 1800s, much of the habitat for the Florida panther had been removed due to development and other human impacts. By 1995, only 20-30 panthers remained in the wild. That same year, eight female Texas cougars were introduced to the area to restore genetical variability in the population. Over the next ten years, populations tripled. Today the population is at about 100-160 individuals.

In 1981, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission introduced intensive radio-instrumentation and monitoring of the panthers to track the animals and determine preferred habitat, home range size, dispersal behavior, and provide information on birth rates and causes of death. This research is helping scientists determine courses of action for recovering this beautiful species. The Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1989 for increased protections of this endangered species. For more information, see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service page here, and here.  

American Bison

Bison at the National Elk Refuge | Stacee Sadler
Bison at the National Elk Refuge | Stacee Sadler

American bison are the heaviest land mammals found in North America. Although, despite their size they can run quickly when needed – sometimes up to 40 miles per hour. Where they thrive, so do native plants and prairie dogs. Today, they can be found in many refuges including the National Bison Range in Montana, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado, and the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming.

At one time, 20 to 30 million bison ranged from the Appalachians to the Rocky Mountains, and from the Gulf Coast to Alaska. Unregulated hunting and habitat loss resulted in a steep decline in population, diping to 1,091 individuals by 1989. To bring these species back, reserves and refuges were established – the National Bison Range included. Today, the population is up to about 50,000 across North America. Click here for a detailed timeline about bison populations.


Bobolink at Malheur NWR | Larry Mcferrin
Bobolink at Malheur NWR | Larry Mcferrin

The bobolink is an exceptional migrant, completing a round-trip of 12,500 miles every year. This bird spends the breeding months in North American grasslands and meadows, then travels south to the rice fields of Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay for the winter.

Although populations once thrived as farmers felled forests to create pastures and fields favored by these birds, today bobolinks are in decline. Pesticides, climate change and habitat loss all pose threats to this species. The National Wildlife Refuge Association is working to protect the Connecticut River Watershed where the bobolink and many other species live. You can see bobolinks at Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota, Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota, Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge in Washington, and Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa. Click here to learn more about this species!

Whooping Crane

Whooping Crane at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge | Sandra Seth
Whooping Crane at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge | Sandra Seth

Standing as the tallest North American bird, the whooping crane is listed as endangered. In 1870 with an already low population of 500-700 birds, the population declined further with only 16 individuals in 1941 primarily as a consequence of hunting, habitat loss, and human disturbance. The Refuge System is currently playing a large role in the bird’s recovery.

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas is vital wintering grounds for a population of whooping cranes that moves between Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada, and the Texas Gulf Coast including Aransas. At Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland, the refuge and the U.S. Geologic Survey are partnering on a captive breeding program. Click here to learn more about the whooping cranes at Patuxent Research Refuge.

Active management and the captive breeding program is assisting these birds on the road to recovery.   Click here to learn more about Whooping Cranes.


Elk at Neal Smith NWR | Charles L. Miller
Elk at Neal Smith NWR | Charles L. Miller

The National Elk Refuge in Wyoming provides, preserves, restores, and manages winter habitat for the nationally significant Jackson Elk Herd as well as habitat for endangered species, birds, fish, and other big game animals. This specific herd of elk is estimated at 11,000 individuals that migrate across several jurisdictional boundaries. Their migration can happen in a few days or take several weeks. Some Jackson elk don’t move much at all, and others can travel up to 60 miles between summer and winter ranges.

Bull elk lose their antlers each spring and regrow them in May for the late summer mating season.Since antlers can be worth a large amount of money, the National Elk Refuge staff collects them to keep others from coming onto the refuge and taking them illegally, an act known as poaching. Removing antlers also reduces damage to tractors, trailers, and other equipment used during the winter by refuge personnel. The antlers can easily blend in with the snow, potentially damaging machinery if the antlers are accidentally run over. They are then auctioned off in May at an event called ElkFest. 75 percent of the proceeds from this auction go back to the refuge and goes toward elk management and habitat enhancement on the refuge.

The elk are an incredible sight to see. Click here to learn more about the National Elk Refuge.

American Alligator

American alligator at Ding Darling NWR | Michael Dougherty
American alligator at Ding Darling NWR | Michael Dougherty

A member of the crocodile family, the American alligator is a living fossil from the Age of Reptiles, having survived on earth for 200 million years. Found throughout the Southeast, from the Carolinas to Texas and north to Arkansas, the American alligator is a terrific success story of bringing a species back from the brink of extinction. American alligator populations reached all-time lows in the 1950s, primarily due to market-hunting and habitat loss.

The species was listed as endangered in 1967, in a law preceding the Endangered Species Act, prohibiting hunting of the animals. As populations began to rebound, states established alligator monitoring programs to ensure the populations would continue to increase. In 1987, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pronounced the American alligator as fully recovered and it was removed from the endangered species list. The American Alligator can be found at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, and Loxahatchee Refuge National Wildlife Refuge all in Florida.  To learn more, click here to read the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fact sheet.

California Condor

California Condors at Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge | Angela Woodside
California Condors at Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge | Angela Woodside

The largest land bird in North America used to range from California to Florida and western Canada to northern Mexico. Populations began to decline because of lead poisoning and in 1967, the species was listed as endangered. California Condors feed on carcasses and end up ingesting lead bullets and fragments of bullets left in the animal carcases. In 1982, populations dipped dangerously low to just 23 individuals. By 1987 all California condors were placed in a captive breeding program to bring population numbers back up. This was the start of an intensive captive breeding program to help the species recover. The program is being conducted at Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex in California.

Today the birds are being reintroduced to the wild and populations are up to 410 birds. 2008 marked a milestone for the program with the first time that more birds were flying free in the wild than in captivity since the captive breeding program began. Click here to learn more about this interesting bird.

Bald Eagle

Bald eagle, Driftless area
Bald eagle, Driftless area | Alan Stankevitz

Another success story is that of our national bird – the bald eagle. With populations decimated by the use of DDT and habitat destruction, bald eagles were almost wiped out. In 1940, Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act in an effort to help protect the species from being hunted, but that didn’t solve the entire problem. By 1963, the species was down to just 417 nesting pairs partially due to the continued use of DDT and other pesticides.

The banning of DDT in 1972 jump-started the recovery efforts for the bird. Captive breeding programs, reintroduction efforts, law enforcement, and nest site protection all contributed to the birds recovery. In 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially removed the species from the endangered species list. Bald eagles can be seen all over the Refuge System at The Klamath Basin Refuges in Oregon, Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in New York, Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia, Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland, Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge  in Florida, DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge  in Iowa, Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri, Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Washington,  Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge  in Tennessee, North Platte National Wildlife Refuge in Nebraska, and Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.   Click here to learn more about the recovery of our national bird.

Blacktip Reef Shark

Blacktip Reef Shark | Kydd Pollock, USFWS
Blacktip Reef Shark | Kydd Pollock, USFWS

Found throughout the Pacific Reefs National Wildlife Refuge Complex, these predators serve as indicators of healthy reef ecosystems with high fish diversity. Unfortunately they are facing threats. With overfishing pressures compounded with their low reproductive rates, blacktip reef sharks are struggling to maintain healthy populations in their native range throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans. This is also an indicator of declining ecosystem health.

Thankfully, the Pacific Reefs National Wildlife Refuge Complex is providing much needed protection. The 12 nautical miles surrounding the complex provide refuge for blacktip reef sharks, where they can remain protected and have a safe place to hunt and reproduce. At Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, which is part of the complex, ongoing research is happening to better understand these sharks and their habitats. Click here to read more!

]]> 1
Happy Birthday to the National Wildlife Refuge System! Fri, 13 Mar 2015 13:31:37 +0000

Continue reading »]]> RefugeSystemBdayHappy Birthday to the National Wildlife Refuge System! On March 14, the world’s premier network of public lands dedicated to wildlife conservation will be turning 112 – can you believe it?

Starting at just 5 acres on the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the first wildlife refuge established by President Theodore Roosevelt, the Refuge System has grown to be over half a billion acres with more than 560 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts. There is at least one national wildlife refuge in every state and at least one within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas.

Wildlife refuges are vitally important to wildlife. Refuges have helped bring species back from the brink of extinction, like with the brown pelican and bald eagle. Wildlife refuges also provide benefits to people by cleaning our air, filtering our water, and providing a natural buffer against flooding and erosion.

National wildlife refuges also provide top notch opportunities for wildlife based recreation such as fishing, hunting, photography, wildlife observation, and environmental education and interpretation. In addition, they provide a boost to the economy returning $4.87 for every $1 appropriated and pump $2.4 billion into the national economy and support more than 35,000 jobs.

Click here to see what special events are happening throughout the System!

To find a wildlife refuge near you, click here to search by state or zipcode.


]]> 0
Birding Community E-Bulletin March Wed, 11 Mar 2015 18:36:31 +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).



In 2005, the British Ornithologists’ Union split what we call Black Scoter into two species: the Common Scoter (Europe) and the Black Scoter (North America). In 2010, the American Ornithologists’ Union echoed this decision. The males of the two species can be differentiated by the color and shape of their bills – the Black possessing a large yellow knob on its black bill, the Common displaying only a small saddle of yellow on its straighter and longer gray-black bill. The Common Scoter breeds across northern Eurasia, from northeast Iceland, the northern British Isles, Norway, and eastward into Siberia.

For years, eager birders in Atlantic Canada and the northeastern U.S. have picked through flocks of scoters hoping to discover North America’s first record of Common Scoter. Accordingly it was a real surprise when on 25 January California birder, Bill Bouton, photographed what he thought was a strange-looking Black Scoter in the boat basin of Crescent City, in far northwestern California. Five days after Bouton and his friends returned home, he went through his photos and was perplexed with the scoter shots. Imagine his surprise when he concluded that the bird was a Common Scoter!

How a seaduck normally found on the other side of the Atlantic found its way to Crescent City is a mystery. Could it be possible that shrinking Arctic sea ice made it possible for such a bird to find an “open” passage to this part of the Pacific? Right now, it’s anybody’s guess.

News of this rarity’s presence spread quickly, and birders gathered at the marina for days to see the rare duck. The Common Scoter spent much of its time eating barnacles attached to the pontoons supporting the docks in the town’s newly rebuilt boat basin. Locals, were especially appreciative of the tourism business at a normally slow time of year. In particular, a few of the motels just across the way from the harbor benefitted directly from this “Shrimpy Effect.” For details on the “Shrimpy Effect” see this previous E-bulletin:

Unfortunately, the scoter left just before the popular Valentine’s-Day/President’s Day weekend, disappointing birders who came from afar that weekend to see the bird.

An article on the bird was featured on the front page of the local daily, The Del Norte Triplicate, on 3 February:

You can view the original images taken by Bill Bouton here:

and another fine photo of the bird, taken by Monte Taylor, here:


Rusty Blackbirds have experienced long-term population declines across their extensive range. And while much has been learned about this bird’s breeding and wintering grounds, much has yet to be discovered over its migratory range, from the southern U.S., through the Midwest and along the East Coast, up to Canada and into Alaska.

Last year, the International Rusty Blackbird Working Group and its partners – eBird, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the Vermont Center for Ecostudies – sought to resolve some of the unanswered questions and initiated a three-year Spring Migration Blitz. This project encouraged bird watchers to search for Rusty Blackbirds during this species’ northward migration.

Last’s year’s initial effort was a real success, with 4,750 participants submitting 13,400 checklists containing Rusty Blackbird observations.

Starting this month, participants will be seeking Rusty Blackbirds in migration. You can find out more – including how to contribute data to the Spring Migration Blitz – here:

And you can review the prime “areas of interest” for this year, here:


Many Americans are surprised to learn that Canada does not have an official national bird. How is it that such decent and civilized people can be without a national bird?

Canadian Geographic wants to change the situation through their “National Bird Project.” Forty candidate species for the title of national bird have been presented online. (No, Bald Eagle is not an option!) The public is invited to vote for a favorite, submit an essay in support of their choice, or suggest an additional species for inclusion on the list.

The current top contenders, in order, in this survey are: Common Loon, Snowy Owl, Gray Jay (aka Canada Jay), Canada Goose, and Black-capped Chickadee. The results will be announced in the Canadian Geographic annual wildlife issue at the end of the year. This should be in plenty of time to promote the choice for Canada’s sesquicentennial celebration, on 1 July 2017.

You can find more details and learn about the choices here:

Although there is nothing on the site to prevent a non-Canadian from suggesting an option; one would think that Canadians should be allowed to make their own decision!


Are urban and near-urban regions simply dead-ends for birdlife? John H. Marzluff takes on a healthy contrary view in his new book Welcome to Subirdia (2014, Yale University Press) that assesses the significance of these inevitable and long-lasting habitats. The book reviews mostly U.S. cities and suburbs, but also borrows constructive examples from Europe, Asia, and Australia. From these perspectives Marzluff measures the adaptability of bird species to human urbanization.

He deftly places many of our species’ responses to the growth of cities and suburbs into three general categories: avoiders (those sensitive species which leave the altered areas), exploiters (those species which arrive or thrive as soon as changes begin to occur), and adapters (those species which accommodate to the spread of subdivisions). A well-written book, Welcome to Subirdia takes a refreshing look at such issues as feeding, backyard management, cats, creative architecture, night light, golf courses, schoolyards, derelict land, urban redesign, and our conservation ethic in a urban age.

The final three chapters of the book – Beyond Birds, Good Neighbors, and Nature’s Tenth Commandment (i.e., “Enjoy and bond with nature where you live, work, and play!”) – are, perhaps, the most constructive, challenging, and uplifting sections of this thought-provoking new publication..

For a taste of Marzluff’s book, specifically how we should make life better for birds in Subirdia, see this summary from The Nature Conservancy’s most recent magazine:


First described by Thomas Barbour and James Lee Peters in 1927 from the Zapata Swamp in Cuba, only a handful of subsequent discoveries of the rare and elusive Zapata Rail have been made since then, and little is known about the species’ behavior or ecology. Then last November, Andrew Mitchell and colleagues from the Cuban Museum of Natural History studying the rail successfully obtained observations of the species after cutting thin strips (“rides”) into the rail’s sawgrass habitat to hopefully expose the secretive birds as they moved through the wetland.

As a result of these recent observations renewed conservation efforts will target the wetland, already an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area covering 530,695 hectares of wetland in southern Matanzas province, in which the rails were located. Part of this effort will produce a new project management plan to assess the species’ current population size, distribution, and status.

For more information see this summary from the BBC:


We have reported on the importance of the Bay of Panama to migrating shorebirds in the past, most recently in August of last year:

The Upper Bay of Panama, an Important Bird Area (IBA) and a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) Site of Hemispheric Importance, which supports more than 1.3 million shorebirds annually, including very large concentrations of Western Sandpipers, which is perhaps 30 percent of the world’s population. Since 2003, the site has also been designated as a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention.

The ongoing effort to secure the protection of the area was resolved in early February when Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela signed a bill to protect the wetlands outside Panama City from a major construction boom. Construction is now banned in an 85,000-hectare-stretch (210,000 acres) of the Bay of Panama. The law also bans logging, the removal of soil, and any other activity which could affect the mangroves adjacent to the bay.

Prior to Varela taking office, his predecessor, Ricardo Martinelli, had actively encouraged projects in sensitive areas by seriously reducing environmental fines, including projects to lure mega-hotels and golf-course development to the area..

Last year, the Panama Audubon Society, together with legal support and fellow conservation advocates, went on a national TV and radio campaign to raise public awareness concerning the threats to the Bay of Panama. Previous governmental decisions, they claimed, had accelerated the destruction of Panama’s mangrove forests, 55 percent of which were lost between 1969 and 2007, according to United Nations figures.

You can find more on the recent decision to protect the Bay of Panama from this BBC News report:

and from an encouraging report from BirdLife International:

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


In western Michigan, the 11,000-acre Muskegon County Wastewater Management System (MCWMS) is large enough with its imposing aeration and settling basins, storage lagoons, and irrigated croplands to be identified by orbiting NASA astronauts. It is also one of the best spots in western Michigan for birds and birding.

We neglected last year to point out that MCWMS had been recognized by the Wildlife Habitat Council’s “Rookie of the Year” award at its annual symposium in November. The award is presented annually to a newly certified “Wildlife at Work” program which is designed to highlight work on creating, conserving, and restoring wildlife habitats on corporate lands. You can find the news last November’s award, here:

The Muskegon County Wastewater Management System is impressive enough that it has already been designated s an Important Bird Area (IBA). See details here:

The location of the MCWMS makes it especially attractive during migration to waterfowl, long-legged waders, and shorebirds. The concentrations of Semipalmated Sandpipers can be particularly notable. The raptors regularly recorded at MCWMS can include Rough-legged Hawks, Golden Eagles, Short-eared Owls, and, in winter, Snowy Owls.

MCWMS not only protects and enhances habitat for birds and other wildlife, but it also allows welcoming access to birders. In fact, birders have had a good working relationship with MCWMS management for years. Visitors need only stop by the MCWMS office to pick up an entry permit, good for two years, to display on their vehicle’s dashboard.

This is another fine example of a wastewater facility where birder access, and public access, can mean a great deal… and is a benefit to all parties. Last year’s award to MCWMS is living proof.


A new study by Mississippi State University explains how the Department of Agriculture (through its Natural Resources Conservation Services – NRCS) worked successfully to create significant habitat after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blow-out. According to the study, this creative project effectively sheltered and fed huge numbers of migratory birds.

Called the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative (MBHI), this project created 470,000 acres of alternate wetland habitat for ducks, geese, shorebirds, and species. This habitat was in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas. The intent was to create bird-friendly areas inland for, and away from, oil-spill impacted areas along the Gulf Coast. The plan was to create habitat that could attract migratory birds before they reached the contaminated areas.

We first reported on this in September 2010, here:

Under the Farm Bill conservation program authority, MBHI provided $40 million in cost-share assistance to private landowners in eight states to manage habitats through 1- to 3-year contracts.

The study shows that over seven times more migrating shorebirds and almost three times more dabbling ducks were observed on shallow flooded wetlands (mostly catfish ponds and rice fields) enrolled in MBHI than on non-managed wetland habitats in the same area. These ponds and flooded wetlands were more diverse, housing and feeding up to 40 different species of waterfowl, shorebirds, waders, and other waterbirds. And, significantly, the MBHI was quick, efficient, and effective.

For more details and to download the report, see here:


On the related subject of rice farming, the Rice Foundation and Ducks Unlimited have recently released a new report on the contributions that U.S. rice habitats make in supporting waterfowl populations. With a focus on three areas – California’s Central Valley, the Lower Mississippi Valley, and the Gulf Coast – the study examines how rice production holds current and potential conservation importance for wetland-dependent birds.

The study, titled “Estimating the Biological and Economic Contributions that Rice Habitats Make in Support of North American Waterfowl Populations,” focuses mainly on waterfowl, but the implications for shorebirds, long-legged waders, rails, larids, and other waterbirds are also obvious.

For the full report, visit here:

For a shorter executive summary – titled “Evaluating Contributions to

North American Waterfowl from U.S. Ricelands” – see here:


The 20th annual survey of wading birds in south Florida was released last month by the South Florida Water Management District. Most wading birds declined during the 2014 nesting season. Small herons experienced the most serious decline over a nine-year average, with Little Blue Heron down 91 percent, Tricolored Heron down 53 percent, and Snowy Egret down 57 percent.

Roseate Spoonbill numbers, especially in Florida Bay, similarly experienced reduced nesting, down a third over a 30-year average. Great Egret and White Ibis nesting numbers were also reduced, but to a lesser extent, only down 6 percent and 10 percent respectively.

While these wading bird numbers were down overall, the Wood Stork, a Threatened species under the ESA, made an encouraging comeback. Almost 2,800 nests were recorded, a 26 percent improvement over the nine-year average. Most notably t these numbers included the return of Wood Storks to the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, where 270 nests were located. This species historically nested at this famous sanctuary in large numbers, but had not done so in six of the last seven years.

Habitat decline is occurring across the region, the report concludes, which of course decreases the probability for recovery. If conditions continue to degrade, current nesting target numbers may become unattainable.

For access to the full report, see here:


New York State passed a law in late December which will reduce light pollution from state-owned buildings. The new law will require the use of shielded lights on the exterior of state buildings, specifically directing lighting downward onto streets, walkways, and public spaces. State Senator Carl Marcellino says his bill, co-authored by State Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, will reduce sky glow, something that obscures night-sky views, creates road glare, and contributes to millions of bird fatalities.

This new law is among a growing set of state, county, and city efforts to reduce light pollution, darken the night sky, produce energy savings, and protect migrating birds.

You can find out more on the New York law, which goes into effect later this year, here:


Spring is almost around the corner, and it is not too early to consider ways to effectively manage your pets in the outdoors. Below are some thoughts specifically targeted at dogs and cats.

During nesting season – usually ranging from April to September, depending on location and species – unleashed dogs can have a real impact on ground-nesting colonial birds such as terns, gulls, and skimmers. An unleashed dog can destroy a colony of these birds in minutes. That also goes for other birds such as plovers, oystercatchers and Willets. When people or dogs, leashed or unleashed, venture too close to a nesting site, the parent birds can flush, putting themselves between their eggs or chicks and what they perceive as a threat from a predator. That’s when actual predators (e.g., crows) can swoop in and predate the eggs or chicks.

Migrating shorebirds (e.g., Red Knots) at stopover spots are also at risk when their valuable “refueling time” is taken up avoiding free-running dogs on the shore.

Of course, there will always be cats – at any season, if they are let outdoors – as they both endanger birds and put at risk their own wellbeing. The American Bird Conservancy is working to launch a new public service (PSA) campaign this spring on the issue of keeping cats indoors. The message: “Protect your cats like you protect your kids.” For a look at the PSA and an opportunity to spread the word, see here:


In late February, the fine folks at BirdNote posted an insightful video titled, “The Rules for the Black Birdwatcher.” It features Dr. Drew Lanham. It’s worth a laugh… and some serious thinking:

The video is also a take-off of an article by Lanham from Orion Magazine in 2013:

– – – – – – – – –
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.

]]> 0
The Refuge Association Challenges You to Visit 40 Wildlife Refuges in One Year Tue, 10 Mar 2015 13:07:38 +0000

Continue reading »]]> 40RefugesSliderTo celebrate our 40th anniversary, we are challenging you, the National Wildlife Refuge System’s best supporters, to visit 40 refuges in one year!

The Refuge System is an incredible network of lands and waters with all sorts of landscapes and wildlife species. Ranging from the 19.3 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska with grizzly bears and caribou, to Valle De Oro National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico at a mere 570 acres with as many as 800 sandhill cranes on the refuge in a day.

Click here to find a wildlife refuge near you!

We want you to see as much of it as you can, and share your experiences with us!

How do I participate?

  1. Create a flickr account if you do not already have one here: and join our group here: By joining the group you are giving us the rights to post your photos submissions on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, and our website. If you do not wish to grant us these rights please contact
  2. Upload photos of you at the national wildlife refuges you visit over the next year. We encourage you to take photos with the signs at each refuge you visit, but if that’s not possible, please include landmarks that are unique to the refuge you are visiting.
  3. Visit the Flickr group or our blog regularly, as we will post updates throughout the year.
  4. Most importantly: have fun!

What if I’ve already been to some wildlife refuges this year?

As long as you submit a photo taken at a wildlife refuge between January 1 and December 31, 2015, it counts!

Where are national wildlife refuges?

There is at least one national wildlife refuge in every state, and at least one national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of every major metropolitan area in the continental United States. You can visit wildlife refuges in your backyard, or work them into your next vacation! Click here to see where they all are.

What do I win if I complete the challenge?

Anyone who successfully visits 25 wildlife refuges this year will receive a commemorative Refuge Association 40th anniversary pin. If you complete the challenge and make it to 40 wildlife refuges in one year, and have donated to the National Wildlife Refuge Association in 2015, you will be rewarded with a limited-time commemorative 40th Anniversary wildlife refuge photo book featuring some of our best wildlife and scenery shots from past photo contests.


If you have any questions, feel free to contact Emily Paciolla at



]]> 0
Caroline Brouwer Hired as New Director of Government Affairs Mon, 09 Mar 2015 18:50:42 +0000

Continue reading »]]> 06b19c7The National Wildlife Refuge Association is overjoyed to announce that Caroline Brouwer has joined the National Wildlife Refuge Association as the new Director of Government Affairs. Based in Washington, D.C. Brouwer will advance federal conservation policies in Congress and with the Administration, focusing on federal conservation funding and legislation affecting the National Wildlife Refuge System.  She will also help lead the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement  (CARE).

“Caroline has years of experience working with Congressmen and women on Capitol Hill and with members of the Administration,” said David Houghton, President of the Refuge Association. “Her experience and motivation will be an excellent addition to the Refuge Association team.”

Before accepting this position with the Refuge Association, Brouwer was with Ducks Unlimited (DU) where she worked as a Governmental Affairs Representative for seven years. She led DU’s advocacy on the appropriations process to increase funding for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service programs such as the National Wildlife Refuge System, North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).  She also lead DU’s effort to increase the price of the Federal Ducks Stamp.  Caroline was also the CARE representative for DU.

Brouwer earned her law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law and a Bachelor’s in anthropology from the University of the South in Sewanee, TN.  She is licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia and South Carolina.  Before going to Ducks Unlimited, she worked as a community economic development volunteer for the Peace Corps in Ukraine, a private attorney, and family court prosecutor.

Click here to see her full press release.

]]> 0
Congratulations to the 2015 Refuge System Awards Recipients Tue, 03 Mar 2015 13:32:11 +0000

Continue reading »]]> The 2015 Refuge System Award Winners have been announced! The National Wildlife Refuge Association could not be more excited to present these deserving individuals and group with the prestigious Refuge System Awards.

Learn more about our awards on the Awards Page. 

The 2015 Refuge System Award winners are:

Read the full National Wildlife Refuge System Awards press release here.

Tom Kerr: The Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award

Tom Kerr, the 2015 Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year | USFWS
Tom Kerr, the 2015 Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year | USFWS

Mr. Kerr, Refuge Manager at St. Croix Wetland Management District and Whittlesey Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin has been selected as the 2015 recipient of the Paul Kroegel Award for Refuge Manager of the Year for his dedication to the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and his ability to engage and connect with the local community. Kerr began his career in 1989 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a Cooperative Student and Refuge Operations Specialist at Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota. He became the Refuge Manager at St. Croix Wetland Management District in 2007, gaining the additional responsibility of managing Whittlesey Creek National Wildlife Refuge in 2008. Kerr has worked closely with the Friends of the St. Croix Wetland Management District since the group’s establishment in 2010, one of the many partnerships he has spearheaded in the community.  These collaborations help bridge the gap between the public and the wetland management district, and in the case of the refuge’s partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, USGS, and University of Wisconsin-Madison, Kerr helps promote wildlife conservation through restoration. Kerr publishes a biweekly newspaper column about activities and projects on the refuge and routinely gives presentations to the local community to continue to raise awareness about the refuge. He is also engaged in recognizing and developing the strengths of his staff. Read Mr. Kerr’s full press release here.


John Vradenburg: Employee of the Year Award

John Vradenburg, the 2015 Refuge Employee of the Year | USFWS
John Vradenburg, the 2015 Refuge Employee of the Year | USFWS

Mr. Vradenburg will receive the Employee of the Year Award for his outstanding work as the Supervisory Biologist at Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Vradenburg’s dedication to the refuge and its conservation efforts is clear. He goes above and beyond the call of duty to not only ensure the conservation of sensitive species, but also to involve the public in conservation efforts. In his nine years on the refuge, Vradenburg has improved the soil quality and the water drawdown system to increase native vegetation and prevent the spread of invasives. Vradenburg’s foresight and drive have also benefitted local wildlife. He began a management plan on the refuge for the New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse before it was listed in 2014 and thus positioned the refuge in a much better place to aid in the recovery. Vradenburg is also considered a leader in the community, continuously providing opportunities for the area youth to learn on the refuge. Always looking to accomplish more for wildlife, Mr. Vradenburg is the epitome of the ideal biologist. He looks for ways to advance conservation efforts on the refuge despite a shrinking budget, he doesn’t quit, and has a positive personality that bring people along with him to face whatever challenges lie ahead.  Read Mr. Vradenburg’s full press release here.



Wiley ‘Dub’ Lyon: The Volunteer of the Year Award

Wiley 'Dub' Lyon, the 2015 Refuge Volunteer of the Year | USFWS
Wiley ‘Dub’ Lyon, the 2015 Refuge Volunteer of the Year | USFWS

Wiley ‘Dub’ Lyon will receive the Volunteer of the Year Award in recognition of his unwavering support for the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Over the past 7 years as a dedicated volunteer, Mr. Lyon has demonstrated a commitment to the refuge, donating his time and services whenever and wherever needed. After building his own home and retiring from American Airlines where he supervised aircraft landing, take-off, and maintenance, Mr. Lyon found a place where he could apply his many skills – Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. After donating 1,168 hours in his first 8 months, it was apparent Mr. Lyon was not an average refuge volunteer. Mr. Lyon serves as the volunteer coordinator and has organized the annual Friends meeting and Refuge Volunteer Awards ceremony, worked with other volunteers to make sure teachers were able to schedule environmental education programs, and collected public use data.  He is also skilled at finding cost-effective ways to accomplish repair jobs. Mr. Lyon has been elected as President of the Friends of Balcones twice and was elected to the Board of Directors for the past 6 years. Read Mr. Lyon’s full press release here.


Friends of the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge: The Molly Krival Friends Group of the Year Award

Friends of the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, the 2015 Molly Krival Friends Group of the Year | Friends of the Bosque Del Apache
Friends of the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, the 2015 Molly Krival Friends Group of the Year | Friends of the Bosque Del Apache

The Friends of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico will receive the Molly Krival Friends Group of the Year Award. The 2015 award was renamed to honor the late Molly Krival – a pioneer of the Friends movement. The Friends of the Bosque del Apache coordinates the annual Festival of the Cranes, an event that draws more than 6,000 people from around the world and generates $2.5 million, making it the greatest income-generating event in the county. The Friends also provide environmental education opportunities for students from the surrounding community. Active advocates for the refuge and the Refuge System, the Friends visit Capitol Hill, host events for legislators on the refuge, and write letters to their representatives.  Read the Friends of the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge’s full press release here.




This year’s awards will be presented at a reception in Washington, DC on March 24, 2015.

]]> 0
What is Your Favorite Wildlife Refuge? Mon, 02 Mar 2015 20:49:26 +0000

Continue reading »]]> USA Today is hosting a fun contest for readers to vote for their favorite travel destinations, and among the categories is Best National Wildlife Refuge!

Modoc NWR | Laura VanAcker
Modoc NWR | Laura VanAcker

Whether it’s a family vacation or a monthly bird walk, America’s national wildlife refuges are great destinations for experiencing wildlife and nature. They have so much to offer – from hunting and fishing to wildlife watching, photography, outdoor education classes or just enjoying a walk along a boardwalk to see what comes by!

While it’s still pretty cold and snowy in much of the country, wildlife is soon to be on the move for Spring migration, so now’s the perfect time to think about those favorite destinations.

The entire Refuge System is incredible, but we know that everyone has a personal favorite wildlife refuge. Now is your chance to vote for Best National Wildlife Refuge in USA Today’s latest Reader’s Choice Contest! You can vote here once per day until the voting ends on March 30 at noon ET.

Show your love for your favorite wildlife refuge!

Click here to vote.


]]> 0