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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Remembering the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Recovery efforts
Workers feed an injured bird. Photo by USFWS

Denise Rowell
, the public affairs specialist in our Panama City Field Office, and our Panama City biologists remember the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana.  Eleven people lost their lives in the explosion, and life along the coast changed dramatically.  As oil from the damaged well began flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, Service biologists were on high alert.  The Gulf Coast region is a globally unique ecosystem that supports a high number of beach-nesting birds, such as sandwich terns, brown pelicans and Wilson’s plovers.  At the time of the spill, these species were on the verge of nesting season, and oil would be detrimental to the birds.  Nesting sea turtles were also in grave danger, and the embattled species was at risk of losing an entire nesting season. 


Public Service Recognition Week: Helping Others in their Time of Need

Friends and family gather to celebrate the life of Steve Cobb. Photo by Catherine J. Hibbard/USFWS

As we celebrate Public Service Recognition Week, Catherine J. Hibbard, a public affairs specialist at our Northeast Regional Office and the lead public information officer for the Southern Area Red Team, remembers the sacrifices of three public servants involved in a helicopter crash during a controlled burn in March on the De Soto National Forest in Mississippi.

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The Deepwater Horizon oil spill at five years – it’s far from over

An oiled gannet is cleaned at the Theodore Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Center June 17, 2010. Photo by Colin White/USFWS

Nanciann Regalado, of the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment office, and Nadine Siak, of the Gulf Restoration Program, recount the Service's steady involvement in the spill recovery. 

Five years ago last month we heard the devastating news  –  BP’s Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil rig had exploded and was spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. As our personnel were lining up to support the immense response effort, the evening news was delivering an unending stream of gut-wrenching reports. 

CNN’s Sanjay Gupta made this report April 29, 2010:

First up tonight, the breaking news: In fact, it's heartbreaking news for anyone who counts on the Gulf Coast for a living or simply loves the natural beauty of it; it is murder for the animals that call it home. The first fingers of the massive oil spill… [are] just a few miles off shore. The slick is enormous - 120 miles wide… The doomed well is … dumping 210,000 gallons of oil a day into the Gulf. Making things even worse, there is no indication that crews can cap the flow any time soon .... This spill is already America’s second worst environmental disaster on record after the 1990 Exxon Valdez spill. At the rate it’s going, it could be on track to be the worst.

 To our horror, the Deepwater Horizon well gushed oil for 87 days and did surpass the Exxon Valdez by a factor of 10.


Grow, Little Acorns, Grow

 Jocee shows off her treasure.
Jocee shows off her treasures. Photo by Ryan Hagerty

Kathy Sholl at our National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) tells us about a project connecting kids and nature.

A new generation of oak trees is growing at the Children’s Tree House Child Development Center at NCTC.

It all began when the land manager at NCTC, Phil Pannill, asked volunteers to collect acorns so he could grow oak trees for the campus. The Children’s Tree House Child Development Center eagerly took advantage of this opportunity to connect children with nature.

One fall morning, despite the blustery winds and light rain, six preschoolers trotted out to nearby woods. The land manager waited for the children under a huge, 150-year-old red oak tree. Pannill showed the wide-eyed students a three-foot tree he had grown from one small acorn. He explained that the small chinkapin acorns were the best ones to plant because they germinate quickly.

The children then went on a treasure hunt gathering large red oak and small chinkapin acorns, hickory nuts, black walnuts and colorful leaves, filling their small tin buckets to overflowing with items from the forest floor.


Five Things to Know Five Years after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spil

A green sea turtle hatchling. Photo by Keenan Adams/USFWS

Five years ago our people were rushing to the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill began April 20, 2010. Rowan Gould, who retired from the Service in January, directed the Service’s disaster response in the Gulf of Mexico, just as he had done in 1989, after Alaska’s Exxon Valdez oil spill. As Rowan said of the work: "I was in the middle of it. I did it. I was not getting sleep. I was working seven days a week. It was intense, but it was really great!"

The Service's Nadine Siak reminds us of five things you need to know about the spill.

1 Did you know that the good health of the Gulf of Mexico depends on places far from the Gulf Coast? Thirty-one states (more than 50 percent of the contiguous United States) have rivers, creeks and streams that eventually drain into the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico watershed includes states as far away as Montana and New York! 


Shorebird science? There's an app for that!

An adult piping plover. Photo by Susan Haig/USGS

The latest tool designed to help manage the threatened piping plover is only a download away. "iPlover," the first smartphone data collection application developed by the U.S. Geological Survey -- with input from the Service, National Park Service, state agencies and non-governmental organizations -- will help those managing plover populations. Approved stakeholders and partners can use the app to contribute data from hundreds of field observations within the plover's U.S. Atlantic coastal breeding range.

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The United Arab Emirates and the Republic of Congo Destroy Ivory Stockpiles

a pile of seized ivory is destroyed through burning

The government of the Republic of Congo burns 4.7 metric tons of ivory to demonstrate their commitment to stop wildlife trafficking. Credit: Emma Stokes/WCS

On Wednesday, as the work day was just beginning at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service headquarters, a YouTube video began circulating on Twitter showing the destruction of more than 10 metric tons of ivory by the Dubai Ministry of Environment and Water. Just hours later, photos and remarks began to appear on Twitter describing the burning of more than 4.7 metric tons of ivory in Brazzaville, Congo.


Nature, Heal Thyself

living shorelines

At Hail Cove in Kent County on Maryland's Eastern Shore, 4,000 feet of living shoreline planned for the site will protect 400 acres of marsh land. Photo by Rick Bennett/USFWS

Brittany Bowker tells us  about  "living shorelines,"a natural approach to protecting wildlife and people from the impacts of future storms and erosion.

There was a time when shoreline protection often meant installing hard structures such as bulkheads or riprap to armor the coast against erosion and rising sea levels. But since the early 1980s, a “softer” approach – called “living shorelines” – has been transforming the conservation of these important natural areas by allowing the coast to heal itself.

By using a variety of natural materials such as sand and marsh grasses combined with some structure, this method not only protects vulnerable coasts but also maintains their ecological continuity and stability. In states such as Maryland, whose coast is considered one of the most vulnerable to sea-level rise in the country, living shorelines have become a new and widely used method of shoreline protection. 


With Monarch Butterflies, Service and Partners Hope to Replicate Success of Bald Eagle Recovery


A monarch fans its wings after hatching. Photo by Joanna Gilkeson/USFWS

The coservation effort to "#SavetheMonarchs" is the Spotlight of the spring edition of Fish & Wildlife News. In addition to stories highlighting some of our best work, you'll find columns and articles on the monarch butterfly  conservation campaign, including this introduction to the campaign by the Service's Michael Gale and Donita Cotter.

A billion monarch butterflies once fluttered across the North American landscape, representing one of the greatest migration phenomena in all of nature. Over the last 20 years, their numbers declined precipitously, with the eastern population falling to a mere 33 million last year. This year, that number grew to approximately 56.5  million butterflies that concentrated on less than three acres at overwintering sites in Mexico – hardly enough to assure the monarch’s migration for generations to come. The vast continental range of the monarch butterfly presents a complex host of challenges to saving this charismatic insect.

But we have done this before.

The population of bald eagles – America’s national bird –hit rock bottom in 1963 with just 417 nesting pairs in the contiguous United States. You probably know the story: DDT, a widely used insecticide, built up in adult eagles and thinned the shells of their eggs that would crack while being incubated by the parents. Congress passed the Endangered Species Act, the Service took a host of conservation actions, and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring set off a firestorm that changed the country’s view of the natural world and ended the indiscriminate use of pesticides such as DDT. Today, more than 10,000 pairs of bald eagles roam the country from coast to coast.


A New Home for Endangered Woodpeckers

A red-cockaded woodpecker with an insect perches near a nest in a tree cavity. Photo by USFWS

A plan to reintroduce red-cockaded woodpeckers at Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia, where they have not been seen since 1974, aims to boost the nationwide population, making it the state’s second population and the only one on public land. This project is one of 14 across 18 states being funded through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Cooperative Recovery Initiative to help recover threatened or endangered species on or near national wildlife refuges. Since 2013, the CRI has funded 38 projects totaling $16.4 million. These projects also provide other conservation benefits to other imperiled species and encourage a diversity of partnerships.

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