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A Talk on the Wild Side.

We're Moving! But Not Saying Goodbye!

Hello, Open Spaces followers!

We're picking up and moving to Tumblr.

Please follow us on http://usfws.tumblr.com/ for the latest posts.

Meet the Species: Madtom

By Brynn Walling, USFWS

The peak flow of water in the Neosho River drainage in Kansas, occurs in June and July.  This is also the time that the federally protected Neosho madtoms (a fish) begin spawning.  That means that there are currently madtom eggs being fertilized in Kansas as we post this blog! 

madtomMadtom (Photo: USFWS)

Neosho madtoms are a federally threatened species in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. These catfish face habitat loss due to dam construction. They are also affected by deteriorating water quality due to zinc-lead mining, agricultural runoff, and increased urbanization and industrialization.  These small catfish only grow to be about 3 inches long and  are only found in 4 locations. Not only are they scarce due to small populations, but they are bottom-dwelling night feeders, so they are a hard fish to spot anyways.      


Seabirds Warn of Ocean Change

What can 30 years of research and monitoring on Maine seabirds teach us? That the marine environment is changing fast. That ocean birds may be failing to adapt. That the scope of few marine threats – from ocean warming and offshore energy development to competition from commercial fisheries - could have been foreseen when Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge staff began studying the birds in the early ‘80s.

The refuge, made up of more than 50 islands in the Gulf of Maine, uses data from research and monitoring to manage Maine seabird colonies and try to stem the birds’ decline.

tern_arcticArctic tern. (Photo: USFWS)

Consider the Arctic tern. Its 36,000-plus mile-per-year migration from its wintering grounds in Antarctica to its Maine breeding grounds is the world’s longest; the little bird makes the equivalent of three round trips to the moon in its 30-year lifetime. Small light-sensing units called geolocators have been used to document the distance flown. But over the last five years, counts of Arctic terns in Maine have dropped by 42 percent, from 4,224 pairs in 2008 to 2,467 pairs in 2012. “There are fewer pairs of Arctic terns breeding in the Gulf of Maine, and those terns that do breed are producing fewer chicks. They’re doing very poorly,” says refuge biologist Linda Welch.


Duck Stamp Scavenger Hunt!

By Rachel F. Levin, USFWS

On June 28, the 80th Federal Duck Stamp will go on sale. For those who don’t know what a Duck Stamp is, the best way to sum it up is that it is a powerful conservation tool packed into a 1 ¼” by 1 ¾” stamp. When you buy a $15 Duck Stamp, 98 percent of your money goes directly toward wildlife habitat conservation.

The 2013 Federal Duck Stamp. Robert Steiner, an artist from San Francisco, Calif., is the winner of the 2012 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest. 

Sales of the Duck Stamp to hunters, collectors, conservationists and birders have raised more than $800 million to acquire more than 6 million acres of wildlife habitat on our national wildlife refuges. On the whole, the conservation achievement of the Federal Duck Stamp Program is impressive.


The Lone Arranger: What It Takes to be an Archivist

What does it take to be an archivest? One volunteer shares her tale this week.

By Emily Venemon

I never thought I would end up working for an organization like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, let alone being allowed to travel to places like Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Talk about a change of scenery! I spent my first week on Midway Atoll NWR feeling like I was in a strange (but pleasant!) dream. The sheer volume of and accessibility to wildlife there is overwhelmingly amazing. It is beautiful, but also heartbreaking. Life and death are equally visible.

emily_beachEmily on the beach. (Photo: USFWS)

One day a volunteer pointed out to me an adorable Red-tailed tropicbird chick tucked up underneath its parent. A few minutes later she showed me a Laysan duck that had died of avian botulism. I loved watching the albatross chicks flap their wings; I wanted all of them to grow up healthy and fly out to sea. Every day I saw birds that had died of dehydration, plastic ingestion, and other maladies, however. On Midway Atoll NWR, the struggle for life in the face of natural and man-made adversities is present in a way I have never seen anywhere else.


The Need for Speed (Where Conservation is Concerned)

By Brynn Walling, USFWS

Can you imagine using jackhammers and diamond-cutting saws to benefit an ecosystem?

Sometimes, it's a necessity!

Black-spored quillwort and mat-forming quillwort are to plant species that grow near Atlanta, Georgia.

These grass-like ferns can be found near shallow pools on granite outcrops and in large areas of rock that rise above otherwise flat land. Both species are fragile because habitat loss and degradation have caused their populations have dwindled. They're therefore listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Some people view this plant as plain ole’ grass, but quillwort conservation supports a healthy ecosystem and benefits other plant and animal species. This is a prime example of how the ecosystem and wildlife depend on one another.

Which is where the jackhammers and diamond-cutting saws come in.

replant(Photo: USFWS)


Bringing Sonoran Pronghorn Back from the Brink

Captive breeding is a wildlife management tool of last resort, and it's not an action any wildlife manager chooses lightly or often. It can be difficult, expensive, and rife with risk. But when so few animals are left, we and our conservation partners must do whatever it takes to prevent extinction.

That's why we've developed the captive-breeding program for the Sonoran pronghorn.

It began over the winter of 2003-2004 when seven of the remaining animals were captured and placed in a specially constructed, one-square-mile pen on Cabeza Prieta Refuge.

In the captive-breeding pen, one carefully selected buck breeds with all of the herd's does. Breeding bucks are rotated to ensure as much genetic diversity as possible.

Jim Atkinson has been the Sonoran pronghorn recovery coordinator since 2008.

In the future, Atkinson said, breeding bucks may be brought in from one of the Mexican populations "to mix up the genetics and ensure the population stays robust."

pronghornA Sonoran Pronghorn doe. (Photo: USFWS)

But, he added, "We're not going to be in the captive-breeding business forever. The whole goal of our efforts right now is to put a floor under this herd and keep it from cratering again and again. For now, we can focus on restoring the herd and stabilizing it for the long haul." Other habitat enhancement efforts are essential elements of a broader effort to recover the pronghorn.


Protect Pollinators in 5 Easy Steps

By Rebecca Bartel, USFWS

Here are 5 simple steps you can take to help pollinators:

Plant: Provide habitat for a variety of pollinators by planting a pollinator garden. To attract pollinators to your yard, choose native plants of different colors, shapes, and heights. Creating variety in flower color and shape will increase the diversity of pollinators that will use the space! Need help in identifying which plants are native in your area? Check through the Native Plant Societies in your area or explore native planting guides available through the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign and Pollinator Partnership.

bumble_bee(Photo: Laura Perlick/USFWS)


Marvelous Millerbird Recovery

By Brynn Walling, USFWS

Aloha! Today we are taking you to the Hawaiian Islands so that you can get to know your species! Specifically, we are talking about the Nihoa millerbird. This species was listed as endangered in 1967, preceding the Endangered Species Act. Since then, a translocation project has been implemented to help the existing population flourish.

(Check out this video of the millerbird!)

Millerbirds are small birds, only about 5 inches long. The females tend to be slightly smaller than the males. They have dark olive and olive brown feathers with white bellies.

Until recently, Millerbirds could only be found on the Nihoa Island. Their population has ranged from 30 – 800 over the last 100 years. Since all of the birds lived in only one location, this increased their chance of extinction. A translocation project was put into place to help conserve Nihoa millerbirds and expand their range and secure their future. Two separate translocations were completed. In 2011, 24 birds were moved to Laysan Island. The next year, 26 more birds were taken to the island.

This translocation project has been successful thus far. Not only has it helped the Millerbird population, but has increased the Hawaiian ancestral knowledge as well. In fact, Nihoa has become a popular name among the Hawaiian residents!

Find out more about the history of the Hawaiian Island and the millerbirds role throughout by watching this great video:

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!

Making the Outdoors More Accessible — and Fun — for All Americans

By: Joan Moody, senior public affairs specialist, DOI

Mud Pond Trail has attracted a lot of accolades for a short trail in the White Mountains Region of New Hampshire little more than half a mile long.  Located in the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Mud Pond became a tiny part of the nation’s first National Blueway — the huge Connecticut River watershed — in May 2012.

Hubert Gall REALLY enjoys the universally accessible Mud Pond Trail in New Hampshire. Photo by Ursula Gall.

A year later, on May 31, 2013, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Director of the National Park Service Jonathan B. Jarvis honored Mud Pond and other trails in the country as national recreation trails, adding a total of 650 miles to the National Trails System.   

But what visitor Hubert Gall and his family love most about Mud Pond Trail is the universal accessibility for those in wheelchairs, like Hubert. "A concerted effort involving volunteers and government oversight is making it possible for physically impaired individuals to get back in touch with nature," Gall says.


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