Virginia Ecological Services
Northeast Region

Virginia News and Updates


bar

March 7, 2014 - Melanie Carter selected for Upper Tennessee River Roundtable Outstanding Agency Employee of the year award

Mission Statement of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Link to Virginia Ecological Service Strategiv Plan

Link to climate change information

Map of Lands vulnerable to sea level rise.  The map is from J.G.Titus and C.Richman, 2000,

Click here to see the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Climate Change Update newsletter. Credit: USFWS


Melanie Carter receiving award

Melanie Carter, Partners for Fish and Wildlife biologist, was selected to received the Upper Tennessee River Roundtable's Outstanding Agency Employee of the year award for her "initiative to seek and secure additional funding for the Roundtable for important water quality initiatives with the Stone Creek and Copper Creek projects" and dedicated leadership in both projects.



Learn more about the Upper Tennessee River Roundtable

Photo Caption: Melanie Carter receiving Upper Tennessee River Roundtable Outstanding Agency Employee of the year award


bar

February 11, 2014 - Jess W. Jones Wins U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Science Excellence Award
Jess Jones

Dr. Jess W. Jones, a national leader in freshwater mussel conservation and restoration based in Virginia, has received the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2013 Rachel Carson Award for Scientific Excellence for his “exemplary scientific contributions to achieving extraordinary results in fish and wildlife conservation.”

Learn more
News release
Read the award nomination form

Photo Caption: Biologist Jess Jones of our Virginia field office just received the 2013 Rachel Carson Award for Scientific Excellence. Jess is a national leader in freshwater mussel conservation. Credit: USFWS


bar

January 16, 2014 - $770,000 will protect land in Richmond County
bald eagle nest

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that a $770,000 grant will enable the Virginia Outdoors Foundation to protect the 170-acre Mount Airy Farm on Cat Point Creek in Richmond County, Virginia, through the purchase of a perpetual conservation easement. An additional $56,000 will be provided by partner matching contributions. The property includes upland forest, wetlands, tidal freshwater marsh, and farmland. Ten farmland acres will be restored to bottomland hardwood forest. Protection of this area will eliminate the possibility of fragmenting wildlife habitat due to development. 

Cat Point Creek supports the highest concentration of winter eagles in the Rappahannock watershed and the only known breeding population of coastal plain swamp sparrow in the state. Other species that benefitting from this project include the threatened sensitive joint vetch, Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon, wood duck, American black duck, marsh wren, American woodcock, striped bass and scarlet tanager.

National news release 
List of grants (PDF)

Photo Caption: Over 10 active eagle nests are in the project area. Credit: USFWS


bar

January 7, 2014 - Northern Long-eared Bat Interim Conference and Planning Guidance finalized
northern long-eared bat

The northern long-eared bat (NLEB) interim conference and planning guidance has been finalized and is now available.

The purpose of this document is to provide recommendations and suggestions for conferencing and planning for NLEB prior to listing.  As the guidance states, none of this information should be considered final as we are, of course, still making a listing decision for this species.  It is also is important to note that, due to the preliminary nature of the state of knowledge of the NLEB, the approaches and information contained within the guidance may change as we gain additional information on the NLEB and its habitat.

Northern long-eared bat (NLEB) interim conference and planning guidance (PDF - 1.2MB)
More information

Photo Caption: This northern long-eared bat, observed in Illinois, shows symptoms of white-nose syndrome. Credit: Steve Taylor; University of Illinois


bar

December 18, 2013 - Largest Wetland Restoration East of the Mississippi Dedicated at Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
ribbon cutting at Great Dismal Swamp NWR

On December 18, 2013, the Virginia Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, and North Carolina Dismal Swamp State Park held a formal ceremony celebrating the completion of two large water control structures that restore hydrology to 9,580 acres of Federal and State-owned peat lands that were drained over 60 years ago. The largest known forested wetlands restoration project east of the Mississippi River required seven years of planning and $1.4 million to construct. 

More

Photo Caption: Project principles from Quality Enterprises Inc., Ducks Unlimited, NC State Parks, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cut ribbon, signifying the completion of the 2 weirs that restored hydrology to 9580 acres of wetlands in the Dismal Swamp State Park and Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge of North Carolina and Virginia. Credit: USFWS

bar

October 18, 2013 - Endangered status proposed for northern long-eared bat
Northern long-eared bat

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to list the northern long-eared bat as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Northeast populations of the bat, found across all 13 states in the region, have declined by 99 percent since symptoms of the disease white-nose syndrome were first observed in 2006. The Service also determined that the eastern small-footed bat, which has not shown drastic decline at winter hibernacula, does not warrant listing. Comments and information from the public are encouraged through Dec. 2, 2013. 

News release
More information

Photo Caption: This northern long-eared bat has visible symptoms of white-nose synrdome. 
Credit: University of Illinois/Steve Taylor

bar

September 27, 2013 - Service Proposes to List Red Knot as a Threatened Species Under the Endangered Species Act
Red knot

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released a proposal to list the rufa red knot (Calidris canutus rufa), a robin-sized shorebird that annually migrates from the Canadian Arctic to southern Argentina, as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. After an exhaustive scientific review of the species and its habitat, Service biologists determined that the knot meets the definition of threatened, meaning it is likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. The knot, whose range includes 25 countries and 40 U.S. states, uses spring and fall stopover areas along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Changing climate conditions are already affecting the bird’s food supply, the timing of its migration and its breeding habitat in the Arctic. The shorebird also is losing areas along its range due to sea level rise, shoreline projects, and development.

News release
More information, including photos, video and questions/answers

Photo Caption: The bird is one of the longest-distance migrants in the animal kingdom. With wingspans of 20 inches, some knots fly more than 9,300 miles from south to north every spring and repeat the trip in reverse every autumn. 
Credit: Gregory Breese/USFWS

bar

September 25, 2013 - Good and bad updates for threatened fish in Virginia
slabside pearlymussel

Biologists captured video of about 13 juvenile threatened spotfin chubs near Hilton in the North Fork Holston River. Three additional sites also had chubs, including a spot with about 60 individuals in at least three age classes. Unfortunately, the Middle Fork population appears extirpated.

Video from Conservation Fisheries, Inc


bar

September 25, 2013 - Two freshwater mussels added to endangered species list with designated critical habitat in VA
slabside pearlymussel

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the fluted kidneyshell and the slabside pearlymussel as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. These two mussels are found only in portions of the Cumberland and Tennessee River systems in Virginia and four other states. The Service is also designating about 1,380 miles of stream channel in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Virginia as critical habitat for these mussels.

Read more

Photo Caption: Slabside Pearlymussel. Photo: Jeff Powell, USFWS.

bar

July 1, 2013 - Virginia Refuge Supports Nesting Sea Turtles
Loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings

At midnight, a 35-year-old female loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) crawls out of the ocean and onto the beach. Right, left...right, left, she moves her rear legs to scoop a flaskshaped hole, and lays her very first nest of just over 100 eggs at the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia Beach.

Read more

Photo Caption: Loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings. Credit: USFWS

bar

July 1, 2013 - Partnerships help a Miniature Catfish Swim Back into Southeastern Waters
Yellowfin madtom

A small, minnow-sized catfish tinged with yellow has made an encouraging comeback, taking again to creeks and small rivers in southwestern Virginia and eastern Tennessee where it was once common.

Read more

Photo Caption: Yellowfin madtom. Credit: Mike Pinder, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries


bar

May 13, 2013 - Prehistoric isopod offers insights to Virginia’s drinking water
Madison Cave isopod

Millions of years ago, a tiny marine creature thrived alongside the dinosaurs.

After ocean waters receded from its habitat, these blind and colorless crustaceans evolved into freshwater swimmers call isopods. One of those isopods, the Madison Cave isopod (Antrolana lira), survived millions of years and now resides in only a few underground caves and aquifers in parts of Virginia and West Virginia. But it offers biologists much broader insights.

Read more

Photo Caption: A closeup view of Madison Cave isopod found during a survey at Steger's Fossure in Virginia. Credit: USFWS


bar

April 20, 2013 - Virginia Students Learn about Lakes During an Earth Day Action Event
students identifying aquatic life

In recognition of Earth Day, Virginia Ecological Services and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge teamed up with the Hampton Roads Sanitation District to give local high school students field experience with inventorying aquatic life.

Read more

Photo Caption: Refuge park ranger Erica Locher assists Ocean Lakes High School students in identifying aquatic life at Lake Tecumseh in Virginia Beach, VA. Credit: USFWS


bar

February 28, 2013 - Protecting Our Waters: The mussels of Virginia's Clinch and Powell Rivers
Endangered mussels bound for the Powell River

Looking for a good place to swim and fish? If you find freshwater mussels thriving there, chances are that you’ve found one.

Read more

Photo Caption: Endangered mussels bound for the Powell River. Credit: Gary Peeples/USFWS


bar

January 18, 2013 - Biologists strive to protect our native mussels
snuffbox mussel

America's freshwater mussels are a group of animals so inconspicuous they are often mistaken for rocks. Lying on the bottom of lakes, rivers and creeks, they rarely move and eat by filtering water for microscopic food particles. But throughout much of North America, the presence of these creatures signals healthy water. Their distress has sent an urgent message. Most of their river and stream habitats have been destroyed by dams, pollution, and invasive species such as the zebra mussel. But mussel biologists and researchers are responding, working to improve habitat conditions for mussels, to better understand their needs and to raise them in captivity.

Read more in a Science magazine article.

Photo Caption: Snuffbox mussesl which were recently listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Credit: USFWS


bar

October 5, 2012 - Children and their parents participate in Flexing Our Mussels - the Rivanna River Mussel Festival
Children and their families participating in Flexing Our Mussels

On Saturday June 23, 2012 at Riverview Park in Charlottesville children and their parents participated in Flexing Our Mussels - the Rivanna River Mussel Festival.

This annual festival was sponsored by the Rivanna Conservation Society, the VA Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries and The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Learn more

Photo Caption: Children and their families participated in the Flexing Our Mussels event on June 23


bar

September 27, 2012 - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, students and other volunteers release mussels in Tenn.'s Powell River
Volunteers placing freshwater mussels

The Service, Virginia Tech, Lincoln Memorial University, and several other partners released more than 6,500 endangered mussels on Tuesday into the Tennessee stretch of the Powell River. The release represents the largest recovery effort for the three species, and all were raised at Tech's Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Center in Blacksburg, Va. The Powell River is one of the nation's most diverse, with nearly 100 types of fish and 35 types of mussels, but it has long faced threats from pollution. Its restoration has been supported by the Service's Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration program, which uses non-taxpayer funds to restore natural resources damaged by oil spills or releases of hazardous substances.

Blog post, photos and more

Photo Caption: Volunteers placing oyster, Cumberlandian combshells and snuffbox freshwater mussels into the Powell River. Credit: Gary Peeples/USFWS

bar

July 17, 2012 - Pennington Gap project improves river for wildlife and adds recreation opportunities
tree planting

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners completed a stream restoration project on the North Fork Powell River in southwest Virginia's Pennington Gap this past month. The project used natural channel design to guide restoration of more than 700 feet of the river flowing through Leeman Field Park. The river bank eroded and in-stream habitat was lost from channel instability, changes in stormwater runoff, and loss of plants along the streambank. The channel was too wide, creating a large depositional island, and minimal water habitat was present within the reach.

Biologists installed three rock and log structures and constructed bank benches to narrow the channel. The restored reach now has enhanced streamflow during normal flows, while maintaining adequate flood storage during storm events. Biologists also did work in the stream to provide diverse habitat for fish and mussels.

One acre of riverside was also established for wildlife habitat and shading through kudzu control, tree planting, and herbaceous vegetation establishment. A 1.5-mile greenway trail will begin construction this fall that runs parallel to the stream restoration project, from Leeman Field to a nearby grocery store parking lot. The stream restoration and trail will provide the community with outdoor recreation opportunities, including hiking, biking and fishing, along with public outreach and education about the important benefits of good water quality and in-stream habitat.

Partners included: Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Upper Tennessee River Roundtable, Town of Pennington Gap, Tennessee Valley Authority, Daniel Boone Soil and Water Conservation District, AmeriCorp National Civilian Community Corps volunteer team, Canaan Valley Institute, Environmental Services, Inc., and Shenandoah StreamWorks, LLC.

Photo Caption: Justin Laughlin, VDGIF Project Coordinator demonstrating riparian tree planting techniques to AmeriCorp volunteers. Credit: USFWS.

bar
May 24, 2012 - Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) Director Dons Chest Waders in Indian Creek
OSM director using view tube to observe musselsOn May 24, 2012, after a week of visiting with stakeholders in Appalachia’s coalfields, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) Director Joseph Pizarchik and OSM staff joined biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) on the banks of Indian Creek in Cedar Bluff, Virginia. The group discussed OSM’s role in overseeing mining activities and the importance of ensuring maintenance of water quality in southwestern Virginia, the nation’s top hotspot of aquatic biodiversity. Director Pizarchik donned chest waders to assist Service biologists in the creek as they searched for the federally listed endangered tan riffleshell and other freshwater mussels. The Director’s visit served to reinforce OSM’s continuing commitment to VDGIF, the Service, and others to support recovery efforts for the large number of federally listed aquatic species living beneath the surface of streams in the upper Tennessee River basin. Photo Caption: OSM director viewing mussels in Indian Creek. Credit: USFWS.

bar

May 20, 2012 - Federally Endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Making a Comeback at The Nature Nature Conservancy's Piney Grove Property
Red-cockaded woodpeckerThe federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker is one of the rarest birds in Virginia. The total estimated population within Virginia is 44, all which are located on The Nature Conservancy's (TNC) Piney Grove Preserve in Sussex County. Red-cockaded woodpeckers prefer to nest and forage in longleaf pine forests that are a minimum of 60 years old, but they will also utlize loblolly and shortleaf pine forests. Older growth pines are a critical component of the habitat for this species. Piney Grove Preserve contains mostly loblolly and shortleaf pine habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had set a goal of 10 breeding pairs for the Piney Grove Preserve and that goal has now been reached. TNC plans to add one or two more clusters of red-cockaded woodpeckers to the preserve, which will approach the carrying capacity of the habitat. The Richmond-Times Dispatch (PDF) and Virginian-Pilot recently visited the site along with representatives of various conservation organizations to obeserve red-cockaded woodpeckers and their habitat. Photo Caption: Red-cockaded woodpecker. Credit: USFWS.

bar

May 4, 2012 - Blacksburg Country Club to Pay $19,000 Due to Chemical Spill

The Roanoke Times recently published an article (PDF) about court proceeedings that occurred as a result of a chemical spill that occurred on the Blacksburg Country Club property. The Blacksburg Country Club has agreed to pay nearly $19,000 and finance environmental restoration projects to make amends for environmental damages resulting from the spill. The agreement reached in federal court is the latest regulatory action to come from a 2007 accident that dumped herbicides into the North Fork of the Roanoke River, killing about 10,000 fish. Combined with an earlier state enforcement action, the incident will wind up costing the country club more than $60,000. The court action was taken to address the approximately 170 Roanoke logperch, a federally endangered species, that were killed as a result of the spill.


bar

March 13, 2012 - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lists Two Freshwater Mussels. Sheepnose and Spectaclecase, as Endangered

Photo of Sheepnose musselThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the sheepnose and the spectaclecase, two freshwater mussels found in river systems in the eastern half of the United States, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Sheepnose are currently found in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The sheepnose occurs in 25 streams, down from 76, a 67 percent decline. Very few of these populations are known to be reproducing. The spectaclecase once occurred in at least 44 streams but now occurs in 20 streams, a 55 percent reduction in the number of occupied streams. Of the 20 remaining populations, six are represented by only one or two known specimens each. Spectaclecase mussels are currently found in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. In listing the two mussels, the Service evaluated factors related to the species that could lead to extinction. Threats to both the sheepnose and the spectaclecase include loss and degradation of stream and river habitat due to impoundments, channelization, chemical contaminants, mining and sedimentation. Freshwater mussels require clean water; their decline often signals a decline in the water quality of the streams and rivers they inhabit. The Service’s final rule appears in the March 13, 2013, Federal Register. The Service will now develop a recovery plan for the two species and work cooperatively with partners to conserve their habitats. It is illegal under the ESA to kill, harm or otherwise “take” a listed species, or to posses, import, export or conduct interstate or international commerce without authorization from the Service. The ESA also requires all federal agencies to ensure actions they authorize, fund, or undertake do not jeopardize the existence of listed species. Photo Caption:Sheepnose Mussel. Credit: USFWS.

More information on mussels and endangered wildlife can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/endangered/


bar

February 17, 2012 - Article Published by The Virginian-Pilot Discusses the Successful Lake Tecumseh Restoration Project

Topographic map showing the weit location for Lake Tecumseh projectThe Virginian-Pilot recently published an article about the recently completed restoration project at Lake Tecumseh in Virginia Beach. The project, consisting of the construction of two small weirs at the south end of the lake, was completed in February 2011. The purpose of the project was to physically separate Back Bay from Lake Tecumseh, as it was historically prior to 1960. New monitoring data confirm that the project is working as advertised. Submerged aquatic vegetation has already returned to the lake and water levels are consistently higher, providing greater recreational opportunities. Some current criticism of the project has been that the project is responsible for increased flooding in the area. However, government studies have shown that the project is not responsible for these impacts; the increased flooding is likely a result of unusually wet weather, heavy tides, and wind. The complete Virginian-Pilot article is available for more information. Photo Caption: Topographic map depicting the locations of two weirs installed for the Lake Tecumseh project. Credit: USFWS.

Read more about the Lake Tecumseh project


bar

February 13, 2012 - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lists Two Freshwater Mussels, Rayed Bean and Snuffbox, as Endangered

Snuffbox mussel photoThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed two freshwater mussels – the rayed bean and the snuffbox – as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. The two mussels are found in river systems in the eastern United States. The rayed bean is currently found in rivers in Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and West Virginia, as well as Ontario, Canada. The snuffbox occurs in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Ontario, Canada. In its final rule listing the two species under the ESA, the Service pointed to dramatic declines in their populations. The rayed bean has been eliminated from 73 percent of its historical range, and the snuffbox has disappeared from 62 percent of the streams in which it was historically found. The final rule appears in the February 14, 2012, Federal Register. Threats to both the rayed bean and the snuffbox include loss and degradation of stream and river habitat due to impoundments, channelization, chemical contaminants, mining and sedimentation. Freshwater mussels require clean water; their decline often signals a decline in the water quality of the streams and rivers they inhabit. The Service will now work cooperatively with partners to develop recovery plans for the two mussels and coordinate efforts to conserve their habitats. Under the ESA, “endangered” means a species is in danger of becoming extinct throughout all or a significant portion of its range. It is illegal under the ESA to kill, harm or otherwise “take” a listed species, or to posses, import, export or conduct interstate or international commerce without authorization from the Service. The ESA also requires all federal agencies to ensure actions they authorize, fund, or undertake do not jeopardize the existence of listed species. Photo Caption:Snuffbox Mussel. Credit: USFWS.

More information on mussels and endangered wildlife can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/endangered/

View Archived News Stories

Last updated: March 12, 2014
All images by FWS unless otherwise noted.