Facebook icon Twitter icon Flicker icon You Tube icon

Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

Hunting Tool Leads to Safer Prescribed Burns

Karen Miranda shares a story about a firefighter who has improved safety using dog collars.

GPS Collars
The wildland fire crew at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida equips its ignition specialists, ATVs and helicopter with GPS collars to track multiple real-time locations on a single handheld unit. Photo by USFWS

Who knew that an American hunting tradition could help keep wildland firefighters safe?

Bart Rye, a prescribed fire/fuels technician at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge along Florida’s Gulf Coast, has deer hunted for more than 20 years in nearby national forest using specially trained hounds that run miles at a time. The way he tracks his seven dogs gave him an idea for better monitoring his co-workers in heavy forest on the 70,000-acre refuge.

In these southeastern longleaf pine forests, it is easy to become disoriented in thickets of sprawling saw palmetto, sinkholes and sawgrass up to 10 feet high while walking or riding an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) during a prescribed fire. Hard-to-spot stumps can cause an especially dangerous situation for vehicles such as dozers and ATVs along an active fireline.

Rye suggested that his fire crew carry GPS transmitter collars, like those worn by his hunting dogs, so fireline supervisors could more easily locate multiple firefighters, vehicles and aircraft during prescribed burns over large areas.

Rye has used the GPS system with his dogs in recent years, in place of older radio telemetry collars, like those used to tag wildlife.


Gatherer of Duck Data: Satellite Technology Informs Redhead Conservation on the Texas Gulf Coast

Craig Springer shares the story of just one of the people who make up the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A redhead with a transmitter.Photo by USFWS

The redhead is arguably among the handsomest of waterfowl. That is of course a matter of opinion. But here’s a fact: Eighty percent of all North American redheads spend their winters concentrated along the lower Gulf Coast of Texas in the Laguna Madre. The birds have an affinity for, if not an obligation to, freshwaters near salty shores. They feed on shoalgrass in the Laguna and fly inland to purge excess salts. Redheads, like most birds that feed in saltwater, have a salt gland near the eye that excretes excess salts ingested while feeding. It is essential that salt be purged daily in freshwater ponds. And knowing the array of habitats frequented by the bird during south Texas winter sojourns is essential for Dan Collins.

He’s as much a geographer as he is a wildlife biologist. For Collins, a scientist in the Service’s Division of Migratory Birds in Albuquerque, New Mexico, avian fauna are his forte. With research into redheads in south Texas, he is waist-deep in remote-sensing—using photovoltaic cells, GPS and Doppler radar to find and follow the position of ducks. The technology lends an amazing advantage in learning how birds behave and how wildlife managers can make better informed decisions for the bird.


'Nautilus Girl' Keeps up her Work to Conserve Species

In January, we told you about an 8-year-old who has been working to conserve the chambered nautilus for several years.

Gretchen Googe
Gretchen Googe with her donations for Save the Nautilus. Photos courtesy Courtney Googe  

Well, Gretchen Googe of Texas is at it again.

Mom Courtney Googe reports that for her ninth birthday earlier this month, Gretchen held a Nautilus Pot Luck and asked for donations to Save the Nautilus and Children's Aquarium at Fair Park in Dallas instead of presents. So far, the donations have topped $300. Gretchen also gave a presentation to her party guests describing how she got involved in nautilus conservation and why it’s important to save them.


Restoration Project Fights a Deadly Microbrew

response team
A field response team works to stabilize a sick mallard before it is transported to a wildlife rehabilitator. Photo by USFWS

An international model for island restoration, the Paul S. Sarbanes Ecosystem Restoration Project at Poplar Island uses dredged material from the Port of Baltimore, which is relatively free of contaminants, to create remote island habitat for a variety of Chesapeake Bay wildlife, particularly nesting colonial waterbirds. But with such a large-scale habitat restoration project, nothing is simple.

Read more about the issue and how we are tackling them

Keeping Burrows Safe for Dwindling Crawfish Frogs in Indiana

Crawfish Frog
While not federally listed as endangered or threatened, the crawfish frog is susceptible to drastic population declines. Photo by USFWS

The crawfish frog needs a burrow. Handily, adult crawfish dig the burrows, then leave, passing on a cozy home to the crawfish frog. Once a crawfish frog finds a burrow it likes, it really moves in. Recent studies on how to conserve this drastically declining frog show that they spend almost their whole adult lives within a half meter of their home burrows, which keep them safe from predators. This species likes to live in fields, which can be filled with vacant burrows, but plowing a field destroys the burrows.   

Learn about the crawfish frog success at Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge

The Service and Partners Focus Strategy in the the Upper Tennessee River Basin

Gary Peeples and David Eisenhauer tell us about some high-definition conservation in Virginia and Tennessee. 

Searching for mussels in the South Toe River. Photo by Gary Peeples/USFWS

Casually wading the Clinch River in southwest Virginia, one can’t help but look down and notice mussel after mussel dotting the stream bottom. To the south, in Tennessee’s Citico River, tens of thousands of buffalo fish congregate each spring for spawning. And in the depths of the Tennessee River itself, lake sturgeon, a fish largely unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs, ply the river depths. 

When we think of river life, for many of us a handful of animals may come to mind – trout, smallmouth bass, muskie. But the southeastern United States is a hotbed of species diversity. On that landscape, the Upper Tennessee River Basin (UTRB), covering much of the southern Appalachians, stands out with a whopping 255 species of fish and mussels known from the basin. 

People do not live apart from the UTRB ecosystem; they are connected to it, says Roberta Hylton of the Service’s Southwestern Virginia Field Office

“Our local rivers and streams in the Upper Tennessee River Basin provide us with drinking water, fishing, swimming, boating, inspiration, and many other services and opportunities,” Hylton says. “The health and well-being of people living within the UTRB depend upon water quality, as reflected in the area’s aquatic biodiversity. Working to conserve aquatic biodiversity means we will also be working to protect water quality and the interests of citizens.” 

Unfortunately, though the basin has an incredible diversity of stream life, a disappointing number of stream animals there are imperiled – the result of dams, water contamination and sedimentation. Of the 172 fish species historically known from the basin, 13 are on the federal List of Endangered and Threatened  Wildlife, as are 32 of the 83 historically known mussel species. That means 45 species are threatened or endangered in a river basin covering an area about the size of West Virginia. 


Operation Warfighter Intern: Don Wilson lends a hand to protect the beauty around San Diego

Lisa Cox, public information officer at San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex, shares the story of just one of the people who make up the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Don Wilson
Don Wilson guides students in moving dirt around to the right places to help create trails at the Anza Schoolyard Habitat project site in El Cajon, California. Photo by Lisa Cox/USFWS

Over the past 20 years with the U.S. Navy, veteran Donald Wilson, a security/anti-terrorism specialist, has been deployed to the Middle East five times, the Mediterranean and Guantanamo Bay, and he has been stationed at seven permanent duty stations around the United States and overseas. During his time on medical limited duty at Balboa Naval Medical Center in San Diego, he was introduced to San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex by his case manager for Operation Warfighter.

Project Leader Andy Yuen kicked off Wilson’s stay there with a tour of the four national wildlife refuges in the complex – San Diego, San Diego Bay, Seal Beach and Tijuana Slough – and soon after, Wilson got to work.


Alaska Staff Strengthen and Expand the International Web of Conservation

Jennifer Reed, visitor services coordinator at Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, talks about Arctic's international work. 

Arctic Refuge Manager Brian Glaspell listens as Arctic Refuge Wilderness Specialist/Historian Roger Kaye explains the significance of the Yukon River to the settling of Alaska by Westerners. Photo by Jennifer Reed/USFWS

In conservation, borders exist only on maps, so our folks in Alaska have been working for more than a decade on a sisterhood agreement between Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Changbaishan National Nature Reserve (Changbai Reserve)In Northeast China.

After traveling to China in 2013 and 2014 and learning about some of the conservation challenges there, Alaska staff welcomed a Changbai delegation to Fairbanks. They arrived on the longest day of the year—the Summer Solstice – and were greeted with 24 hours of daylight after 24 hours of travel.


Happy Latino Conservation Week

 LULAC Youth Council to the Red Butte Gardens
The LULAC Youth Council visits Red Butte Gardens in Utah. Photo by BLM

Latino Conservation Week, which started Saturday, is an opportunity for Latinos to show their support for our public lands. It is also a chance for us to show that we get how important the Latino community is to conservation and how we are working to make sure Latinos have a seat at the table when we plan conservation.

Across the country, we are reaching out to the Latino community.

Our Pacific Region regularly posts blogs in Spanish. Our Northeast Region is sharing content this week with the Hispanic Access Foundation and Latino Outdoors.

And if you happen to be in San Diego on July 18, why not get to know the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge (a part of the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve) by joining our education staff on a two-mile walk out to the Tijuana river mouth? Later, researcher Dr. Julio Lorda will talk about the benefits of the Tijuana River Estuary to humans and animals.

We were particularly proud to sponsor the 2015 National LULAC Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah.  LULAC – League of United Latin American Citizens – is the nation's oldest Latino civil rights organization and a leader in the development of a national Latino legislative agenda.


Elephants Over Ivory: Crushing the Illegal Ivory Market

Elephants over ivroy

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Ivory Crush on June 19 in New York City’s Times Square renewed interest in the subject of elephant ivory and the associated poaching and wildlife trafficking that is directly leading to the decimation of some of the most charismatic and beloved animal species on the planet, including the African elephant. Some observers raised questions about our decision to crush the ivory and what other options we could explore besides banning ivory trade. These are important conversations, and we hope that people continue talking about the future of elephants. Our FAQ answers some questions, but we want to address some of the concerns we see most frequently. 

Our #1 take-home message is this: Ivory belongs to elephants and elephants only. With very few exceptions, like antiques, ivory that is not attached to a living, breathing elephant should have zero value to everyone. The fundamental reason elephants are being slaughtered is because people are buying ivory. If we stop the demand, we stop the slaughter and prevent the extinction of a magnificent species. In crushing confiscated ivory, we strive to make that message paramount and - combined with other actions - eventually crush the demand for ivory. That we are even having this discussion proves the Crush did succeed in bringing attention to the crisis. The bottom line: We choose elephants over ivory. Our feelings are the same for any animal threatened by poaching and trafficking. Rhinos over rhino horn. Tigers over tiger bone wine or other products made from tiger parts.  


More Entries