Alaska The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service honored the World War II heroism of Pvt. Joseph P. Martinez by installing a plaque in June on Attu, a remote Aleutian Island in Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Seventy years ago, in May 1943, Martinez died charging into enemy fire to clear a mountain pass and help pinneddown U.S. forces rout the Japanese during the Battle of Attu. Service and refuge scientists installed the plaque in his honor during a stop at Attu as part of a wildlife monitoring trip aboard the research ship Tiglax.


Maine As deaths of little brown bats rise, biologists from the Service and state agencies have investigated the potential for using decommissioned military bunkers on national wildlife refuges as artificial hibernacula for imperiled bats affected by white–nose syndrome. The disease is responsible for 75 to 90 percent declines in the species population since 2007. In December 2012, 30 hibernating little brown bats were collected from two hibernacula in New York and Vermont and placed in a bunker for hibernation at Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge in northern Maine. In March, biologists found that, although there was mortality among the bats, abandoned military bunkers can create suitable habitat and may provide a useful strategy to conserve bats affected by white–nose syndrome.


Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Service Northeast Region deputy regional director Deborah Rocque were among 400 people who gathered for the grand opening of the James River Ecology School at Presquile National Wildlife Refuge. The school, a joint effort between the Service and the James River Association, is a state–of–the–art green facility. It includes the Menenak Discovery Center and a bunkhouse that sleeps 34 students on the 1,329–acre island refuge accessible only by boat. The daylong grand opening featured public nature hikes, paddling and birding activities at the refuge 20 miles southeast of Richmond. Kaine, Rocque and other speakers emphasized that the new school is designed to connect kids to nature. It already seems to be working. One kindergartener from nearby Henrico County, Christian Lewis, took her first–ever canoe trip with her mother, Craijetta, and brother, Craijaun. “My butt got wet, but it was awesome!” Christian said of the canoe experience. “I’m going to write about it in my journal.”


Wisconsin–Illinois Ducks Unlimited has purchased 86 acres to be conserved in the Wisconsin portion of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, which straddles the Illinois border. Working with the Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, Ducks Unlimited plans to convert the parcel from agricultural use to restored wetland, prairie and savanna habitat. Hackmatack Refuge was established last fall via a 12– acre conservation easement donation in Illinois. This parcel is the first acquired in the Wisconsin part of the refuge.


Nevada The most recent survey of endangered Devils Hole pupfish at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge shows a population decline. An April 6–7 count estimated just 35 observable fish, compared to 63 last spring. The shortlived species (lifespan of about one year) experiences a natural high and low cycle, with the population in the fall being greater than in the spring. Last fall’s estimate was 75 fish. Reasons for the spring–to–spring decline are unclear, and biologists are reluctant to speculate, but they believe three earthquakes and one rain runoff event in the 14 months preceding the survey may have had some effect. Devils Hole pupfish is one of the world’s rarest fishes, spending most of its life in the top 80 feet of the 93–degree waters of a cavern in the Mojave Desert, which is managed on the refuge as part of Death Valley National Park with the Service and Nevada Department of Wildlife. A hybridized form of the pupfish has been moved to a state–of–the–art facility constructed at Ash Meadows Refuge to mimic the harsh conditions of Devils Hole. Those fish, which are thriving, were moved to aquaria where biologists can conduct research without disrupting fish in their natural environment.


California Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge has opened a new pedestrian bridge to 3,000–acre Bair Island, which had been closed for habitat restoration since 2007. About half the island recovered naturally from its recent human use as grazing lands and salt evaporation ponds. The refuge is now restoring the other half to tidal wetlands The restoration, which has been decades in the making, will renew natural vegetation, protect critical wildlife habitat and endangered species, reduce mosquito breeding and offer revitalized public access and renewed opportunities for environmental education. Part of the ongoing restoration includes raising the level of the island so that, when tidal action is re–introduced, the area will quickly become vegetated marsh. The bridge opening coincided with the opening of a two–mile trail on the island. A seven–mile path, which will include viewing platforms and information displays, is scheduled to open next year.


Hawaii The lighthouse at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai has been renamed in honor of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye. Inouye, who died last December at 88, was a longtime advocate for conservation and a key supporter of the refuge’s establishment in 1985 after its transfer from the U.S. Coast Guard. One the few Hawaiian refuges open to the public, 203–acre Kilauea Point Refuge offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and attracts more than 500,000 visitors annually. Kilauea Point is the northernmost land in the inhabited Hawaiian Islands. “Senator Inouye served as a beacon of hope for conservation issues,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “His efforts included creation and reauthorization of the Coral Reef Conservation Act to protect the beautiful ecosystems of Hawaii. Renaming the lighthouse is befitting of his lifelong work and contribution to the people of Hawaii and the conservation community.”


Awards

  • Bob Danley, outdoor recreation planner at Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, MT, has been chosen as 2013 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Beacon Award winner by the American Recreation Coalition. The Beacon Award is given annually to federal land management agency employees who stand out in the field of information and technology. Danley was honored for reaching visitors through tweets, blogs, Facebook and the Metcalf Refuge Web site as well as via weekly radio and monthly TV appearances that highlight wildlife topics.
  • Brian J. McCaffery, ranger at Yukon Delta Refuge, was one of 16 individuals or teams to be honored by the Service as a Recovery Champion. Honorees are Service staff and partners whose work advances the recovery of endangered and threatened species. For more than 20 years, McCaffery has played a pivotal role in Steller’s and spectacled eider recovery, including serving as the Eider Recovery Team leader. He is primary author of the Spectacled Eider Recovery Plan. He has helped evaluate the feasibility of reintroducing Steller’s eiders to the Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta and is developing decision–making methods and other modeling techniques for critical management decisions. By writing and performing music about birds and habitat conservation, McCaffrey also communicates with audiences that the Service might not otherwise reach.
  • The Federal Executive Board honored Midwest Region Refuge System geographic information system (GIS) coordinator Mary Balogh as a 2013 Civil Servant of the Year. The statewide award honors federal employees in Minnesota “whose performance has been exceptional and commitment to public service unwavering.” Balogh is known as a professional who goes above and beyond to serve others. She responds to hundreds of requests for GIS assistance from field station staff each year and has trained hundreds of employees in the use of GIS–related computer programs. She also has sought out and advised promising university students with GIS skills, often leading to permanent jobs with the Service.