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A Talk on the Wild Side.

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.  


Service Joins Forces with Zeta Phi Beta Sorority

Zeta Phi Beta
Members of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and family look at what they netted in a pond at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Photo by Stephanie Martinez/USFWS

We took a big step forward inour efforts to engage urban youth in outdoor recreation, biological sciences and healthful activity in nature by signing a morandum of understanding with leading African American sorority Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

The five-year agreement follows last year’s signing of a similar MOU with Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., the brother organization of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority.

Zeta Phi Beta
“Partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helps Zeta expose our youth to more possibilities for leading healthful lives and promising futures," said Mary Breaux Wright, international president of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority (seen here at Anahuac). Photo by Stephanie Martinez/USFWS

“We are thrilled to join with Zeta Phi Beta Sorority to boost opportunities for young people to explore the natural world, learn about science and science careers, and reap the benefits of outdoor recreation,” said Steve Guertin, deputy director of the Service, at a signing ceremony during Zeta Leadership Training, which brought more than 900 sorority leaders to Washington, DC. 

“Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, with its long commitment to health and community well-being, is a wonderful partner, and we look forward to forging many new connections.”

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Daniel Gallegos: Summer Job Leads to Change in Career Plans

 Daniel Gallegos
Biological Science Aid, Daniel Gallegos, from Mora National Fish Hatchery removes dead eggs from the incubation trays in the 2015 spawning season. Photo by USFWS

Daniel Gallegos, a current Biological Science Aid Intern at Mora National Fish Hatchery in Mora, New Mexico, has come a long way since getting his start scrubbing rocks for the hatchery.

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Researching the Reproductive Health of Ozark hellbenders

   Ozark-Hellbender. Jeff Briggler
Ozark-Hellbender. Photo by Jeff Briggler

The federally endangered Ozark hellbender is a large salamander that spends its life under large rocks or in crevices in clear, cool spring-fed streams in southern Missouri and northeast Arkansas. Drastic declines have occurred in populations of the Ozark hellbender since the 1970s, and experts are still working to understand reasons for the salamander's decline.

One factor potentially contributing to hellbender population decline is the sperm health of male hellbenders. Endocrine disrupting compounds, which have been shown to alter normal reproductive development in various aquatic species, have been detected in streams occupied by Ozark hellbenders. Biologists wondered if these compounds could interfere with the reproductive cycle of this species.

To address this question, Service biologists captured Ozark hellbenders during the breeding season and assessed the rates of motility (percentage of moving cells), viability (percentage of live cells), and concentration of sperm samples. Preliminary results indicate that Ozark hellbenders are producing healthy sperm, with viability and motility rates approaching 100 percent in some instances. This bodes really well for captive breeding efforts and natural reproduction in the wild. 

Learn more about other amphibian conservation and research projects at http://1.usa.gov/1HOIIwM 

Non-natives Threaten Colorado River's Endangered Big River Fish

smallmouth bass
A smallmouth bass that has eaten a native bluehead sucker on the middle Green River. Photo by Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

One hundred years ago, 13 native fish species flourished in the Upper Colorado River and its tributaries. Today, they have been joined by more than 50 non-native species. Predation and competition by non-native fish species is considered the primary threat causing the decline of native fish, and it’s also one of the most difficult to manage.

There are currently four endangered fish in the upper Colorado River – the bonytail, humpback chub, Colorado pikeminnow and the razorback sucker. And to help bring these four species of endangered fish back from the brink of extinction, the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program (Recovery Program) was created. 

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Celebrating our Independence - Tips for Watching out for Wildlife

Photo: National Park ServicePhoto by National Park Service

Celebrating Independence Day is, and should be, a lot of fun. Barbecues, beaches, parades and fireworks can be great ways to celebrate our country’s tremendous journey since the Continental Congress made that declaration July 4, 1776: “We hold these truths to be self-evident... “ But please remember that those bright colors and thunderous explosions can have a real impact to wildlife. Here are a few ways you can help mitigate the harm to wildlife and their habitats while you celebrate the Fourth of July.


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