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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Heather McPherron: Sage-grouse Must Not Need Cell Service

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service
Heather McPherron
"The display of a male sage-grouse is truly a wonder of the natural world,” Heather says.

We check in this week with some of the folks working to conserve the greater sage-grouse, its habitat and an American landscape. Heather McPherron is a sage-grouse biologist in the Central Washington Field Office. Her typical day in the office involves collaborating with federal and state partners to implement conservation efforts for the Columbia Basin population of sage-grouse. But, like sage-grouse biologists all over the West, Heather spends much of the spring stumbling through the shrublands at night looking to capture grouse with just a spotlight and a net. She has worked with sage-grouse in six of their 11 range states, and has endured many sleepless nights, carried generators on her back, ridden ATVs in extremely cold temperatures, tripped over bushes in the dark and walked hundreds of miles in search of sage-grouse. She has no plans to end her springtime ritual, though, “because there’s nothing better than watching a sage-grouse strut on an early spring morning,” she says.

5 Questions for Heather

1. In the conservation world, we hear a lot about the need to do “landscape conservation.” What does that mean to you?

To me, landscape conservation means thinking holistically about the functionality of the ecosystem as well as the needs of the species that depend on it. Landscape conservation planning is especially important to the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). Sage-grouse are unlike most birds, they don’t migrate to drastically different environments for breeding and winter. Instead, they require sagebrush-steppe (a dry environment characterized by sagebrush plants and short bunchgrasses) for all of their life functions.

They use sagebrush to nest under, eat and hide from predators; they raise their young and spend winter in the same ecosystem. However, within the same ecosystem, there are many different parts to sage-grouse life cycle. That’s the key to landscape conservation, not preserving any one component, but achieving success at multiple levels that preserve the functionality of the landscape as a whole.


Bob Timberman: Collaboration with Many Partners is Key to Landscape Conservation

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service
sage grouse tour
Partners work on sage-grouse conservation. Photo credit: NRCS

We check in this week with some of the folks working to conserve the greater sage-grouse, its habitat and an American landscape. Bob is the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (PFW) biologist  for the NW Colorado Focus Area.  As such he works with private landowners and other partners to directly improve wildlife habitats.  Much of his work is with the greater sage-grouse. Bob has also served as a wildland firefighter, wrangler, and as a search and rescue team member 

5 Questions for Bob

1. In the conservation world, we hear a lot about the need to do “landscape conservation.” What does that mean to you?   

Living and working in a very rural part of Colorado makes it easy for me to embrace landscape conservation.   With habitat fragmentation being a threat to many species, conservation of the intact landscape is paramount to furthering wildlife goals for the long term.  Habitat restorations, proper land protections, combined with effective management and education, remain some of the keys for long term landscape conservation. 

Landscape conservation begins for me with considering its entirety, then beginning work in core habitat areas for a particular wildlife species, or a host of species.  The best initiatives have interconnected properties with one, or several specific conservation objectives, and established collaboration with many key individuals to ensure success. 


In Dogged Pursuit of Poachers: Canines Combat Wildlife Crime in Africa

Conservation Dogs
A patrol dog, handler and ranger demonstrate their abilities to track a mock poacher in Ol Jogi, Kenya. Photo credit: Matt Muir/USFWS


Today's blog comes from Dr. Matt Muir, a wildlife biologist with the Service's International Affairs Program.

As part of my work for our Division of International Conservation, I help support anti-poaching efforts to protect wildlife in foreign countries. This important work now has a high profile as it supports two of the three strategic priorities of the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking released by President Obama in February 2014. These are developing capacity to strengthen enforcement and facilitating partnerships to develop and implement innovative and effective methods to combat wildlife trafficking on the ground. 

One of the tools increasingly touted as innovative and effective to combat wildlife crime in Africa is the use of conservation dogs. At the field level, conservation dogs can be trained to help detect and investigate wildlife crime. In other roles, they provide safety to the rangers they accompany -- an important benefit to a high-risk job. Once the crime has been committed and trafficking is underway, conservation dogs can be used to detect wildlife products that have entered the supply chain.


Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service: Connie Keeler-Foster

Connie Keeler-Foster
Connie often goes out scouting for game with her mule.

Connie Keeler-Foster is the Project Leader for Ennis National Fish Hatchery in Montana, and for the past year and a half, she has also served as the Acting Project Leader for the Bozeman Fish Health Center. Our day starts at 6:30, and the routine appeals to her – they feed the fish, clean up after the fish, spawn the fish and care for the eggs and young fish. Essentially, she says, “I am a farmer/rancher at heart, it’s just fish not cows or crops.”

5 Questions for Connie 

1. Do you hunt/fish and if so what?

I archery and rifle hunt. Now that I live in Montana, with an extended hunting season and over-the-counter license sales, I hunt much more than I did in my native New Mexico. I hunt big game (deer, antelope, elk), and upland birds. I fish, too, but prefer sitting in a boat being lazy as opposed to wading around working at it.

2.Who got you into fishing or hunting?

I have vivid memories of early mornings in the mountains of southern New Mexico – zero dark thirty – with the smell of coffee and bacon, and the anticipation of hiking out with my father. I was too young to hunt, but just loved the total package, including the cool red sweatshirt hoodie that came out only for deer season!


Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service: Christine Willis

Christine Willis
Who shouts "Fish On!" for Christine?

Christine Willis, is the Energy Coordinator, for the Southeast Region, in the Division of Environmental Review in Ecological Services.  A typical day is providing program coordination among the Regional, Headquarters and Field Office staff that are reviewing and providing technical assistance on a myriad of energy and infrastructure projects such as transmission lines, pipelines and new renewable energy projects such as solar, wind and biofuels.  

5 Questions for Christine

1. Do you hunt/fish and if so what?  

I like to both hunt and fish.   My fishing has been mostly salt water.  It is particularly interesting fishing in the same area throughout the year and seeing the shift in both prey species and bait in the water over the summer season.  My hunting experience has been in south Georgia.  Learning more about turkey and deer through the use of a trail camera and observations has been really unbelievable.  Every time I go out, I learn something more about the species and how they interact with other species such as turkey and owls or deer and squirrels.   


Saturday Dedicated to Public Lands, Hunting and Fishing

Volunteers help out at Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge in California. Photo by Bob Schallman

This Saturday should be a great day for conservation.

Volunteers will turn out at nearly 40 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sites and hundreds of other public-land areas to help out for National Public Lands Day (NPLD), the nation's largest volunteer event on public lands. Last year, more than 175,000 volunteers and park visitors celebrated NPLD in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico.


Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service: Herb Bergquist

Herb Bergquist
Herb Bergquist with a fox he harvested in 1978.

Herb Bergquist is our Region 5 Ecological Services decision support coordinator in Massachusetts. He works in the emerging technology of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to provide our natural resource managers with needed mapping and spatial information. He also dedicates time to recruiting and teaching youth hunters and hunters new to Massachusetts.

5 Questions for Herb

1. Do you hunt/fish and if so what?

I have hunted and trapped almost my whole life – deer, pheasant, duck, grouse, muskrat, beaver, raccoon … My early experience hunting was the time in my life when and where the instinctive connection with the land and wildlife was born in me.

2. Who got you into fishing or hunting?

My dad. I can remember our early-morning hunting trips as if they were yesterday, riding down the back roads with my dad and Sammy, our trusted black Labrador retriever seated between us in that old red GMC truck, headed toward a favorite hunting ground.  My tangible bond with the land and its wild inhabitants was developing – fostered by my father and for that, I am forever indebted. 


Slowly Swimming Toward Recovery, California’s Sea Otter Population Holding Steady

A southern sea otter settles down to rest in a small patch of Egregia feather boa kelp. Photo by Lilian Carswell/USFWS

Our biologists work alongside conservation partners to conserve and protect the southern sea otter - Enhydra lutris nereis - a federally listed Threatened species found in California. Scientists with the Service’s sister agency, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), calculate a population index each year through an annual range-wide field survey to inform and guide conservation and management of the species. For 2014, USGS reports the population index as 2,944. For southern sea otters to be considered for removal from the “Threatened” species list, the population index would have to exceed 3,090 for three consecutive years.

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Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service: Mary Price

Mary Price
Mary Price with a Dolly Varden char on Long Lake, Alaska. Photo credit: Steve Klein/USFWS

Mary Price, a fisheries biologist in the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program in our Alaska Region, is a champion for getting money on the ground for sportsmen and -women in Alaska. She manages 41 Sport Fish Restoration grants totaling nearly $75 million to fund 179 projects in Alaska, including fisheries research, surveys, boating and fishing access, and aquatic education. These grants are used by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to maintain healthy populations and provide some of the best and most diverse fishing opportunities in the world.

5 Questions for Mary

1. Do you hunt/fish and if so what?

I have fished since I was a toddler on family camping trips.  I have participated in many kinds of sport fisheries, but with a focus on cold water species in the flowing waters of creeks and rivers.  One of my favorites is rainbow trout fishing in wade-able creeks.

I started hunting when I moved to Alaska in 1993.  I was self-motivated to get into hunting, as it seemed like the Alaskan thing to do.  I lived in a remote town when I first moved to Alaska, and the game meat was a much healthier and economical alternative to store-bought.  I hunted caribou, Dall sheep, ptarmigan, and ducks and geese.  I don’t hunt often these days, but I will always be grateful for the opportunities and experiences I had.


Environmental Justice Program Looking for Topics

As part of our commitment to Environmental Justice, we are proud to be a sponsor of the 2015 National Environmental Justice Conference and Training Program in March. The conference will give examples of what works and point out initiatives that probably won’t. It will also provide an opportunity to share ideas and challenges to Environmental Justice.

The program is now looking for individuals to submit abstracts, not to exceed two pages, related to environmental justice.  Abstracts are due November 21. The overall conference theme is Enhancing Communities Through Capacity Building and Technical Assistance.    

See here for more information on the call for abstracts.

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