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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Piloting New Partnerships for Bat Conservation

Indiana bat 
An Indiana bat on tree. Photo by Adam Mann

Megan Seymour, a wildlife biologist with our Columbus, Ohio, Ecological Services Field Office, tells us how the Air Force is helping the endangered Indiana bat.

Aircraft aren’t the only things flying around Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.  Indiana bats patrol the night skies, foraging for insects over the Mad River corridor. A maternity colony of Indiana bats was first documented at Wright-Patterson in 1993 and has been monitored regularly since then. For more than 20 years, these bats, which usually return to the area of their birth, have called the base their summer home. Prime habitat for the Indiana bat occurs only within about 700 acres of the Mad River’s forested riparian corridor, a small part of the base’s more than 8,000 acres, and concerns about habitat loss and degradation due to invasive species have arisen. 

Honeysuckle
BEFORE: The forest at Wright-Patterson with invasive honeysuckle in the understory. Photo by USFWS

Bush honeysuckles were introduced in the United States in the late 1800s for use in shelterbelts, wildlife habitat and landscaping. Birds disperse the seeds widely, and the plants have become naturalized throughout Ohio and the eastern United States. Bush honeysuckles are aggressive invasives that leaf out earlier in the spring than most native plants and maintain green leaves into the fall after most plants are dormant, shading out native plants and creating a monoculture. They  are recognized as one of Ohio’s top 10 invasive plants.

Indiana bat tree
An Indiana bat maternity roost tree near Wright-Patterson AFB. Photo by Melanie Cota/USFWS

The Mad River riparian zone canopy supports a diversity of native trees including maple, oak, hickory, cottonwood, hackberry, cherry, walnut, sycamore and ash. But the understory is dominated by honeysuckle, sometimes as large as 8 inches in diameter and 15 feet tall! 

Darryn Warner, the Natural Resources Program Manager at Wright-Patterson, noticed native tree saplings in the understory being out-competed by honeysuckle, and without management feared there would not be enough young trees to replace older trees as they die off. Thus, over time, Indiana bat habitat could become significantly degraded, or lost altogether. He decided that the Sike’s Act would be the mechanism to address the issue quickly.

The Sike’s Act requires all military installations to “provide for the conservation and rehabilitation of natural resources.” To do this, each installation must develop and regularly update an Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan (INRMP). In 2012, Warner updated the INRMP to include honeysuckle control within Indiana bat habitat along the Mad River corridor. This allowed Wright-Patterson to obtain funds in 2012 and 2013 and contract private companies to implement control activities. These companies cut and treated about 20 acres of bush honeysuckle per year.   

In Fiscal Year 2013, we established a nationwide interagency agreement with the Air Force allowing the Air Force to fund our staff to implement actions identified in INRMPs.  We received $60,000 in both fiscal years 2013 and 2014 to conduct invasive species control at Wright-Patterson, and an additional $10,000 per year to head-start forest regeneration in previously treated areas. 

Cleaned out
AFTER: The forest with cleaned-out understory. Photo by USFWS

Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge, about 130 miles from Wright-Patterson in Indiana, had the staff, equipment and expertise to conduct the work. Biologist Brian Winters led a crew from Big Oaks, Muscatatuck and  Ottawa National Wildlife Refuges staff for 10 days during 2014-2015. Using machinery, herbicides, Service know-how and plenty of elbow grease, our folks treated about 100 acres, more than double what the contractors were able to treat, at a similar cost.

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We love to partner in projects that benefit endangered species and increase resilient landscapes; this project did just that by removing invasive honeysuckles and by planting native shellbark hickory trees, which are used by roosting bats as maternity colonies. Honeysuckle treatment is planned to continue over the next five years, including treatment of new areas and regrowth in areas that were treated previously.

So how is the Indiana bat faring at Wright-Patterson? Indiana bats continue to be captured there as recently as the last survey in 2012, and additional surveys are scheduled for 2017.

Indiana bats nationwide face the daunting threat of white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that infects bats during hibernation and results in significant winter mortality. Ensuring that high-quality summer habitat persists within the home range of maternity colonies is a critical step in helping the bats that do survive white-nose syndrome recover and reproduce during the summer. Wright-Patterson is doing their part to ensure these small pilots have a safe landing spot this summer. 

Bald Eagles Recover from Sea to Shining Sea

By Brynn Walling, USFWS

From sea to shining sea -- that’s the range of the American Bald Eagle.

And the recovery of this bird is one of our greatest success stories to date.

In 1782, when the bald eagle was named our national symbol, the eagle population was approximately 100,000. Then, in the mid-1800’s, waterfowl and shorebird populations began to decline. Since the bald eagle is at the top of the food chain, this had a major effect on their population too. There was a fight for food.

bald_eagle(Photo Couresy Arthur Nelson)


In 1940 the bald eagle was threatened with extinction. Congress stepped in and passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act, protecting them from poaching and making it illegal to kill a bald eagle.

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Real-Life Mascots for Conservation and the Gridiron

We love our football here at Open Spaces.

With football season in full swing, we probably don’t have to remind you that team mascots play a big part in establishing a team’s identity. Did you ever stop to think that nearly all professional teams have wildlife inspired mascots? Did you also know that some of those wildlife are currently facing—or have faced in the past—serious threats to healthy population levels?  

It’s true! While we love them all, we're spotlighting two wildlife inspired mascots that we think are ideal representatives for their respective cities and teams. Both display amazing physical attributes while showing tremendous resilence in the face of adversitiy--great qualities for any football team.  

So, which mascots are they.......

Touchdown!  Credit: Aaron Webb

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Happy 235th America!

Bald eagle in Flight
Bald eagle soaring in flight from the USFWS Pacific Region Download.

We hope our series on climate change gave you a better understanding about how climate impacts nature across the country.  While that series is now over, the Open Spaces blog has just begun!  Visit often for new stories about what we’re doing in the Service to conserve and protect wildlife and their habitats.

In honor of our nation’s birthday, we dedicate today’s post to an American icon and one of our greatest conservation success stories in the Service: the bald eagle.  In our nation’s history, the eagle has always been a shining symbol of freedom and strength, but the story of this majestic bird has not always been as bright.

A little more than a half-century ago, the bald eagle was facing extinction.  Widespread use of DDT, loss of natural habitat, and overhunting were major factors contributing to a massive population decline of the eagle.  In 1967 it was declared an endangered species, and shortly after, the EPA banned the use of DDT. Successful efforts to restore eagle habitats and restrict hunting allowed populations of the birds to steadily increase, and on August 9th, 2007 the bald eagle was officially delisted and declared recovered, healthy and growing.

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