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Local news from the Friends of ENWR plus articles from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

August 2016

French Creek Cleanup 2016

We are looking for volunteers to make up our team for the 24th  French Creek Cleanup Saturday, September 10, 2016.  We will be meeting at the Refuge Headquarters Building at 9 AM. Call to register for our group, Friends of the Erie Wildlife Refuge, at 814-789-3585.

The Cleanup is sponsored by the French Creek Valley Conservancy. The Weigh-In will be held at the Cochranton Community Fairgrounds. Trash collected must be weighed in by 4pm to be considered for prizes.  Cash prizes will be awarded for different groups for the most trash brought in.  Prizes will also be awarded for the most unusual trash collected, most trash brought in by size of team, and the Traveling Hellbender Trophy will once again go to the corporate team that brings in the most trash.

Also held at the Fairgrounds will be a free picnic starting at noon with food provided by Malady's Meat Market in Meadville, music by Salmon Frank, games, door prizes and a Chinese Auction.

The 565th National Wildlife Refuge

Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area was formally established on May 25 with acceptance of a 66-acre donation from the nonprofit Friends of the Kankakee. The refuge is in the Kankakee River basin of Iroquois County, IL,

The Kankakee River Basin has the biological foundation necessary for a highly significant contribution to the conservation of fish and wildlife resources. National wildlife refuges not only sustain and enhance natural resources, but they can also add to communities’ economic vitality and quality of life.

The acquisition of the 66-acre tract in Iroquois County was funded, in part, by the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, which works to improve energy efficiency, advance the development and use of renewable energy resources, and protect natural areas and wildlife habitat in communities across Illinois.

As part of the foundation’s commitment to working closely with the community, it has joined nine other organizations to begin creating a sustainability plan in the Hopkins Park/Pembroke Township area in Kankakee County. This plan allows local residents and organizations to collaborate and shape the future of conservation.

Learn more about Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge:  http://www.fws.gov/refuge/kankakee/


Four New Urban Partnerships Help Americans Gain Access to Health Benefits of Nature

In an increasingly urbanized country, new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnerships in four cities will connect residents with nature. The partnerships are part of the Service’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program.

Bloomington, MN; Cincinnati, OH; Elizabeth, NJ; and West Palm Beach, FL, join 17 other cities with Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships. These partnerships work to provide residents of demographically diverse cities with fresh opportunities to get outdoors and experience nature. The partnerships encourage and nurture an appreciation of wildlife conservation.

One other city – Springfield, MA – has been designated an Urban Bird Treaty city, joining 26 other such partnerships. The Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds works with cities and partners to conserve migratory birds through education, citizen science and conservation action. The new partnerships were made possible by 2016 Five Star grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which generated more than $2 million in direct contributions and matching funds from local partners.

The four new Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships’ focus areas are:

  • Bloomington, MN: Canoemobile: Discovering our Urban Wildlife Refuges: The Wilderness Inquiry, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Minneapolis and Saint Paul public schools, Saint Paul Right Track and other partners will showcase the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge as a community asset for 1,200 urban youth and their families through place-based education and recreation activities and restoration of 15-acres along the Minnesota River.
  • Cincinnati, OH/Seymour, Indiana: Mill Creek Healthy People/Healthy River Program: This project will help restore and regenerate 17 acres of wildlife habitat and wetlands in Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in Indiana and in multiple sites within the Mill Creek riverine-riparian corridor in Cincinnati, Ohio. It will also engage at least 960 participants, including 860 middle and high school students and 100 adult volunteers from Mill Creek neighborhoods and diverse organizations.
  • Elizabeth, NJ: Greenway Renewal Along Elizabeth's Urban Waters: Groundwork Elizabeth will partner with the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge to foster a productive and mutually-beneficial relationship through two river restoration projects in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The project will engage youth from underserved communities in environmental projects that build stewardship around and improve access to amenities along the Elizabeth River and Travers Branch for communities around them.
  • West Palm Beach, FL: Apple Snail Adoption Program (ASAP) - Teaching Youth About the Effect of Invasives On Natural Ecosystems: Florida Atlantic University Pine Jog will implement ASAP with at least 500 students in South Florida. The program will focus on propagating and restoring native Florida Apple Snail populations and the removal of invasive exotic snails in two locations: the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and the Grassy Waters Everglades Preserve.
The new Urban Bird Treaty city focus area is:
  • Springfield, MA: This project will engage Springfield residents in citizen-science and stewardship-related activities to increase their knowledge and appreciation of bird conservation issues through the Sustainable Springfield Urban Refuge Partnership. Restoration and habitat improvements for resident and migratory birds will span the metropolitan area, comprising a network of “Neighborhood Habitat Refuges” in strategic locations. The projects will enable students to participate in habitat restoration, curricula-based bird education, population monitoring and bird conservation awareness.

New Weekly Photo Stories on Refuge System Website

The National Wildlife Refuge System has launched weekly online stories – filled with fabulous photos -- to highlight its conservation achievements and recreation. The first story, posted on https://www.fws.gov/refuges/, appeared July 20; new stories will be posted each Wednesday on the website.

The first story, “A Beginner’s Guide to the National Wildlife Refuge System,” gave veteran conservationists and newcomers alike a sense of what the Refuge System has become since its founding by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903.

Other online stories in July and August – and still available on the website – are: “Glorious Summer,” “Lighthouses of the National Wildlife Refuge System,” “Road Trip,” “The Tiglax: A Vessel for Science & Conservation,” “Try Not to Laugh” (humorous photos), “Turtle Recovery on the Atlantic Coast” and “Teddy Roosevelt, the Teddy Bear and the Deep South.”

The online stories are designed to replace – not replicate – the Refuge Update newsletter, which ended its print run with the May/June 2016 issue. But the Refuge System is not totally abandoning the Refuge Update brand. Some of the online stories will be highlighted in a quarterly digital newsletter, which will launch in the fall. To subscribe to the digital newsletter, send your email address to RefugeUpdate@fws.gov.

July 2016

Summer Family Fun

The Erie National Wildlife Refuge has planned some family fun activities this July and August. Details can be found in the following flyer.

June 2016

See Your Pollinator Garden Grow

Native wildflower gardens add color to your garden and help bumblebees and butterflies. This purple coneflower attracted both bumblebees and a crab spider. Photo by Jim Hudgins/USFWS

One of the best ways you can help monarch butterflies and other pollinators is to plant a pollinator garden – in your yard, behind your school or church, on your business property or even in a pot for your front steps. A simple, native flower garden helps pollinators stay healthy – and it’s pretty.

In addition to nectar from flowers, monarch butterflies need milkweed to survive. So if your milkweed leaves have been chomped, don’t worry. The monarchs have been around!

Get Started
Research what varieties of milkweed and wildflowers are native to your area. Here’s a great website to launch your research: http://www.wildflower.org/ What you’ll need

  • A yard, raised bed or some flower pots
  • Garden tools to break the soil or build a raised bed
  • Extra dirt and mulch
  • Native milkweed and nectar plants
Seven easy steps
  1. Choose your location: Gardens should be planted in sunny spots and protected from the wind. 
  2. Look at your soil: Break ground to see the consistency of the soil in your yard. Soil may influence the kinds of plants you can grow or may require special considerations. If your soil type doesn’t match the plants you’d like to plant, consider building a raised bed or using flower pots.
  3. Prep your soil: If you’re planting in your yard, remove the lawn and current plant cover and rake the soil. Additional dirt can help and is necessary for raised beds and flower pots.
  4. Choose your plants: Buy native and local plants and milkweed. Native plants are ideal because they require less maintenance and tend to be heartier.
    • Choose plants that have not been treated with pesticides, insecticides or neonicotinoids.
    • Plant perennials to ensure your plants come back each year and don’t require a lot of maintenance.
    • Choose a diversity of plants that bloom throughout the seasons to ensure pollinators benefit in the spring, summer and fall. This will also ensure that your garden is bright and colorful for months!
  5. Choosing seeds or small plants: Small plants that have already started growing in a nursery are simple to plant and handle in a small space. If you’d like to use seeds, plan to plant in spring or fall, giving the seeds time to germinate. Seeds can also be best if you are planting a very large garden because they are less costly. Water your seeds even before you see plants.
  6. Plant your flowers and milkweed: For small plants, dig holes just big enough for the root system. Cover the roots with dirt and reinforce with dirt or straw mulch to reduce weed growth. For seeding, spread seeds across the freshly prepared garden and cover them with dirt. Consider adding some flat rocks so butterflies can bask in the sun,
  7. Wait, watch, water and weed: It may take some time, but you will eventually see butterflies and other pollinators enjoying your garden. Weed and water your garden to keep it healthy.
Help track monarch movements, milkweed growth and monarch life stages by reporting your sightings at http://journeynorth.org/monarch/. For more information, go online to the Monarch Joint Venture: http://www.monarchjointventure.org/get-involved/create-habitat-for-monarchs/

Louisiana Black Bear Is Removed From Endangered and Threatened List

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that, after 24 years of recovery work by an array of partners, the Louisiana black bear has been removed from the threatened and endangered species list.

Jewell made the announcement at Louisiana’s Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge, which has a substantial population of Louisiana black bear and played a major role in the species’ recovery. Bayou Teche Refuge, Bayou Cocodrie Refuge, Lake Ophelia Refuge and other refuges in Louisiana also were vital to the recovery.

The bear became part of American culture after a hunting trip to Mississippi in 1902, where President Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear that was trapped and tied to a tree by members of his hunting party. The episode was featured in a cartoon in The Washington Post, sparking the idea for a Brooklyn candy store owner to create the Teddy bear. “President Theodore Roosevelt would have really enjoyed why we are gathered here today,”

Jewell said at a March announcement at Tensas River Refuge. “Working together across private and public lands with so many partners embodies the conservation ethic he stood for when he established the National Wildlife Refuge System as part of the solution to address troubling trends for the nation’s wildlife. As I said last spring [2015] when the delisting proposal was announced, the Louisiana black bear is another success story for the Endangered Species Act.”

The delisting follows a comprehensive scientific review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of the bear’s status. The Service released a post-delisting monitoring plan that will help ensure the bear’s future remains secure.

The majority of Louisiana black bear habitat falls on private lands, where the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries worked with farmers to restore more than 485,000 acres of bottomland hardwood forests in priority areas for conservation. One key tool was the use of conservation easements in these targeted areas, through which USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service worked with farmers to restore habitat on difficult-to-farm lands.

When the Louisiana black bear was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1992 – because of habitat loss, reduced quality of habitat and human-related mortality – the three known breeding subpopulations were confined to the bottomland hardwood forests of Louisiana in the Tensas and Upper and Lower Atchafalaya River basins. Today, those subpopulations have increased in numbers and have stabilized to increasing growth rates. Additional breeding subpopulations are forming in Louisiana and Mississippi, providing a healthy long-term outlook for the species.

In 1992, there were as few as 150 bears in Louisiana habitat. Today, the Service estimates that 500 to 750 bears live across the species’ current range where successful recovery efforts are enabling breeding populations to expand.

The Louisiana black bear, listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1992, was removed from the list in March. (Photo by BeingMyself, Creative Commons)

Summer Fest 2016 Is Almost Here!

It's June and that means everyone is busy getting ready for this year's Summer Fest at the Erie National Wildlife Refuge! Partners have been contacted and confirmed, plans have been made, advertising is underway, tents have been ordered, supplies are being collected, paperwork is getting updated and printed out and the worker schedule is being fine tuned. Soon the 25th will be here and we will be ready and waiting for you and your family.

The theme this year is "Endangered Species" and activities based on this theme will include live animals, crafts, bird walks, archery and casting practice, and more. Featured in our live animal display this year will be snakes, salamanders, frogs and toads. Kids that fill their "passports" with stamps from selected activities with receive a special gift. Don't worry about getting hungry because hot dogs will be for sale at the Friends of Erie NWR's tent.

A big part of our program is provided by "partners", other organizations in the area that have the same interests that we do. Bringing displays this year are The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Crawford County Conservation District's Woodcock Creek Nature Center, French Creek Valley Conservancy, Audubon Pennsylvania, The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, PA Amphibian and Reptile Survey, Pitt Eco Lab and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

The Trash to Treasure Contest, originally created in 2011 when Summer Fest had a "Recycle" theme, was so popular that we made it an annual event. Entrants are encouraged to "Rescue some trash from the recycling bin or the garbage and make it into something pretty or useful." Entries are displayed and winners announced at Summer Fest.

You have an opportunity for to help the Friends of ENWR support Summer Fest by participating in our annual Silent Auction. Please take the time to look at the items donated this year and maybe even place a bid.

Volunteers are always needed to work the day of the event. Please call the Refuge at 814-789-3585 if you would like to be added to the list of workers.

Visitors of any age can find something of interest at Summer Fest. We hope to see you there.

May 2016

Look Up. That Bird Was Probably at a Wildlife Refuge
By Cynthia Martinez
Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System

Well-known birder and author Kenn Kaufman said on Facebook, “National wildlife refuges protect some of the most amazing habitats for birds and other wildlife in the USA. These public lands represent a treasure for all Americans.”

I whole heartedly agree.

Pick up any birding magazine or guide, and you’re sure to see so many references to wildlife refuges that you will lose count. We all know the story of the brown pelican whose protection launched the National Wildlife Refuge System in 1903 with the establishment in Florida of Pelican Island bird reservation – now known as a national wildlife refuge. More than 200 refuges have been established for migratory birds.

In our 113-year history, the National Wildlife Refuge System has made huge strides on behalf of migratory bird conservation. Not only do millions of migratory birds find homes among the National Wildlife Refuge System’s stunning array of marshes, wetlands, deserts, forests, great rivers and small prairies. But they also find a home in the urban areas served by wildlife refuges. Not enough urban residents know that.

The Urban Bird Treaty program has helped make a difference. Cities today are filled with hawks, osprey, songbirds and more.

Now let’s teach kids and families in big and small cities that when we talk about migratory bird flyways, those are not far off places. Flyways include places where millions of people live, city neighborhoods where people can see a breathtaking variety of birds. With effective communications, city residents will recognize that they can go to a nearby refuge to learn more about helping bird populations.

The Refuge System has been crucial in nurturing migratory bird species. State-of-the-art waterfowl management is practiced on thousands of waterfowl protection areas and hundreds of wildlife refuges. We’ve brought birds back to their historic ranges, increased populations, given visitors sights that they’ll travel hundreds of miles to see – and helped sustain the economies of communities where birding is a passion.

Fewer people know that our federal wildlife officers are among migratory birds’ best friends. They regulate migratory bird take and possession limits under international treaties like the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. They regulate hunting license capability to ensure that proper limits are met on particular migratory bird species. And they ensure that migratory birds have safe places to rest during non-hunting seasons as they work closely with sportsmen’s groups, tribal law enforcement and state agencies.

Americans are learning that when they see birds in their communities, vast flocks on the wing, even some hummingbirds at their feeders, they have national wildlife refuges to thank. So, when you look up and experience the magnificence of a bird in flight, you might wonder which national wildlife refuge provided benefit to that bird.

Cooperative Efforts at National Wildlife Refuge Encourage Grizzly Sustainability
One of 16 Projects Receiving Funding for Endangered Species Recovery

For grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, connecting to larger populations of bears in the West is key to long-term survival.

Biologists at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Montana are working with landowners and partners to ease the bears’ passage while reducing causes of human-bear conflict. The effort to improve human acceptance of grizzlies near the refuge will receive funding this year as part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Cooperative Recovery Initiative (CRI).

The grizzly project is one of 16 across 27 states being funded through the CRI to help recover threatened or endangered species on or near national wildlife refuges. Besides the Yellowstone grizzly, species to benefit from this year’s $6.86 million in CRI funding include piping plover, freshwater mussels and bull trout.

Since 2013, the Service has funded 57 projects totaling $23.2 million through the CRI. Other species that have benefited include the Sonoran pronghorn, red-cockaded woodpecker and roseate tern. These projects often provide related conservation benefits to other imperiled species and encourage partnerships with state and private groups.

Red Rock Lakes Refuge manager Bill West called the Grizzly Bear Aware funding “great news.” The funding, he said, “will help sustain programs we’ve already begun. Environmentalists and ranchers have a shared interest in reducing human-grizzly conflict. Ranchers don’t want their livestock to be eaten, and we don’t want bears killed because they’re causing problems.”

Ranchers in southwest Montana’s Centennial Valley have a stake in the grizzly project. Bears can kill cattle, increasing the potential need to remove a bear from the population. To better protect property and livestock, valley residents developed the Range Rider program.

Begun two years ago by the refuge, The Nature Conservancy and Centennial Valley Association, a local landowners’ group, the program employs three Range Riders to monitor the location of livestock and large carnivores — bears, wolves and mountain lions. Range Riders advise private landowners when to move their herds to avoid run-ins with these animals. They also alert landowners, who often live 40 or more miles away, to remove sick or injured cattle so these don’t invite predation. Some of the CRI project funding will help sustain the Range Rider program.

Biologists also aim to curb bears’ access to human-associated food sources by removing animal carcasses, fencing off aviaries and securing food and refuse. Project partners plan to distribute 60 bear-proof garbage containers to ranchers and homeowners, install 30 hunted game storage poles in campgrounds and hunting camps and supply 10 bear-proof food storage containers at campgrounds. Signs and kiosks will also warn hikers and campers to carry bear spray and secure their food from bears.

The grizzly is one of the largest North American land mammals. Males can weigh 400 to 600 pounds, females somewhat less. The animal’s thick brown fur often looks frosty at the tips: hence the name grizzly. A grown bear can run at up to 35 miles per hour for short distance.

The grizzly bear was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1975 when there were as few as 136 bears. The Yellowstone grizzly bear population has rebounded to more than 700 today. The species has remained stable in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem for more than a decade as a result of the Service’s recovery efforts; in March 2016, the Yellowstone grizzly was proposed for delisting.

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem population is isolated genetically from grizzly populations to the north and west. There are currently no genetic problems with the Yellowstone area grizzly population. Reconnecting the Yellowstone population with other grizzly populations is a positive and proactive conservation action that will assure that genetic issues will never threaten this population.

For more information on the 2016 projects and previous years, please visit: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/whm/cooperativeRecoveryInitiative.html.

Because saltmarsh sparrows are small, tracking individual birds has been difficult. Traditional tracking devices are too large and heavy. Now researchers in the Northeast are using nano-technology to track the birds’ migratory habitats and behaviors. (photo by Brian C. Harris)

Tiny Technology Helps Track a Tiny Bird By Susan Wojtowicz

Technology is amazing. In the Northeast Region, technological advances are allowing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to learn more about animal behavior to better protect animals. One example is nano-technology and the saltmarsh sparrow.

These are tough times for the tiny migratory bird. Its only homes, salt marshes along the Atlantic Coast, are increasingly scarce because of development and rising sea levels. With diminishing habitat, saltmarsh sparrow populations have been decreasing in recent decades. To determine how best to help the sparrows, researchers need to understand how the birds use the marshes upon which they rely. Unfortunately, this information is limited.

What we do know is that the sparrows migrate along the Atlantic Coast, from Maine to Florida, stopping almost exclusively in saltmarshes. They forage for food on the ground and while climbing in grasses – eating insects, small snails, spiders, marine worms and other invertebrates. Unlike many songbirds, males do not have breeding territories; instead, they roam the marshes looking for females, who typically have one brood of two to six hatchlings per year.

Beyond that, many questions are unanswered.

“Very little is known about this species’ migratory pathways or migratory behavior, making conservation of the right habitats difficult,” says Kate O’Brien, a refuge biologist working to conserve saltmarsh sparrow habitat at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine. “Because we are responsible for their survival during all phases of their life cycle, it is important for us to understand more about their behavior, how they are using the marshes, and which locations are most important for their survival.”

Because a saltmarsh sparrow weighs about as much as eight pennies, tracking individual birds has been difficult. However, researchers from several Northeastern refuges and partners are using tiny technology to find out what these birds are up to.

The Motus tracking system uses nano-tags, extremely lightweight miniature radio transmitters. All nano-tags transmit at the same frequency, but each tag has an identifiable pulse. A network of towers along the Atlantic Coast picks up the pulse when a tagged bird flies within 12 kilometers of a tower. Saltmarsh sparrow project partners include Rachel Carson, Parker River and Stewart B. McKinney Refuges, the Rhode Island Refuge Complex, the universities of New Hampshire and Connecticut, and the Saltmarsh Habitat and Avian Research Program.

What does this mean for the saltmarsh sparrow?

The Service is not sure yet. Data are just beginning to come in. However, scientists are already discovering amazing things. For example, preliminary data show that a few saltmarsh sparrows flew from Rachel Carson Refuge to the Connecticut coast, more than 150 miles, in just one day.

As nano-technology reveals more about the behavior of these tiny birds, the Service will be able to answer questions it only hypothesizes now.

Susan Wojtowicz is visitor service specialist at Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in New England.

Record Year for Whooping Crane Survey

A preliminary U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service analysis of aerial surveys indicates that 329 whooping cranes, including 38 juveniles, are in the primary survey area (approximately 153,200 acres) centered on Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Austwell, TX. The Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping crane population is the only surviving wild population of whooping cranes in the world.  

At least nine birds were noted outside the primary survey area.  The survey shows an upward trend in whooping crane abundance over the last five years.  Last year, 308 whooping cranes were estimated in the primary survey area. 

“This is the highest survey estimate ever documented for this population of whooping cranes,” said Wade Harrell, U.S. Whooping Crane Recovery Coordinator. “We are thrilled to see that these birds continue to increase in number after being so close to extinction only 75 years ago.”

Whooping cranes are one of the rarest birds in North America and are highly endangered. Cranes can survive more than 25 years in the wild. Adults generally reach reproductive age at four or five years, and then lay two eggs, usually rearing only one chick. 

For more information about the survey and whooping cranes, go to the Aransas Refuge website, http://www.fws.gov/refuge/Aransas/.   

April 2016

Interior Secretary Offers Vision for Future of Conservation

In remarks at the National Geographic Society on April 19, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell laid out a vision for actions the nation can take to build upon America’s rich conservation legacy and pass on healthy public lands and waters to the next generation.

Jewell called for a “course correction” for conservation that includes inspiring all Americans from all backgrounds to connect with public lands; implementing smart, landscape-level planning to support healthy ecosystems and sustainable development; and greater investments in public lands to prepare for the next century of conservation. 

During her remarks, Jewell also announced that the federal government will undertake a first-of-its-kind study to analyze the impact outdoor recreation has on the nation’s economy. The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis feasibility study will present detailed and defensible data on the importance of outdoor recreation as a distinct component of the economy that can help inform decision making and management of public lands and waters.

“By producing credible data on the tangible economic benefits of public lands, we can help the public and Members of Congress better understand the benefits of investing in them,” Jewell said. “Industry estimates show that consumer spending for outdoor recreation is greater than household utilities and pharmaceuticals combined – and yet the federal government has never fully recognized or quantified these benefits.  This project is the start of a multi-year effort to count these contributions in a comprehensive and impartial way.”  

For more on the outdoor recreation economic report, go to http://on.doi.gov/1Nl8EoE

Ninth Canine Team for Refuge System

Federal wildlife officer Josh Hindman and his police service dog, Ukkie, became the ninth law enforcement canine team in the Refuge System. Because Ukkie, a two-year-old Belgian malinois, was born and bred in Holland, he doesn’t understand English yet. As a result, Hindman gives commands in Dutch – or a version of it.

“A Dutch person might not agree with me, but it’s Dutch,” Hindman told Northwest Public Radio last winter. Hindman and Ukkie are based at Mid-Columbia River National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Washington-Oregon. The complex includes eight refuges and Hanford Reach National Monument. Hindman and Ukkie are available for deployment across the Pacific Region. Ukkie offers protection for Hindman, especially in isolated places at night.

“It’s almost like there are two officers out there,” Hindman says. Ukkie can search for illegal drugs and other articles. He can track people. And he’s very social, the ideal temperament for a canine who interacts often with hunters and their labs. “He’s a hyper ball of energy, but very controlled,” says Hindman.

March 2016

Like us on Facebook!

The Friends of Erie National Wildlife Refuge has launched a new non-profit page on Facebook. Daily posts will not only keep you informed about the latest news from the group, but will also share some of the most interesting pictures and articles about nature on the internet.

Check us out at: https://www.facebook.com/FriendsofErieNWR and don't forget to "Like" us!

Summer Fest Is Coming!

Our annual day-long family event will be held on Saturday June 25th from 10am-4pm. The theme of this year’s event is “Endangered and Threatened Species”. Activities and exhibits will include live animals, games and nature crafts. The winners of the 2015 Trash to Treasure Contest will be announced, and all entries will be on display. A Silent Auction will be conducted by the Friends of Erie National Wildlife Refuge to raise funds to support refuge programs.

The special event will be held rain or shine!

Help Wanted: Summer Fest Workers

While many of our activities and displays are run by outside partners, there are crafts, games and activities that are in need of volunteers to man them. Support personal is also needed. If you have the day, or half the day, on June 25th to donate to this event call the ENWR at 814-789-3585 for more information.

February 2016

April To Be A Busy Month At The ENWR

Two programs and one event are being held at our Visitor’s Center at 11296 Wood Duck Lane, Guys Mills, PA 16327 in April. All are free and open to the public. Some programs have limited seating, so reserve your spot by calling the Refuge office at 814-789-3585!

Refuge Spring Clean-up. April 3, 1:00 pm - Join our Friends Group as we scour the roadsides of the Refuge for trash during our annual Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful clean-up. Gloves and safety vests will be provided.

“Hummingbirds at Home”. April 15, 6:30 pm - Judy Acker, will introduce participants to National Audubon’s fun new monitoring program called “Hummingbirds at Home” which utilizes an app on your smart phone to report hummingbird sightings and nectar sources. We will then explore interesting and fun facts about our local hummingbirds. The talk will include tips for attracting Hummingbirds to your yard--including what native plants they prefer--as well as information about feeders, food and ways to ensure your yard is a safe and nutritious haven for hummingbirds. A hummingbird feeder craft will follow the talk for those interested in making a feeder to take home. Preregistration is required so we can get enough supplies for the feeder craft.

“Citizen Science at ENWR”. April 23 6:30 pm - Ed Patterson of the Indiana County Parks and Trails will be leading a short program on Salamanders.  Guests will be introduced to the Pennsylvania’s Reptile and Amphibian Survey (PARS) a crowd sourced citizen science effort being advanced in partnership between the Mid Atlantic Center for Herpetology and Conservation (MACHAC) the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) via volunteers.  Ken Anderson a PFBC Biologist, will provide short tutorial on Frog calls then lead a walk along refuge nature trails to listen for and hopefully record frog vocalizations.  Bring a classmate, a kid or a friend, your boots, raincoat, camera and recording device (camera or cell phone); because come rain or shine we are going into the field at dusk to listen for frog calls!

Sponsored by the Friends of the Erie National Wildlife Refuge.

R/V Tiglax: Alaska Maritime Refuge’s Vehicle for Research
By Andrea Medeiros

Imagine working on a ship that takes you 15,000 miles through remote islands, from the Gulf of Alaska to the Bering Sea, in support of conservation. Six U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service jobs provide this opportunity, all operating out of Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge aboard the R/V Tiglax.

“Sometimes you don’t see another ship for days at a time,” says Captain Billy Pepper, who has worked on the Tiglax for more than 20 years and is responsible for the ship as well as hiring and managing the crew. Combined, the captain, first mate, two deckhands, a cook and an engineer have 60-plus-years’ experience sailing the refuge.

Constantly on the move during the six-month field season that starts in April, the crew works 12 hours a day, seven days a week and is always on call. The Tiglax is at sea for extended periods of time without Internet or cell service. Beyond the hours and the isolation, weather, mechanical problems, medical issues and even natural disasters can challenge the crew.

The challenges of working on the Tiglax are counterbalanced by being among rocky islands with spectacular scenery, abundant wildlife and distinctive cultural histories. Every summer more than 40 million seabirds nest on Alaska Maritime Refuge. One of the islands, Buldir, boasts more nesting seabirds than anywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere. The Tiglax also encounters whales, porpoises, seals, sea lions and other marine mammals.

Built in 1987, the 120-foot-long Tiglax plays a critical role in meeting Alaska Maritime Refuge’s research purpose by supporting scientists from the Service, universities, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and elsewhere.

Umnak and Samalga islands in the eastern Aleutians have been part of the refuge since 1913. Last summer, thanks to the Tiglax, refuge biologists were able to survey the islands’ coastlines for the first time. They discovered tens of thousands of shorebirds in the intertidal zone of Samalga Island, potentially a globally significant resting area for shorebirds on their summer migration.

In 2015, the Tiglax also supported a regular survey of sea otters in the western Aleutians and a second, rare survey on the hard-to-access Pacific Ocean side of Amchitka Island. Both will help biologists better understand sea otters.

What other new discoveries are out there on Alaska Maritime Refuge? The possibility of being part of making a new one keeps the crew of the Tiglax coming back.

Andrea Medeiros is a public affairs specialist in the Alaska Region office in Anchorage.

The R/V Tiglax cruising off Bogoslof Island. Built in 1987, the Tiglax, which means eagle in Aleut, is 120 feet long and has a range of 14,500 miles before refueling is needed. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service vessel supports scientific research at Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. More photos: http://bit.ly/1MGt2KZ (Paul Wade)

Stories of Success
By Cynthia Martinez
Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System

Some 380 of the nation’s 1,591 endangered and threatened species find a home on national wildlife refuges. The reason is straightforward: Home is where the habitat is.

So it makes sense that restoring habitat and implementing the best science and management techniques are the roads to recovery for species. Sounds simple. It’s not.

National wildlife refuges and other parts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have long faced competing demands that can change and tug and pull in different directions. Multi-year projects can be tough to fund from one year to the next. That’s why the Cooperative Recovery Initiative (CRI) is making a difference.

The Service Director some years ago recognized that we needed a focused program that puts combined resources and partnership muscle on refuges and in areas with a close nexus to them if we are to maintain and expand high quality habitat for trust resources. So was born the CRI, a competitive program with specific criteria that gives funding to collaborative projects.

CRI absolutely stresses collaboration – both among Service programs that sometimes operate in silos and with private landowners, who can make all the difference for the health of fish, wildlife and plant species.

The competition for funding has been intense – and beneficial. First there’s the regional selection process. Then the top regional projects are submitted to a national review team that represents all Service programs. A second round of reviews at the Service’s Headquarters has ensured that funding goes to the projects most likely to succeed.

In fact, the need to show results quickly has set CRI apart from other initiatives. CRI not only requires that each project have a monitoring protocol, but it also decides on funding for up to three additional years by considering data that demonstrate a project is making discernible progress.

At the same time, the CRI process incorporates all elements of Strategic Habitat Conservation. Service staff members employ biological planning and design to develop project proposals. Selected proposals are then implemented – the “conservation delivery” step – and results are monitored. The outcomes then feed back into biological planning and adaptive management.  

A prime example of CRI success is the Oregon chub, the first fish ever removed from the federal Endangered Species list. The Oregon chub is found only in the Willamette River Basin. Just eight populations and fewer than 1,000 fish were known to exist when it was listed as endangered in 1993. While the minnow’s recovery was thanks to the work of many dedicated Service partners, the CRI invigorated the recovery program and led to the chub’s delisting years earlier than might otherwise have happened.

Collaboration is the key to so much conservation success. It is the centerpiece of the Cooperative Recovery Initiative. Working across program lines and with partners, the Service can recover species listed as threatened and endangered and create a conservation legacy for the next generation. 

To read some CRI success stories, go to the January-February issue of Refuge Update.

A Program on Salamanders Scheduled for April

A free wildlife educational family oriented event will be held at Erie National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters on Saturday April 23rd from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm.

  Ed Patterson of the Indiana County Parks and Trails will be leading a short program on Salamanders.  Guests will be introduced to the Pennsylvania’s Reptile and Amphibian Survey (PARS) a crowd sourced citizen science effort being advanced in partnership between the Mid Atlantic Center for Herpetology and Conservation (MACHAC) the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) via volunteers.  Ken Anderson a PFBC Biologist, will provide short tutorial on FROG calls then lead a walk along refuge nature trails to listen for and hopefully record frog vocalizations. 

Bring a classmate, a kid or a friend, your boots, raincoat, camera and recording device (camera or cell phone); because come rain or shine we are going into the field at dusk to listen for frog calls.

The program will take place at ENWR Headquarters building located along Route 198E at 11296 Wood Duck Lane, Guys Mills, PA 16327, 3/4 mile east of Guys Mills and 10 miles east of Meadville. For map go here. Please call ENWR and let us know you be there 814-789-3585.

ENWR Spring Clean Up

Day Spring is here and it's time to think about spring cleaning. Spring Clean Up Day on the Erie National Wildlife Refuge that is! The Clean Up date is scheduled for Sunday, April 3, 2016. Celebrate Earth Day early this year by cleaning up the Refuge! We will be meeting at 1:00pm at the ENWR Visitor's Center in Guys Mills.

The Friends group will resechedule if the weather is inclement. If you can't attend with us, look up other clean-up opportunities on http://www.keeppabeautiful.org/.

This event is open to adults and families alike! Hope to see you there!

New Officers Elected For Friends of ENWR

At the latest Board of Directors meeting the officers for 2016 were elected. Most will be new to their positions this year. Michael Vargo was elected to be our new President; Autumn White will be our new Secretary; Vicki Pratt is our new Treasurer; and Ronald Leberman will remain as Vice President.

The remaining members of your board are Lisa Helmbreck, Rich Eakin, Doug Copeland, Linda Anderson, Ken Pratt, and Kathleen Palmer.

Remember the Board of Directors meeting is open to all members or anyone else that is interested. Meetings are usually held the third Monday of the month but sometimes they need to be moved to the fourth if it falls on a government holiday. Check the date on our website at www.friendsofenwr.org. Your input is always welcome.

Janurary 2016

Upcoming Programs At The Erie National Wildlife Refuge

There are two educational programs coming to the ENWR this Winter and Spring. Both these programs will be held at the ENWR Headquarters Building,11296 Wood Duck Lane, Guys Mills.

French Creek Watershed History - February 26

Judy Acker, Outreach Project Coordinator for Audubon Pennsylvania will present a talk on the History of the French Creek Watershed.  Her talk will begin with glacial impacts on the watershed through the Native American and French influence to the Spa Era and the unique role freshwater mussels played within the French Creek watershed!   Come find out how our unique and varied local history helped shape life in the French Creek Valley! 

 Hummingbirds @ Home -  April 15

Judy Acker, Outreach Project Coordinator for Audubon Pennsylvania will introduce participants to National Audubon’s fun new monitoring program called “Hummingbirds at Home” which utilizes an app on your smart phone to report hummingbird sightings and nectar sources.  Acker will then explore interesting and fun facts about our local hummingbirds. Her talk will include tips for attracting Hummingbirds to your yard--including what native plants they prefer--as well as information about feeders, food and ways to ensure your yard is a safe and nutritious haven for hummingbirds.  A hummingbird feeder craft will follow the talk for those interested in making a feeder to take home.  Preregistration is required so we can get enough supplies for the feeder craft

Upcoming Events
News Headlines

French Creek Cleanup 2016

We are looking for volunteers to make up our team...

See Your Pollinator Garden Grow

One of the best ways you can help monarch butterflies and other pollinators is to plant a pollinator garden...

Friends of ENWR
c/o Erie National Wildlife Refuge
11296 Wood Duck Lane
Guys Mills, PA 16327