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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Connection with Nature Can Happen Anywhere, Even in a City

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service
Georgia Basso
Georgia Basso and local students monitor biodiversity changes at habitat restoration sites throughout the city. Photo Credit: Common Ground

Georgia Basso is a wildlife biologist  in our Coastal Program and the Service’s liaison to the Long Island Sound Study, an EPA National Estuary Program to restore and protect the Sound.  The Long Island Sound region is an area of exceptional ecological value and high human density. As such, Georgia’s day are a blend of  science, human dimensions and ecosystem management. In a typical day she might meet with the New Haven Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership leadership team, coordinate coastal habitat restoration projects, work with species experts to assess habitat quality in the Long Island Sound area, organize Habitat Restoration and Stewardship Workgroup meetings, or partner with urban students to design and monitor habitat restoration sites on their school grounds or in their city.

5 Questions for Georgia

1. Why is urban outreach important to you?

If those of us working for the Service close our eyes and think about what first sparked our interest in doing what we do, many of us would recollect an early childhood experience in nature. Studies show that children create a meaningful bond with the environment in their early years. Even if they don’t pursue environmental career paths down the road, if this bond is formed, they go on to be environmental stewards throughout their lives. With more of our population spending an increased amount of time separated from nature, the likelihood of the next generation forming this bond decreases. The future of environmental stewardship rests on people feeling a connection with nature. Urban outreach can help create these connections. 

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For Ricky Campbell, Hunting and Fishing is All About Family

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service
Ricky Campbell
  Ricky Campbell: “I don't guess I grew up around anyone who did not hunt and fish.”

Ricky Campbell is the Hatchery Manager at Private John Allen National Fish Hatchery (NFH) in Tupelo, Mississippi. The hatchery has 15 ponds and raises about 5 million fish every year, including Gulf Coast walleye, paddlefish, alligator gar, lake sturgeon, striped and largemouth bass, and bluegill. Private John Allen NFH also raises a variety of fish specifically to host the parasitic stage of mussels.

5 Questions for Ricky

1. Do you hunt/fish and if so what?

I’ll respond with a very simple and solid YES. I think that I have hunted and fished for every legal game animal and fish that swims, climbs, runs, walks or flies near the ground in the United States. My favorite at the moment is squirrel for hunting and flathead catfish and bream for fishing. They are what is in season at the moment and/or offer the best opportunity for success.

2. Who got you into fishing or hunting?

I would have to say that my mom and dad both exposed me to the outdoors at an early age and provided the positive experiences that entrenched hunting into my very being. I can remember riding on my dad’s shoulders as a little boy following a pack of beagles while rabbit hunting. I also remember the long hikes to Yanabee Creek in Mississippi, where I learned to cast a plastic worm and catch largemouth bass. I don't guess I grew up around anyone who did not hunt and fish. My grandma and my mom were both hunters and fisherwomen, as were my aunts, uncles, cousins and all my neighbors. My grandpa turned me on to night hunting when I was 12. Coon hunting was both a passion of his and a way to support his family for 50 years or more. He helped organize the American Coon Hunters Association (ACHA) and won the first World Championship Wild Coon Hunt in 1948. 

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What to Do with Your Christmas Tree

Those 12 drummers drumming have marched into the sunset, and the Christmas tree that a few weeks ago brought such joy is now looking a little less than festive.

Your tree can still be of good use. Several of our facilities use trees to improve habitat in their area.

At Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, just outside of downtown New Orleans, staff is preparing for the annual Christmas Tree Drop in March (2014 Drop shown above).  Helicopters from the Louisiana Army National Guard will airlift recycled Christmas trees to create marsh habitat for migratory waterfowl.  The trees block storms, help fight erosion and help recover areas still affected by Hurricane Katrina.

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Our Coastal Grants Help Partners Protect Habitat, Boost Economy

Ebenezer Creek
Ebenezer Creek at the location of the Ebenezer Crossing Tragedy. Photo Credit: Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Late last year,  the state of Georgia, acquired a 275-acre property that protects almost two miles of rivers and streams at the confluence of the Savannah River and Ebenezer Creek. The National Park Service lists Ebenezer Creek as the “best remaining cypress-gum swamp forest in the Savannah River basin.” The protection of Ebenezer Creek also memorializes a Civil War tragedy. According to a historical marker: “U.S. Gen. Jeff. C. Davis crossed Ebenezer Creek … [then] hastily removed the pontoon bridges over the creek, and hundreds of freed slaves following his army drowned trying to swim the swollen waters to escape the pursuing Confederates.”

Through a 2014 National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grant to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, we helped make this acquisition possible. Money from the R. Howard Dobbs Jr. Foundation and the Knobloch Family Foundation also helped The Trust for Public Land put the acquisition together.

The Mayor of Springfield, Georgia, which will manage the property, said at the time of the acquisition, “It has been our dream to preserve Ebenezer Creek’s natural beauty for the enjoyment of future generations.”

That’s also the goal of our Coastal Program, but on a national scale. The program awards grants to states to acquire, restore or enhance coastal wetlands and nearby lands to provide long-term conservation benefits to fish, wildlife and their habitat. Projects include removing invasive species, replanting salt marsh and sea grasses, and installing living shorelines to prevent erosion.

Our 2015 grants were just announced, and they will fund enhancements in 13 states.

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8-year-old Drums Up Support for Nautilus Conservation

Gretchen
Gretchen's mom made her a nautilus costume for Halloween. Photo courtesy Courtney Googe

The chambered nautilus is known as a living fossil because it has changed little over millions of years. Eight-year-old Gretchen Googe of Texas is determined to keep the word “living” a part of that description – she was even a nautilus for Halloween!

nautilus
Little is known about nautilus populations in the wild. Photo Credit: USFWS

The nautilus is a cephalopod, which is an animal with no backbone but with tentacles or arms, found in the coastal reefs around Southeast Asia and Australia. Other cephalopods include the octopus and squid, but the nautilus is the only cephalopod with an external shell. 

Taking up to 17 years to reach maturity, the nautilus is a slow grower.  It reproduces slowly, too, laying one egg at a time, which must incubate for one year.

And as anyone can see, the nautilus is beautiful, and its shell is used in jewelry and other items.  In fact, more than 789,000 items containing nautilus were imported into the United States between 2005 and 2010, nearly all from nautiluses harvested from the wild.

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Climate Change Could Leave the Rufa Red Knot Hungry

rufa red knot
A tagged red knot searches for food at Mispillion Harbor, Delaware. Photo Credit: Gregory Breese/USFWS

You just finished a workout and are ready for a nice meal to replenish your energy. However, every restaurant you go to is closed. A couple of restaurants take pity on you and offer table scraps, but it’s not enough nourishment for your tired body.

A changing climate is causing a similar problem for the rufa red knot, which we recently determined needs protection as a threatened species. This shorebird flies thousands of miles every spring from the coasts of southern Chile and Argentina, or from wintering areas in the Gulf of Mexico, to breed in the Arctic. Every fall it reverses its migration and heads south. Some knots fly almost 19,000 miles every year. 

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People Need ‘Opportunities to Discover the Wonders of Nature’

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service
David Lucas
A local newspaper profiled David Lucas in 2013 after he arrived at Rocky Mountain Arsenal and said "at age 10, he knew he wanted to work for the Department of the Interior." Photo Credit: Steve Larson, Front Porch Stapleton

David Lucas is the Project Leader at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge Complex, one of the largest urban national wildlife refuges in the country. His passion for conservation started at an early age when he began exploring nature while growing up in Kentucky.  Each day at the refuge can bring a variety of experiences which may include rounding up bison, leading a meeting with other agencies, conducting a prescribed burn, or helping children learn to fish at a refuge event.

5 Questions for David

1. Why is urban outreach important to you?  

One of our most important jobs is to reach and educate a new generation about the importance of conservation. Much of that new generation is in urban areas, so that is where we need to be.

2. How can one keep a connection to nature while living in an urban area?

National wildlife refuges in urban areas provide unique opportunities to experience nature close to home.  On any given day we have the chance to see wildlife around us whether it’s birds, insects or something else.

3. Why is a connection with the natural world so important?

Finding value in nature is highly individual. Some people enjoy spending time in nature with friends and family, while others may seek solitude. I believe fostering an appreciation of nature can lead to action to protect and preserve it.

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Intern Adventures: From the Sunshine State to a State of Salmon

Pena-Ortiz
Michelle Pena-Ortiz, an AmeriCorps intern, followed her penchant for getting her hands dirty all the way from Florida to Washington State.

AmeriCorps intern Michelle Pena-Ortiz shares why she is enjoys working on conservation in our Washington Fish and Wildlife Office in Lacey, Washington.

 

A ‘WIN/WIN in Downeast Maine’

Doose

Serena Doose of the Maine Fishery Resources Office atop a new 8-foot concrete open arch install on a East Machias River tributary. Photo Credit: Scott Craig/USFWS  

We know that collaboration is the way to make conservation happen, especially in this time of tight budgets. In our Northeast Region, we're looking to save resources by training our own folks to do work that we or our partners often have to contract out. This past year, Moosehorn and Aroostook National Wildlife Refuges in Maine provided staff and heavy equipment to help open fish passages in areas off the refuges as part of support of Project SHARE, whose mission is to restore habitat in Atlantic salmon watersheds in Downeast Maine. Staff from the Maine Fishery Resources Office, Gulf of Maine Coastal Program and the Maine Ecological Service Office also lent a hand. As SHARE’s Executive Director Steven Koenig says: “And that’s how we spell WIN/WIN in Downeast Maine!”

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Creating Little Opportunities for Kids to Experience Nature can Spark Interest

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service
Lorrie Beck
Lorrie shows students a snake.

Until last week, Lorrie Beck was a park ranger at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Kansas and director of the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita, Kansas. She has sadly moved on from her job, where she worked to “create opportunities for the public to learn about the natural resources of Kansas - and the Great Plains - and develop a greater appreciation for our wildlife resources.” But before she left, she shared her thoughts on urban outreach. 

5 questions for Lorrie

1. Why is urban outreach important to you?

I remember when I was a kid - about a million years ago - when climbing trees, making mud pies, riding stick horses and playing outside until dark was "the norm." Now, I'm saddened by the fear that exists with urban young folks, and their parents, with anything outside “the norm": i.e., nature and the out-of-doors. I'd hope young people of today will be as captivated and excited about being outside that I was long ago, but until they experience that joy firsthand, we're going to lose them.

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