BY COLBY WRASSE, COLUMBIA FWCO
In October, Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) wrapped up another successful season of Pallid Sturgeon Monitoring on the Missouri River - due in part to the contributions of our wonderful volunteers. In total, 39 volunteers donated a combined 478 hours of their time to assist us with monitoring and recovery of the Federally Endangered Pallid Sturgeon. We would especially like to thank Chris Egbert, Kevin Renfro, and Martin Schaffer, all of whom volunteered more than 60 hours last year. Having seasoned volunteers such as Chris, Kevin, and Martin makes it easier for us to accomplish our mission. In return, we hope our volunteers’ lives are enriched by the experiences they have with us. Many of our volunteers have parlayed the knowledge and skills they acquired with us into employment opportunities within the natural resources field. Our volunteers also do a great job of spreading the word about our mission and therefore represent an important outreach avenue.
BY NATHAN ECKERT, GENOA NFH
With apologies to the deer hunters out there, this article is about freshwater mussels. At Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) we were able to raise a new species of mussel this year with the help of our streamside mussel rearing trailer. Our first ever fawnsfoot, a declining species regionally, were recovered from one of the rearing tanks in the trailer this fall. The trailer has proved to be a valuable tool for rearing yearling mussels to a size suitable for stocking. This year nearly 2,000 yearling mussels reached stocking size after spending the summer in the trailer. Over the last two years we’ve found that it can also be effective in rearing young of the year mussels past their sensitive early life stages. We recovered nearly 700 young of the year Higgins’ eye from our culture trials in the trailer along with 18 fawnsfoot this year. While 18 isn’t a staggering number it was a welcome site considering that we only started with a total of 364 individuals in the tank. Restoration efforts often start with small steps and for these individuals the next step is to spend the winter at Genoa NFH and then they will go back in the trailer next summer to grow to a size suitable for stocking. At that point they will be placed in the Mississippi River in Pool 15 as part of an ongoing restoration project. Next year we plan to make another attempt at raising fawnsfoot, with what we learned this year we hope for more success next time around.
BY TED KOEHLER, ASHLAND FWCO
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) Leopold Wetland Management District and Coastal Program – Great Lakes worked in partnership with Ducks Unlimited to restore and enhance 321 acres of the Uihlein Waterfowl Production Area (WPA). This WPA consisting of 13 tracts comprising over 2,000 acres of habitat is located within one of the premier migratory bird areas of the Lake Michigan watershed and is managed by the National Wildlife Refuge system. It is part of the Winnebago System Focus Area of the Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region Joint Venture (UMR&GLR) and the Rush Lake Complex Initiative identified in the Wisconsin Plan. The Winnebago System Focus Area was designated as a high priority in the UMR&GLR Joint Venture Implementation Plan and the entire project area has been classified as Priority I habitat in the Wisconsin Plan.
Uihlein WPA offers exceptional waterfowl breeding, nesting, and migration habitat that is open to the public for a variety of outdoor recreation. Service staff conducting annual waterfowl surveys at the WPA have documented use by a host of waterfowl species including mallards, blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, American wigeon, redhead, scaup, northern shoveler, northern pintail, wood duck, Canada geese, and American black ducks. The WPA is also home to a large population of the federally threatened and state endangered eastern prairie white-fringed orchid. USFWS management of the area has resulted in a steady annual increase in the number of plants. Additional wildlife benefiting from the project include Forester’s, common, and black terns, great egrets, black-crowned night herons, American bittern, least bittern, yellow headed blackbird, bald eagles and osprey, several species of shorebirds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals (including river otter), and grassland songbirds.
On the ground work started in 2010 with survey and design work. Over the next few years planning, coordination and construction took place to restore the 321 acres of habitat within the Uihlein WPA. Construction activities included levee coring and grading, water control structure installation, and hunter/public access improvements. All the partners are proud to be part of this successful partnership that has conserved wetlands and wildlife in the Great Lakes watershed.