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Discovering the First Observed Mississippi Sandhill Crane Nest of the Season

April 27, 2016

Henry Woolley, a Student Conservation Association intern handling a Mississippi Sandhill crane
Henry with a Henslow's Sparrow. Photo: USFWS

Open Spaces features regular posts by Student Conservation Association (SCA) interns working to promote, protect and study wildlife on public lands all over the United States. Since 1957, SCA has been connecting young people from all backgrounds with life-changing, career-making conservation service opportunities. Learn how you can get involved at Today, Henry Woolley, an SCA wildlife intern at Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge checks in.

I leave the office at 5:30 in the morning, and drive through the pre-dawn mist to the blind. Once on the refuge, I turn off my headlights so as not to disturb the cranes. The federally endangered Mississippi Sandhill crane nests in ponds and wetlands from early spring through early summer, and I am participating in my first early-morning observation. We need to find as many nests as we can in order to track where cranes are nesting and find out which pairs are successful in creating the new generation. With only around 125 cranes left in the population, the success of each nest is critical.

I silence my cell phone and exit the truck, making sure the door doesn’t slam. The blind overlooks a pond and the adjacent wet pine savanna, ideal crane habitat. Historically, non-migratory Sandhill cranes inhabited much of the Gulf Coast, but loss of habitat due to timber farming and wildfire suppression has mostly confined the Mississippi Sandhill crane to the 19,300 acres of the refuge. Crane monitoring has been conducted here since before the refuge was founded in 1975, and is currently led by Fish and Wildlife Service biologists Scott Hereford and Angela Dedrickson.

Protections Finalized for Threatened Northern Long-Eared Bats
Regulations focus on significant threats to the species so conservation efforts can be focused where they have the greatest effect

April 25, 2016

A small, furry, brown bat's head emerges from a cave crevace
Northern long-eared bat. Photo: Ann Froschauer, USFWS

In an effort to conserve the northern long-eared bat, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced a final rule today that uses flexibilities under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to tailor protections to areas affected by white-nose syndrome during the bat’s most sensitive life stages. The rule is designed to protect the bat while minimizing regulatory requirements for landowners, land managers, government agencies and others within the species’ range.

“The overwhelming threat to the northern long-eared bat is white-nose syndrome,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “Until there is a solution to the white-nose syndrome crisis, the outlook for this bat will not improve. This rule tailors regulatory protections in a way that makes sense and focuses protections where they will make a difference for the bat.”

The Service listed the northern long-eared bat as threatened under the ESA in April 2015 and established an interim 4(d) rule following drastic population declines caused by white-nose syndrome in the eastern and midwestern United States. This deadly disease continues to spread westward and wreak havoc on cave-dwelling bats. In November 2015, presence of the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome was confirmed in the 30th state — Nebraska.

The final 4(d) rule for the northern long-eared bat removes prohibitions that would otherwise be in place on “incidental take” of the bat in areas of the country not affected by white-nose syndrome (see map). Incidental take includes harm, harassment or mortality that occurs incidental to an otherwise lawful activity, such as clearing trees for a construction project.

Federal and State Officials Request Assistance in Investigation of Red Wolf Death

April 22, 2016

A red wolf stalking prey.
Red wolf at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium. Photo: Seth Bynum, PDZA

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission are requesting assistance with an investigation involving a gunshot death of a red wolf. A federally-protected red wolf was found dead Nov. 12, 2015, near Fairfield in Hyde County, North Carolina. Based on the condition of the body and other evidence, the actual date of death is estimated to be Oct. 31, 2015. The necropsy results recently received indicate the cause of death by gunshot.

The Service is offering a reward of $2,500 for information that leads to the successful prosecution in this case.

Anyone with information on the death of this or any other red wolf is urged to contact Resident Agent in Charge John Elofson at 404-763-7959 x222; Special Agent Jason Keith at 919-856-4520 x34; North Carolina Zone Wildlife Officer Frank Simms at 252-796-3004 x223; or North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Officer Robert Wayne at 252-269-6734.

The red wolf in North Carolina is protected under the Endangered Species Act as an experimental, non-essential population. This means that landowners may be allowed to remove a nuisance red wolf if it attacks their livestock or pets. Additionally, a red wolf that is taken incidentally to any type of otherwise legal activity (e.g., trapping coyotes following state regulations) on private lands in the red wolf recovery area does not constitute a violation of federal regulations provided that the taking is not intentional or willful and is reported to the Service or the Commission within 24 hours.

Secretary Jewell Announces Nearly $49 Million in Grants to Protect Waterfowl, Other Bird Species in United States, Canada and Mexico
Funding Announcement Comes on Heels of Major Conservation Speech Focused on Next Century of Healthy Public Lands, Waters & Wildlife

April 20, 2016

Bottomland hardwood swamp
Bottomland hardwoods at Cache River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: Eric S. Johnson, USFWS

WASHINGTON - U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced today $48.8 million in grants have been approved by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, which provides the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners the ability to purchase, lease or otherwise conserve more than 275,000 acres of wetland and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds across North America. The grants, made through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), will be matched by $86 million in partner funds.

Jewell, who serves as chair of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, announced the multi-million dollar investment in wetlands habitat at the MBCC’s bi-yearly meeting and on the heels of a major conservation speech where she outlined the need for a course correction in order to ensure healthy lands, waters and wildlife for the next century of American conservation.

“One hundred years ago, the United States and Canada signed the first Migratory Bird Treaty, recognizing that protecting these birds and their habitat requires an international effort,” said Secretary Jewell. “As we celebrate the centennial of this landmark conservation treaty this year, we are reminded of the many millions of acres of wetlands lost over the years, These wetland restoration and habitat conservation projects with our partners across the U.S., Mexico, and Canada show a true spirit of international cooperation for the long-term benefit of healthy lands, waters and wildlife.”

Services Revise Proposal for Improving Endangered Species Act Petition Process
Proposal designed to improve quality of listing petitions and promote coordination between state and federal wildlife agencies

April 19, 2016

A beige snake with brown splotches on sandy soil with pine straw
Florida pine snake.Photo credit: Kevin Enge, FWC

In consideration of feedback from the public and stakeholder groups, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (the Services) have revised their proposed improvements to the regulations governing the Endangered Species Act (ESA) petitioning process. The regulations guide how species are petitioned for listing, delisting or reclassification under the ESA, and how critical habitat is petitioned for revision. The proposed changes are designed to improve the quality of petitions the Service receives and promote better coordination with state wildlife agencies.

Improved petitions and petitioning processes will also allow the Services and their partners to more efficiently utilize limited staff and budget resources for the effective protection and restoration of America’s most imperiled wildlife. Originally announced in May 2015, this updated set of revisions reflect a thorough review of extensive feedback received during the public comment period.

“Over the last year we have listened closely to the public, to states and to organizations on how to best improve petition regulations,” said Dan Ashe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director. “These revisions reduce some of the burdens the initial proposal placed on petitioners, yet retain the proposed improvements to the quality of incoming petitions and ensure better working partnerships with states, which are critical in conserving America’s imperiled species.”

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Last updated: April 27, 2016