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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

A New Home for Endangered Woodpeckers

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A red-cockaded woodpecker with an insect perches near a nest in a tree cavity. Photo by USFWS

A plan to reintroduce red-cockaded woodpeckers at Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia, where they have not been seen since 1974, aims to boost the nationwide population, making it the state’s second population and the only one on public land. This project is one of 14 across 18 states being funded through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Cooperative Recovery Initiative to help recover threatened or endangered species on or near national wildlife refuges. Since 2013, the CRI has funded 38 projects totaling $16.4 million. These projects also provide other conservation benefits to other imperiled species and encourage a diversity of partnerships.

Frog Slog: Volunteers Work to Protect Oregon Spotted Frog

Frog Slog
Volunteers perform the “frog slog” at Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Bill Goforth

March is usually the time when Oregon spotted frogs lay their eggs in the wetlands of south central Washington at Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge. It’s also the time volunteers and staff get together to do the “frog slog.” That is when we get together to walk slowly – very slowly – through knee-deep water in a line to count submerged egg masses. Depending on the day, they can be hard to spot.

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Young People Draw on Endangered Species for Inspiration

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David Starovoytov's Kentucky arrow darter.

This week, we announced the winners of the 2015 Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest. Let’s take a look at the animals they drew.

David Starovoytov, a sixth-grader from California, won the Grand Prize with his art of a Kentucky arrow darter, a beautiful fish found only in eastern Kentucky. During the breeding season, the males are blue-green with scarlet spots and scarlet-orange vertical bars on their body.  The Kentucky arrow darter is a candidate for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Federal candidates warrant ESA protection but are sometimes precluded from listing by other higher priority listing actions (other species are more imperiled and take priority).  Each year, the Service publishes a list and summarizes the current status for all candidate species in its Candidate Notice of Review (CNOR). The CNOR helps landowners and natural resource managers plan conservation to address threats to candidate species. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has identified the Kentucky arrow darter as a species of greatest conservation need and has been hard at work conserving it through captive breeding and other projects.  A key threat to the Kentucky arrow darter is degradation of habitat through surface coal mining and other human activities.  Changes in water quality have a profound impact on all aquatic species, including the Kentucky arrow darter.

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Healthy Prairies Mean Healthy Monarchs

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Prescribed burning at Fahl Waterfowl Production Area. Photo by Alex Galt/USFWS.

Fire is good for monarchs? Yes. The blackened, charred remains of a prairie after a prescribed burn might look catastrophic, but the opposite is the case when it comes to monarch health. To understand how prescribed burning benefits habitat for monarchs and other prairie wildlife, you first need to know what makes prairies look and function the way they do.

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American Woodcock Know They Can Dance; Want to See Them?

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Woodcock are good at hiding out. Photo by T. Oots

Kyle Daly is a wildlife biologist working for the Service in Minnesota. Kyle conducted research on American woodcock breeding ecology and survey assessments for his M.S. degree from the University of Minnesota. Here, he shares some tips on seeing this elusive bird’s stunning dance.

American Woodcock are a highly cryptic bird species and are rarely seen by people because they avoid harm by sitting down and remaining perfectly still, letting their camouflage do its work. However, this bird exhibits one of the most conspicuous breeding displays in the avian world -- the “sky dance. 

Every spring, males “dance” to attract mates by spiraling through the air while making a twittering sound with their wings.  They then land, give a series of nasally “peents,” or vocal calls, and return to the skies to repeat the process.

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Live Streaming Video Camera Offers Glimpse of Sage Grouse Strut

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The best time to view the male sage-grouse courtship dance is between 5:00 am and 9:00 am PST.

This live-stream camera provides a one-of-kind viewing of greater sage-grouse: http://bit.ly/GRSGCAM

You’ll want to get up early (at  least  on the West Coast) to view all the action on the lek.

What the heck is a lek? A lek is the traditional breeding ground where male sage-grouse puff out their chests and fan their tail feathers to attract females. Leks are located in the western United States and southern Alberta and Saskatchewan Canada in sagebrush country. Sagebrush is a plant that acts as a nursery area for a lot of wildlife such as pronghorn, elk, mule deer and golden eagles. Viewers might see one of these critters wandering by. 

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Aaron Heimann Lets the Outdoor Classroom Steer the Course of Learning

SCA interns Emilie Sinkler and Aaron Heimann. Photo by Tony Rondeau


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. Today, Aaron Heimann, an environmental education intern at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center at the Fergus Falls Wetland Management District in Minnesota, talks about using the great outdoors as your classroom.

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Formica ants. Photo by Aaron Heimann

I weave my way uphill along a gravel trail. Glancing behind me, I see an undulating line of second-graders and their teacher. Since our early stop at a Formica ant mound, we have been walking with heads bowed into the prevailing winds, and as I look back I see one little girl get visibly jostled by a particularly strong gust. They are outside on this early April day to investigate “Amazing Animals,” per the lesson plan, but I fear they aren’t comfortable enough to enjoy the experience, let alone be amazed by the animals we are encountering.

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Strengthening our Conservation of North American Bats

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Conservation leaders from Canada, Mexico and the United States sign the historic bat conservation Letter of Intent. Photo by Chris Tollefson/USFWS

 We share hundreds of species with Mexico and Canada, and coordinate conservation activities with these neighboring partners on many of them, including monarch butterflies, migratory birds, and many more. But until now, comprehensive coordination for  one group of animals has fallen noticeably short: bats. For the first time in history, with the signing of a  “Letter of Intent” at this week’s Canada/Mexico/US Trilateral Committee for Wildlife and Ecosystem Conservation and Management, we have official coordination on the conservation of North America’s bats.

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California Condor and its 9.5-foot Wingspan Spread to Mexico

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One of the male California condors at Mexico's Chapultepec Zoo. Photo by San Diego Zoo Global

Don’t let the name fool you. California condors used to call many areas of the United States home. During the Pleistocene Era, ending 10,000 years ago, the condor's range even extended across much of North America. When the European settlers arrived, California condors ranged all along the Pacific Coast, from British Columbia, Canada in the north to Baja California, Mexico in the south.  Now, some California condors are moving back to Mexico.

The California condor population fell as people spread over North America. By 1982, only 22 condors survived in the wild, and all were limited to the mountainous areas of southern California. A captive breeding program helped the condor survive -- the population now totals 425 California condors and more than half of them live in the wild -- and begin its slow road to recovery. In 2014, a total of 15 captive bred California condors were released in the wild.

In addition to our work, we have some tremendous partners helping the condor, such as the California State Fish and Game Commission and the San Diego and Los Angeles Zoos. And last year, we strengthened our partnership with a longtime member in the condor recovery community: Mexico.

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Celebrating 10 Years of Cooperation on the Lower Colorado River

 Laguna Division Conservation Area
Partners also dedicated the newly created Laguna Division Conservation Area (LDCA), a conservation area of more than 1,110 acres downstream of Imperial Dam. Photo by Bureau of Reclamation

Last week, we gathered with the Bureau of Reclamation and other federal, state and local partners in Yuma, Arizona, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program. The program helps balance the use of Colorado River water resources with conservation of native species and their habitats.

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