Service Approves Lesser Prairie-Chicken Programmatic Conservation Bank
March 2015 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved LPC Conservation LLC (Wayne Walker, Common Ground Capital)’s Programmatic Conservation Bank for the lesser prairie-chicken. The Lesser Prairie-Chicken Programmatic Conservation Bank Agreement (LPC PCBA) is the first of its kind and will assist in the recovery of the lesser prairie-chicken while providing benefits to landowners who are interested in conserving their lands and to those undertaking projects that may impact the species. The first two LPC PCBA approved parcels, totaling approximately 29,082 acres, are located in Kansas, which is currently the state with the largest lesser prairie-chicken population.
Alligators soaking up the afternoon sun at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: Steve Hillebrand, USFWS.
Texas Refuge Makes National Geographic's Stand-Out List
March 2015 Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in south Texas has been named one of 6 Stand-Out National Wildlife Refuges by National Geographic, a highly prestigious honor considering there are over 560 national wildlife refuges across the country! Aransas Refuge is famous for wildlife viewing, including alligators and wintering endangered whooping cranes.
March 2015 The Service’s Open Spaces blog is featuring monthly posts by Student Conservation Association (SCA) interns working to promote, protect and study wildlife on public lands all over the United States. This month the Southwest Region’s urban outreach in the Houston area is being showcased. Since 1957, SCA has been connecting young people from all backgrounds with life-changing, career-making conservation service opportunities.
March 2015 Ocelots in south Texas have gained new fans thanks to a teenager’s love of wildlife and a highly energetic and engaging wildlife biologist. Hilary Swarts, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who works extensively on endangered ocelots at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, wowed the crowd at Ocelot Conservation Day. Attending Hilary’s talk was a young teenager and her mother who are now spreading the word about ocelots!
Two whooping cranes fly over Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: Steve Hillebrand, USFWS.
And The Survey Says…
March 2015 Whooping crane numbers are looking up! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed aerial surveys of the Aransas-Wood Buffalo whooping crane population, the only surviving wild population of whooping cranes in the world. Preliminary survey data indicated 308 whooping cranes, including 39 juveniles, in the primary survey area (approximately 153,200 acres) centered on Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Rockport, Texas.
Visitors enjoying Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Photo credit: Steve Hillebrand, USFWS.
Happy Birthday Refuge System!!
Celebrate the birthday of the National Wildlife Refuge System at a refuge near you! It was on March 14, 1903 when President Theodore Roosevelt set aside tiny Pelican Island in Florida for the protection of pelicans and other birds. From this humble beginning arose the National Wildlife Refuge System we know today with over 550 refuges across the country providing space for wildlife and places for all Americans to recreate and reconnect with the great outdoors.
Friends of the Bosque del Apache working on the Refuge. Photo credit: Friends of the Bosque del Apache NWR.
Southwest Region Wins Big in Refuge System Awards!
The Southwest Region took home three of four prestigious awards last week as the National Wildlife Refuge Association announced the recipients of their annual national Refuge System Awards. John Vradenburg, Supervisory Biologist at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in Socorro, New Mexico was named Employee of the Year; Wiley “Dub” Lyon received Volunteer of the Year in recognition of his unwavering support for the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge in Marble Falls, Texas; and the Friends of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge also in Socorro, New Mexico took home Friends Group of the Year. Congratulations to all!
Trinidad Successfully Released back to Tampa Bay Waters
March 2015 On March 4, 2015, SeaWorld Orlando’s Animal Rescue Team, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), and the US Geological Survey (USGS) returned Trinidad, the male Florida manatee, to the waters of Tampa Bay, Fla. At the time of his release Trinidad weighed more than 1,000 pounds. It took a collaboration of 11 people to carry the animal into the water.
Trinidad, a male manatee, traveled from Florida to the Texas coast in November 2014. A collaborative effort by the Texas
Photo credit: Jim Valade, USFWS.
Marine Mammal Stranding Network, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, SeaWorld San Antonio, an expert from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office and NRG Energy resulted in his rescue on November 25, 2014. After spending some time at SeaWorld San Antonio Trinidad was moved to SeaWorld Orlando.
We are very happy that Trinidad was successfully returned to Tampa Bay! Thank you to all of the partners that assisted in the rescue and release!
Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery is located on the Arizona side of the Colorado River eleven miles below Hoover Dam, within Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Photo credit: USFWS.
Partnership Cost-Share Agreement Funds Reliable Water Supply at Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery
March 2015 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, announced the signing of a Cooperative Agreement on March 4, 2015. “This agreement offers a mutually beneficial solution to repairing the water supply at the Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery,” said Benjamin Tuggle, Regional Director for the Service’s Southwest Region. Aging infrastructure at the Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery caused a loss of a reliable water supply and 40,000 fish in 2013. A complete replacement and repair of the system was cost-prohibitive within the Service’s Fisheries Program budget. The Service worked closely with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and many other partners, to find a viable solution for repairing the intake water pipeline at the hatchery. These efforts led to this cost-share partnership agreement.
Milkweed seeds blow in the wind. Photo credit: USFWS.
The Wonders of Wind
March 2015 Ever wonder how plants use wind to pollinate? Or how scientists measure wind speed? Learn the answers to these questions and much more at the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge Open House on Saturday March 14 from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. The Open House, all activities, and parking are free. Plan to join the fun!
March 2015 The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed March 3 as World Wildlife Day. Wildlife crime is slowly stealing the irreplaceable natural world around us and the damage worldwide is staggering. Learn more about the issues and threats facing wildlife on a global scale, including illegal wildlife trafficking. Find out how you can get involved in protecting our wildlife heritage.
A light snow covers the Refuge. Photo credit: USFWS.
Botanical Gem Reveals Surprises
March 2015 When people think of Arizona, dry deserts and stark landscapes may come to mind. But in reality, Arizona has diverse, rich habitats that are not only a haven for wildlife, but also for naturalists, wildlife watchers, and botanists. Recent research conducted on Leslie Canyon National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Arizona surprised even the most seasoned botanist as this understudied botanical gem revealed many surprises.
February 2015 We are so excited to announce that Trinidad, the Florida manatee rescued off the Texas coast in November, is healthy enough to return to Florida. On Februaray 18, 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard flew Trinidad from Texas to Florida. Trinidad was accompanied by USFWS biologist Donna Anderson , a Sea World veterinarian and animal care staff. He will spend time at SeaWorld Orlando before being released into Tampa Bay. Thank you to all of the partners that assisted in the rescue and recovery of Trinidad.
With a wingspan between 9 and 9-1/2 feet, the California condor is huge and unmistakable. The California condor may be the largest flying land bird in North America. Photo Credit Jon Myatt, USFWS.
New Exhibit will aid in California Condor Recovery
February 2015 A new exhibit at the Phoenix Zoo is expected to aid in the Service’s California condor recovery efforts. Through the 1900s there was a drastic decline, with the number of condors found in the wild spiraling down to a mere 22 in 1967. This decline led the Service to list the California condor as an endangered species. In 1996, a recovery plan was in place and the first captive-raised birds were released into the wild in Arizona. Today there are 73 condors in the wild. “This noteworthy achievement would not have been possible without our partnerships with the Peregrine Fund, and many other organizations, federal and state agencies, private landowners, zoos and Mexico,” said Benjamin Tuggle, the Service’s Southwest Regional Director.
Allison Greenleaf (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) transports Dark Canyon Pack cross-fostered male wolf from helicopter in Gila National Forest, Feb. 3, 2015. Photo credit: USFWS.
2014 Mexican Wolf Population Survey Complete
February 2015 The Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team (IFT) has completed its annual year-end population survey, documenting a minimum of 109 Mexican wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico at the end of 2014. At the end of 2013, 83 wild wolves were counted. This is the fourth consecutive year with at least a 10 percent increase in the known population – a 31 percent increase in 2014.
Hikers at Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: Don Unser, USFWS.
Trail Plan Seeks Public Input
February 2015 Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque, New Mexico is seeking feedback from the public on the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail Valle de Oro Development Concept Plan. A Public Workshop is planned for Tuesday February 10 from 11:00am to 6:00pm at the Refuge located at 7851 2nd Street SW, Albuquerque, NM 87105. Then on Wednesday February 18 from 4:00pm to 6:00pm, the Draft Conceptual Design will be presented to the public at the Mountain View Community Center located at 201 Prosperity Ave, SW, Albuquerque, NM. The public is encouraged to attend.
Southwest Region Fisheries Display at the 48th Annual Meeting of the American Fisheries Society
February 2015 The USFWS Southwest Region Fisheries office participated in the 48TH Joint Annual Meeting (JAM) of the AZ/NM Chapter of the American Fisheries Sociaty and the AZ and NM Chapters of the Wildlife Sociaty, February 5-7, 2015, in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The mission of the American Fisheries Society is to improve the conservation and sustainability of fishery resources and aquatic ecosystems by advancing fisheries and aquatic science and promoting the development of fisheries professionals. The Southwest Region unveiled its the display which provided insight and information on aquatic issues. Additional attendees and students had the opportunity to learn about the Region and the needs for conserving America's Fisheries.
Seventy masked bobwhite quail were placed in carriers and flown to Mexico to begin a captive breeding program at the Africam Safari in Puebla, Mexico. Photo credit: Robert Mesta, USFWS.
New Breeding Facility Planned for Masked Bobwhite Quail in Mexico
February 2015 On January 29, 2015 staff from the Service’s Southwest Region successfully transferred 70 endangered masked bobwhite quail to Africam Safari in Puebla, Mexico. Since arrival in Mexico, initial reports indicate the birds are doing well. Through a Conservation Partnership Agreement, the quail were transferred from the captive breeding facility at the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in southern Arizona with the intent of starting a captive breeding program in Mexico.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Teams with Conservation Partners to Launch Campaign to Save Beleaguered Monarch Butterfly, Engage Millions of Americans
February 2015 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today launched a major new campaign aimed at saving the declining monarch butterfly. The Service signed a cooperative agreement with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), announced a major new funding initiative with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and pledged an additional $2 million in immediate funding for on-the-ground conservation projects around the country.
A collared ocelot is released back into the wild. Photo credit: USFWS.
Ocelot Researchers Hard at Work
Febraury 2015 Ocelot research and recovery continues to gain ground in south Texas. Last week, wildlife biologists at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge captured and released three ocelots. The cats are captured to be fitted with GPS tracking collars that help researchers better understand their habitat needs and their movement throughout the area. It also allows them to track population numbers and monitor the health and genetics of the cats.
Prescribed burn consuming dead vegetation. Photo credit: Gerald Vickers, USFWS.
Prescribed Fires Scheduled at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
February 2015 Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, Oklahoma is planning a series of prescribed fires to improve wildlife habitat by reducing invasive red cedar and invigorating native grasslands while reducing the threat of wildfires on the Refuge. Some public use areas on Refuge may be subject to temporary closures during this time. More details are available below.
The young ocelot and its mother are photographed at a water source. Credit: USFWS.
Another Significant Discovery! A Second Young Ocelot Seen at Refuge
February 2015 Another young ocelot has been discovered at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge near Rio Hondo, Texas. Last fall, a young cat was photographed by one of the Refuge's motion triggered cameras along with its mother. The new ocelot was also photographed by a motion triggered camera in another part of the Refuge with its mother. The two adult females have been identified as different individuals. With less than 80 of these highly endangered cats remaining in the wild, the discovery of this second young ocelot is of great significance to the population.
The Refuge protects a remnant of the bottomland hardwood forest found along the Trinity River. Photo Credit: Gary Holmes (from the Refuge website).
We Need YOU! Union Volunteers to Construct Boardwalk at Texas Refuge
February 2015 A great partnership is brewing in east Texas. The Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and the Department of the Interior are asking union members to lend a hand to construct a 500 foot elevated boardwalk that will connect Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge to the city of Liberty’s existing trail system. For information on how you can be involved with this great project please see the Flyer below.
Download the Boardwalk Flyer Learn more about Trinity River NWR
Whooping Crane. Photo credit: USFWS.
Rewards Offered for Information About Death of
Endangered Whooping Crane
February 2015 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are seeking information about a state and federally protected whooping crane found dead on January 4 along the Texas coast near Sand Lake in Aransas Bay. The Service is offering a reward in the amount of $2,500 and TPWD is contributing $1,000 for information about the death of the crane. Several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are also offering up reward money for this effort.
Enjoying family time on a national wildlife refuge. Photo Credit: Steve Hillebrand, USFWS.
Where Do You Find Refuge?
February 2015 More and more our lives are filled with computers, social media, smart phones, and other electronic devices that seem to dictate our daily activities. We are so “plugged in” that we are often out of touch. How do we refuel our souls and reconnect with the world around us? Many people are turning to America’s national wildlife refuges to un-plug, un-wind and re-connect. Here is one journey that begins, and continues, on a national wildlife refuge.
Private landowners and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff come together to celebrate ocelot conservation. Photo credit: USFWS.
Private Landowners Thanked for Contributions to Ocelot Conservation
January 2015 Private landowners in South Texas recently were celebrated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their contributions to help protect endangered Ocelots, a small, wild cat that once roamed in the United States from South Texas up into Arkansas and Louisiana and today is found only in deep South Texas. At a small ceremony held at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge near Harlingen, TX several private landowners were recognized for partnering with the refuge through development of private lands agreements, conservation easements, and program support. Throughout the country, private landowners play an important role in wildlife conservation.
January 2015 The Texas ocelot is famous as far away as Cincinnati, Ohio! The Cincinnati Zoo recently developed this beautiful Infographic to help spread the word about ocelots and their conservation. It highlights the unique features of these highly endangered cats and also provides information on how you can help save ocelots.
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service firefighter lights a controlled burn. Photo credit: USFWS.
Havasu National Wildlife Refuge to Conduct Prescribed Burn
January 2015 Weather permitting, Havasu National Wildlife Refuge (Needles, AZ) will be conducting a prescribed burn beginning February 3 to improve wildlife habitat and reduce hazardous fuels. Nearby roads and communities may be impacted for short time periods. Smoke will likely be visible to Needles Ca, Mohave Valley AZ, and residents in the surrounding area of Golden Shores, AZ.
Cranes in a field at Valle de Oro NWR. Photo credit: USFWS.
Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge Sets Monthly Open House Schedule
January 2015 Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge is currently hosting monthly Open Houses to welcome community members to visit and experience the first urban national wildlife refuge in the Southwest. The Open Houses continue to gain in popularity and attendance. All events at the Refuge, including Open Houses, are free and open to the public and are located at 7521 Second Street SW—just 3.5 miles south of Rio Bravo. The Refuge is pleased to announce some of the Open House activities include Winter Wellness, Junior Great Backyard Bird Count, and Conservation Careers.
Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge to Host Eagle Watch Tours
January 2015 Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) will be offering free Eagle Watch Tours beginning in January. These tours provide the public with an amazing opportunity to view bald eagles in their natural habitat.
Tours take place on the following Saturdays; January 24, 31, February 7, 14, 21, 28, and March 7 for the 2015 season. All tours start at the Refuge Headquarters at 9 a.m. and end by noon. Tours are free and no pre-registration is required.
Whiskey Creek Gila Trout Lineage Rescued from Fire are Returned to the Wild
January 2015 Facing the devastating effects from the aftermath of the large Baldy Complex fire in 2012, Gila Trout and other fish populations were at risk of a complete loss. In a unified and coordinated effort, biologists with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, New Mexico Game & Fish Department, and members of the Trout Unlimited sportsman’s group raced against the clock to save as many of the genetically distinct populations as possible. Nearly 350 fish were rescued from ash and sediment forming in Langstroth and Whiskey creeks. Later the Gila Trout were sent to the Mora National Fish Hatchery, the New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, and the other species were sent to Dexter National Fish Hatchery. The Gila trout facilities were specially designed to mimic the natural habitat of the species as closely as possible which allowed the species to thrive in the hatchery environment. In October 2014, the Service conducted the first reintroduction of Whiskey Creek Gila trout into the Gila Wilderness, from progeny of the 350 rescued fish.
Watch the video for more on the story of this unique lineage of Gila trout:
Public Meetings Scheduled on the Southern Edwards Plateau Draft Habitat Conservation Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement
January 2015 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with the City of San Antonio and Bexar County will conduct public meetings in Helotes, Texas and Kerrville, Texas, to obtain comments on the Southern Edwards Plateau draft Habitat Conservation Plan (dHCP), draft Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS) and an incidental take permit application.
Public meetings are scheduled for 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. at each location. The dates and locations for the public meetings are:
Tuesday, February 3rd
Casa Helotes Senior Center
12070 Leslie Road
Helotes, Texas 78023
Wednesday, February 4th
YO Ranch Conference Center
2033 Sidney Baker
Kerrville, Texas 78028
Service Proposes Special Rule to Focus Protections for Northern Long-Eared Bat
The rapid and severe decline of the northern long-eared bat – a species important for crop pest control – prompted the Service’s announcement today that we are proposing a special rule under the Endangered Species Act that would benefit the species while limiting the regulatory burden on the public. If finalized, the rule would apply only if the Service lists the bat as "threatened." The proposal opens a 60-day public comment period.
Service Finalizes Changes to Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Rule
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized the revised rules under which the Mexican wolf reintroduction program is conducted in Arizona and New Mexico. The revision expands the area in which Mexican wolves can be released, disperse and be managed. Changes also increase management flexibility to conserve one of the nation’s rarest mammals, and provide for greater responsiveness to the needs of local communities and to address problem wolf behavior. Additionally, the Service has classified the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies under the Endangered Species Act.
Debbie instructing a youth in the art of archery. Credit: USFWS
Conservation, Compassion and Caring
Did you know that your own backyard is a national treasure? It’s true! Making it easier for you to get your “nature fix” within the city limits is one of the goals of the Service’s Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative and Debbie Pike, Visitor Services Manager at Northern New Mexico National Wildlife Refuge Complex, is helping guide the adventure. Learn more about what Debbie is doing to help urban audiences discover their own backyards.
Jennifer Owen-White developed numerous community partnerships and community gardens. Credit: USFWS
Refuge Manager at Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge named Woman of Influence
Jennifer Owen-White, Refuge Manager at Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque, New Mexico has been named a Woman of Influence by Albuquerque Business First. Out of highly competitive pool of over 450 nominees, Jennifer is one of only 30 women to receive the honor.
Pedestrians must carefully navigate along 2nd Street, the road leading to the Service's urban refuge in Albuquerque - the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. In the near future, the area will see significant access improvements using funds from the Federal Lands Access Program. Credit: Photo provided by Bernallilo County Place Matters
Paving The Way
For most people visiting a national wildlife refuge, the drive to the refuge is usually not the highlight of the trip. But for the Regional Transportation Program, getting people to America’s wild places is all in a day’s work. It is true most visitors arrive in a private vehicle, however more and more people travel to refuges by bus, bicycles, foot and even watercraft. That’s where the Transportation Program comes in. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Federal Highway Administration are working together through the Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) to improve public access to national wildlife refuges. The improvements being made to local and state roads, parking lots and trails are providing better access to wildlife-oriented recreational opportunities. Through FLAP, the Service has assisted state and local partners in securing more than $28 million in project funding improving access to federal properties in Region 2
Monarch butterfly on New England Aster at Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Greg Thompson/USFWS
Service Initiates Status Review of Monarch Butterfly under the Endangered Species Act
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced it will be conducting a status review of the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. Monarch butterflies migrate vast distances, a journey becoming more perilous for many because of threats along their migratory paths and on their breeding and wintering grounds. The Service is requesting scientific and commercial data and other information through a 60-day public information period until March 2, 2015.
City of San Antonio and Bexar County Develop Draft Plan to Conserve Nine Federally Listed Species Compatible with Regional Development
December 2014 Working together, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the City of San Antonio and Bexar County, Texas, have developed a proposed plan to minimize potential impacts of infrastructure and commercial and residential development on nine federally-protected threatened and endangered species and their habitat.
The Service today released the result of that collaboration, the Southern Edwards Plateau draft Habitat Conservation Plan (dHCP), for public review and comment. The draft HCP outlines conservation actions designed to ensure that development occurring in one of the most rapidly growing areas of the country will not jeopardize the survival of the golden-cheeked warbler, black-capped vireo, Government Canyon Bat Cave spider, Madla Cave meshweaver, Braken Cave meshweaver, Government Canyon Bat Cave Meshweaver, Helotes mold beetle, and two ground beetle species, each of which has no common name (Rhadine exilis and Rhadine infernalis).
The Service encourages the public to review and provide comments on the documents during the 90-day public comment period. Written comments must be received by March 12, 2015.
Vermilion Cliffs condor chick #754 was one of two to fledge in Arizona in 2014. Photo credit: The Peregrine Fund.
Two of Three Wild-hatched Condors have Fledged – Join Arizona-Utah Flock
December 2014 Program biologists from The Peregrine Fund and Zion National Park have confirmed that two California condor chicks have left their nests and taken flight in northern Arizona, but hopes of a third chick successfully reaching the fledgling milestone in southern Utah have been dashed by a lack of visual observation. The third chick was Utah’s first wild-hatched condor chick.
Indigo Buntings are one of the colorful songbirds seen on the Refuge. Photo credit: USFWS, Dave Menke.
Discover Oklahoma Uncovers Local Refuge
December 2014 Each week, Discover Oklahoma takes viewers on a ride to discover all the great attractions and adventures in their state. Recently the weekly program, put on the Oklahoma Department of Tourism, visited Deep Fork National Wildlife Refuge in Okmulgee. Nestled along the Deep Fork River, the Refuge protects important wetlands and bottomland hardwood forests. Along with providing essential habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, the Refuge offers year-round recreational activities including hiking, fishing, hunting, wildlife watching, and special events.
Service Protects Red Knot as Threatened Under the Endangered Species Act
December 2014 The rufa subspecies of the red knot now will receive protection as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, the Service announced today. “Unfortunately, this hearty shorebird is no match for the widespread effects of emerging challenges like climate change and coastal development, coupled with the historic impacts of horseshoe crab overharvesting, which have sharply reduced its population in recent decades,” said Service Director Dan Ashe.
Sandhill cranes at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is a principal wintering area for the cranes. Photo credit: USFWS.
Sandhill Cranes Wintering Ecology Study Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
December 2014 In early December, members of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Regional Directorate Team assisted with banding cranes at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge as part of the Sandhill Cranes Wintering Ecology Study. Some cranes were outfitted with satellite tracking devices called Platform Transmitter Terminals. This study was initiated due to recent declines of the Rocky Mountain Population of sandhill cranes. The Service’s Southwest Region Division of Migratory Birds is working in partnership with the New Mexico Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit - through the New Mexico State University - to complete this work. The study focuses on the Middle Rio Grande Valley, the principal wintering area for the Rocky Mountain Population of sandhill cranes. This population winters mainly from the City of Albuquerque south to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near San Antonio, New Mexico. The valley has long been recognized as the most important wintering area for these cranes. Tens of thousands of visitors travel great distances every year to attend the annual Crane Festival held at the Refuge to see cranes on their wintering grounds.
Certificate of Appreciation from Cell Phones for Soldiers.
Combined Federal Campaign the Southwest Region
December 2014 In the spirit of giving during the Combined Federal Campaign the Southwest Region donated 55 old cell phones and accessories to the Cell Phones for Soldiers organization. Cell Phones for Soldiers recycled the equipment and were able to provide 250 hours in calling cards to our troops deployed overseas. For many of these soldiers, this is their only way to talk with their family while deployed. The Southwest Region staff that made this possible were from Science Applications, Budget and Administration, and Information Resource and Technology Management. They collected phones from the entire region and plan to try to do this
again next year. Our contributions not only kept unnecessary items out of the landfill, but also helped the men and women who bravely risk their lives for our freedom.
Young ocelot can be seen lower left. Photo credit: Sarah Nordlof and Richard Kline, Kline Lab in the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Texas at Brownsville.
Refuge Trail Camera Reveals Significant Discovery!
December 2014 A motion-sensored trail camera on Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge near Rio Hondo, Texas has captured photos of a young ocelot. Although the photos are a bit blurry, it is clear that one of the ocelots is significantly smaller than the other, suggesting it is a mother and her off spring. This is an important discovery for this highly endangered species as their population numbers are critically low.
Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, the Service's Southwest Regional Director, recognizes Susan Combs, Texas Comptroller and Chair of the Texas Interagency Task Force on Economic Growth and Endangered Species, for her contributions to species conservation in Texas and the Southwest. Photo credit: USFWS.
Service Honors Texas Comptroller for Her Contributions to Conservation
December 2014 At the December 2, 2014, meeting of the Texas Interagency Task Force on Economic Growth and Endangered Species, Dr. Benjamin Tuggle presented Susan Combs, Texas Comptroller and Chair of the Task Force, with a plaque in recognition of her efforts to promote conservation in the State of Texas and the Southwest Region. Dr. Tuggle thanked the Comptroller for her dedication and commitment to expanding species research efforts and supporting on the ground conservation efforts in the State of Texas. He praised the Comptroller for her ability to bring together diverse stakeholder groups to tackle difficult conservation issues for a number of species including the dunes sagebrush lizard, the lesser prairie-chicken and the golden-cheeked warbler. Her willingness to work with the Service on these challenging issues has benefited both the wildlife in Texas as well as the State’s landowners and economy.
Bald eagle in nest. Photo credit: USFWS.
Video Highlights Cooperative Effort to Relocate Eagle Nest
December 2014 In July 2014, Oncor, a local utility company, relocated a bald eagle nest at the John Bunker Wetland Center in Seagoville, Texas. The relocation effort was a cooperative effort that included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Arlington Ecological Services Field Office, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Migratory Bird Program, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Falcon Steel and the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center. Relocating the eagle nest ensures the safety of the eagles and their offspring while ensuring reliable service to the customers that are served by the active voltage lines.
The eagles recently returned and have been seen perching on the relocated nest!!
At the end of the summer, these bats migrate 40 to 50 miles and hibernate in small clusters in tight cracks and crevices in the caves and mines. Unfortunately, the winter habitat is where this species encounters its biggest threat. Photo credit USFWS.
Comment Period Re-Opened for Northern Long-Eared Bat
November 2014 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reopened the public comment period on a proposal to list the northern long-eared bat as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Comments will be accepted through Dec. 18, 2014. The Service reopened the comment period to alert the public to additional information provided by state conservation agencies within the range of the species. The Service will consider this information, and all information received previously, while determining whether the northern long-eared bat warrants listing under the ESA. Reopening of the comment period will allow the public to provide comments on the proposed rule in light of that additional information. A final decision on the proposal is due on April 2, 2015.
Working with Texas Parks and Wildlife, SeaWorld San Antonio, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Chambers County Sheriff Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assisted in the rescue of a stranded manatee in North Trinity Bay, Texas. The West Indian Manatee was first sighted on Sunday. Rescue efforts were quickly put into place and by Tuesday mid-morning, the manatee was removed from the waters and placed on a truck to be temporarily housed at SeaWorld San Antonio. A preliminary health check determined the adult male manatee’s vitals are good, but he appears underweight and possibly dehydrated. The rescued manatee is now at SeaWorld San Antonio to be further evaluated. He will eventually be returned to Tampa Bay. Funds for transportation are from an out-of-state rescue fund that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Jacksonville ES, Florida arranged for through the Sea to Shore Alliance.
Final EIS for Mexican Wolf Rule Change Proposal. Credit: Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team.
Service Completes Evaluation of Proposed Changes to Mexican Wolf Experimental Population
After reviewing extensive public comments, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed its evaluation of proposed changes to its Mexican wolf reintroduction program in Arizona and New Mexico that will allow greater flexibility to conserve one of the nation’s rarest mammals and greater responsiveness to the needs of local communities in cases of problem wolf behavior. The final Environmental Impact Statement outlines steps to increase Mexican wolf range and genetic diversity, and mitigate impacts to ranchers and native ungulates.
Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf. Photo credit: Todd Buck, Arizona Game and Fish.
Canid North of Grand Canyon Confirmed to be a Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf
November 2014 Genetic tests of scat (feces) collected from a free-roaming canid north of Grand Canyon National Park on the North Kaibab National Forest have confirmed that the animal, first detected in early October, is a female Rocky Mountain gray wolf. The confirmation clarifies that this gray wolf is fully protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Paul White (left) and Lise Spargo (right) present Kale Batsell (center) with the Friends Volunteer of the Year Award. Photo credit: USFWS.
Festival Banquet Holds Surprises
November 2014 The Friends Annual Dinner & Banquet is a Feature Event each year at the Festival of the Cranes. The Friends of the Bosque, a group of organized volunteers that support Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, sponsor the Festival and each year the Thursday evening banquet is a time to celebrate. This year, Dr. Benjamin Tuggle served as the Keynote Speaker. Dr. Tuggle is the Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region and oversees conservation efforts in four states; New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma. He began his distinguished career with the Service in 1979
Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Keynote Speaker. Photo credit: USFWS.
at the National Health Research Center in Madison, WI. Since then he has served in key leadership positions throughout the nation, including field experience and time in the agency’s Washington, DC headquarters office. He began his tenure as the Service's Southwest Regional Director in 2005, and is recognized as one of the Service's most outstanding leaders in conservation. The Banquet also recognized the efforts of one of the members of the Friends of the Bosque. A surprised Kale Batsell was honored with the Friends Volunteer of the Year Award!
An overlook provides birdwatchers and photographers a perfect perch. Photo Credit: John & Karen Hollingsworth, USFWS.
Nature Photographers Flock to The Festival of the Cranes
November 2014 Famed for its intense concentrations of wildlife and endless landscapes, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is a nature lovers dream. Nestled along the banks of the Rio Grande in central New Mexico, the Refuge is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and The Festival of the Cranes is a perfect time to visit! The Festival offers something for everyone, especially those interested in capturing wildlife by lens. Nature photographers from all over the country participate in and attend the Festival offering workshops, tours, and tips. The Festival starts today!
Service Announces Public Scoping Process for the Proposed Issuance of a Permit to Schlitterbahn New Braunfels
November 2014 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is beginning the process of evaluating a request from Schlitterbahn New Braunfels for a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and an incidental take permit from the Service. A 30-day public comment period will open on November, 18, 2014, and comments will be accepted through December 22, 2014.
A public scoping meeting will be held on Tuesday, November 25, 2014, from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. at the Schlitterbahn Meeting Facility, 285 North Liberty Avenue, New Braunfels, TX 78130. Comments may be submitted to the Service in one of the following ways:
Bird to watch! Close up of a crane seen at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Photo Credit: Denise Ippolito, USFWS.
Polls Closed, Votes Tallied and the Winners Are…. Service’s Southwest Region Makes USA Today’s Top Ten Best Birdwatching List
November 2014 Describing it as an intense battle, USA Today wrapped up voting on November 10, and announced the long-awaited Readers' Choice 10 Best Birdwatching locations. With diversity, natural beauty, conservation importance and convenience used as selection criteria, it is not surprising that four of the locations making the top 10 list are in the Service’s Southwest Region. These locations include Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in New Mexico, Aransas NWR and the Lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas, and Southeastern Arizona. Birdwatching is becoming more popular around the world, with birdwatchers claiming that -- while intellectually stimulating -- it is also an effective stress-reliever. The best part is there is no learning curve. People of all physical abilities and ages can enjoy birdwatching. Additionally, this nature tourism is an increasingly important source of economic growth to local communities. The benefits don’t stop there. By spending some time studying behavior, migration patterns, and avian abundance, birdwatchers can take on the role of a scientist and help track changes to habitats. This can make a significant contribution to protecting and preserving our natural environment. So unplug and get outside to visit your favorite National Wildlife Refuge and enjoy some stress-reducing birdwatching while helping the environment.
November 2014 The Houston Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership is attracting lots of interest in the nation's fourth-largest city. Many citizens who live in the Houston area may not be familiar with national wildlife refuges, but that is about to change! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative is drawing together diverse, local partners to help the Service connect urban residents, especially young people, to the great outdoors and to America’s national wildlife refuges! Check out some of the great things happening deep in the heart of Texas!
Two adult whooping cranes fly over Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: Steve Hillebrand.
Innovative Research Study to Uncover the Unknown Lives of Whooping Cranes
November 2014 A new, innovative research study is underway that will help wildlife biologists discover important information about one of the most interesting birds in the world, whooping cranes. Biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks & Wildlife, U.S. Geological Survey, Crane Trust, the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, and the International Crane Foundation have teamed up to tag and monitor adult whooping cranes to learn more details about their everyday life. The adult cranes will be tracked using satellite GPS technology which can uncover unknown migration stops, habitat use, nesting areas, and more. Although this highly endangered species has been studied for years, new innovative ways to gain information is as important as ever to help keep the species on the road to recovery. Learn more about this new study through a great video from our partner, Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Birders and wildlife enthusiasts are flocking to Bosque del Apache NWR near Socorro, New Mexico for a glimpse of a rare, almost all white sandhill crane. The unique coloration of this crane is likely a result of leucism, a condition where the pigmentation cells in an animal or bird fail to develop properly. Different from albino because it doesn't lack all pigment, it has a few dusky grey feathers and normal-looking red forehead and eyes. In addition to sandhill cranes, the refuge is seeing a spectacular influx of other migratory birds including a variety of ducks, hawks, bald eagles, songbirds, and snow geese. Along with the colorful bounty of birds, the cottonwood trees are in full color and the weather is perfect! It’s a great time to visit this remarkable national wildlife refuge!
Monitoring Maternity Colonies of the Endangered Ozark Big-Eared Bat on the Ozark Plateau National Wildlife Refuge
November 2014 The Ozark big-eared bat was federally-listed as endangered due to its small population size, reduced and limited distribution, and vulnerability to human disturbance. The entire population currently is estimated to consist of only about 1,800 individuals. The range of the Ozark big-
eared bat is limited to northeastern Oklahoma and northwestern and north-central Arkansas.
Each October for the past ten year hundreds of 5th and 6th graders have descended on the Fennessy Ranch in Refugio, Texas, to attend Monarch Madness, an event to celebrate the Monarch butterfly and its 2000 mile migration. This year 300 students from five schools arrived at the Ranch on October 24th. While at the Ranch, students attended 10 different stations where they learned about butterflies, birds, conservation and nature in general. Staff from Texas Parks and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas State Aquarium, Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Reserve and A&M Corpus Christi operated the stations.
Matt Schmader with the city of Albuquerque accepts the Urban Bird Treaty designation from Andrew Hautzinger (seated) of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Photo credit: USFWS.
City of Albuquerque Designated as 20th Urban Bird Treaty City
October 2014 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that Albuquerque, New Mexico has been designated as an Urban Bird Treaty City. This noble distinction is part of the Service’s Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds, often referred to as the Urban Bird Treaty. Albuquerque will receive $100,000 to enhance bird habitat, engage citizens in conservation, foster environmental education and manage harmful invasive species. A Designation Ceremony and Community Celebration were held October 23.
The Service has a long history in rhino conservation; investigating and prosecuting traffickers in rhino horn, working with partners on-the-ground, and driving conservation action through international treaties. Credit: Karl Stromayer, USFWS.
Safari Company Owners Charged in Rhino Hunt Scam
October 23, 2014 The owners of Out of Africa Adventurous Safaris today were charged with selling illegal rhino hunts to unsuspecting American hunters. The defendants allegedly failed to get required permits and later sold rhino horns on the black market. Demand for rhino horn is soaring: In 2007, 13 rhinos were poached in South Africa. In 2013, poachers killed more than 1,000. The investigation is part of Operation Crash, an ongoing nationwide effort to halt unlawful trafficking of rhino horns. Since the initial arrest of eight in February 2012, there have been more than two dozen arrests and a dozen convictions. The Service’s Southwest Region law enforcement office served a critical role in supporting the Nation-wide Operation Crash investigation.
Arlington Ecological Services FO Partners Program Works to Conserve Monarch Butterflies
October 2014 On October 16, 2014, Partners Biologist Catherine Yeargan and Steve Arey from the Service’s Arlington ESFO visited a Partners Project in Hunt County, Texas, to collect green milkweed pods/seeds for our outdoor classrooms/pollinator gardens. While at the site, Steve and Catherine were able to capture video of the Monarch butterflies that were working over spiny aster.
The Service was recently petitioned to list Monarch butterflies under the Endangered Species Act as threatened. At its high in the winter of 1996-1997, there were a billion Monarchs. Today, there are only about 35 million Monarchs, a reduction of 90 percent.
One reason the Monarch butterfly is declining is that milkweed – the host plant for the Monarch - is disappearing from the landscape. Milkweed has been impacted by urban sprawl and development as well as land-use practices such as farming with crops genetically modified to resist herbicides. The Service is encouraging efforts to collect and sow of milkweed in an effort to help the Monarch.
Hidden Valley Hills, Arizona. Photo credit: Greg Risdahl, USFWS.
Mayor Declares Southwest Arizona Refuges and Wilderness Month
Yuma City, Arizona Mayor Douglas Nicholls proclaimed the month of October “Southwest Arizona Refuges and Wilderness Month." This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. A variety of festivals, special events, programs, and much more will be taking place across the country to celebrate. Several national wildlife refuges in southwest Arizona have designated Wilderness and will be joining the celebration.
From left to right: DOT Secretary Foxx, Senator Heinrich, Senator Udall, Representative Lujan Grisham, Bernalillo County Commissioner De La Cruz,
FWS Regional Director Dr. Tuggle and Angela West. Credit: USFWS
Improved Access Planned for Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge
October 2014 U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Bernalillo County
Commissioner Art De La Cruz and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Regional
Director Benjamin Tuggle announced that $8 million in federal funding was
awarded to Bernalillo County for transportation improvements leading to the
Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in the South Valley. The money will
pave the way for major economic development and tourism opportunities
leading into the new refuge. New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin
Heinrich and Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, along with the Friends
of the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, joined in the announcement.
Service to Re-open Public Comment Period for the Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo Critical Habitat Proposal
October 2014 Sacramento, CA – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced yesterday it will re-open the public comment period on its proposal to designate 546,335 acres of critical habitat for the western population of yellow-billed cuckoo in 80 separate units in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
An immature red-tailed hawk is seen stooping from the skies to catch prey. “This investigation was aptly named. In some ways, it is a tribute to the Wilderness Act signed into law fifty years ago. It would be unfathomable to explore a wilderness area and not hear a bird’s song, or see an eagle or hawk soaring in the sky,” said Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Southwest Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Credit: Craig Koppie, USFWS
Operation Silent Wilderness
October 2014 This week in Phoenix, Arizona, Leo Begay, a tribal member of the Navajo Nation from Tuba City, Arizona, became the last defendant to be sentenced following a nationwide investigation – Operation Silent Wilderness – by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife into the illegal killing and commercialization of protected eagles and other migratory birds.
A coyote howls at the Sevilleta NWR trail cam. Photo credit: USFWS.
September 2014 Wildlife selfies? Yes, that’s right! The Southwest Region has a brand new interactive webpage that you will find both captivating and educational. Taken from automatic cameras that many national wildlife refuges set up to help count, track and identify wildlife, these amazing photos capture a variety of species in their rarest form. From a mother black bear with her cubs to golden eagles splashing in a watering hole, you will see wildlife from a whole new perspective!
Every month a different national wildlife refuge in the southwest will be featured and new, exciting photos will be highlighted. Simply click on the Wildlife Selfies icon and enjoy! And remember…check back often!
Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery Stocking Rainbow Trout at Davis Dam
October 2014 This week, staff at Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery (hatchery) have begun stocking 20,000 rainbow trout into the tailwaters of Davis Dam and Rotary Park, both located in Bullhead, AZ, on October 1, 4, 8 and 15. The fish were donated by the Arizona Game and Fish were of catchable size.
Western yellow-billed cuckoo. Photo credit Mark Dettling.
Western Yellow-Billed Cuckoo Receives Federal Protection under the Endangered Species Act
October 2014 The western population of the yellow-billed cuckoo will be protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today. The Service determined that listing a distinct population segment of the bird in portions of 12 western states - Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon and Washington – in addition to Canada and Mexico is warranted.
Next steps include designation of critical habitat for the species and development of a recovery plan. Both steps will be strengthened by participation from other federal and state agencies, tribal entities and the public in the open comment periods.
October 2014 The Service will make a final decision on the 2013 proposal to list the rufa red knot as threatened under the Endangered Species Act by November 28, 2014. The Service requested a two-month extension from the U.S. District Court of D.C., as the agency had previously agreed to publish a final decision by the end of September 2014 through a settlement agreement with WildEarth Guardians and Center for Biological Diversity.
During more than 130 days of public comment periods and three public hearings since September 2013, the Service received more than 17,400 comments on the threatened listing proposal, many of which were supportive form letters, while others raised issues with the adequacy of horseshoe crab management, the impacts of wind turbines, the inclusion of interior states in the range, and other topics. The agency requested additional time to complete the final decision so that we could thoroughly analyze complex information available after the proposal, such as national and global climate assessments, and so that we could carefully consider and address extensive public comments. A thorough response to comments will be included in the final document.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Determines ESA Protection for theRio Grande Cutthroat Trout is Not Warranted
September 2014 After review of the best available scientific and commercial information, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) found that listing the Rio Grande cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii virginalis) under the Endangered Species Act is not warranted at this time. Therefore, the Service will remove this subspecies from the candidate list.
The Service found that the Rio Grande cutthroat trout is not in danger of extinction throughout its range or in a significant portion of its range now, nor is it likely to become so in the foreseeable future. However, the Service is asking the public to submit any new information that becomes available concerning the status of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout at any time.
A girl writes on a chalkboard at Valle de Oro NWR. Photo credit: USFWS.
Fun was had by all at Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge
September 2014 Fun was had by all at a community celebration at Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The fun filled event celebrated the Refuge’s 2nd birthday, National Public Lands Day, and the completion of the land acquisition. A variety of hands-on, family friendly activities filled the morning as young and old alike enjoyed activity booths, archery, an assortment of live critters, games, live music and free cake & ice cream.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces $900,000 in Wolf Livestock Demonstration Project Grants
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced $900,000 in grants under the Wolf Livestock Demonstration Project Grant Program. Grants will be distributed to the states of Arizona, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
The grants assist livestock producers in undertaking proactive, non-lethal activities to reduce the risk of livestock loss from predation by wolves, and compensate producers for livestock losses caused by wolves. The program provides funding to states and tribes, with federal cost-share not to exceed 50 percent.
In the southwest Arizona was awarded $40,000 and New Mexico was awarded $20,000 to be used toward depredation compensation as part of the Mexican wolf recovery effort. Additionally, Arizona was awarded $80,000 and New Mexico $50,000 to fund depredation prevention efforts.
Jennifer Owen-White shares her love of wildlife with members of the Youth Conservation Corps. Credit: USFWS.
Service Brings Nature to the Cities
September 2014 With 80 percent of Americans living in cities, the Fish and Wildlife Service has made it a priority to forge a connection between nature and those in urban communities. The Service's Open Spaces blog asked five questions of some of our staff members in a series we are calling “Meet your Fish and Wildlife Service,” which this week focuses on how these wildlife educators maintain ties to the natural world and help foster them in others in the context of city living.
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Summer Jobs at Trinity River NWR Liberty, Texas - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, through the Youth Conservation Corps program, is seeking applications from young men and women age 15 to 18 for two summer positions. Learn more...
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Science Leadership Award
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