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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

Conserving Monarch Butterflies with the States

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A monarch butterfly perches on a New England aster at Sand Lake Wetland Management District in South Dakota. Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS

Our Director, Dan Ashe has joined Larry Voyles, President of the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), in signing a joint memorandum promoting collaborative efforts to conserve the monarch butterfly and other native pollinators.

The memo, signed at the 2015 North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Omaha, Nebraska, urges state and territorial fish and wildlife agencies to be resourceful in helping to turn around the severe drop in monarch butterfly populations, which have declined by more than 90 percent within the past 20 years. 

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“In 1996, we saw populations of a billion monarch butterflies funneling down from all over the Unites States to overwinter in Mexico, but those populations have dwindled,” said Ashe during the memo signing.  “In 2013, we saw the lowest populations ever recorded – about 30 million monarch butterflies.” 

Weed control practices, particularly on corn and soybean fields, have impacted the availability of milkweed in North America. Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed plants and monarch butterflies need milkweed to lay their eggs.   According to Ashe, the key to conserving monarch butterflies is to put good habitat on the landscape. 

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Thornton Creek Comes to Life

 

A few months back we shared the story of Service geomorphologist/hydrologist Paul Bakke, who, along with many partners, was restoring Thornton Creek in Seattle. A filmmaker documented the work and is telling the story, too.

Columbia Spotted Frog Conservation

Columbia Spotted Frog in Water 
The Great Basin population of Columbia spotted frogs, currently a candidate species for Endangered Species Act protection, is found in eastern Oregon, southwestern Idaho, and the northern drainages of Nevada. Spotted frogs live in spring seeps, meadows, marshes, ponds and streams, and other areas where there is abundant vegetation flooded throughout the year. The largest known threat to the Columbia spotted frog is habitat alteration and loss, specifically the loss of wetlands used for feeding, breeding, hibernating, and migrating.

Service biologists are working with our partners to monitor current spotted frog populations to assess population trends and distribution, and also improve and create habitat throughout the Great Basin to prevent the frog’s further decline.

For example, as part of a Conservation Agreement and Strategy for the Toiyabe Mountains and Northeast populations of Columbia spotted frogs, 36 ponds were created in central Nevada and all ponds have documented occupancy with 77 percent having breeding activity. And in Idaho, a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances was completed to improve breeding, foraging, dispersal, hibernating habitat, and migration corridors for Columbia spotted frogs at Sam Noble Springs while allowing continued livestock use on these state lands. In addition, 41 ponds were constructed or enhanced on private lands in Idaho to increase breeding habitat and connectivity between existing populations.

Active monitoring, research, and habitat improvement projects are occurring or are planned throughout the entire range of the Great Basin population of Columbia spotted frogs, which are increasing our knowledge of life history characteristics, population fluctuations, effectiveness of habitat improvement projects, genetics, and stressors to the species. Learn more about this species and other efforts to protect amphibians: http://1.usa.gov/1HOIIwM 

Chiricahua Leopard Frogs Battle Non-native Predators, and We're Helping

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Chiricahua Leopard Frogs have disappeared from much of their historical range in Arizona and New Mexico. Photo by Jim Rorabaugh/USFWS

The Chiricahua leopard frog is a threatened species found in streams, ciénegas, cattle ponds and other wetlands in the high valleys and mountains of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, and  eastern Sonora and western Chihuahua, Mexico.

The biggest threat to this frog right now is getting eaten by non-native, introduced bullfrogs, fish and crayfish.

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The Ache of Lost Wings

Chuck Blanchard in our Division of Refuge Law Enforcement commemorated last week’s Pollinator Week with this poem:

I must look as if I am praying

as I kneel before the flowers

a brush and bloom in hand.

Little bits of yellow float up,

then down often settling in the flowers well.

Lovers who never touch

                should never have to rely

                upon such a ungraceful and rigid Cupid’s touch.

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Working to Support Wildlife and Harbor Development

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Container ships at the Port of Savannah. Photo by Jane Griess/USFWS

The Port of Savannah, 18 miles inland on the Savannah River (between South Carolina and Georgia) is the second busiest container port on the East Coast. The ongoing Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will improve ship navigation and allow larger ships with heavier cargos access to the port without waiting for the tides.  However, this project could dramatically affect the wetlands and water quality of the Savannah River and Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, threatening the diversity of migratory birds and other wildlife that depend on this vital habitat. Biologists with our Georgia Ecological Services Office and Savannah National Wildlife Refuge are working with the other federal agencies, the state agencies of South Carolina and Georgia, and other groups to mitigate the environmental impacts of this harbor deepening. In a general sense, “mitigate” means to take measures to offset an action's adverse impacts on a natural resource.

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Service Shapes Vision of a Career in Conservation

Sarika Khanwilkar blog

Another refuge intern, Jackie Blakely (right), and Sarika Khanwilkar work with the Hobe Sound Nature Center and their animals on a daily basis. Says Sarika: "Being similar in age and interests, working with Jackie is a unique opportunity to exchange tips and advice for career advancement."

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Open Spaces 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. Since 1957, SCA has been connecting young people from all backgrounds with life-changing, career-making conservation service opportunities. Learn how you can get involved at www.thesca.org. Six months ago Sarika Khanwilkar “began an unforgettable experience at the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge [in Florida]. Aside from some quality time spent on Google Earth before my arrival, I had no prior knowledge of Hobe Sound or the National Wildlife Refuge System in general. I was initially enticed by the thought of palm trees, year-round sunshine, and a huge diversity of tropical wildlife, a sort of grand adventure that I had previously only dreamed of. Little did I know that what I would learn and experience as an SCA biology intern would go far beyond my expectations. The things I’ve seen and the skills I’ve picked up have truly broadened my perspective on what is means to work in conservation.”

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Emphasis Areas will Steer Future Conservation in Southwest Region

emphasis area map

Strategic Habitat Conservation, landscape-level conservation and the idea of surrogate species, using one species to represent other species or even ecosystems, are ways that the Service is getting conservation done in an era of tight budgets. Director Dan Ashe has said that the Service will “do the best that we can possibly do with whatever resources are made available to us.” The Southwest Region has chosen to take landscape-level conservation a step further. Southwest Region Regional Director Dr. Benjamin Tuggle explains.

History repeats itself and I have lived long enough to see a few reenactments with my own eyes.  As Regional Director of the Southwest Region I am charged with a large responsibility to steer conservation of myriad species in a multitude of ecosystems. The challenge inspires me daily.  

The Southwest Region spans landscapes adorned with endemic fishes and salamanders, wintering waterfowl and nesting warblers. Pronghorn skitter over our prairies and rare trout swim in cold mountain streams that pour down sky islands that jut up from the desert floor. The people who have dedicated their lives to conservation are as diverse in talents and character and skills as are the landscapes in my region—lands that ascend from sandy beaches at sea level on the Gulf Coast up to Arctic tundra in the high headlands of the Rio Grande basin on the Colorado border.

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Bringing Back a Beauty

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Larva of a Hine’s emerald dragonfly. Photo by USFWS

The Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin provides more than 30 million fish, eggs and mussels of more than 26 species to meet conservation and research needs all across the country, from New Mexico to Georgia. And now the hatchery is raising the federally endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly, the only dragonfly on the Endangered Species list. 

Dragonflies play an important role in nature. They catch and eat small flying insects, including mosquitoes, biting flies and gnats. In their immature stage (larvae), dragonflies are an important food source for larger aquatic animals such as fish. They also serve as excellent water quality watchdogs. 

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Prime Hook NWR in Delaware launches $38 million marsh restoration project

Prime Hook
Aerial view of Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, where work will repair breached marshes and reconstruct severely damaged shoreline, including critical dune restoration. Photo by USFWS

Work to restore the marshes at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge is expected to start this month, the first phase of a $38 million project to build storm and sea level rise resilience into the natural landscape. 

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