National Wildlife Refuge Association Home of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) Fri, 09 Oct 2015 16:13:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 New FWS Videos Debut at Telluride Photo Festival Fri, 09 Oct 2015 15:28:45 +0000

Continue reading »]]> The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program got a big boost last week in Colorado as two new videos about urban outreach in Southern California debuted at the Telluride Photo Festival.

View of mountains around Telluride|Credit: Christine McGowan
View of mountains around Telluride | Credit: Christine McGowan

The festival, in its fourth year, attracted more than 150 nature photographers, videographers and magazine editors who specialize in outdoor and adventure storytelling.

The National Wildlife Refuge Association and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were invited to participate in the festival by Tandem Stills & Motion, an event sponsor and the company behind the two new urban videos.

Ian Shive, CEO at Tandem and executive producer, showed the videos, noting they offer two unique examples of how nature-based education and interpretation at nearby wildlife refuges in Southern California is having an impact on inner-city kids in Los Angeles and San Diego.


The first video features efforts to connect with kids and families in San Diego:

And the second video showcases a terrific effort to restore the LA River in Los Angeles that also connects inner-city residents with a river many didn’t even realize was there:

I gave the introduction to the presentation, and had an opportunity to share with the crowd of photographers and magazine editors the importance of reaching beyond the choir of existing outdoor enthusiasts. In a nutshell, this is what I told them:

  • Eighty percent of Americans now live in cities, which means we have entire generations growing up disconnected to nature;
  • If we don’t reach urban kids and families now and help them re-connect to the natural world, we risk losing the future conservation advocates we need to protect our public lands;
  • More than 100 national wildlife refuges are located in or near major city centers, which means America’s wildlife refuges have a golden opportunity to become hubs for reaching kids and families and helping them have easy, safe and accessible experiences in nature close to home.

The Service and the Refuge Association brought Tandem Stills & Motion on board to help tell this compelling story about what urban wildlife refuges offer to inner-city youth, families and others who may never make it to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or other far-away places to experience wilderness. The great news is, they don’t have to! They can discover the beauty of wildlife and the natural world right in the city.

Click here to learn more about the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program.

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Now Open: 2016 Refuge System Awards Tue, 06 Oct 2015 15:14:31 +0000

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2015 Friends Group of the Year: Friends of Bosque National Wildlife Refuge
2015 Friends Group of the Year: Friends of Bosque National Wildlife Refuge

Show your appreciation for an individual or group who goes the extra mile at a wildlife refuge. Nominate them for a 2016 National Wildlife System Award.

Recognizing the excellence of these individuals and groups not only highlights the dedication and devotion of those who support the Refuge System, but also raises awareness about the diversity of the National Wildlife Refuge System, the challenges it faces and innovative efforts across the country to meet those challenges.



Nominations are due by December 1. Results will be announced in March 2016. Award recipients will receive a commemorative plaque and a monetary award: $1,000 for refuge manager, employee and volunteer awards; $2,000 for a Friends Group.

Candidates who were nominated in past years but did not receive an award are eligible for nomination this year.

The National Wildlife System Award also looks for personal stories describing the efforts of a dedicated refuge manager, employee, volunteer or friends group in their community. Read the inspiring stories conveying the outstanding achievements of our 2015 awardees.

For more information or to submit a nomination, read the Awards overview. You may also email Debbie Harwood or call (202) 417-3803 x16.


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Wiley ‘Dub’ Lyon Receives 2015 Refuge System Volunteer of the Year Award Thu, 01 Oct 2015 19:34:59 +0000 September 28 was a day to celebrate a person whose volunteerism has made a huge impact on a national wildlife refuge. Wiley ‘Dub’ Lyon received the Refuge Association’s 2015 Volunteer of the Year Award in recognition of his exemplary service to Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.

For the past seven years, Mr. Lyon has volunteered to help the Balcones whenever and wherever needed. David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, had the honor of presenting the award to Mr. Lyon.

Wiley 'Dub' Lyon Receives Award from David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association
Wiley ‘Dub’ Lyon Receives Award from David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association

“We’re here to celebrate the great people that have passion and enthusiasm for conservation. Volunteers choose what to do with their time and Dub chose our National Wildlife Refuge System,” noted Cynthia Martinez, chief of the National Wildlife System.

After donating 1,168 hours in his first eight months, it was quickly evident Mr. Lyon was not an average refuge volunteer. With great enthusiasm he tackled repair projects the refuge wasn’t able to accomplish while a maintenance position was open. In addition to finding cost-effective ways to complete maintenance projects, Mr. Lyon also serves as the refuge’s volunteer coordinator. He has helped recruit volunteers from the community and businesses, including Patagonia.

Mr. Lyon’s work also extends to ensuring youth learn about and appreciate the natural environment. “We need to teach children to protect our environment,” he said. “Schools didn’t have funds to transport students to the refuge and I was about to pay for them to come here out of my own pocket. Then I found a way to secure funds for the buses so students could come here and learn.” To help teachers plan field trips, Mr. Lyons trained other volunteers to help educators schedule environmental education programs.

In total, Mr. Lyons has contributed 12,400 volunteer hours (and counting!) in his seven years at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. How did all this volunteering begin? Mr. Lyons and his wife, Ruth Lyons, attended an open house at the refuge. Both had just retired and wanted something to do with their free time. Neither had volunteered for a refuge before, but they enjoyed the outdoors and felt helping the environment would be extremely beneficial.

In addition to Cynthia Martinez, several notable guests also attending the ceremony included Kelly McDowell, refuge supervisor, Oklahoma/Texas and David Maple, acting refuge manager at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. Also in attendance were additional staff from Balcones and volunteers with Friends of Balcones.

David Maple, David Houghton, Cynthia Martinez, Wiley 'Dub' Lyon, Ruth Lyon and Kelly McDowell (from left to right)
David Maple, David Houghton, Cynthia Martinez, Wiley ‘Dub’ Lyon, Ruth Lyon and Kelly McDowell (from left to right)

Read more about Mr. Lyons accomplishments in the press release.

For additional information on the National Wildlife Refuge System Awards visit our webpage. Nominations for the 2016 Awards will be open from Oct. 1 to Dec. 1, 2015.

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The Flyer E-Newsletter: September 2015 Wed, 30 Sep 2015 15:07:37 +0000



David Headshot

Autumn is here and this time of year there’s a burst of activity occurring on and off America’s wildlife refuges. Migration season is in full swing and wildlife refuges are preparing to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week in October. On Capitol Hill, the drama continues; while it seems unlikely the government will shut down on Oct. 1, anything is possible and we will be ready to share the latest news.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made a major announcement. The Service decided that the greater sage-grouse is not warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act. This decision recognizes the innovative conservation partnerships developed among federal and state agencies, private landowners and local partners over the past five years. We will continue to work with our partners to implement management solutions that ensure healthy and functioning ecosystems for all sagebrush-dependent species.

The Refuge Association is also making strides to conserve wildlife—including migratory birds, as well as federally endangered ocelots, falcons and sea turtles—in Texas. This month’s Flyer highlights how we’re working with on-the-ground partners to maintain the South Texas Coastal Corridor. This exciting collaboration brings together private ranchers and federal, state, non-profit and local partners.

Refuge Friends Groups have also been busy this summer. In the Pacific Northwest, Friends of Haystack Rock debuted a new website in July. The added web features include a more efficient way for teachers to sign their classes up for field trips. The site also showcases the gorgeous landscapes along Oregon’s coast. You’ll probably want to begin planning a trip there after viewing the photos!

Travel north of Oregon, to the 49th state, and you’ll discover Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. We had the opportunity to explore Alaska’s vast wilderness after our board meeting, held at the new Kenai visitor’s center. Read about our adventures in this month’s Flyer.

And finally, we’re thrilled to announce our photography contest is open now through November 15. Winners receive great prizes including the $1,000 cash grand prize and nature gear generously donated by our contest sponsors. Head out to your favorite refuge or submit photos from an earlier visit. We look forward to seeing your best images of America’s wildlife refuges.

Enjoy all that fall has to offer, and I’ll see you on a refuge!




David Houghton


Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

Moose and Calf at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska | Credit Sandra Noll

Visiting Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is akin to stepping into the past–about 6000 BCE. That’s when humans first set foot on the Kenai Peninsula.

The area first became a national wildlife refuge in 1980, when the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act re-designated the Kenai National Moose Range (established in 1941 to protect moose) as the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. This included establishing 1.32 million acres as Kenai Wilderness.

Today, you can visit the refuge to experience numerous recreational and environmental education opportunities. The refuge offers more than 100 miles of hiking trails, along with areas to go fishing, camping, canoeing and hunting. In the winter, hit the trails for gorgeous views while cross-country skiing.


In addition to the wealth of activities at Kenai, there’s also an abundance of habitats and wildlife to see. Alpine tundra, boreal forests, wetlands and aquatic areas are home to caribou, bears, spruce grouse, lynx, migratory waterfowl and muskrats to name a few. Before visiting, make sure you are aware of the safest way to travel in bear country and what to do if you encounter a moose. Read additional safety tips and learn more about the adventures that await you in this Kenai National Wildlife Refuge guide.

One unique geological feature on the refuge is the Harding Icefield, which is partially located in Kenai Fjords National Park. The icefield measures 800 square miles–larger than the state of Rhode Island– and is the largest one that exists entirely within the United States. The area gets approximately 400 inches of snow per year and spawns up to 40 glaciers. In addition to providing habitat to brown bears and mountain goats, the icefields and glaciers also supply fresh water for people and wildlife.

Last month, the National Wildlife Refuge Association had a chance to experience Kenai first-hand. Our board of directors held an early fall board meeting at Kenai, and afterwards went on excursions to see the wildlife and landscapes which inhabit the refuge and surrounding lands. Those who hiked into the refuge were rewarded with awe-inspiring views of the mountains.Others took advantage of a boat ride out of Seward to catch a glimpse of harbor seals, whales and seabirds such as puffins that depend on Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge among other public lands and waters.

Kenai is filled with natural and cultural resources, and the Dena’ina people call it “Yaghanen”–the “good land.” Consider visiting Kenai yourself to have your own adventure and create memories to last a lifetime.

Glaucaus Gentian Blooms with Snowfields in Background at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska | Credit: Dawn Bragg


Conserving Wildlife in Texas

Painted Bungting at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas | Credit: Carolyn Cardile

Several years ago, the Refuge Association began working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to identify opportunities to help conserve the world-class wildlife resources of Texas. We focused on areas that were essential to important wildlife guilds, under threat from human development and places that needed to look beyond existing refuge boundaries to maintain biological integrity. Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge met all of these criteria, and more.

Since the 1800s Laguna Atascosa’s landscape has been well-known to early ornithologists and naturalists for its abundant birdlife. On August 2, 1939, J. Clark Salyer, II, Chief of the Division of Wildlife Refuges, sent a report to Dr. Ira Gabrielson (first director of USFWS), that identified the Laguna Atascosa area as a top priority for protection. In the early 1900s, small islands within the Laguna Atascosa tidal basins provided nesting habitat for thousands of colonial nesting birds. The surrounding salt prairie, with its scattered yucca, supported the highest number of northern aplomado falcons nesting in the United States. The brush covered clay dunes (lomas) were vitally important to the local ocelot and jaguarundi populations.



South Texas is a Special Place for Wildlife
Texas is one of the most ecologically diverse states in the Union. According to NatureServe’s 2002 States of the Union: Ranking America’s Biodiversity, Texas is second only to California in biodiversity. Texas has the highest number of birds and reptiles and the second highest number of plants and mammals in the United States. It also has the third largest rate of endemism in the country.

The Laguna Atascosa has an impressive 415 species of birds that use it for migration, wintering or breeding. This is more bird species than most any other area in the United States. Several tropical species reach their northernmost range in South Texas, and where the Central and Mississippi Flyways converge. The American Bird Conservancy designates parts of this area as a “globally important bird area” for a its amazing variety of migratory, winter and resident birds and habitats. Millions of migratory shorebirds, raptors, songbirds and waterfowl touch down each year on their journeys between winter homes in Mexico, Central and South America and nesting habitats as far north as the tundra above the Arctic Circle. The federally endangered northern aplomado falcon, ocelot and sea turtles, and the State listed reddish egret call the Laguna Atascosa home. This landscape also hosts wintering waterfowl including 80 percent of the world population of Redhead ducks.

Within and adjacent to Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is the Laguna Madre, one of five hypersaline lagoons in the world. This biologically rich area supports an eco-tourism industry based on one of the most productive fisheries on the Gulf Coast. It is a world-class nursery for red fish, spotted sea trout and black drum. Small tidal basin islands support colonial nesting birds such as gull-billed terns, black skimmers and brown pelicans.

Great Blue Heron at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas | Credit: Sandra Noll
Great Blue Heron at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas | Credit: Sandra Noll

Currently, there are approximately 2 million acres of private ranchland located north of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and the 1.3 million acre Rio Bravo Protected Area, managed by the Commission Nacional De Areas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP) in Mexico. Maintaining the connection, or corridor, between these areas is essential for conservation region’s of the wildlife resources that are valued by so many.

According to the 2005 Texas Wildlife Action Plan, “All factors considered, this is among the most threatened of the 10 [Texas] ecoregions and the more threatened of the two high diversity ecoregions. The increased population growth and associated development along the coast have fragmented land, converted prairies, changed river flows, decreased water quality and increased sediment loads and pollutants within marsh and estuarine systems. Projections indicate continued high growth and increased fragmentation in most parts of this ecoregion.”

Putting the Pieces Together
Ensuring the long-term health and productivity of the South Texas Coastal Corridor requires a forward-looking land conservation strategy, that builds upon the existing network of international, federal, state, local and private conservation areas; expands the scale of conservation across administrative and political boundaries; and supports management stewardship for the public or private entity best suited for meeting long-term conservation objectives.

The Refuge Association, along with many federal, state, non profit and local partners are working together to make the South Texas Corridor a reality. On August 12, 2015, the RESTORE Council tentatively approved more than $4.3 million of land acquisition funds and more than $1.3 million in restoration planning and implementation funds for the South Texas Coastal Corridor.

We at the Refuge Association are excited to be a part of this exciting collaboration!



While Congress seems to have averted a government shutdown with final passage of a Continuing Resolution, or “CR” expected sometime before midnight on September 30th, the threat is far from over.  The short term funding agreement is expected to last until December 11th, but Congressional Republicans and the White House are nowhere near agreement on overall budget caps, the debt ceiling and political issues tacked on in an election year. The drama is playing out right up to the last moment; while most in Washington believe some form of Continuing Resolution will be reached to keep the government’s doors open at least temporarily, the real theatricals are just getting started.




Regardless of the political fights, we continue to urge Congress to fully fund the the Refuge System’s operations and maintenance (O&M) budget at $508.2 million in FY16. Severe budget cuts over the past few years have impacted the Service’s ability to meet basic management goals at most of its 563 units nationwide. Without adequate funding, the Refuge System simply cannot meet the most basic wildlife management goals and objectives – including providing quality wildlife dependent recreational opportunity for the public.

Refuges are also economic drivers. For every dollar of federal investment, refuges provide almost $5 in economic return. Refuges are responsible for creating nearly 35,000 jobs and generating $2.4 billion in economic output. Consider that the next time you enjoy an afternoon on the more 568 million acres our National Wildlife Refuge System maintains. Please consider contacting your Congressional representatives, and urge them to adequately fund the Refuge System.

In other news, the Department of Interior announced its decision that the greater sage-grouse is “not warranted” to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. This much-anticipated decision recognizes the innovative conservation partnerships developed among federal and state agencies, private landowners and local partners over the past five years. These partnerships have resulted in an unprecedented investment in sagebrush habitat conservation, restoration and management.

Finally, we were thrilled to learn earlier this month that a U.S. District Court upheld U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell’s decision to not build a gravel road through Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Not only is the road unnecessary, it is also harmful: The road would cut through a federally designated wilderness in the heart of the refuge and destroy this fragile ecosystem.


New Website Highlights Coastal Resources of Oregon

Sunset At Seal Rock Beach, Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Ore. | Credit: Anthony Kent
Sunset At Seal Rock Beach, Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Ore. | Credit: Anthony Kent

Thanks to a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Friends of Haystack Rock were able to debut a new website in July. Visitors are greeted with photos that convey the beauty of the Oregon coast and able to readily read stories of how the Friends Group helps conserve the area’s natural resources.

Friends of Haystack Rock are thrilled with the new website look, and are equally thrilled they received training on how to update content quickly and easily.





Another welcomed feature on the new website is that it integrates Friends of Haystack Rock and Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP), a stewardship and environmental education program. One of the resources HRAP provides is educational field trips for students. Trips integrate observation, investigation and exploration. Students have the opportunity to visit intertidal areas teeming with organisms including sea stars and hermit crabs as well as see the essential nesting habitat the coast provides for shorebirds and seabirds. The new site also allows teachers to register their classes online, another new feature.

You can also visit the new website to view the tide table. At low tide, HRAP can be found along the beach educating adults and children about the sea birds and marine life.

Stacy Benefield, chair of the Friends of Haystack Rock board of directors, is excited for people to check out the new website and learn about the organization. Take a look for yourself at: You’ll probably want to begin planning a trip after viewing the photos highlighting the gorgeous Oregon coast.

Friends of Haystack Rock supports HRAP in cooperation with the City of Cannon Beach. Their goal is to promote the preservation and protection of the intertidal life and birds that inhabit the Marine Garden and the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge at Haystack Rock. 2015 marks the 30th anniversary of The Haystack Rock Awareness Program, which started as a club of volunteers in 1985. Since then, it has grown into a stewardship and environmental educational program that has educated tens of thousand of individuals and families.

Tufted Puffin Takes Flight at Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Ore. | Credit: Steve Dimock
Tufted Puffin Takes Flight at Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Ore. | Credit: Steve Dimock


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


Donate Today to Receive a Limited Edition 40th Anniversary Photo Book!

PhotobookTo keep the party going and continue celebrating our 40th anniversary, we are unveiling a new limited edition 40th Anniversary Photo Book. This photo book includes 40 of the best photographs from our photo contests representing the immense variety of wildlife and landscapes throughout the Refuge System.

For a limited time, this special photo book can be yours for a donation of $140 or more to the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

Click here to get your limited edition photo book now!




Birding Community E-Bulletin August

Refuge Association’s 2015 Photo Contest Opens

Birding Community E-Bulletin September

Golf Tournament Raised Thousands of Dollars for Refuge Association

Sage-Grouse Announcement Supports Years of Collaborative Conservation

Great News for Izembek National Wildlife Refuge!


Dr. John Morton | Credit: USFWS

Dr. John Morton is a supervisory biologist at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

The Refuge is Best Known For: Moose–Kenai was first established as an area to protect this species.

The Refuge’s Best Kept Secret: Harding Ice Field, which at more than 800 square miles is the largest one entirely in the U.S. Part of the icefield extends into Kenai Fjords National Park.

The Most Interesting Species on the Refuge:Kenai brown bear. They’re huge!

My Favorite Activity on the Refuge: Enjoying the landscape and getting a good workout while backcountry skiing.

The Best Time to Visit the Refuge :July when sockeye salmon are running and the beginning of silver salmon season, which occurs towards the end of the month.

Friends, are you connected?

RefugeFriendsConnect graphic is a membership site that is managed by NWRA and a group of volunteers. If you are a Friends group member or are refuge staff working with Friends you are welcome to join.


Keep an eye out for these upcoming events: 

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

Oct. 1: Fiscal Year 2016 is expected to begin, barring a government shutdown.

Oct. 2: Connecting People with Nature at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (N.J.)

Oct 3: Connecting People with Nature at Seney National Wildlife Refuge (Mich.)

Oct. 3: National Public Lands Day and 50th Birthday Celebration of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge (Minn.)

Oct. 11 to 17: National Wildlife Refuge Week (nationwide)

National Wildlife Refuge Association


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The National Wildlife Refuge Association is on the cutting edge of wildlife habitat conservation and citizen engagement in the United States. But we need your help to advance our work protecting large landscapes, educating decision-makers in Washington, and mobilizing refuge Friends in support of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Please make a generous donation today!

Flyer Masthead Photo Credit: Kestrel, Wade Dowdy

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Give Back to our Wildlife Refuges on NPLD Fri, 25 Sep 2015 14:13:32 +0000

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Planting native vegetation at Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, Calif. | Credit: NEEF
Planting native vegetation at Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, Calif. | Credit: NEEF

Across the nation, wildlife refuges will get extra love this weekend as families and individuals of all ages celebrate the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort—National Public Lands Day (NPLD). More than 45 wildlife refuges will be part of this event that encourages us to give back to the lands and waters we love to play, learn and recreate on.

NEEF’s 22nd annual National Public Lands Day will take place on Saturday, September 26. This year, more than 200,000 volunteers will lend a hand to spruce up more than 2,100 sites around the nation.







Here’s a few the over 45 national wildlife refuges hosting NPLD events on Sept. 26:


Find more events near you at:



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Golf Tournament Raised Thousands of Dollars for Refuge Association Thu, 24 Sep 2015 00:14:56 +0000 A clear blue sky, a light breeze and pleasant temperatures kicked off the ‘Best Monday Ever!’ Longtime National Wildlife Refuge Association board member Larry Ross hosted a golf tournament that raised thousands of dollars for the Refuge Association.

More than 70 golfers arrived on Fishers Island (New York) in the morning to learn about the refuge system and view photographs of the habitats and iconic species–including bison, manatees and rivers teeming with fish–that depend on wildlife refuges. Refuge Association staff were on hand to share more information and relay what makes the refuge system unique.

View from the 16th hole on Fishers Island
View from the 16th hole on Fishers Island

After brunch, the golfing began.

Fishers Island is a seven mile long stretch of land off the coast of Connecticut. The golf course, ranked one of world’s best, retains the natural beauty of this landscape. Each hole offers views of the ocean and dune ecosystem. While playing, golfers also kept an ear out for local bird species. “Did you see the pheasant?,” asked board member Kathy Woodward before excitingly sharing the multiple bird melodies heard while golfing.

Fishers Island Course
Fishers Island Golf Course

The team of James Vandervelden, Keith Johnson, Jeff Peek and Mike Glass won 1st place gross, while 1st place net went to the team of Bill Buchanan, Craig Overlander, Ken Saverin and Don O’Brien. Second place net went to the team of Bob Galvin, Andreas Mang, Gary Cochrane and our own Sean Carnell!

Golfing concluded with cocktails, dinner and a raffle, where all showed their support for the Refuge Association by purchasing tickets. The grand prize was an overnight stay, dinner and round of golf in Newport, R.I., donated by Jeff Farrar, a fellow golfer and friend of Larry Ross. The prize was so popular, Farrar generously offered it twice, helping raise even more in donations.

As the dinner concluded, comments of “gorgeous weather,” “beautiful course” and “best ever day for golfing” were heard.

A big thank you goes out to Larry Ross, and his wife Andrea, for hosting the ‘best day ever. ’ The event was a huge success, helping us continue to advance our work to protect the nearly half a billion acres of land and water managed by the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Learn more about our efforts to conserve wildlife refuges surrounding New York and New England on our Beyond the Boundaries: Connecticut River page.

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Sage-Grouse Announcement Supports Years of Collaborative Conservation Tue, 22 Sep 2015 14:19:38 +0000 The National Wildlife Refuge Association commends the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on completing its science-based evaluation of the greater sage-grouse.

Today’s announcement that listing the greater sage-grouse is presently “not warranted” recognizes the innovative conservation partnerships developed among federal and state agencies, private landowners and local partners over the past five years. This has set the stage for further restoration and holistic management of the West’s great sagebrush landscapes to benefit 350 species of wildlife over many years to come.

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

David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, attended the ceremony. “I commend the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for using sound science to make a decision that supports years of collaborative conservation efforts,” Houghton said. “It’s inspiring to see how much progress has been made by private landowners, local and state governments, non-profit organizations and others to conserve sage-grouse habitat. A new model of conservation is emerging in America, where people work together to protect our landscapes, wildlife habitat and heritage to ensure they are all viable long into the future.”

Over the past three years, commitments by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, the National Wildlife Refuge System, the Bureau of Land Management, state wildlife agencies, private landowners and non-government groups across the West have resulted in an unprecedented investment in sagebrush habitat conservation, restoration and management. This includes more than $425 million invested by the Sage-Grouse Initiative, the participation and matching funds of private landowners, and extensive planning and outreach work by the Bureau of Land Management, state agencies and local working groups.

While greater sage-grouse occupy a vast range, 165 million acres over 11 western states, the birds are found in much greater densities in some areas than others. The National Wildlife Refuge Association has worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program to support the development of a Sagebrush Stronghold/Sagebrush Focal Area Strategy that promotes enhanced protections and conservation management in six key landscapes. The Refuge Association is continuing to work in those landscapes where national wildlife refuges play an integral role in land and water management and can offer support to collaborative landscape conservation efforts, including in the Sheldon-Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge region of Southeastern Oregon and Northern Nevada; Southwestern Wyoming, from the Sweetwater Basin and including Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge and portions of the Bear River Watershed Conservation Area; and the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Montana.

These places are not only hot spots for sage-grouse in certain parts of their life-cycle, but also support over 350 species that rely on unfragmented sagebrush habitat, including mule deer, pronghorn, pygmy rabbit, sagebrush sparrow and sage thrasher. And, as recent work demonstrates, they are also places where striking a balance between working lands and wildlife is not only possible, but preferable.

The collaborative work that has galvanized around sagebrush steppe conservation efforts embodies the Refuge Association’s Beyond the Boundaries collaborative conservation vision, and we look forward to continued work with partners on the ground to implement long-term management solutions that ensure healthy and functioning ecosystems for the benefit all sagebrush-dependent species.

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Birding Community E-Bulletin: September 2015 Fri, 11 Sep 2015 07:20:38 +0000

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

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

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

Rarity Focus
Access Matters: Parking Implications
More Birding Ethics
Book Notes: Mount Auburn Cemetery
IBA News: LCFW Clock Ticking
Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and Restore
Looking at the Sage-Grouse Deadline
Tip of the Month: Plan for the Big Sit!
Flying Birds and Putin’s Face





Rarity Focus

There were some outstanding rarities that appeared in August, including species the might normally be our “rarity of the month.” These included Lesser Sand-Plover in Washington, Gray Thrasher in California (see our Access Matters story below), Slate-throated Redstart and multiple Plain-capped Starthroats in Arizona, and a delicious selection of Asiatic birds on the edges of Alaska. However we decided to profile a repeat-appearance of a bird from last year.

It’s not that uncommon to have a rare bird reappear at the same location in consecutive years. This often happens with waterfowl, raptors, shorebirds, long-legged waders, and various other long-lived species.

This is exactly what happened with a rare shorebird that made its original appearance last August in south Texas. On 2 August2014, a Collared Plover was found at the Hargill Playa in Hidalgo County, Texas, just a few miles north-northeast of Edinburg. This individual was only the second record for the U.S., and it remained through the early evening of 17 August. This is a species which normally ranges from southern San Luis Potosi and Tamaulipas, Mexico, to Argentina. View the 2014 report.

This year, a Collared Plover, presumably the same individual, was found in the exact same location on 21 July. (Last year’s parking suggestions, in consideration of local and farming traffic, were repeated again this year.) See photos of the Collared Plover taken by Mary Beth Stowe on 21 July.

Birders who might have missed the plover last year took the opportunity to visit the Hargill site again this year, where the bird obligingly remained through Aug. 30.

There is a rarity lesson to be learned here: When a rare bird – especially a naturally long-lived species – appears at an attractive site and remains for a while, it’s a good idea to recheck the same area the following year. The bird’s reappearance in successive years is not out of the question!





Access Matters: Parking Implications 

The presence of a Gray Thrasher in California was mentioned in the “rarity focus” above. This bird would surely have been the subject of the rarity profile had it not been simply a one-day-wonder, a bird that was seen only one day.

This species, a bird of Baja California, has never been previously observed in the U.S. It was found at Famosa Slough at Point Loma, San Diego, California, by Ter Hurst, John Bruin, and Lisa Ruby on 2 August. This is about 130 miles north of where Gray Thrashers have been recorded in Mexico.

On that day, a number of lucky local birders rushed to the site, and many of them were rewarded with views of the Gray Thrasher. You can view photos of the thrasher by Lisa Ruby here:

and by John Bruin here:

as well as photos and comments by Gary Nunn here:

By the next morning, when birders from as far away as the Bay Area and Tucson showed up at the site, the bird had disappeared. The unsuccessful search continued throughout the day, 3 August.

This Famosa Slough location is a fairly high-density residential area, and birders were asked to use specific parking sites on main streets and at the entry of Famosa Slough, avoiding the local residential streets. Some local parking was limited and, in light of current construction, residents were sometimes left with very little parking that first evening. One birder was reportedly parked in a handicapped spot without any handicapped sticker or license plate.

And, strange as it sounds, multiple neighbors living near the site’s fence line were concerned that birders were looking into their windows. Oversensitive residents notwithstanding, these sorts of delicate situations need to be regularly considered by birders.

Most birders, of course, are courteous and respectful when it comes to parking and try to avoid causing friction with local residents. Unfortunately, however, access issues are always at risk when a rarity event like this shows up.

Access awareness should always be a factor when publicizing a rarity, and for the San Diego area it is not unusual to witness a birding crowd gathering within 30-40 minutes of important birding news being released. Some unfortunate encounters – including parking conflicts – are practically inevitable, but birders should always take this into consideration when a rare bird appears.

The Gray Thrasher episode describes a relatively small problem, but it is nonetheless emblematic of the larger issues of access that birders regularly face and the public impressions left.






More Birding Ethics 

For decades, the American Birding Association (ABA) has promoted an excellent “Code of Birding Ethics.” This code has been improved a number of times, with some very serious changes having been made after June 1996. This major code adjustment was an outgrowth of a discussion held at the Park City, Utah, ABA convention. The discussion was led by the late Blake Maybank, then a member of the ABA Board.

You can access the revised and current “ABA Code of Birding Ethics” here:

Discussions regularly continue about birding behavior afield, as well they should.

The Mindful Birding Project has recently presented a new compilation of ethical birding guidelines for birders and organizations considering new guidelines or updating existing ethical birding standards. The compilation is the result of an extensive search for ethical birding guidelines used by organizations, birding festivals, and nature tour operators from around the world. The compilation is presented here:

The project’s image of a mindful birder is one who is aware of (a) the needs of wildlife; (b) his or her safety and the safety of others nearby; (c) the ways he or she may influence the experiences of others (both birders and non-birders); (d) his or her personal birding experience; and (e) the role he or she can play in advancing bird conservation.

In addition, the Mindful Birding Project is offering awards to birding festivals that demonstrate improved or superior ethical birding guidelines, beginning with festivals occurring in California, Oregon, and Washington.

Of course, projects like this can only help.





Book Notes: Mount Auburn Cemetery

Ludlow Griscom, B.F. Skinner, and Charles Sumner all have in common?

Well, they are all buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery.

Mount Auburn Cemetery, located on the line between Cambridge and Watertown in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, four miles west of Boston, is a “garden” cemetery, full of lush vegetation and classical monuments set in a rolling landscaped terrain. It has an urban birding reputation as a migrant trap, justifiably compared to that of Central Park in Manhattan.

A new book, edited by John Harrison and Kim Nagy, is packed with essays, poems and wildlife photographs concerning Mount Auburn Cemetery. It is titled Dead in Good Company, (2015, Ziggy Owl Press), and it intertwines birdlife with other features of this unique locale.

There are over 35 short essays and half a dozen fine poems in the book. Multiple photo collections – mostly of birds – grace the book’s pages.

While Mount Auburn may be the much-respected resting place for those who have passed on, it is also an inspiring sanctuary of wild things for those of us who are still among the living. Whether or not you have ever visited “Sweet Auburn,” as the place is often called, you may want to track down Dead in Good Company and visit – or re-visit – the place while sitting down and reading.







IBA News: LFCW Clock is Ticking

Congress has until the end of this month to reauthorize the overwhelmingly popular and crucial Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) before it expires. The LWCF has successfully conserved treasured lands across the country, ranging from city parks to large landscapes, including vital bird habitats.

In fact, there are innumerable sites created and sustained through LWCF that are Important Bird Areas (IBAs) across the U.S.

The LWCF, signed into law in 1964, is a visionary idea that has has protected over 5 million acres of federal land and supported over 40,000 on the state side of funding, just to name some highlights. A thoughtful history can be found here:

Since 1977, LWCF has been authorized at $900 million per year, although rarely – only once, actually – has that full amount been appropriated. The importance of LWCF has been described in the E-bulletin many times, and you can see our most recent coverage here, in February:

Companies drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf off our shores pay a portion of their revenues into the fund. The concept was to take the depletion of one of America’s natural resources – oil and gas – to the protection of another – our public lands. The LWCF is sustained by these oil and gas revenues, not by individual taxpayer dollars. The funding is intended to go into a trust to acquire inholdings and expansions of our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other sites, including local parks. According to the National Recreation and Park Association, 98 percent of counties in the United States have had a park or recreation site that was created with LWCF grants.

You can find more details on LWCF here: and more on the importance of the September countdown here:

You can also see how LWCF has been invested in your state here, including vital IBAs, here:

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







Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and Restore

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

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

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

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

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

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





Looking at the Sage-Grouse Deadline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






Tip of the Month: Plan for the Big Sit! 

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

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

You can find rules and submission details here:

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

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






Flying Birds and Putin’s Face

And finally for something on the light side…

A YouTube video, originally posted in mid-August purports to show a flock of flying birds – perhaps European Starlings – forming the face of Russian president Vladimir Putin. The video went viral, viewed by more than 1.6 million viewers, especially in Russia.

The 11-second video appears to show a large flock of these flying birds, a video filmed from an open-top tour bus crossing the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn, New York. Suddenly, the flying birds seem to form a face that has been likened to that of the Russian president’s.

Many viewers thought that it must have been digitally manipulated a clever CGI (computer-generated imagery) hoax. Others were not convinced.

Early on, The Washington Post reported that the video had become a major talking point on Russian social media and on the national TV station Zvezda, “The Star,” owned by the Russian Defense Ministry. See here for a story and a link to the video clip:

Frankly, we think that it can’t possibly be Putin. It must be actor Liam Neeson.




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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Great News for Izembek National Wildlife Refuge! Tue, 08 Sep 2015 21:39:13 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Great news! Today, the National Wildlife Refuge Association learned the U.S. District Court upheld U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell’s decision to not build a gravel road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge (Alaska).

Not only is the road unnecessary, it is also harmful: The road would cut through a federally designated wilderness in the heart of the refuge and destroy this fragile ecosystem. The habitat fragmentation, disturbance and pollution resulting from the construction would cause irreparable harm to hundreds of thousands of Pacific black brant, emperor geese, swans and other migratory birds that rely on this refuge, as well as the caribou, bears, fox and other wildlife that live there.

David Houghton, president of the Refuge Association, stated, “We are heartened that the U.S. District Court recognized the congressionally designated wilderness resources of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge by upholding a decision by Secretary Jewell and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We can now move forward with helping the people of King Cove find a transportation solution that does not include a road through one of the most biologically important places on the planet.”

To learn more about today’s ruling, read the joint press release we issued today with our partners.

Shishaldon Volcano at Izembek National Wildlife Refuge | Credit: Michael Tickle


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Refuge Photo Contest Opens Sept. 15 Tue, 01 Sep 2015 16:18:38 +0000 Birds at SunsetAnnouncing the 2015 Refuge Photo Contest! We invite you to show us your photographs of the habitats, wildlife and people that make our national wildlife refuges such incredible places.

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

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

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

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

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