National Wildlife Refuge Association Home of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) Sat, 20 Sep 2014 14:36:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Delmarva Fox Squirrel Officially Recovered Fri, 19 Sep 2014 16:38:25 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Great news! This morning, Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell and Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe announced at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to delist the Delmarva Fox Squirrel. This is the 52nd species to be delisted from the Endangered Species Act. The species was listed in 1967 due to habitat loss from development and timber harvesting in their native range.

Delmarva Fox Squirrel | Kathy Abend
Delmarva Fox Squirrel | Kathy Abend

“It takes a real village to protect a squirrel,” said Jewell at the announcement, noting the many partners who banded together to help with recovery efforts. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD, and Gov. Martin O’Malley also attended, thanking the community members and private landowners who worked together to protect wildlife and the local forest economy.

These cute fluffy critters were once found throughout the Delmarva Peninsula. Unfortunately, at the time of listing, their range had been reduced to 10% of its original size and only occurred in three counties and a small island in one other county. This was due in large part to habitat loss from development and timber harvesting. The squirrels need mature trees for den sites as well as for a food source: mature trees provide more acorns.

Recovery efforts for this wonderful little creature began in 1945 when the Maryland Department of Natural Resources bought LeCompte Wildlife Management Area in Dorchester County. In 1971, legal hunting of the squirrel was banned. And then after the listing of the species, the Delmarva Peninsula Fox Squirrel Recovery Team began to work with the State on conservation efforts including reintroduction of the species into counties where it was originally found.

Over 10 years later, 11 out of the 16 reintroduced populations are succeeding. The Delmarva Fox Squirrel is primarily found on privately owned land and can thrive in a landscape that is managed for farming and sustainable timber harvest. Uncut corn or soybeans along hedgerows can be left for the squirrel’s winter food provided by the farmers. Developers and timber harvesters also help the squirrel by leaving woodlot trees that produce nuts, seeds, and berries and also provide corridors from one woodlot to another.

Thanks to the wonderful efforts of these private landowners, the state of Maryland, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the population of this squirrel is finally high enough to be taken off the endangered species list since it has been fully recovered.

For more information see these resources:

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Federal Duck Stamp Contest is This Weekend Thu, 18 Sep 2014 14:38:57 +0000

Continue reading »]]> This upcoming weekend, September 19 & 20 is the judging of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV. This event is free and open to the public, so everyone has a chance to see the amazing artwork that has been submitted. The Federal Duck Stamp Contest is the oldest and most prestigious wildlife art competition in the United States.  If you are not able to attend, you can watch the judging online or see the artwork in this flickr gallery.

The very first Duck Stamp was designed by J.N. “Ding” Darling in 1934, although the contest did not begin until 1949. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sponsored stamp-design contest featuring wildlife artists from across the country is the only juried art competition sponsored by the federal government. The winning art is then used on the following year’s stamp.

The winning artwork for the 2014 contest.
The winning artwork for the 2014 contest.

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

The Federal Duck Stamp is one of the most important and most efficient tools for wildlife conservation. Since it’s introduction in 1934, Duck Stamp sales have generated more than $800 million which has been used to purchase or lease over 6 million acres of wetland habitat in the United States.

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

To purchase a Duck Stamp, simply visit your local post office, or purchase one online. They can also be purchased at many national wildlife refuges, sporting goods stores, and outdoors stores.

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Urban Wildlife Refuge Program Highlighted on Capitol Hill Tue, 16 Sep 2014 22:14:55 +0000

Continue reading »]]> This morning, congressional staffers with partners and supporters of the National Wildlife Refuge System joined the Chief of the Refuge System Jim Kurth and Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe for a congressional briefing on the Urban Wildlife Refuge Program. The event highlighted the Service’s program that is aimed at increasing a diverse and engaged conservation constituency.

Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, led the discussion and called the urban program “a new direction for the Fish and Wildlife Service, a bold direction.”

It is estimated that more than 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in urban areas. Unfortunately, many urbanites have never heard of a National Wildlife Refuge, let alone visited one. The Urban Wildlife Refuge Program is working to change this by nurturing new supporters who care about conservation and the beautiful wildlife and land around them.

Senator Cardin | Emily Paciolla
Senator Cardin | Emily Paciolla

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD, spoke at the event, noting his support for the Urban Program because it opens up the world of wildlife and habitat conservation to so many more Americans who are losing their connection to nature. “It starts in our urban centers,” Cardin said. “If the habitat is healthy for wildlife, it’s healthy for us.”

Rep. John Sarbanes, D-MD, also spoke noting a local urban partnership at Masonville Cove outside Baltimore that he said is a model for urban wildlife programs everywhere. By helping the local community reclaim what had turned into an industrial waste site into a wildlife refuge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners have galvanized the community and offered a legacy for the city. “(The urban wildlife program) is going to be a great chapter in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s history,” Sarbanes said.

Wendi Weber, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional director for the Northeast, and Genevieve LaRouche, field director for the Service’s Chesapeake Bay Field Office, spoke about how strong, local relationships between federal, state and local partners in Baltimore led to the Masonville Cove urban partnership; and Chad Brown, CEO of the upscale fly fishing brand Soul River, shared examples of how his company has partnered with the Service in Portland, Ore. and others to connect inner-city youth and veterans with the outdoors. Brown, a veteran who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after serving in the military, said his discovery of fly fishing helped him overcome PTSD and ultimately led him to form the Soul River brand and give something back to the community.

Chief of Refuges, Jim Kurth | Christine McGowan
Chief of Refuges, Jim Kurth | Christine McGowan

Unlike other refuge programs, the Urban Wildlife Refuge Program meets people where they are, in the cities and suburbs, and helps make connections between their interests and the nearby landscapes the Refuge System protects. The heart of the program is to engage urban neighbors to foster a sense of stewardship and appreciation for conservation.

“We have to make conservation relevant to a changing America,” said Jim Kurth, Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The program kicked off last month when Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex was the first recipient of $1 million in new urban program funding. The SoCal Urban Wildlife Refuge Project incorporates outdoor learning, service and stewardship of natural habitats, and conservation-based projects for youth and young adults from diverse communities. It encompasses activities not only at the San Diego NWR Complex but also to the north at Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, a new Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership called Condor Kids, and in Los Angeles under the auspices of the L.A. River Rover Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership. Ten exceptional programs have been incorporated into the SoCal Project that will complement and expand current outreach and education programs on the refuges.

The Urban Wildlife Refuge Program also includes new Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships. These partnerships are long-term, place-based partnerships that enable the Service to reach beyond refuge boundaries and engage urban communities in conservation on lands owned or managed by local non-profits, municipalities, or community groups, within easy access for residents.

To learn more about these incredible partnerships, click here, and watch a video about them here:

Highlighted at the event, the Urban Wildlife Refuge Program will indeed breed a new generation of conservation enthusiasts and Refuge System supporters.

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Bob and Sharon Waldrop Receive Refuge Volunteers of the Year Award Thu, 11 Sep 2014 19:25:33 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Bob and Sharon Waldrop spent years volunteering for Southeast Louisiana refuges. In fact, between them they have contributed more than 32,693 volunteer hours and counting to the National Wildlife Refuge System. If you do the math that is 16 years of 40 hour workweeks!

David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, presenting the Waldrops with their Refuge Volunteers of the Year Award | Pon Dixson
David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, presenting the excited Waldrops with their Refuge Volunteers of the Year Award | Pon Dixson

Today, the Waldrops were honored at a lunch at the Southeast Louisiana Refuge Complex Headquarters, where they received their 2014 Refuge Volunteers of the Year Award from the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

About 60 people attended the lunch in their honor, including friends from around Louisiana, and family from Wisconsin. The Waldrops recently bought a house and moved permanently to Wisconsin.

“It means a lot for us to be able to give you this award for all you’ve done for the Refuge System,” said David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. The Waldrops have volunteered in Louisiana and at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in Carbondale, Ill.

Ken Litzenberger, who was their volunteer supervisor for many years, spoke fondly about the Waldrops.

“They are like family,” said Litzenberger, who was their supervisor. He recently retired from the Service.

Jim Kurth, Chief of the Refuge System, said the nomination of Bob and Sharon, filled with photos and details of their years of service, was a “remarkable tribute” to the couple.

And Shaun Sanchez, Deputy Chief for the Southeast Region, said they represent the kind of men and women who become family to Refuge System staff who transfer in and out of local refuges.

“We are family,” said Bob Waldrop after receiving the award. “We’d do it all again.”

Bob and Sharon began volunteering for the Refuge System in 2003 at Crab Orchard. In 2005, they began volunteering at the Southeast Louisiana Refuges Complex. As RV volunteers (seasonal volunteers that typically stay on the refuge in their RVs), they spent their summers up North and their winters in the Southeast Region.

Left to right: Shaun Sanchez, Deputy Refuge Chief for the Southeast; Jim Kurth, Chief of the Refuge System; David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, Sharon Waldrop, Bob Waldrop, Ken Litzenberger, former project leader; David Stoughton, supervisory park ranger. | Pon Dixson
Left to right: Shaun Sanchez, Deputy Refuge Chief for the Southeast; Jim Kurth, Chief of the Refuge System; David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, Sharon Waldrop, Bob Waldrop, Ken Litzenberger, former project leader; David Stoughton, supervisory park ranger. | Pon Dixson

To describe these two RV volunteers as “hands-on” is a big understatement.

After Hurricane Katrina, they spent eight months helping get the Louisiana refuges back up and running, clearing trees from roads, running new water and electric lines that had been damaged, hard-wiring the generator so that the refuge staff and others could operate with power, and ensuring the volunteer campground was up and functioning.

In 2010, when the BP oil spill struck, they again traveled down to the refuge complex, offering to help with any tasks that needed doing so the staff could focus on the unfolding disaster.

Among other volunteer activities they used their electrical and carpentry skills to help convert an aged and vacant chapel into a thriving new visitor center. They re-wired the 7,400 square-foot building, removed and replaced old flooring, repaired a movie theater and other electronic displays – and the list goes on!

The time and money that the Waldrops have saved the Refuge System with their volunteerism is truly priceless, but their efforts go beyond their own handy-work. They’ve mentored and trained 160+ interns along the way.

Bob and Sharon have demonstrated such commitment and dedication to the refuges where they’ve worked, and became an inspiration to everyone with whom they worked.

The Waldrops truly went above and beyond, and the Refuge Association is honored to give them this prestigious award.


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Do’s and Don’ts for Friends During Election Season Wed, 10 Sep 2014 14:43:06 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Fall is a very exciting time for refuges. With festivals, Refuge Week celebrations, and so much more, it is a great time to ask your elected officials to visit. Friends CAN and SHOULD invite elected officials to these events – it’s a wonderful way for them to show their support for their local refuge! However, with it being an election year, Friends need to be careful to make sure they are following all the rules.  Below you will find the Do’s and Don’ts for inviting elected officials to your refuge during an election season. We are using U.S. Representatives and Senators as examples, but if you live in a state where state and local elections are also occurring, the same rules will apply.


  • Inform your sitting elected official that you are a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization: In the invitation, be sure to specify that your 501(c)(3) status prohibits your organization from endorsing or supporting any political candidate or party and as such, you would appreciate that they speak as your elected official and refrain from mentioning the election or their candidacy.
  • Provide a short disclaimer at your event: If your elected officials attend your event and speak, give a short disclaimer when you introduce them such as, “We are the Friends of Blue Goose National Wildlife Refuge. As a nonprofit organization that works to promote and protect Blue Goose, we cannot and do not endorse or support any political candidate or party.  We welcome Senator XXX to our refuge and our community as our elected official.”  or some variation of that… This should be said before each speaker who is an elected official. For instance, you may have a U.S. Senator, a U.S. Representative AND a state Senator.  They can also be running for re-election but in this case, they are attending your event in an official capacity, not as a candidate.
  • Provide equality (speaking time, audience, day, etc.) if you invite candidates who are not currently serving as elected officials: In some cases, you may be asked by a candidate for office if they can speak at your event or you may wish to invite candidates running for office to attend and speak at your event.  This is legal and appropriate if you follow a simple rule.  If you invite ONE candidate, ALL viable candidates must be invited and if they accept, they must be given equality: equal time to speak, the same crowd on the same day, etc. As with an elected official, use a short disclaimer when you introduce each candidate. (a candidate may also be a sitting elected official)


  • Don’t forget to invite all “viable” candidates: If your Friends group decides to invite a candidate running for office then you need to invite all other “viable” candidates. The term “viable” can be tricky; for instance, it doesn’t have to be everyone running for a seat, but a candidate needs to have a certain level of viability.  For instance, it could be a certain amount of money raised, or a certain amount of signatures garnered to get them on the ballot. If you have questions concerning which candidates are “viable” feel free to contact Desiree Sorenson-Groves at or Joan Patterson at
  • On the other hand.. If you do invite a current Congressman or Senator, you do not need to invite all other viable candidates because you are inviting them to your event for them to essentially do their job.


It is vitally important to get elected officials out to refuges to understand the wonderful work going on and how refuge Friends volunteers and Service volunteers are contributing valuable time and expertise that amplify federal taxpayer dollars.  And, importantly, these are your rights as non-profit, 501c3 organizations under the IRS tax code! The only thing you can’t do per the Service’s new Friends Policy is lobby your elected officials on Service property – but that doesn’t mean you can’t educate and inform them about issues when they are on the refuge – you just can’t ask them to take action.  And you can certainly lobby them when you are off refuge.
If you have further questions, please email Desiree Sorenson-Groves at or Joan Patterson at

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McCain Receives Refuge Employee of the Year Award at St. Marks Luncheon Tue, 09 Sep 2014 18:44:29 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Today was a special day for Kenny McCain, the recently-retired federal wildlife officer for Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges. Dozens of his friends, family and co-workers got together for a low country boil at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge to watch him receive the 2014 Refuge Employee of the Year Award from the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

From left to right: Refuge Employee of the Year, Kenny McCain; Chief of the Refuge System, Jim Kurth; President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, David Houghton | Christine McGowan
From left to right: Refuge Employee of the Year, Kenny McCain; Chief of the Refuge System, Jim Kurth; President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, David Houghton | Christine McGowan

McCain served the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for nearly 25 years doing law enforcement. As the lone law enforcement officer covering 60,000 acres every week, he managed to keep infractions to a minimum, and build positive relationships with thousands of visitors.

“He’s been an amazing example to us all,” said Refuge Manager at Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges,  Andrew Gude.

Jim Kurth, Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, was on hand to help celebrate McCain. He noted this is the first time a federal wildlife officer has received the Refuge Employee of the Year Award.

David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, handed McCain his award, thanking him on behalf of the Refuge Association and the Refuge System.

Among the highlights that won McCain his award:

  • He saved a motorist’s life when he was first on an accident scene adjacent to the refuge and administered first aid to a seriously injured occupant until paramedics arrived;
  • He saved a party of five boaters whose boat capsized in stormy waters in the Gulf of Mexico five miles southwest of Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge; the Coast Guard delayed its mission due to the storm, but McCain – an expert waterman – braved the weather and found the victims, bringing them safely to shore;
  • He saved six air boaters who capsized in the Gulf near Derick Key, again due to storms. McCain’s knowledge of the area enabled him to find the boaters and bring them to safety;
  • Mentored and lead efforts to train law enforcement officers;
  • Caught poachers;
  • Saved the government more than $600,000 by repairing deteriorating infrastructure.

Gude said it was impossible to sum up all of the incredible contributions McCain has made to the Refuge System.

But his friends and colleagues at today’s lunch made it clear that they know and appreciate his commitment and passion for wildlife.

The Refuge Association is honored to give Kenny McCain our 2014 Refuge Employee of the Year Award.

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Tiger Stamp is on its Way Back! Tue, 09 Sep 2014 14:15:30 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Carrah Lingo is the Communications Associate for the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition

On Monday, September 8th 2014 Congress kept the Save Vanishing Species Stamp alive! After a brief halt with the stamp last Fall, Senate bill S.231 passed through the House of Representatives. The bill has been placed on the President’s desk and will be signed into law at any moment!

int_stamp_300x300Since its induction in 2011, the Save Vanishing Species Stamp has raised over $2.5 million towards conservation efforts to help save tigers, African and Asian elephants, rhinos, great apes, and marine turtles. The stamp sells for 55 cents a piece, with 9 cents going towards the Multinational Conservation Species Fund that saves these animals.

Money raised by the stamp has gone to grants that have supported conservation efforts in over 30 countries through 47 different projects! These efforts include on-the-ground hiring and training of anti-poaching units, educating communities on wildlife crime prevention, and more. With less than 3,200 tigers remaining in the wild today, programs like this give us hope for the future of our mascot. The National Tigers for Tigers Coalition has worked this past year to push for reauthorization of the stamp, and because of your support even more projects will be implemented to save the tiger from extinction. We need your help to #SaveourMascot now more than ever. If you’d like to keep up with what we are doing be sure to LIKE us on Facebook here and FOLLOW us on Twitter here.  A huge thank you to everyone who helped to make this happen! Go Tigers!

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Refuges Implement New Tool to Become More Energy Efficient Fri, 05 Sep 2014 15:22:13 +0000

Continue reading »]]> The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service is taking some clear steps to aid in the reduction of greenhouse gases with a new software that makes it easier for managers, staff, and visitors at refuges to be more energy efficient. The Climate Leadership in Refuges (CLIR) tool allows individual refuges to gauge greenhouse gas emissions and comprehensively assess the carbon footprints of facilities, vehicles, workforce, and operations. The idea is that these measurements will enable refuges to truly assess their emissions and work to lower them.

The CLIR (Climate Leadership in Refuges) tool is designed to help any U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field station understand its greenhouse gas emissions and the sources. | USFWS
The CLIR (Climate Leadership in Refuges) tool is designed to help any U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field station understand its greenhouse gas emissions and the sources. | USFWS

The measurements from this tool will show refuge managers and other staff where inefficiencies are so they can be directly mitigated. In addition, refuge staff will be able to determine exactly where to invest in more efficient power sources such as solar, to reduce emissions even further. Even if refuge employees already have an idea of what systems may be inefficient, this tool will show them exactly what the emissions levels are.

The staff at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine is already getting started. Having invested in three hybrid vehicles and several alternate-fuel vehicles, switched to green fluorescent lighting, installed insulation and double paned windows, Refuge Manager Ward Feurt is trying to stay ahead of the curve. This new tool will help him achieve even more emissions reductions and show him how successful the current investments already are.

Currently, the tool targets 80 refuges participating in the pilot program. These refuges were selected as a result of their participation in the Service’s 2010- 2012 Visitor Survey Information Tool (VISIT) project. The VISIT project produced data about how and how far visitors were traveling to, from, and within the participating refuges and also other visitor calculations that will pre-populate the CLIR program.

CLIR allows a user to calculate how changes in employee vehicle fleet consumption (miles per gallon; gasoline, diesel, biodiesel), facilities energy consumption (electricity, fuel oil, natural gas, propane), and visitor transportation (personal vehicle, group bus, on-refuge tram) would affect a refuge’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The tool will make it much easier to see trend lines and determine exactly where extra steps are needed. Users have stated that it is user friendly, making the process even easier.

This is a great step in the right direction to get make refuges even more sustainable.


Click here to read the full story in Refuge Update.


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The Birding Community E-Bulletin September Thu, 04 Sep 2014 15:54:07 +0000

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

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

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



On 2 August, Dan Jones, a Lower Rio Grande Valley birder, visited the Hargill Playa in Hidalgo County, Texas, located a few miles north-northeast of Edinburg. The idea was to scope out sandpipers and other birds, a few which might be significant for Hidalgo County. Jones was surprised to find what at first appeared to be a Wilson’s Plover, except that it looked odd: the bill seemed too narrow, it had a white forehead, and a black band ran across the head, extending from eye to eye. He had suspicions that the bird might be something else, took some photos, and then returned home to compare them with online photos.

His suspicions were correct. The bird was a Collared Plover, a shorebird which normally ranges from southern San Luis Potosi and Tamaulipas, Mexico,  to Argentina. This individual would be only the second record for the U.S. The only other record for this species was one seen at the Uvalde National Fish Hatchery in Texas, 9-12 May 1992. Since the 1990s, birders have been expecting another Collared Plover to appear in the United States, and birders, particularly on the Texas coast, have been on the alert.

However, the Hargill bird was found inland, as was the first Uvalde bird, about 90 miles southwest of San Antonio. Since the species does appear at elevations up to 5,000 feet in interior Mexico, these inland sightings are not totally surprising.

The Collared Plover at Hargill Playa remained through the early evening of 17 August. Through that period, it was found almost daily despite the fact that it was tough to locate in midday under the hot Texas sun.

For a few days, the favored access point for the site was restricted because a local farmer needed to reach nearby cotton fields for spraying. Birders were kindly asked to park on nearby pavement and walk in on a one-lane dirt road a few hundred yards to the preferred viewing site.

Many birders, from elsewhere in Texas and beyond came to view this rare plover.

For a description of the bird’s discovery and some of the original photos taken by Dan Jones, see here:


Yes, WWMD….  An op-ed appeared in The New York Times on the last weekend of August, an op-ed written by John Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The title was “Saving our Birds,” and Fitzpatrick asked readers to imagine what “Martha,” the last of the Passenger Pigeons, might ask of us: “Have you learned anything from my passing?”

Emphasizing the argument that timely conservation really does work, that it pays off, Fitzpatrick covered recent bird-conservation successes, current threats, the value of the Endangered Species Act, and the message that Martha may import: redoubling efforts in protecting what remains of nature’s abundance.

You can read the thoughtful article here:


By now, one might think that everything has already been said concerning the second edition of The Sibley Guide to Birds (2014, Knopf). Since it’s been months since the book’s release, recounting the oft-mentioned kudos and potential criticisms of the book would simply be repetitive at this date.

Nonetheless, there are a few things that warrant highlighting about David Sibley’s latest contribution.

For example, the book includes about 600 new illustrations including about100 new and much-appreciated illustrations of rarities that were not included in the first edition.  There is also a nice assortment of illustrations of exotic species, too. The total number of illustrations comes to 930 species. Additionally the illustrations are 15-20% larger than they were in the first edition. This increase in size is most welcome. Anyone thumbing through this beautiful book will undoubtedly have favorites, and there will probably be many of them.

Having touched on the subject of book size, on the positive side of the ledger it’s good to know that the page-count for this edition is only 80 pages greater than in the first edition, a surprisingly economic increase, given the material packed between the covers. So, if you didn’t have a problem with the size and heft of the first edition, the new edition won’t weigh you down. The actual weight difference is only about 5 ounces. On the negative side, the print in the new edition is painfully small and fine, especially for some readers with older eyes.

This is unfortunate, because one of the biggest improvements in the new Sibley book has to do with the text. While readers have come to expect excellent artwork from this talented artist, in this case the text improvements have increased significantly. There is considerably more useful text pertaining to ID elements, similar species, abundance, and habitat. An expanded introduction in this edition will also be appreciated. And even the improvements in the informative sidebars are noteworthy.  It’s just a shame that the font size and shade of the type isn’t a little darker!

Oh, yes, and if you’re interested, there’s a handy six-page checklist at the end of the book.  In short, if you haven’t already rushed to get this book, you have time to catch up now.


The situation concerning population losses for Tricolored Blackbirds in California was covered in the July E-bulletin:

Drought in California has exacerbated these population concerns, and California must now address a possible emergency listing of the Tricolored Blackbird on its own state endangered species list.

Under the California Endangered Species Act, the California Fish and Game Commission can list a species when it is an imminent danger, or there is an emergency. If approved, such a species listing would apply for six months, after which time the listing could be renewed for another six months if necessary.

At its 6 August meeting, the commission decided not to take emergency action; however, the issue will almost surely come up for consideration again


Two endangered Puerto Rican parrots were recently hatched for the first time in 144 years in a natural nest found outside El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico. A number of these rare parrots hatched in the wild in western Puerto Rico, reaching a high this year of 16 birds, with two of those at the natural nest and the remainder in artificial nests placed in the wild. In addition, there were 46 parrots born in captivity this year at the Rio Abajo Nature Preserve compared with 51 last year.

Perhaps more than a million Puerto Rican parrots were once thought to exist in the 1800s, but the population plummeted to a paltry 13 birds in the wild by 1975. This followed decades of forest clearing to plant citrus, coffee, and sugar cane. Fortunately, parrot numbers have since rebounded, with 409 parrots existing in captivity and an estimated 75 to 142 now living in the wild.

According to the island’s Natural Resources Secretary, Carmen Guerrero, “scientists discovered the [recent] nest in May near the Rio Abajo Nature Preserve in western Puerto Rico and monitored it with cameras until they saw the parrots take flight in late July.”

Puerto Rican authorities are now working alongside U.S. officials to build a third breeding center in the western Puerto Rican town of Maricao, with plans to release 20 to 25 parrots by December 2015. Cynthia Doher, with the USFWS, said that “the aim is to have a self-sufficient parrot population that does not require human intervention.”

More details from an AP story can be found here:


Parking while one is birding should be relatively simple. Obey the posted regulations and stick to the recommended procedures when visiting a heavily birded site.

Attempting to view a rarity visiting a backyard feeder is a case in point. In a heavily-trafficked area, birders may be asked to park a few blocks away, avoid blocking a driveway, park on one side of the road only, or park only in a designated zone.  These are common sense courtesies.

But in the story about the Collared Plover in South Texas described above the birding area was not suburban; it was rural.

Birders were asked to park their vehicles “on the pavement” at the closest intersection to the Hargill Playa, and only accessible by a one-lane dirt road. It was about a 300-yard walk to the viewing site, and the narrow dirt road leading to the playa had to be kept open for access to nearby cotton fields by farm trucks and field equipment.

Most birders at Hargill were very good about following the directions. But unfortunately a few birders – often visiting at odd hours or when other birders were not around – somehow felt the access instructions did not apply to them, or else they misunderstood. These birders simply drove down the dirt road and parked immediately next to the access site. This was not a good idea. Admittedly some birders may not have received word of the visiting protocol at that site, but in future such situations every effort should be made to adhere to whatever guidelines have been established to regulate birder crowd control.

Regardless, the next time a rarity shows up at a site where birders openly flout parking directions, local residents may not be at all welcoming, and may ultimately make access very difficult. This is a serious issue to consider, since birding access really matters to all of us.


The battle over off-road vehicle (ORV) use at Hatteras National Seashore (National Park Service) has gone on for years. The issue has to do with the potential risks to nesting birds and sea turtles along 67 miles of ocean beach. We previously covered this issue in the January 2010 E-bulletin:

In February 2012, the National Park Service implemented a hotly contested new plan limiting ORV access at certain locations and at certain times. This plan was challenged by a group of ORV enthusiasts hoping to recover their beach use. The issue was in court for two years. Currently the regulations limiting ORV access to the beach will remain in place, following a June ruling by the Eastern District Court of North Carolina.

ORV access at Hatteras often changes frequently during the breeding season of protected birds and sea turtles. But as we indicated in 2010, “this is not a matter of being ‘anti-ORV use,’ but rather ‘appropriate-ORV use.'”

To view a summary of the seashore options, the permit process, and an accompanying map here:

The area in question is a “globally significant” Important Bird Area (IBA), particularly for nesting Piping Plovers, Least Terns, and American Oystercatchers, as well as other shorebirds and waterbirds.

Although this year’s nesting season is over, off-road vehicle advocates have stated that they will continue to fight the ruling. Audubon North Carolina has previously estimated that only two percent of the seashore’s many visitors drive ORVs, so meaningful public support for this position may not be an issue.

For information on the Cape Hatteras IBA, see here:

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


By January 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency will ban the use of neonicotinoids, often called “neonics,” at National Wildlife Refuges across the country. Neonics are widely used nerve insecticides that an increasing number of scientific studies have shown are harmful to bees, but also to birds, mammals, and fish. Most often, agricultural seeds are coated with the neonics, which spread the toxins throughout the plant as the plant grows. More importantly, recent studies have raised concerns over the impact of neonics on birds and on aquatic systems.

Neonicotinoids currently account for 40 percent of the global pesticide market and are used to treat most of the corn and soybean crops in the U.S. Ironically, these nicotine-like chemicals were introduced in the 1990s in response to health concerns linked to older pesticides.

In the announcement concerning the phase-out of neonics on refuges, the chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, Jim Kurth, wrote, “We have determined that prophylactic use, such as a seed treatment, of the neonicotinoid pesticides that can distribute systemically in a plant and can affect a broad spectrum of non-target species is not consistent with Service policy.”

In the same USFWS memo by Kurth, the Service announced that it will also begin to phase out the use of genetically modified crops to feed wildlife on refuges.

You can read the full memo here:

And access a summary here at the National Wildlife Refuge Association:


Until 31 July, an eagle “take” permit had never been issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to a project in any industry. But after the nearly five years since ”take” permits went into effect, to allow for the accidental harm or killing of eagles in the process of regular business, a permit was issued to a wind-power project in northern California.

Under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, eagle take permits can have a maximum term of five years, but in late 2013 the USFWS extended the maximum term to 30 years, which, corresponds to the operational life of most wind projects. This 30-year extension which supports a wind industry desiring a degree of certainty for its  investments, not surprisingly generated opposition from several organizations, some which had even supported the five-year term.

With the previous rule, adopted in 2009, the USFWS had defended the five-year permitting process, stating at the time that a permit of any longer duration “would be incompatible with the preservation of the Bald or Golden Eagle.” Accordingly, the increase to 30 years did not appear to be supported by any newly available information and came as a surprise to many.

The American Bird Conservancy has even filed suit in federal court in June, claiming that the 30-year policy is in violation with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. You can find details here:

Among the arguments made in defense of a shorter permitting period is the one that many factors impacting eagles and their populations (e.g., habitat loss, prey abundance, wildfires, and climate change) will surely change over a 30-year period, and the ability to plan for such changes will now become potentially more limited.

Defenders of the 30-year extension say that these newly revised permits will still require a review of the projects every five years, and that the projects may be required to undertake additional conservation measures.

Still, there is no legal mandate to comply with the eagle guidance, and not all wind-power projects will need to obtain an eagle-take permit. Realistically however, the USFWS will likely start to issue more eagle take permits for proposed and operating wind-power projects, and an increasing number of applications will also likely be submitted in the future.

The question arises: Can wind, solar, bio-fuel, and other renewable energy sources be encouraged without putting birds, bats, and related habitats at risk? The answer should be yes, but the ways to reach those goals – including the eagle issue – are fraught with many detours and pitfalls. Given the pending review and legal challenges, it is unclear how the eagle permitting process may evolve over the next few years, and how much-needed comprehensive “smart energy” approaches will result.

Finally, for those interested, the public comment period for the issue of 30-year take permits is open through 22 September:!docketDetail;D=FWS-R9-MB-2011-0094


In this month’s “Book Notes,” we mentioned that the second edition of the new Sibley guide has a multi-page bird-species checklist in the back of the book. This is a nice feature that harkens back at least to the early Roger Tory Peterson guides. This element gives the owner/user the opportunity to check off new species when they are seen.

There are other novel ways to personalize bird field guides, regardless of the title. Some field guide users color-highlight the species they have seen, others slip in a date or location, and still others underline or otherwise emphasize one or another field mark in the text. Individually drawn arrows have also been used to enhance the illustrations.

Stickers, Duck Stamps, and, most importantly perhaps, the owner’s name, phone number, and e-mail address is often inserted into  the front inside cover of a field guide – a  smart move should the valued personalized guide ever be lost in the field.

The opportunities to personalize your field guide are practically endless. Remember, a field guide is for use “in the field,” and is not intended to be kept in a pristine, pure, and unaltered state. If you want to have a field guide in that ideal condition, buy a duplicate copy just for home use!


In April, we reviewed the significance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and its importance to birds, bird habitat, and Important Bird Areas (IBAs):

This month marks the 50 anniversary of the LWCF, passed by Congress with vigorous bipartisan support and signed by Lyndon Johnson  in early September, 1964. Now is a good time to remember that the LWCF is based on a simple and sound concept: to use the revenues from the depletion of one natural resource – offshore oil and gas – to support the conservation of another precious resource – land and water.

Congress put a $900 million annual cap on the fund, designed to be distributed to state as well as federal agencies to support projects for wildlife habitat conservation. As summarized by a blog by Bob Marshall for Field & Stream in late July, the LWCF celebrates turning 50 by being underfunded for the 48th time:

In the process of Congress shamelessly underfunding wildlife, birds, and wild places for 48 of the last 50 years, the “stateside” portion of LWCF has been practically forgotten – or else been abused – with very little funding whatsoever coming its way, year after year. (There is now a total of over $18 billion of unmet needs accumulated at the stateside level.)

Moreover, the LWCF expires in exactly one year, September 2015. It must be renewed to be continued.

You can find out more about the past 50 years of LWCF accomplishments – and corresponding unmet needs – here:

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

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

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

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

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

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50th Anniversary of Landmark Conservation Statutes Wed, 03 Sep 2014 19:54:34 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the passing of two landmark conservation statutes: the Wilderness Act and the law establishing the Land and Water Conservation Fund. To celebrate this momentous occasion, the Friends of Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge have hosted an event on the first ever refuge to be designated as wilderness: Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, accompanied by Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dan Ashe were both in attendance to show their full support of such important pieces of legislation.

Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service speaking about the Wilderness Act at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge | Desiree Sorenson-Groves
Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe speaking about the Wilderness Act at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge | Desiree Sorenson-Groves

During the event at Great Swamp, Jewell described the Wilderness Act as “critical for our future.”

Ashe added how important wilderness is for the American people. “We use wilderness to rejuvenate our spirit; it is is integral to the fabric of who we are as Americans.”

Jewell also talked about the value of the Land and Water Conservation Act.

“A visionary congress passed the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” Jewell said, noting that $16 billion has been invested, but more is needed. She called on the current Congress to reauthorize the bill.

Click here to view a video of the event.

Highlighted in the July Flyer E-Newsletter, Great Swamp almost became an airport. In the late 1950s, an effort to build a new metropolitan airport to serve New York and New Jersey was met with fierce opposition by local residents who banded together to create the Great Swamp Committee. They raised enough money to purchase 2,600 acres that would have been developed. Instead, they turned it over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to manage as a wildlife refuge. Today, the visitor’s center is named after the founder of the Great Swamp Committee, Helen Fenske.

In 1968, more than 3,000 acres of the refuge was designated wilderness – the first such designation of any public land by the Department of Interior. The area is open to the public, offering a rare wilderness experience in an area surrounded by major metropolitan cities. Just 26 miles from Times Square in New York City, it is a true Urban Refuge. It is the perfect place to host an event celebrating the Wilderness Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.


The Wilderness Act

The Wilderness Act, signed into law by President  Lyndon B. Johnson on September 3, 1964, is a designation only Congress can bestow and is the

Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, helping with a restoration project at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge after speaking | Desiree Sorenson-Groves
After her speaking duties were complete, Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, worked up a sweat while helping with a work project using a hand saw. Only hand tools are allowed on Wilderness making projects very labor intensive. | Desiree Sorenson-Groves

highest level of conservation protection in the United States.  It is arguably the highest level of protection to wild lands and waters in the world.  A truly eloquent piece of legislation (you don’t hear that often) the Act reflects some of our nation’s deepest values: patriotism, democracy and a shared conservation ethic for future generations.

“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

In the 1950s, The Wilderness Society (TWS) identified a real need to protect more of America’s natural areas. In 1956, their concerns were translated into a bill written largely by then TWS Executive Director, Howard Zanhister, a long time proponent of wilderness who began his career at the U.S. Biological Survey, the precursor to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. On September 3, 1954, President Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law establishing a National Wilderness Preservation System; at the time including 9.1 million acres of wilderness areas. Currently, there are over 700 wilderness areas covering over 109 million acres of federally owned land- almost 20% of which are part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. For the full history, click here.

The Refuge System has 75 wilderness areas on 63 refuges in 26 states – more than 20 million acres of the System’s 150 million acres are designated wilderness.

Fun facts about Wilderness and the Refuge System:

To celebrate this momentous occasion, there are events happening all over the country. The 50th Anniversary Planning Team has put together a map to easily find events happening near you.

To see a map of where refuge wilderness areas are throughout the nation, visit:


The Land and Water Conservation Fund – Another Important Anniversary

“When people look at Congress and what they do and some did not do the right thing with congressional earmarks this is one that is something that you can look at and be proud of,” Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ).


Kathy Woodward, Board Member of the Refuge Association and Friends of Great Swamp (center) poses with Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) (left) and Congressman Leonard Lance (R-NJ) (right) | Desiree Sorenson-Groves
Kathy Woodward, Board Member of the Refuge Association and Friends of Great Swamp (center) poses with Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) (left) and Congressman Leonard Lance (R-NJ) (right) | Desiree Sorenson-Groves

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was also established in 1964 to conserve America’s natural and cultural heritage and is dedicated to the continued conservation of our iconic wildlife refuges, national parks, wilderness, Civil War battlefields, and important historical sites. LWCF funds also assist in developing state and local parks, working forests, connecting urban youth to nature, providing hunting and angling access, helping to protect threatened and endangered species, and protecting water quality and drinking water.

LWCF is funded through off-shore gas royalties which doesn’t cost the taxpayer a dime; yet Congress has rarely funded the program at it’s authorized level of $900 million. This year, we are hoping it will be funded at $300 million.

LWCF is an essential tool for protecting the integrity of the Refuge System. It is the primary source of funding for land and conservation easement acquisition by federal land agencies. These easements are increasingly being used to conserve working lands to secure conservation protection while leaving the land in private ownership and on the tax rolls. These easements foster public-private partnerships  with ranchers and timber owners to conserve wildlife, habitat, and a way of life that is uniquely American.

In addition, easements can be used to protect additional tracts of critical habitat. By acquiring critical habitat areas, the Refuge System enhances the overall integrity of the System and in some instances links conserved lands to further strengthen our network of habitat to give wildlife space and time to respond to changes, whether from climate or changing land use patterns.

For more information about LWCF, click here.

Check out some of the tweets from this historic anniversary:


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