The group visited the Cienega de Mata area of Jalisco to learn more about the conservation and management of grassland ecosystems of the area. Credit: Aimee Roberson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Trans-Boundary Collaboration Meeting held in Aguascalientes, Mexico
July 2014 The Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) held its first ever international meeting in Mexico, July 8-10, 2014. The Desert LCC is an international partnership that brings together managers, stakeholders, communities and others to collectively address landscape conservation in the major desert and mountain regions of the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. Seventy-nine people from the U.S. and Mexico met at the Universidad Autónoma de Aguascalientes to strengthen the international foundation for the partnership and to further engage the Mexican conservation community in advancing cooperative conservation across the region.
Zuni Bluehead Sucker Warrants Protection Under the Endangered Species Act
July 2014 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the final listing of the Zuni bluehead sucker (Catostomus discobolus yarrowi) as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Zuni bluehead sucker – a small, slender, torpedo-shaped fish – is endemic to the headwaters of the Little Colorado River and the Zuni River watersheds in east-central Arizona and west-central New Mexico. This final listing rule will become effective August 25, 2014.
The Zuni bluehead sucker is in decline due to the combined effects of the following factors: habitat destruction, modification, and degradation resulting from water withdrawal (stream drying); sedimentation; impoundments; livestock grazing; spread of non-native species; predation by non-native species such as the green sunfish, northern crayfish, and red swamp crayfish. In addition, small population size and restricted ranges of the species make the Zuni bluehead sucker population vulnerable to stochastic events, such as wildfire and drought.
Service Works with U.S. Forest Service to Protect New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse Habitat While Providing Access to Water for Cattle
July 2014 Responding to concerns from livestock producers the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is coordinating with the U.S. Forest Service to provide water access for livestock grazing on Forest Service allotments in the Apache-Sitgraves National Forest, Lincoln National Forest, and Santa Fe National Forest. The Forest Service will be erecting cattle exclusion fences around sensitive jumping mouse habitat to allow the vegetation needed by the mouse to regenerate. In each of these cattle exclusion areas there will be “cattle lanes” that will allow cattle access to needed drinking water.
The Service’s Grant program has helped protect the black-tailed prairie dog by funding the development and testing of a treatment for sylvatic plague. Credit USFWS.
Grants Awarded for Wildlife Conservation Projects
Imperiled species will benefit from a total of $5.6 million in grants through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s competitive State Wildlife Grants program. These grants will be used for projects that conserve and recover wildlife identified by the respective states as Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 12 states receiving grants are: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Carolina and Washington.
The male ocelot om279 after he was fitted with a tracking collar. Credit: USFWS.
Fourth Endangered Ocelot Killed on Texas Highway
An endangered male ocelot was killed on State Highway 100 between Laguna Vista and Los Fresnos, Texas, on July 9, 2014. It is the fourth documented endangered ocelot killed by a vehicle on this stretch of highway and is the third in the last four years since a concrete traffic barrier was constructed. The loss of this ocelot is significant in that he was 20% of the current breeding male population at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in south Texas.
Through the Clean Vessel Act grant program, more than 1 million gallons of sewage is disposed of annually through pump out stations such as this one, resulting in cleaner waters and healthier aquatic ecosystems. Credit USFWS.
Nearly $1 Million in CVA Grants Awarded in Southwest
n support of recreational boating and clean water, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is awarding $16.6 million in grants to 21 states under the Clean Vessel Act (CVA) program. Four of these grants, totaling $929,904, will be awarded in the Southwest Region – one each in Arizona and Oklahoma and two in Texas. Arizona will receive an inland grant of $160,000. Oklahoma will be awarded an inland grant of $304,904. Texas will be awarded two CVA grants; a coastal grant of $240,000 and an inland grant
Service works with Oncor and Other Partners to Relocate Eagle Nest
July 2014 On Saturday, July 12th and Sunday, July 13th 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.
In 2012, a pair of bald eagles built a nest on an electric transmission tower at the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center. The eagle’s nest was brought to the attention of Oncor in 2013, when the eagles returned to the nest on the tower. Representatives of Oncor contacted the Service to report the nest and request assistance in protecting the nest. Oncor and the Service were concerned about the location of the eagle’s nest because it was built on a 345 kilovolt transmission line. This presented a danger to the eagles and their offspring should the transmission line need emergency maintenance from a power outage. Oncor and the Service worked together to develop a plan to protect the eagles by installing an identical “dummy” transmission tower near the original nest location and move the existing nest to the new tower after the eaglets fledged. The “dummy” tower used was generously donated by Falcon Steel.
Eagle nest on transmission arm. Credit: Oncor
Eagle nest safely relocated to new tower. Credit: Oncor
Oncor and the Service intended to move the nest in 2013, however, the eagles returned to the empty nest much sooner than anticipated and the re-location effort had to be postponed until the completion of the nest cycle in 2014. Representatives from Oncor monitored the nest for the last several weeks and in early July, two eagles successfully fledged and became fully independent, providing Oncor an opportunity to transfer the nest. The Service greatly appreciates Oncor’s commitment to work with us to protect the eagles at the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center. We look forward to the return of the eagles next year to their safer nest location.
Often referred to as the "Mexican eagle," Crested Caracaras are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act. The Crested Caracara ranges from northern Mexico to Tierra del Fuego, in the United States it occurs along the southern border, primarily in Texas and Arizona. Credit: USFWS
Investigation Leads to Seizure of Illegal Taxidermy and More
July 2014 Oklahoma - An investigation stemming from the attempted sale of stolen ATVs, led to the seizure of a Caracara Mexican Eagle, Scimitar Oryx, Addax and several duck mounts from the Triple S Wildlife Ranch and Resort in Calvin, Oklahoma. A number of stolen ATVs and two stolen tractors used in the daily operations of the ranch were also seized. Officials from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry's Investigative Services Division with assistance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Examiners and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, executed the warrant for State and Federal violations on July 9, 2014.
Northern Mexican Gartersnake. Photo credit: Jeff Servoss.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Determines ESA Protection Warranted forTwo Southwest Gartersnakes
July 2014 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that threatened species status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is warranted for the northern Mexican gartersnake (Thamnophis eques megalops) and the narrow-headed gartersnake (Thamnophis rufipunctatus), native species in Arizona and New Mexico. Both species will be listed as threatened throughout their range. Under the ESA, a “threatened” listing means the species is likely to become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future; this status is a step below “endangered” and allows for more flexibility in how the Act’s protections are implemented. This rule becomes effective August 7, 2014.
This final listing rule includes a special rule under section 4(d) of the ESA that will exempt operation and maintenance of livestock tanks on private, state and tribal lands from the prohibitions on “take” of listed species. Some northern Mexican gartersnakes occupy stock tanks, or impoundments maintained by cattlemen as livestock watering holes. The special rule will allow landowners to construct new stock tanks and to continue to use and maintain those stock tanks on non-federal lands, which may be occupied by northern Mexican gartersnakes, without the need for further regulation.
Comment Period Reopened for Listing Northern Long-eared Bat as Endangered
July 2014 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened the comment period for 60 days, through August 29, 2014, on a proposal to list the northern long-eared bat as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The Service has also extended the agency’s deadline to April 2, 2015, to make its final decision on whether to list the species. The Service proposed to list the bat as endangered on October 2, 2013, citing white-nose syndrome, a disease that has killed millions of bats, as the greatest threat to the species.
Bald Eagles are amongst more than 1000 wild birds protected under the federal wildlife laws, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and the Lacey Act. Photo credit: USFWS.
New Mexico Resident Pleads Guilty to Violating Federal Wildlife Laws Prohibiting Sale of Eagle Feathers
June 2014 A 60-year-old resident of Edgewood, New Mexico, pleaded guilty this morning to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by selling or offering to sell Bald Eagle feathers. The criminal complaint cited violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Lacey Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The Edgewood resident faces a maximum statutory penalty of two years in prison to be followed by a term of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. The sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later time. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul H. Spiers and was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement with assistance from the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, Homeland Security Investigations, the U. S. Marshals Service, and Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office.
Student DeWayne Thomas assists at an outreach event. Photo credit: USFWS.
Oklahoma Youth Gaining Job and Life Experiences on National Wildlife Refuge
June 2014 Little River National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) in Broken Bow, Oklahoma is partnering with the Choctaw Nation Summer Youth Program (Program) to provide a meaningful summer work experience for a local youth. DeWayne Thomas, a 15 year old student that attends Broken Bow High School, will spend five weeks this summer working alongside Refuge staff.
DeWayne has a strong interest in the outdoors and spends much of his free time fishing. He is excited to be working for the Refuge to learn more about natural resource management and protection. Already this summer, he has assisted with an educational outreach event and is building bird nest boxes. And, as part of the Choctaw Nation Summer Youth Program, he will have a positive introduction to the workforce and will gain life-long learning and job skills.
“We are very happy to be partnering with the Choctaw Nation and to be getting the opportunity to provide a young person, someone just starting out in the workforce, a positive work experience. And with DeWayne’s love of the outdoors it was a perfect fit” stated Refuge Manager David Weaver.
Other job duties lined up for DeWayne this summer include invasive species management, facilities maintenance, and trail work. After high school, DeWayne plans to attend college and pursue a career in the medical field, but you can be sure he will always find time for his outdoor passions.
Pictured are items seized by the USFWS LE agents during the Operation Crash investigation. Items shown include rhino horns and parts. Photo credit: USFWS.
Texas Man Pleads Guilty to Rhino and Ivory Smuggling Conspiracy
June 2014 A resident of Frisco, Texas, and an appraiser of Asian art, pleaded guilty on June 24, 2014 in federal court to participating in an illegal wildlife smuggling conspiracy in which rhinoceros horns and objects made from rhino horn and elephant ivory worth nearly $1 million were smuggled from the United States to China. This case was identified as part of “Operation Crash” – a nationwide effort led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute those involved in the black market trade of rhinoceros horns and other protected species. “This guilty plea by another participant in one of the largest criminal trafficking rings we’ve ever investigated – as well as the unprecedented jail time given to the rings’ leader last month – serves notice to other poachers and smugglers that we are clamping down hard on those who break international wildlife laws,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Ashe.
The American alligator is one of two living species of alligator. It has been hunted since the 19th century for its valuable leather and, until the 1960s, the trade was largely unregulated. Photo credit: D. Scott Lipsey/USFWS.
Texas Man Found Guilty of Killing an American Alligator
Beaumont, Texas - An Angelina County Man found guilty in October 2013 of killing a Neches River alligator was sentenced on June 24, 2014, to pay $5,000 in restitution and serve one year probation, with the loss of all hunting rights during that period. During the investigation law enforcement agents discovered that a 13-foot American alligator, weighing approximately 800 pounds, was illegally shot and killed with a .22 caliber rifle. The Endangered Species Act prohibits the taking of an American alligator contrary to any federal or state regulations. This case was led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, in Houston, Texas in cooperation with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Criminal Investigations Division. It was prosecuted in the Eastern District of Texas.
Service employee Jennifer Owen-White and Refuge System mascot Honker pose with the new sign designating the garden. Photo credit: USFWS.
First Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership Project in Southwest Celebrated
June 2014 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with its partners and local community members, celebrated the establishment of a “mini-refuge” community garden in Albuquerque’s south valley neighborhood. This project highlights the success of creative partnerships that engage urban audiences in conservation and is part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative.
The garden will serve as a “mini-refuge” experience for local community members and students to help them better understand national wildlife refuges. As the garden becomes more developed over the next several years it will include a pollinator garden, nature
Local community members and partners gather for the celebration. Photo credit: USFWS.
explore classroom and educational signage. Local students helped plant the garden and are looking forward to fun, hands-on learning experiences the “mini-refuge” will provide.
Fisheries biologists with BIO-WEST, Inc. Ron Kegerries holding Razorback sucker, Brandon Albrecht in rear. Photo credit: Mark McKinstry, USBR.
Once Thought Locally Extinct, Endangered Razorback Suckers Discovered Spawning in Grand Canyon National Park
June 2014 GRAND CANYON, Ariz. – The Department of the Interior announced today that researchers recently discovered Razorback suckers (Xyrauchen texanus), an endangered fish species, spawning in the lower Colorado River within Grand Canyon National Park. The detection of larval Razorback suckers, believed to have been missing from the Grand Canyon since the 1990s, provides evidence that these fish may be naturally reproducing in an area where the species has not been seen in more than 20 years. The larval fish were first detected on April 14, 2014 and again in multiple samples from both April and May, confirming the occurrence of spawning and indicating that suitable habitat is available to support larger populations of this species. Unique to the Colorado River Basin, Razorback suckers were once widespread and abundant throughout the Colorado River and its tributaries from the Green River in Wyoming to the Gulf of California. Because of basin-wide alterations in habitat and the introduction of nonnative species, however, spawning and survival to adulthood were known to occur only in Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Coronado pack M1051 with pup investigating enclosure at Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility. Photo credit: USFWS.
Update on the Mexican Wolf Coronado Pack
June 2014 In mid-May, the Coronado alpha female (AF) 1126 and her four pups were transported from the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area to the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility. An update on the progress of the pack is now available.
Wild bison at Wichita Mountains NWR. Photo credit: USFWS.
Young Science Detectives Help with Valued Research at Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge
Local students participating in a science camp became hands-on detectives and valued researchers at Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. Students are studying the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria from agricultural cattle populations to wild bison and longhorn at the Refuge.
Kevin Vaughn, Rick Cantu and others get fish ready to fry. Photo credit: USFWS.
Steve Harvey Mentoring Event - June 13, 2014
Dallas, Texas. On Friday, June 13, 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Arlington Ecological Services Field Office, working with staff from the Service’s Dallas/Fort Worth Office of Law Enforcement, Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery, Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, Southwest Regional Office, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, participated in the Steve Harvey Mentoring Program for Young Men. The Event, held at Mr. Harvey’s property in north Dallas, Texas, provides more than 100 inner-
city teenage boys the chance to experience the outdoors and learn about the values and skills they will need as adults.
Service Reopens Public Comment on Managing Oil and Gas Development on National Wildlife Refuge System Lands
June 2014 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened the public comment period on an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) to gain additional information that will aid in the development of a proposed rule on managing activities associated with non-Federal oil and gas development on lands and waters of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The extended comment period will be opened until July 9, 2014. Information already submitted does not need to be resubmitted.
New Mexico Meadow Jumping mouse.Photo credit: Jennifer Frey.
Service Announces Protection of the New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse Under the Endangered Species Act
June 2014 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the final listing of the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse – a small furry mammal found on riparian areas and wetlands in New Mexico, southern Colorado and eastern Arizona – as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The final rule will publish in the Federal Register on June 10, 2014, and will be effective 30 days after publication. The Service’s determination that the jumping mouse warrants listing as an endangered species is based on the significant decline of its populations in occupied localities due to cumulative habitat loss and fragmentation across its range, of which 95 percent is on federal and state lands. Ongoing habitat loss is expected to result in additional extirpations of populations. The primary sources of habitat loss include impacts from grazing, water management and use, drought (exacerbated by climate change) and wildfires (also exacerbated by climate change).
First Mexican Wolf Pups Cross-Fostered in the Wild
The Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team (IFT) has conducted the first cross-fostering of Mexican wolf pups in the wild. Cross-fostering is a technique to move very young pups from one litter into a different, similar-age litter with the hope that the receiving pack will raise them as their own. Two pups from the six-pup litter of the recently released Coronado pack female were transplanted into the three-pup litter of the Dark Canyon pack female on the Gila National Forest in New Mexico on May 15.
Service Approves Industry Conservation Plan for the American Burying Beetle
May 2014 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) approved a plan to streamline the Endangered Species Act (ESA) permitting process for oil and gas activities that may result in take of the American burying beetle (ABB) in Oklahoma. The approved Industry Conservation Plan (ICP) provides industry with a mechanism to move forward with oil and gas projects in ABB habitat during the 2014 and 2015 ABB active season.
The approved ICP covers take of the ABB that is incidental to activities associated with oil and gas exploration and the construction, operation, maintenance, repair and decommissioning of oil and gas pipelines and related well fields. It provides oil and gas operators the ability to proceed with projects in covered counties while conserving the American burying beetle and its habitat. The ICP will cover construction activities for two years and operations and maintenance activities will be covered for 20 years.
Kemp's Ridley sea turtle preparing to nest. Photo credit: NPS
Sea Turtle Nesting Season Begins Again on the Texas Coast Public Asked to be Observant
May 2014 This year’s sea turtle nesting season began on April 1, 2014. Last year, the number of Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nests found in Texas decreased from a high of 209 nests in 2013 to 153 nests in 2013. Biologists want to stress the importance of locating and protecting every sea turtle nest on the Texas Gulf Coast. By keeping an eye out for Kemp’s ridley sea turtles on the Texas coast you can help protect this critically endangered sea turtle.
Grant Harris (left) and Matt Butler are the recipients of the 2014 John R. Morgart Award for Outstanding Contribution to Scientific Publications. Photo credit: Aaron Archibeque, USFWS
Southwest Region Honors Employees
May 2014 At the May 13, 2014, All Employee Meeting, the Southwest Region honored several outstanding employees with two noteworthy awards. The John R. Morgart Award for Outstanding Contribution to Scientific Publications is presented annually to a Southwest Region employee(s) who publish significant monographs, technical journal articles and other scientific writings. This year, Matt Butler and Grant Harris, with the Refuge program’s Division of Biological Science, and Bradley Strobel, formerly of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, were recognized for their paper entitled "Influence of whooping crane population dynamics on its recovery and management" published in Biological Conservation 162:89-99.
Recovery Champion Team Award winner Christa Weise was recognized for her work in Sonoran pronghorn sheep recovery. Photo credit: Aaron Archibeque, USFWS
The Region 2 winners of the 2013 Recovery Champion awards were also announced at the May 13, 2014, All Employee Meeting. This award honors Service employees and our partners for outstanding efforts to conserve and protect endangered and threatened species of fish, wildlife and plants. We are proud to recognize James Atkinson, Sonoran Pronghorn Recovery Team Leader, and Christa Weise, Ph.D., Kofa National Wildlife Refuge Biologist, for their outstanding efforts to conserve and recover Sonoran pronghorn. Donna J. Shaver, Ph.D., from the National Park Service’s Padre Island National Seashore, was also recognized for her exceptional efforts on behalf of Kemp’s ridley sea turtle conservation and recovery.
USFWS biologist Tom Shearer with a green sea turtle. Photo credit: USFWS
A Day in the Life of a Southwest Region Biologist
May 2014 Tom Shearer, wildlife biologist from the Texas Coastal Ecological Services Field Office, holding a juvenile endangered green sea turtle he recovered during one of his wildlife patrols while looking for oiled wildlife along the beach on the Matagorda Is. Unit of Aransas NWR, during the Texas ‘Y’ oil spill response. Tom was one of several Service staff that conducted the wildlife patrols along the Matagorda beach. Tom has been the Service lead for Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle recovery since 2004. He works with a group of volunteers from the Texas Master Naturalists/Friends of Aransas NWR that have been coming to the beach on Matagorda Is. since 2003, during the Kemp’s nesting season each spring to look for and record the nests. Usually they are moved, due to invasive predators (hogs, fire ants) and other threats. When he is not working with wildlife Tom also serves as office IT support in the Corpus Field office.
Hummingbirds are our smallest bird. The Allen's Hummingbird reaches only 3 to 3½ inches (75 to 90 mm) in length as a mature adult. The male has a green back and forehead, with rust-colored rufous flanks, rump, and tail. Photo credit: Lee Karney, USFWS.
Dallas Man Indicted for Smuggling Hummingbirds from Mexico to US
May 2014 TYLER, Texas — The Department of Justice issued a news release regarding the indictment of a 53-year-old Dallas resident charged with smuggling dead hummingbirds from Mexico on May 14, 2014. According to the indictment, an estimated 61 dead hummingbirds, of various varieties, were unlawfully imported into the United States for sale from February 2013 through January 2014. The five-count indictment specifically alleges that the importation of dead hummingbirds violates the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), the Lacey Act, the federal smuggling law, and Texas State Law. This case is being investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Noble.
City of Phoenix’s Tres Rios Wetlands along the Gila River below the Estrella Mountains. Photo credit: Mike Martinez, USFWS.
City of Phoenix to Manage Tres Rios Wetlands to Aid Endangered Species
The 927-acre Tres Rios Project will host wetland species in an urban desert environment west of Phoenix. Photo credit: Courtesy of City of Phoenix.
May 2014 The City of Phoenix is developing and maintaining habitat at the Tres Rios Environmental Restoration Project that is suitable for the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher and Yuma clapper rail. The City has committed to maintain approximately 927 acres of native wetland and riparian vegetation on portions along the Salt and Gila rivers that could currently attract and support these bird species, and is expected to continue to improve.
After being examined, the young ocelot is released back to the refuge. Photo credit: USFWS.
Second Young Ocelot Discovered at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
May 2014 Rio Hondo, Texas – After a female ocelot kitten was photographed by trail cameras in March, another young ocelot has made its presence known, this time a male. The young male ocelot is estimated to be around one-year in age. Service Wildlife Biologists were pleased to announce that the ocelot appears to be in good health. At this stage, the male ocelot has transitioned from kitten to juvenile. Biologists believe the juvenile ocelot will stay with its mother for up to another year before going out on his own. The current number of known ocelots on the refuge is now 12, with five females and seven males.
Officer Robert Fortiz receives Valor Award. Officer Fortiz is fourth from the right. Photo credit: DOI.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Employee Wins Valor Award at Department Honor Awards Convocation
The Department of Interior held
the 69th Honor Awards Convocation ceremony to honor Interior employees whose actions are above and beyond their offical duties. The Occupational Health and Safety Award of Excellence, Distinguished Service Award, Citizen’s Award for Bravery, and the Valor Award were the awards presented at the ceremony.
This year Robert Fortiz, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Sevice Federal Wildlife Officer, was awarded the Valor Award in recognition of his acts of tremendous courage which involved a high degree of personal risk in the face of danger. On October 12, 2011, Officer Fortiz, was the first on the scene of a vehicle rollover accident in Arizona. The vehicle had rolled over in a sharp bend of road and was at risk of being struck by oncoming traffic. Without hesitation, Officer Fortiz risked his own life by climbing into the flipped vehicle, helped a woman who was struggling to get out of the vehicle to safety, and then returned to the vehicle to extricate a small child trapped upside down in a car seat. The child was taken to a nearby hospital and later released.
Officer Fortiz's actions, quick thinking, and tremendous courage, at great risk to his own personal safety, in order to save the lives of two other individuals, are the exemplary characteristics that earned him the Department's highest honor.
Thank you Officer Fortiz for your bravery and your service.
Student releases fish from Fish in the Classroom project into native waters. Photo credit: USFWS.
Fish in the Classroom Projects Release Fish
May 2014 Two Native Fish in the Classroom events hosted by the New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office have been held this month, allowing students who have raised and learned about fish as a class project, to release those fish into natural waters here in New Mexico.
The first release took place in Pilar, NM on Saturday May third, and the second release took place on Thursday May eighth near the Bosque School in Albuquerque.
Besides the release, activities and games were held for the students provided by the Service and its partners. Both events were very successful, and the students really enjoyed releasing their fish and getting to spend the day outside.
"Aloha Nene," winner of the 2014 Junior Duck Stamp Best of Show, created by Lily Zhang.
2014 New Mexico Junior Duck Stamp Winners Honored at Valle de Oro NWR
2014 Junior Duck Stamp place winners: (front row, left to right) Tara Wood, Alisha Richard, Lily Zhang, Isabel Otero, Dylan Zinn; (back row) Kylie Colvill, Isaiah Abeyta, Refuge Manager Jennifer Owen-White, Adrienne Warner. Photo by Mena Roth.
This year, 210 New Mexico students have shown how much they care about saving wetland habitat by submitting original artworks depicting ducks, geese, and swans of North America in the just-completed Junior Duck Stamp Conservation and Design Contest. The entries came from Kindergarten through 12th Grade students from 17 schools, home school programs, and art studio or academy classes located across the state. A ceremony was held at the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge on May 3 to honor the winners. The public and media were also invited to attend.
Fire spreads through brush along a road. Photo credit: USFWS.
Cost of Fighting Wildfires in 2014 Projected to be Millions of Dollars Over Available Funding
May 2014 According to a Congressionally-mandated report issued today, the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior (DOI) are projected to spend over $470 million more than is available to fight wildfires this season. According to the report, the Forest Service and Interior may need to spend $1.8 billion fighting fires this year, while the agencies have only $1.4 billion available for firefighting.
Students learn about endangered species at the 2014 Texas Envirothon. Photo credit: USFWS.
The 2014 Texas Envirothon Held in Clear Lake, Texas
May 2014 Coastal Ecological Services biologists A.J. Vale and Jeff Hill participated in the 2014 Texas Envirothon held April 5-7, 2014 in Clear Lake, Texas. “Envirothon is North America's largest high school environmental competition. High schools from throughout Texas send teams of students to compete in the Envirothon competition.
Lesli Gray talks with visitors at Earth day, Texas, Pollinator Wheel. Photo credit: USFWS.
Fish and Wildlife Service Participates in Earth Day Texas 2014
Visitors enjoy the booth at the 2014 Earth Day, Texas. Photo credit: USFWS.
On April 26 and April 27, Region 2 staff from the Oklahoma Tishomingo Fish Hatchery, the Oklahoma Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge and the Arlington Ecological Services Field Office participated in the 2014 Earth Day Texas Event. The Event, held at Fairview Park, Dallas, Texas, is aimed at raising environmental awareness and was attended by an estimated 50,000 people.
Willow Beach NFH and Partners are Working Together to Provide Fish for Local Anglers
April 2014 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has partnered with the Arizona Game and Fish (AZGFD), Mohave County and the local community to provide a short term solution for releasing rainbow trout into local waters, after critical set-backs at Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery (NFH) last November. To help with the effort, AZGFD has offered to provide at least 21,000 six to eight inch rainbow trout to be reared at Willow Beach NFH. The trout will be released at around eleven inches each into the tailwaters below Davis Dam this coming fall.
Wildlife Biologists confirmed the age and gender of an ocelot kitten that was first spotted through the use of trail cameras. Photo credit USFWS.
Wildlife Biologist Confirms Ocelot Kitten is Female
Rio Hondo, Texas - An ocelot kitten was first discovered in early March after U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's wildlife biologists reviewed images from trail cameras. After a recent examination, the biologists confirmed that the kitten is approximately 10-12 months old, and is a healthy female. The kitten is now fitted with a small radio collar and her movements will be tracked as part of the ongoing monitoring of ocelots in and around the refuge. The exciting discovery of this kitten brings the number of female ocelots to five. Biologists are hopeful the population will continue to increase over the next several years.
Kary Allen, DCR Chief, Joy Nicholopoulos, Deputy Regional Director, and Jason Lujan, Southwest Region Human Resources, hold the Above and Beyond Freedom Award. Photo credit: USFWS.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wins 2014 Above and Beyond Freedom Award
The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award
is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their support of employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve. Nominations come from a Guard or Reserve member who is employed by the organization they are nominating. All States and Territories screen their nominations and enter the most deserving nominations into the national competition in Washington, D.C. One nomination per category per state is allowed: Public Sector, Large Employer, Small Employer.
2014 Above and Beyond Freedom Award. Photo credit: USFWS.
This year, Jason Lujan, whos serves in the 250th Intelligence Squadron, New Mexico Air National Guard, and is employed in the Southwest Region's Human Resources office, nominated the U.S. Fish and Wildife Service (New Mexico) because he said, " The Service and the leadership of the Southwest Region continually protect my job and support me while I am deployed; they have my back and always support my duties to my country."
On behalf of the Department of Interior and the Fish and Wildlife Service, the leadeship of the Southwest Region is honored by the nomination and is proud to receive the "Above and Beyond Award." They are grateful to Jason and all their military members for their service.
Secretary Sally Jewell adresses the USFWS Southwest Region All Employee Meeting. Photo credit: Lisa Whittle, USFWS.
Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell Visits the Southwest Region
Secretary Sally Jewell visits Valle de Oro NWR, the Region's first Urban Refuge. Photo credit: USFWS.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visited with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) staff during her trip to Albuquerque on April 17. She addressed issues of interest for the Region and fielded questions from the employees. The Secretary arrived at the Regional Office shortly after she gave the commencement speech at the Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute. Following the meeting, Secretary Jewell visited the Valle de Oro National Urban Wildlife Refuge with FWS staff. Left to right in the group photo: Aaron Archibeque, Chief, Southwest Region Refuge System; Joy Nicholopoulos, Deputy Regional Director, Southwest Region; DOI Secretary Sally Jewell; Jennifer Owen White, Valle de Oro Refuge Manager; Jose Viramontes, Chief, Refuge Planning; and Tom Harvey, Refuge Supervisor for Arizona and New Mexico.
Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Southwest Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, assisted with the release of a Golden Eagle that was rehabilitated by the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma. The Iowa Tribe's Grey Snow Eagle House is their premier eagle aviary and provides homes for both releasable and non-releasable birds.
The Tribe has successfully rehabilitated eight Eagles and released them back into the wild since the opening of their aviary in 2006. Dr. Tuggle attended the release with Gary Siftar, an eagle rehabilitator, Mr. Ron Curry, the Regional Administrator for EPA, and Victor Roubidoux, the Iowa Tribe's Wildlife Manager.
Benjamin Tuggle (left), the Service's Southwest Regional Director, consults on the dispersion map with Coast Guard Captain Randal O'Grydziak, the Unified Incident Commander, during a visit to the Port O'Connor (TX) Incident Command Center. Photo credit: Nancy Brown, USFWS.
Service’s Southwest Region Responds to the Texas City Y Oil Spill
April 2014 On March 22, 2014, a bulk carrier moving through the Houston (TX) ship channel collided with a barge carrying oil, which resulted in approximately 168,000 gallons of marine fuel oil being released into Galveston Bay and dispersing into the Gulf of Mexico. The Service’s Southwest Region immediately mobilized to support to the U.S. Coast Guard and other participating agencies through the Unified Incident Command. The spill – named the Texas City Y Spill based on the fact that the spill site is near the intersection of three major waterways – comes just as migratory shorebird season approaches.
Galveston Oil Spill Wildlife ImpactsVideo. Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife
American Burying Beetle. Photo credit: USFS.
Service Proposes Industry Conservation Plan for the American Burying Beetle Service and Industry Work Together to Address Beetle Conservation and the ESA Permitting Process
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is announcing the availability of a plan to streamline the Endangered Species Act (Act) permitting process for oil and gas activities that may impact the American burying beetle (ABB) in Oklahoma. The public, industry and scientific community are encouraged to review and comment on the proposed Industry Conservation Plan (ICP) for the American burying beetle, as well as the draft environmental assessment (dEA) during the 14-day public comment period.
The proposed ICP would cover take of the ABB that is incidental to activities associated with oil and gas exploration and the construction, operation, maintenance, repair and decommissioning of oil and gas pipelines and related well fields. If approved, the ICP would provide oil and gas operators the ability to proceed with projects in covered counties while conserving the American burying beetle and its habitat.
During the public comment period, the Service is requesting public comments on the proposed ICP and dEA. To ensure consideration, we must receive written comments on or before close of business on April 30, 2014. You may obtain copies of the proposed ICP and dEA online at http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/Oklahoma/ABBICP.htm.
"It was a great honor for me to accept the Pollinator Challenge award from Director Dan Ashe (on the right) for Region 2's third straight challenge win. Photo credit: USFWS.
Southwest Region “Three-Peat” – Southwest Region Wins National Pollinator Challenge Again
April 2014 For the third year in a row, the Southwest Region has won the Service's National Pollinator Challenge, capturing the highest scores for pollinator conservation activities nationwide. This was truly a cross-program effort in which employees from 17 National Wildlife Refuges; 4 Ecological Services Field Offices with 3 of their Partners programs; 1 Migratory Bird Field Office; and the Southwest Regional Office – represented by Refuges, Fisheries, Ecological Services, Migratory Birds, and the Wildlife Sport Fish Restoration
USFWS Pollinator Awards presented to the Southwest Region (from left to right, 2012, 2011 and 2013). Photo credit: Chris Tincher, USFWS.
Program worked together as “One Service/One Region.”
The 2014 Pollinator Challenge begins today (April 15) and runs through Sept 30, 2014. Let's bring this award home to the Southwest Region for a fourth year!
Graphic displaying Bald Eagle feathers. Credit: USFWS National Forensics Laboratory.
Internet Posting Leads To Successful Recovery of Protected Eagle Feathers
April 2014 A resident of Edgewood, New Mexico has been charged with violating federal wildlife laws that prohibit the selling of, and offering to sell, eagle feathers in a criminal complaint filed in federal court. The complaint alleges violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Lacey Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act in March 2014, in Santa Fe County, New Mexico. The investigation was initiated on March 7, 2014, after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received information regarding an Internet website posting of Indian arts and crafts, which appeared to include federally protected feathers. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul H. Spiers and was investigated by the Office of Law Enforcement of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with assistance from the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, Homeland Security Investigations, the U. S. Marshals Service, and the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office.
A wide variety of feathers are important in Native American cultural and religious practices. Left to Right: Woodpecker feathers on rattle, American kestrel tail fan, Red-tailed hawk fan, Anhinga tail fan with macaw feather, Scissor-tailed flycatcher fan, Red-shafted flicker tail fan. Photo credit :USFWS.
Non-eagle Feather Repositories Receive Grants from Fish & Wildlife Service
Two non-eagle feather repositories established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (Service) Southwest Region have been awarded Service migratory bird program grants to assist in providing legally obtained bird feathers and parts for Native American cultural, ceremonial and religious needs.
Hoodoo pack Mexican wolf released into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area of Arizona on April 2, 2014. Photo credit: Credit: George Andrejko, Ariz. Game & Fish Dept.
Mexican Wolf Releases into Apache National Forest
April 2014 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department released a pair of Mexican wolves Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area of Arizona. The new pair is the hopeful start of the “Hoodoo pack.” A second pair is slated for release next week. Each pair contain a genetically valuable female from the captive population and a wild-savvy male collected from the field in January.
Service Reopens Comment Period on Proposal to Protect Red Knot Under Endangered Species Act Shorebird flies up to 18,600 miles a year on 20-inch wingspan
April 2014 The rufa red knot (Calidris canutus rufa), a robin-sized shorebird that visits the U.S. on its annual journey between the tips of the Americas, is in trouble.
The knot’s population has declined by about 75 percent in some areas since the 1980s. Changing climate conditions are already affecting the bird’s food supply, the timing of its migration and its breeding habitat in the Arctic. The shorebird also is losing habitat along its range due to sea level rise, shoreline projects and development.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reopened the comment period on its proposal to list the knot at threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service proposed to list the knot on September 30, 2013, following an analysis of the best available data in more than 1,400 scientific documents. The public can provide comments on the proposed rule for 45 days through May 19, 2014.
An information session and public hearing will be held in Corpus Christi, Texas, on May 6, 2014. The information session and public hearing will be held at the Harte Research Institute, Conference Room 127, 6300 Ocean Drive, Corpus Christi, TX 78412. The information session is scheduled from 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. and the public hearing is scheduled from 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lists Lesser Prairie-Chicken as Threatened Species and Finalizes Special Rule Endorsing Landmark State Conservation Plan Special Rule Establishes Unprecedented Conservation Partnership with States to Provide Regulatory Certainty for Landowners and Businesses; Enables States to Maintain Lead Management for Conservation Efforts
In response to the rapid and severe decline of the lesser prairie-chicken, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the final listing of the species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), as well as a final special rule under section 4(d) of the ESA that will limit regulatory impacts on landowners and businesses from this listing. Under the law, a “threatened” listing means the species is likely to become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future; it is a step below “endangered” under the ESA and allows for more flexibility in how the Act’s protections are implemented.
The final rule to list the lesser prairie-chicken as threatened and the final special rule will publish in the Federal Register and will be effective 30 days after publication.
An 11-member Coexistence Council has developed an innovative plan to reduce conflicts between Mexican gray wolves and cattle. Coexistence Council logo (Coexistence Council published and has provided use permission).
Mexican Wolf/Livestock Coexistence Council Unveils Innovative Strategic Plan
An 11-member volunteer group of livestock producers, tribes, environmental groups, and county coalitions has developed an innovative Strategic Mexican Wolf Coexistence Plan to reduce wolf/livestock conflicts, and decrease the need for management removals of depredating or nuisancewolves. The goals of the Plan are to sustain viable ranching, protect healthy western landscapes, and advance a wild, self-sustaining Mexican gray wolf population. The Plan is comprised of three core strategies: payments for wolf presence, funding for conflict avoidance measures, and funding for depredation compensation.
Texas Coast – A partnership of researchers from multiple agencies and organizations, including representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Canadian Wildlife Service, Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, Crane Trust, Parks Canada, Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, and the International Crane Foundation, conducted a study of whooping cranes using lightweight GPS devices. With these devices, researchers are able to track individual whooping cranes of the Aransas –Wood Buffalo population, the only naturally wild flock of whooping cranes in existence.
Georgetown salamander from water tank cave. Photo credit: Nathan Bendik.
Service Announces Listing of Georgetown and Salado Salamanders as Threatened Under the Endangered Species Act Recognizing County and City Efforts to Protect Water Quality,Agency Proposes Special Rule to Allow Limited Take of the Georgetown Salamander
February 2014 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced it is listing the Georgetown and Salado salamanders, two small amphibians found in springs and caves around the Edwards Aquifer in central Texas, as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, due to degradation of their habitat and changes in water flow and quality.
At the same time, the Service is proposing a special rule for the Georgetown salamander that would allow development activities to continue if they are in compliance with ordinances adopted in December by Williamson County and the City of Georgetown to protect water quality. These ordinances include steps to reduce contamination from spills and establishment of buffer zones around the species’ habitat.
The final rule for the Georgetown and Salado salamanders will publish in the Federal Register on February 24, 2014, and will become effective 30 days after publication. A 60-day public comment period on the proposed special rule will begin with its publication in the Federal Register on February 24, 2014.
Copies of the final rule and information on the proposed special rule for the Georgetown salamander may be found at the Service’s website at www.fws.gov/southwest/es/AustinTexas/. Public comments on the proposed special rule for the Georgetown salamander must be submitted no later than April 25, 2014.
Service Reopens Comment Period on Proposal to Remove the Gray Wolf from the Endangered Species List
February 2014 Following receipt of an independent scientific peer review, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reopening the comment period on its proposal to list the Mexican wolf as an endangered subspecies and remove the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List. The Service is making that report available for public review, and, beginning Monday February 10, stakeholders will have an additional 45 days to provide information that may be helpful in making a final determination on the proposal. (This is for the listing/delisting proposal only – not the proposed revision of the Mexican wolf experimental population rule.)
Service Announces a 6-Month Extension of the Proposal to List the Zuni Bluehead Sucker as an Endangered Species
January 2014 In order to conserve the Zuni bluehead sucker (Catostomus discobolus yarrowi), whose distribution rangewide has been reduced dramatically in the last 20 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) proposed to list the Zuni bluehead sucker as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act on January 25, 2013. Now the Service is extending the deadline for a final decision concerning the listing of the Zuni bluehead sucker because there is substantial disagreement regarding the sufficiency or accuracy of the data the Service has available to make the decision. Therefore, the Service is reopening the comment period for 30 days to solicit additional information.
Service Announces Proposed Amendment to the Oklahoma Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is announcing the Notice of Availability (NOA) for a proposed amendment to the Oklahoma Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) for the lesser prairie-chicken. Public comments will be accepted on the proposed amendment through January 21, 2014.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) has applied for an amendment to their existing CCAA, to increase enrollment from 200,000 acres to 400,000 acres by 2037 throughout the 14 Oklahoma Counties covered by the CCAA.
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