California


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and The Nature Conservancy together have purchased 1,905 acres for San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. SANDAG contributed $10 million toward the $18 million purchase price through its TransNet Environmental Mitigation Program. The Service used Department of Homeland Security U.S.-Mexico border-fence mitigation funding to pay the balance. The Nature Conservancy negotiated a reduced purchase price. The newly acquired property, called Hidden Valley, closes a conserved-habitat gap between the refuge and California Department of Fish and Game lands. The habitat is expected to be of particular benefit to the endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly and the threatened coastal California gnatcatcher.


Puerto Rico


The Service and Island Conservation announced that efforts to restore Desecheo National Wildlife Refuge’s native species and their habitat by removing non-native black rats have been completed. Removal of invasive rats will allow native forest to recover and promote recolonization by several seabird species that historically nested on the island. In March, the Service and Island Conservation applied rodent bait to remove rats while minimizing threats from the bait to other animals. Whereas the project has been completed, two more years of monitoring will occur before the island can be declared rat-free. Desecheo Refuge is a small, uninhabited island about 13 miles west of Puerto Rico. The refuge was established in 1976 to protect seabird colonies. Historically, Desecheo Island was a major seabird rookery. It may have had the largest brown booby colony in the world, with estimates of up to 15,000 breeding birds in the early 1900s. The refuge also provides habitat for six endemic species (three lizards, three arachnids) and the federally threatened Higo chumbo cactus.


New York


Jeff Rice recently attained the highest rank in the Boy Scouts, and in the process Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge gained a new photo blind. Rice, a 17-year-old from nearby Albion, NY, built the blind as his Eagle Scout community service project. “The reason I chose to complete my project for the refuge was to give back to the wildlife and to the people who care about it so much,” said Rice. Using about $800 worth of material that he persuaded half-a-dozen local hardware stores to donate, Rice led a small group of volunteers on the project. “Everything was donated. We didn’t pay for a thing,” said Rice, who estimates he spent 60 hours working on the blind, which overlooks waterfowl-rich Ringneck Marsh. It is one of several projects Eagle Scouts have completed at Iroquois Refuge over the years, according to refuge manager Tom Roster. Others have included invasive species and reforestation work as well as the construction of an observation platform, a floating dock and dozens of birdhouses. “It’s been really good that we’ve had the Eagle Scouts wanting to do the work,” Roster said. As for Rice, he is beginning college this fall and aspires to be a wildlife law enforcement officer.


Get Your Goose On!


Last year, as Marla Trollan was settling in to her new job as Mountain-Prairie Region assistant regional director for external affairs, web coordinator Ryan Moehring came to her with an idea. To raise the profile of the Service and the Refuge System among young people and to encourage families to get outdoors, why not develop a publicity campaign modeled after the highly popular Pittsburgh Steelers/ESPN “Terrible Towel” phenomenon? Trollan liked the idea immediately and sold it to regional and national higher-ups.


Now, with the help and support of the regional refuge and visitor services offices, the Get Your Goose On! campaign is off and running. The region has purchased 1,000 blue towels adorned with a Blue Goose image and distributed them to refuges and other Service units in the Mountain-Prairie Region. It’s a social media campaign, and the region spent the spring and summer gathering photos and videos of people waving the towels across its eight states.


“It’s really been a widely accepted campaign,” Trollan says. “We’d like it to go viral and not be confined to our region.” The region plans to produce a fastpaced promotional video and roll out the campaign on social media this fall. In the meantime, Trollan wants to make one thing clear: Even though Get Your Goose On! is based on a Steelers rally towel, she says, “we are all [Denver] Broncos fans here” in the Mountain-Prairie regional office.


Nevada


Last spring, just 10 minutes after a magnitude 7.4 earthquake struck off the Pacific Coast of southern Mexico, the waters of the aquifer exposed at Devils Hole 1,700 miles north began to roil. Devils Hole is a detached unit of Death Valley National Park wholly within Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. The depth of its water, which stays at a constant 93 degrees Fahrenheit, has been mapped to 500 feet, but the bottom never has been found. The cavern’s waters are home to the entire naturally occurring population of the endangered Devils Hole pupfish. They are also, according to the Death Valley National Park Web site, a window into the “vast aquifer and an unusual indicator of seismic activity around the world. Large earthquakes as far away as Japan, Indonesia and Chile have caused the water to ‘slosh’ in Devils Hole like water in a bathtub.” On March 20, after the Mexico quake hit, the waters did just that. In a rarity, National Park Service employees not only witnessed the shaking, they also caught it on video: http://www.nps.gov/deva/naturescience/devils-hole.htm.


North Carolina


Construction of the Pantego Wind Energy Project near Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge has been delayed indefinitely. The developer has decided to postpone the 49-turbine wind farm project until further research can be done on its potential risk to birds. In a 2011 letter to the state utilities commission, and in an article in the March/April 2012 issue of Refuge Update, refuge manager Howard Phillips recommended that the project be delayed until its likely impact on thousands of tundra swans that roost at the refuge could be studied.


Alaska


Now that it is rat-free, 6,600-acre Rat Island in Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge has reverted to its traditional Aleut name: Hawadax. The island was called Hawadax (pronounced How-ah-thaa) until the late 1700s, when a Japanese sailing ship ran aground and brought the first rats to Alaska. The rats ultimately destroyed virtually all of the island’s native seabirds. After years of planning, in 2008 refuge staff and partners eradicated rats from the island by dropping rat poison from helicopters. Hawadax is one of the largest islands in the world to be restored to a rat-free state. The U.S. Geological Survey’s Board on Geographic Names approved the island’s name change this spring.