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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

How Will You Leave Your Legacy?

One of the latest trending themes in the Fish in Wildlife Service is for employees to answer the question “How will you leave your legacy?”

The many answers can be found by searching the #LeaveYourLegacy across our various social media sites.

Every 3 years the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes an employee, or group of employees, for collaborating with partners to promote ecosystem sustainability while meeting the requirements for our nation’s ever changing transportation needs. This recognition is called the Environmental Stewardship Excellence Award. In order to be considered for the award, an individual or group has to be nominated, and then a panel of judges assesses the nominations and selects a winner.


A Special ESA Photo Essay, Just For You!

As you know, the Endangered Species Act is turning 40 this year.

As our gift to you, this week we present a glorious photo essay, highlighting some of the states and species we've featured on Open Spaces so far.


Protecting Our Waters: The mussels of Virginia's Clinch and Powell Rivers

(Photo: Gary Peeples/USFWS)


Delmarva Peninsula Fox Squirrel: Journey to Recovery

(Photo: USFWS)


Illinois's Unique Places and Species

(Photo: P. Burton/USFWS)


Whoopers Return to Louisiana After 60 Years

(Photo: Sara Zimorski, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries)


A Rocky Mountain Success Story

(Photo: Colorado Division of Wildlife)

Each week, throughout this ruby anniversary year of the Endangered Species Act, we’ll highlight stories of conservation success in every state across the country. Stay tuned!

Kids Get Creative to Save Wildlife

By Claire Hood, USFWS

The threats that face wildlife are often global in scale—poaching, habitat destruction, disease, and climate change, to name a few.

While these problems may seem overwhelming, each person can make a difference in helping to conserve plants and animals, including kids. Over the last several months, the International Affairs Program has heard from children across the country.

save_nautilisU.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Assistant Director of International Affairs, Bryan Arroyo, meets with Josiah Utsch, co-founder of www.savethenautilus.com, to thank him for his conservation work. (Photo: USFWS)

In March, we led the United States delegation and traveled to the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP16) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Bangkok, Thailand.


Federal Wildlife Canine Helps Law Enforcement Team Close Poaching Case

By Tina Shaw, USFWS

Our law enforcement officers work every day to uphold all sorts of conservation laws, permits and regulations on refuge lands across the Midwest.

Sure, you may know that they use GPS technology, surveillance and other high-tech tools to get the job done, but did you know that they have another highly sophisticated tool?


Yes! National wildlife refuges have been using trained federal wildlife canines for more than 20 years across the country for everything from search and rescue to finding and retrieving hidden game.

NateMeet 'Nate,' a member of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife law enforcement team. (Photo: Dustin Schelling/USFWS)

Our most recent canine success story comes from the law enforcement team at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in Illinois.


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.


Bringing Environmental Education to Diverse Audiences

“What are we really accomplishing running 20,000 students through the refuge each year?”

Beth Ullenberg, supervisory visitor services manager at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge questioned the value of field trips.

So Minnesota Valley Refuge initiated a Refuge Partner Schools Program, one of nine programs described in a Special Report: Bringing Environmental Education to Diverse Audiences.


Village elders teach older children how to set and haul nets for whitefish at Selawik Refuge, AK.
(Photo: Susan Georgette/USFWS)

The special report not only gives the public a good insight into the range of environmental education programs offered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but it also shares innovative approaches that staff on national wildlife refuges can adapt or adopt for their own communities.


Get to Know All About ... the Grizzly Bear!

By Brynn Walling, USFWS

When you think of picnics, bonfires, and camping, what iconic U.S. animal do you think of first?

Is it the grizzly bear?

Sure, was for me!

Grizzly bears can grow up to 7 feet tall! Males range in weight from 500 to 700 pounds, but have been known to weigh up to 800 pounds! Females are slightly smaller ranging from 200 to 400 pounds.

grizzlyGrizzlies are an iconic -- but threatened -- species. (Image: USFWS)

Lewis and Clark were the first known to report the sighting grizzlies. In the 1800s approximately 50,000 bears roamed the west. Clark recorded in his journal that he saw a “white bear.” After talking to Native Americans about the animal, Clark distinguished the grizzly bear from the American black bear.


How to Successfully Save an 800-pound Leatherback Turtle

By Stever Traxler, USFWS

While many Americans were scrambling to file their returns during the last week of tax season, on Monday, April 8, I was out with a small group of rescuers saving an 800-pound leatherback turtle.

I was called at about 8 a.m. by Dr. Jonathon Gorham of In Water Research Group, Inc. (IRG). He told me a leatherback sea turtle was in the St. Lucie Florida Power and Light (FPL) power plant intake canal. He asked me to help with the capture. Given my love and respect for wildlife and previous experiences with these captures, it was a no-brainer.

leatherback_rescue_poseA successful rescue involves a cooperative group! (Photo: USFWS)


Think You Know All There is About the Texas Blind Salamander? Think Again!

By Brynn Walling, USFWS

Texas blind salamanders are rare but fascinating creatures.

This cave dwelling amphibian is a pinkish translucent color and grows to be around 5 inches long. They are fairly slender and fair-legged and about half of their body length comes from their tails alone.

blind_salamanderWho needs eyes when you've got a tail that long? (Photo: USFWS)

Impress your friends with these five fun facts:


In the Weeds at Noxubee Refuge

By Vera Taylor

Until recently, I was a gardener who mainly chose the plants to go in my yard plot because they were given to me, they were cuttings appropriated from public places (I’m sure the bank doesn’t mind that I got my start on purple heart from its bed), or they were 75-percent-off distressed plants dragged home from our local box store.

But that haphazard gardening style has taken a turn, mostly likely because I let it slip that pulling weeds put me in a meditative Zen state. I accepted the post of being in charge of the Native Plant Garden at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee Refuge in Mississippi.

red_buckeyeSweet pepperbush blooming (Photo: USFWS)

You know what they say. “Fools rush in …” That might describe my agreeing to take on this task. It isn’t just a learning curve, but more like a corkscrew – in terms of my knowledge of native plants. Fortunately, I enjoy the process of growing plants and learning about new species.


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