In an effort to save critically endangered Nihoa millerbirds from extinction, researchers released 24 birds on Laysan Island in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument on September 10 after the birds were captured on and transported from Nihoa Island. The release was the result of years of research and planning by biologists and resource managers, led by a partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and American Bird Conservancy. Millerbirds have been absent from Laysan Island for nearly 100 years after a related subspecies went extinct in the early 20th century. As part of a decadeslong restoration effort, the translocation restores this insecteating songbird to Laysan Islands ecosystem. The project will reduce the chances that catastrophic events such as hurricanes or the introduction of invasive predators will extirpate the species, since there will be independent populations of millerbirds on two islands, 650 miles apart, said Loyal Mehrhoff, field supervisor for the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office. Each bird carries a unique combination of colored leg bands to allow identification in the field. Biologists plan to remain on Laysan Island for a year to monitor the birds movements, behaviors and possible nesting attempts.
A Friends of Nevada Wilderness fulltime seasonal crew of four peoplewith periodic help from roughly 100 volunteersremoved approximately 75 miles of unneeded barbedwire fence from Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge last summer. Funded by a grant of about $17,000 from the Wildlife Conservation Society and using equipment provided by the Service, the fence removers worked at a rate of about ¾ of a mile per day on the high desert refuges sagebrushsteppe landscape. According to Service maps, there originally were about 175 miles of fence on Sheldon Refuge. About 41 miles of it had been removed before last summer by volunteers from various conservation organizations. Shaaron Netherton, the executive director of Friends of Nevada Wilderness, hopes that her group will be able to oversee the removal of the remaining 58 miles of fence next summer. The removal of fence that dates from the lands cattle grazing days is important for movement of pronghorn, bighorn sheep and other wildlife. It also reduces fence collisions that often are fatal to sagegrouse and eliminates perches for avian predators of the grouse.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge this fall has been collecting public comments on its draft comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) and environmental impact statement (EIS). The draft plan, which was publicly released in midAugust, contains six alternatives for longterm management of the iconic refuge. The alternatives range from continuation of current practices to the designation of three geographical areasincluding the Arctic Refuge coastal plainfor potential inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System, and the potential designation of four additional Wild and Scenic Rivers on the refuge. Numerous public hearings in Alaska and at least one Congressional hearing in Washington, DC, have been conducted about the draft plan, which is available at http://arctic.fws.gov/ccp.htm. Public comments were being accepted through Nov. 15.
QDMA Honors the Service
The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring a highquality and sustainable future for whitetailed deer and deer hunting, named the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as its Agency of the Year. It is the first time the award has gone to a federal agency. The QDMA cited the Service for three achievements: establishment of a wildlife management cooperative on public and private lands surrounding Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, MS; participation in a privatepublic study involving Sherburne Refuge, MN, about how urbanization affects management and hunting of whitetailed deer; and support for a first national symposium on whitetailed deer, scheduled for early 2013. Larry Williams, thenRefuge System budget chief who recently became field supervisor at the Ecological Services Field Office in Vero Beach, FL, accepted the award for the Service at the QDMA annual conference in Nashville, TN, in August.
Half a dozen conservation entities, more than 600 individuals and the Service have collaborated to raise $5.125 million to purchase a parcel of undeveloped coastal land for Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced in early October that it, the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the Friends of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and the Service have secured $3 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and $200,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation toward the purchase of 97 acres on Timber Point, where the Little River meets the Atlantic Ocean. The remaining $1.9 million came from individual contributors, according to the TPL. Rachel Carson Refuge includes 11 divisions that total roughly 5,300 acres along 50 miles of the Maine coast. The Timber Point deal is expected to close this fall. Once it does, the land will become part of the refuges Little River Division. It includes 20 acres of fields with nesting bobolink, 15 acres of wetlands that support nesting common eider, adjacent forest and two miles of shore land with feeding dowitchers, dunlin, least sandpipers, plovers and yellowlegs, according to refuge manager Ward Feurt.
National Elk Refuge took ownership of the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center on Aug. 13 at an event that honored the Grand Teton Association, which purchased the visitor center building in 1998 and paid off the mortgage in July. The building was formerly owned by the Wyoming Department of Transportation, which offered to sell it to the refuge in 1995. Unable to afford the purchase and facing the prospect of the buildings removal, the Service approached the GTA about buying the building in partnership with the refuge. The GTA bought the building for $800,000 in 1997 with a written intent to donate it to the refuge when the mortgage was paid. Through proceeds from the sale of informational materials to visitors at the center, the GTA was able to pay off the building at an accelerated rate. Refuge manager Steve Kallin and GTA board chair Clay James put a symbolic close to the donation ceremony by tearing up the mortgage.
Three portable interpretive exhibits about sealevel rise and climate change made their debuts at J.N. Ding Darling Refuge in Florida, the Southeast Louisiana Refuge Complex and Waccamaw Refuge in South Carolina this fall. More than 67 of the Southeast Regions 130plus refuges are considered at risk from sealevel rise. The identical exhibits display those 67 on a map. There is a childfriendly interactive component to the exhibits, tooa video screen that introduces four animated characters: a loggerhead turtle, an oystercatcher, a grain of sand and a lighthouse. When selected, each character talks about how climate change will affect it. The kids really get it when they watch the videos, says Ding Darling Refuge visitor services supervisory ranger Toni Westland. They like the characters, and they understand the consequences. The exhibits also include a display that advises visitors to recycle, save electricity, plant trees, volunteer at a refuge and learn more about climate. Were trying to leave people with a sense that there is something they could do in some small way to make a difference, says regional visitor services chief Garry Tucker. We want to give them hope. The tentative idea for the three modular exhibits, Tuckers says, is that Ding Darling, Southeast Louisiana Complex and Waccamaw will host them and they will be lent out to other refuges upon request.
During Hurricane Irene late this summer, a modernera training mine washed up on the beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Refuge law enforcement and Department of Defense personnel secured the area and determined the mine did not pose a safety hazard. It has since been removed from the site.