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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

Damages Assessed, NRDAR Program, Partners Restore Colorado’s Upper Arkansas River Basin

Our Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) teams work with many stakeholders to bring habitat back to life, for fish, wildlife and people!

This article comes from the spring edition of the Fish & Wildlife News.


A fisherman tries his luck amid the restoration equipment. Credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife

For more than a century, waste from historic mines leached into adjacent lands and waters of the Arkansas River, contaminating more than 15 square miles of the upper Arkansas River Basin in Lake County, Colorado, which includes the California Gulch Superfund site. The mining waste posed a serious threat to human health and safety because heavy metals, including lead, seeped into drinking water sources and soil. The heavy metals also injured such wildlife as the American dipper, tree swallow and brown trout, and their supporting habitats.


Don't Let the Name Fool You, Eelgrass is Vital along the Central California Coast

More than 200 volunteers assisted in the 2014 Morro Bay Eelgrass Recovery project. Photo courtesy of Morro Bay National Estuary Program

It may sound a little gross, but eelgrass is an important part of the coastal ecosystem of central California’s Morro Bay. “Maintaining Morro Bay’s eelgrass beds into the future is vital not only for Morro Bay’s resident fish and wildlife, but for migratory species like brant as well,” says the Service’s Mary Root. People, too. Eelgrass improves water clarity and quality, filters polluted runoff, absorbs excess nutrients and stores carbon dioxide.Together with the Morro Bay National Estuary Program and other conservation partners, we are helping restore eelgrass to Morro Bay.

Read the Full Story


The Lorax and the Many Faces of Wilderness

Are those prairie forbs or baby Truffula trees at Lostwood Wilderness in North Dakota? Credit: Wilderness.net

Ryan Moehring of our Mountain-Prairie Region found himself thinking about Dr. Seuss' The Lorax on the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The act's legacy "would have made even the Lorax proud," he writes.

Read his full essay

Wilderness Act Turns 50

Fifty years ago today (Sept. 3) President Lyndon Johnson signed into law The Wilderness Act, which preserves lands that are some of our greatest national treasures. The lands are left in, or restored to, their natural state and man is just a visitor to them who leaves no imprint. As such, Wilderness offers unparalleled chances for solitude.

MORE: The Service Celebrates | Refuge Wilderness | 50th Anniversary

Credit: USFWS

Can you imagine being the only one for as far as the eye can see, like this hiker in Andreafsky Wilderness in Alaska? (Well, except for the photographer.) More than half of the acreage in the National Wilderness Preservation System lies in Alaska.


‘eHarmony for Birds’: A Science – and an Art – to Saving Parrots

On Tuesday we learned that two Puerto Rican parrots were born in the wild in a natural nest cavity and later fledged –the first time this has happened outside El Yunque National Forest in more than 100 years. Puerto Rican parrots have always been found in El Yunque, but a second population was started in Río Abajo State Forest in the 1990s. And the nesting cavity was just outside Rio Abajo. With Puerto Rico and other partners, we have been working toward a self-sufficient parrot population in the wild for more than 40 years.

In celebration, Open Spaces reprints a story from last summer’s Fish & Wildlife News.


Puerto Rican parrots
The population of parrots was once estimated at a million but fell to less than 30. Credit: Tom MacKenzie/USFWS


At the Service’s Iguaca Aviary in Puerto Rico’s El Yunque National Forest, the science that is saving the rare Puerto Rican parrot from extinction is everywhere on display: in the wall of TV monitors that relay images from cameras hidden in each breeding pair’s nest cavity; in the sleek emergency care center, where sick birds can be quickly isolated and undergo surgery if needed; in the meticulous record-keeping on each bird’s history, behavior and genetics.


The Building Blocks of Women Scientists

Sarah Inouye-Leas built in LEGO. Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS. Taking a cue from toymaker LEGO, which recently introduced a Research Institute set featuring female scientists, folks in our Midwest Region dug out their LEGOs and created their own set of women scientists at the Service. Find new figures every day this week.

Biologists in Alabama Study Up for Bird Survey

Posting signs
Service biologist Matt Laschet and Kelly Reetz with Alabama Gulf State Park post educational bird signs on the beach. Credit: Dianne Ingram/USFWS

The Alabama Gulf Coast has always been an attractive destination for tourists and migratory birds alike, so the Service’s Alabama Ecological Services Field Office takes part in the annual North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS).  Although they are still compiling and analyzing the 2014 data, biologists learned a lot from last year’s survey.

In 2013, biologists conducted surveys on five 24.5-mile routes in Baldwin and Mobile counties with survey points every half-mile. More than 100 survey routes may eventually be completed annually in Alabama.


Firefighters Still Learning from Historic Fatality Fires

Service firefighters at Battlement Creek near Glenwood Springs, Colorado (from left to right): Jim Krizman,Neal Smith NWR; Iowa; Aaron Roper, Wichita Mountains NWR; Oklahoma; Bart Rye, St. Marks NWR, Florida; Andy Lopez, Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico; John Krueger, Texas Chenier Plain NWR, Texas; Andy Schell, Monte Vista NWR, Colorado; Reggie Forcine, Okefenokee NWR, Georgia; Justin Pyle, Klamath Basin NWR, California; Ted Mason, Fire Management Branch, Idaho; Geoff Wilson, Sheldon-Hart Mountain NWRC, Oregon; Russ Babiak, Fire Management Branch, Idaho; Ryan Sharpe, Merritt Island NWR, Florida.

Thirteen wildland firefighters, from 11 wildlife refuges in six regions and the Fire Management Branch headquarters office, came together over the summer for three days of field study near Glenwood Springs, Colorado, at the sites of two tragic wildfires to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the South Canyon Fire. 

They joined the South Canyon staff ride, May 19-20, sponsored by the interagency Rocky Mountain Training Center. The fire claimed the lives of 14 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and USDA Forest Service (USFS) firefighters on July 6, 1994, and has been the subject of numerous staff rides, a common on-the-ground learning tool for wildland firefighters. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service group then conducted its own staff ride on May 21 at the nearby Battlement Creek Fire site, where three USFS firefighters and an air tanker pilot perished in July 1976.


Commitment to Environmental Justice Leads Service to Study Anacostia River Fishing

Group fishing at the Bladensburg Waterfront Park
Group fishing at the Bladensburg Waterfront Park. Photo by Kim Lambert/USFWS | MORE PHOTOS

Approximately 17,000 people, many African American or Hispanic, eat fish they catch out of the Anacostia River each year, and often share their fish with hungry people, according to a study commissioned by the Anacostia Watershed Society.  But the watershed contains toxic hotspots caused by pollution such as PCBs, PHAs, metals and other compounds for local facilities.

As part of its commitment to Environmental Justice, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with Anacostia Watershed Society, University of Maryland College Park and the Anacostia Community Museum to study the patterns of urban anglers (subsistence, recreational and cultural) and fish contaminants in the Anacostia River region. 


Open Spaces Comes Home

After a year-long visit to Tumblr, Open Spaces, the blog of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has returned to its home at fws.gov. We made some improvements to our blog, which we hope you like, and more are coming. 

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