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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Catching Cactus Crooks

   small cactus Living rock cactus, found in the Chihuahuan Desert of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, is prized by poachers. Photo by Al Barrus/USFWS

When someone mentions smuggling and the Southwest, cactus probably doesn’t pop to mind. However, black market cactus trade is a problem, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners are on it.

After years of investigation, four cactus traffickers recently were sentenced for their role in the illegal harvest, sale and/or transportation of living rock, a spineless cactus found only in the Big Bend region of southwestern Texas and northeastern Mexico.

The defendants were sentenced to a total of nine years of probation and one year of unsupervised probation. They also were ordered to pay $118,804 in fines and restitution, and forfeit 17 firearms. There are more defendants in the ongoing case.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agents, Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Unit, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the National Park Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Sul Ross State University are collaborating on the years-long effort to stop the illegal harvest of living rock cactus.

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Eastern Black Rails, the ESA and the Powerful Tool that Supports Both

bird in a hand   A biologist holds an eastern black rail in southern Louisiana coastal wetlands. Photo by Brian Hires/USFWS

The eastern black rail is one of the planet’s most wide-ranging migratory birds, with many populations flying thousands of miles annually to marshlands across the United States and Latin America. It uses salt marshes, shallow freshwater marshes, wet meadows and other types of flooded grassy vegetation across this broad range for cover, forage and nesting.

Following population declines of as much as 90 percent, the eastern black rail was proposed for protection as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2018. Primary threats are the loss of its habitat across the United States and Latin America.

The bird is elusive, however. So much so that it even featured in the birding comedy The Big Year, as the only bird in North America the protagonists were unable to spot. It is so elusive that even dedicated biologists have difficulty locating and studying them, meaning that little had been known about them to date.

So how did the Service go about evaluating the status of this elusive wetland-loving bird?

Given that nearly half of all species protected under the ESA are wetland-dependent in some fashion, this is an important question for more than just the eastern black rail. Wetlands are home to countless fish, wildlife and plants—many of which are of significant commercial and recreational importance. These habitats are also critical to people. Wetlands recharge groundwater, mitigate flooding, provide clean drinking water, offer food and fiber, and support cultural and recreational activities.

The answer to the question involves some of the most highly visited Service webpages. Every week, thousands visit the Service’s National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) pages for detailed science, maps and statistics that are vital to their livelihoods. These stakeholders include scientists, city planners, citizens, landowners, developers, and decision-makers from local, state and federal governments, state wildlife agencies, conservation groups, industries and universities. Few outside this group of power users, however, know about this resource and its ability to bring American wetlands, wildlife and natural resources issues alive to anyone with a computer.

The NWI was initiated in 1974 to create the nation’s first comprehensive inventory of its wetlands and to monitor changes to ecosystems, wildlife habitats and natural resources.

3 people sit around in dark with measuring instruments in pack on grass   Biologists with Audubon Louisiana gather rail data. Photo by Brian Hires/USFWS

NWI’s geospatial dataset captures wetlands from coast to coast, providing information on water fluctuations, vegetation and soil type, salinity, proximity to lakes and rivers, and human modifications, such as ditching. Among other things, this allows biologists to assess habitat for wildlife and develop strategies for conserving species. It also allows planners and landowners to make better-informed decisions, which not only protect their bottom line but also support conservation.

The development of the eastern black rail Species Status Assessment (SSA), a foundational scientific document that informed the rail’s ESA decision, serves as a powerful example of the role key factors play in ESA work. To determine the status of the rail, Service physical scientist Rusty Griffin used NWI data to analyze its habitat. The dataset helped him identify the rail’s habitat needs and assess the current conditions of available habitat within the species’ range — all important SSA requirements.

To determine possible future habitat conditions, Griffin used data from NWI Wetlands Status and Trends reports. These reports represent some of the most important scientific and conservation documents on American wetlands. Wetlands Status and Trends reports, renewed every five to 10 years, have catalyzed billions of dollars worth of wetlands restoration and conservation efforts across America. They helped turn around the rapid loss of wetlands and related wildlife that began in the 1800s and continued until the 1950s. Using the Wetlands Status and Trends data, Griffin worked with FWS biologist Whitney Wiest to develop habitat projection models.

The resulting models predicted future population numbers for the eastern black rail by projecting extinction and colonization rates for sites currently occupied by the rail. The result was a science-based finding that the rail faced the possibility of extinction in the foreseeable future, spurring conservation actions and research that have had meaningful impacts.

While there is much more to be learned about the eastern black rail and changes to the diverse wetland habitats that they call home, the NWI will no doubt play a central role in these efforts.

“Conservation of wetlands is critical for countless species, especially long-distance travelers like migratory birds and waterfowl, and conservation begins with good science,” says Megan Lang, NWI’s chief scientist. “Maps of important habitat and information on how that habitat is changing, are essential for supporting conservation across large areas.

“Good science and resources like the NWI, Wetlands Mapper, and Status and Trends reports, which that are available to stakeholders and citizens at any time and outline…are also the foundation of conservation partnerships, sustainable planning and endangered species conservation,” adds Lang.

“After all, you can’t protect what you don’t know exists,” Lang says.

BILL KIRCHNER, Science Applications, Pacific Region, and BRIAN HIRES, External Affairs, Headquarters

Fish & Wildlife News  
  • This article is from the fall issue of Fish & Wildlife News, our quarterly magazine.

'Tis the Season for the Christmas Bird Count 2019

Tufted TitmouseTufted titmouse. Photo by  Bill Thompson/USFWS


Christmas is only one day on the calendar for most people. For bird watchers, however, the Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) can make “Christmas” a 23-day experience. Now in its 120th year, The CBC is one of the world’s longest-running citizen science efforts. The count takes place from December 14 to January 5 each year. It is organized into circles, and the goal is to count as many birds as possible in each circle on one day during the event, either on a predetermined route, or—with permission of the circle leader—even in participants’ back yards. Data are collected, compiled and used to learn about long-term bird trends. The data are free and publicly available, creating a great resource for scientists, students and managers.

The CBC began on Christmas Day, 1900.  Previously, many families would have Christmas hunting competitions-- known as side hunts--to see who could kill the most birds. Frank Chapman, and early Audubon officer, wanted to offer an alternative. The first count took place in 25 locations, from California to Canada, counting 90 species.  

In a time of growing awareness of bird conservation, the idea caught on. Today, there are thousands of bird circles, in all 50 states, and foreign countries, with tens of thousands of participants. Last year, more than 48 million birds were tallied!

Get Involved

By now, you might be wondering on how you can be a part of this tradition (if you aren’t already). It’s pretty simple--just find a circle near you, and get in touch with the circle lead to find out the day of the count and determine whether you will follow a route or participate at your home.

Some circles look for experienced bird watchers, while others are more open to the general public. Some circles pair novice bird watchers with more experienced people, making it a good way to develop your skills!  After the data are collected, it is sent you your compiler and added to the report. You are welcome to participate in as many circles as you wish 

Short-Eared Owl on Seedskadee NWR


Short-eared owl. Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS 

National wildlife refuges from Alaska to Texas to New Jersey will be hosting Christmas Bird Counts, so be sure to check out wildlife refuges near you. Many others will include a national wildlife refuge along a route, combining the joy of bird watching with some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.

 "The majority of refuges are within a Christmas Bird Count circle, which is wonderful because CBCs are one of the world's oldest examples of citizen scientists contributing to wildlife conservation," says Mike Carlo, National Wildlife Refuge System bird watching coordinator.

 Legendary biologist, founding author of the Golden Guides and 60-year U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee Chan Robbins had this to say about the CBC: “If we had not had a Christmas Bird Count in the early days, we would not have as strong an understanding of long term bird trends. Many of these changes take place gradually.”

 The holidays can be a busy season, but if you are considering starting a new tradition that gets you outside, contributes to bird conservation and understanding and helps build lifelong relationships, consider being a part of the Christmas Bird Count this year.

-- Chris Deets, Outreach and Education Coordinator, Migratory Bird Program

A Talk on the Wild Side Podcast: Taking a Recovery Tour

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A Talk on the Wild Side

white bird sitting on beach   Interior least tern. Photo by USFWS

In case you missed it, it has been a wildly successful season for recovering endangered species! I mean, WOW.  In the past few months alone, six species -- and more just announced -- have reached significant milestones in their journey back from the brink of extinction! They have either fully recovered and have been removed from Endangered Species Act protection, or they’ve made significant enough progress that they are proposed to be removed.  

  fish in someone's hand Foskett speckled dace. Photo by USFWS

The Colorado butterfly plant, Kirtland’s warbler, Running buffalo clover, Foskett speckled dace, Monito gecko and interior least tern are an incredibly diverse group of species including plants, birds, fish and reptiles. Not only is their taxonomy diverse, but they represent a diversity of geographic regions, historic reasons for decline, recovery actions and conservation partnerships.

   lizard on dark dirtMonito gecko. Photo by Jan Zegarra/USFWS

We’re going to take a tour to learn about what happened to cause three of these species to plummet towards extinction – the Foskett speckled dace, Monito gecko and interior least tern – and what brought them back. Join us for a virtual tour as we talk to three biologists about the incredible amount of work and commitment it took to conserve these species with our partners, increase populations and ameliorate threats, and get them on the road to recovery.

Directorate Fellow Madison Fladeland: Working to Help Law Enforcement and More

   woman in prairie with tablet

Directorate Fellows
During the summer of 2019, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Region hosted nine students that participated in the Directorate Resource Assistant Fellows Program (DFP).

FWS partners with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) every summer to manage the DFP, an 11-week, full-time, paid program where students have the opportunity to work on projects that support FWS conservation priorities. Applicants must be pursuing degrees in biological sciences and/or natural resources management. They must also be soon-to-be college graduates or enrolled in a graduate program.

My name is Madison Fladeland, and I grew up in the small town of Hatton, North Dakota. My hobbies include running, walking my dog, reading, trying new foods, and most recently herbalism. I attend Minnesota State University Moorhead and will graduate in December with a B.S. degree in ecology and evolutionary biology.

Originally I was going to school for pre-vet where that was the “cover-all” major. As I took more courses in the biological field, especially ecology, I became very interested in environmental resiliency; i.e. how nature sustains itself, how it corrects itself, how we effect it, etc.

As a kid I was often playing outside; whether I was climbing trees, building forts with my best friend down the road, or trying to rescue baby birds who fell from their nest (I didn’t knock them down).

As an adult, I still enjoy nature. There’s just something about being somewhere beautiful that’s not man-made, whether it’s the rolling hills of the South Dakota prairie or the dramatic expanse of the Rockies.

That’s what lead me to the Directorate Fellowship Program (DFP) with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  I had the opportunity to go to Madison, South Dakota, (I didn’t just choose it because of my name) to spend the summer as their DFP. There I have been able experience first-hand conservation work being done on the landscape.

My project involved creating a monitoring tool for law enforcement and managers to use out in the field, which enables them to digitally track non-compliant easements. This tool can be used on land or in the air, and you can map the violation out in the field and fill out all the necessary information and then sync the data. You can then access this information on your tablet, computer or phone. This allows officers to view the violations currently going on in the state and see if the case is open/closed in real time.

What I really enjoyed about being a DFP was having the chance to explore many of the different career paths available in the FWS.  Everyone in the Madison Wetland Management District made me feel welcome and allowed me to participate in activities outside my project that I had an interest in. Even though my internship was geared toward law enforcement, I participated in several other projects at the station, such as Four-Square Mile, Native Prairie Adaptive Management (NPAM) Monitoring and the Neonicotinoid Project run by our station biologist. I was also able to go and visit the Ecological Services office in Pierre, South Dakota, and the Realty Office in Huron. They really made an effort to expose me to the diverse roles FWS employees play in conservation.

My next step is to volunteer at a few locations in the FWS until I graduate in December and start looking for a permanent position. Overall, this summer was very rewarding and I am so grateful I had the chance to participate in the DFP. I would like to thank everyone at the Madison Western Management District office, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Student Conservation Association. I appreciate being given this opportunity, and I hope to make the most of it.

Directorate Fellow Nicole Pauley: Studying How Best to Keep Carp Numbers Low

   woman with backpack giving thumbs up at top of mountain


Directorate Fellows
During the summer of 2019, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Region hosted nine students that participated in the Directorate Resource Assistant Fellows Program (DFP).

FWS partners with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) every summer to manage the DFP, an 11-week, full-time, paid program where students have the opportunity to work on projects that support FWS conservation priorities. Applicants must be pursuing degrees in biological sciences and/or natural resources management. They must also be soon-to-be college graduates or enrolled in a graduate program.

Growing up in Nebraska along the Platte River, I was never surrounded by magnificent mountain ranges, sandy beaches or plunging canyons. My love for the outdoors and conservation comes from a childhood exploring the ecosystems of the prairies and creeks of my home state. These adventures, along with family trips to a number of parks and refuges in other states, fueled my interest in biology and wildlife into high school and college. I decided to stay in Nebraska for my undergraduate education, earning a Bachelor of Science in biology with a wildlife biology emphasis from the University of Nebraska at Kearney. In August 2018, I started a Master of Science program in geography at Oklahoma State University focusing on the use of geographic information systems and remote sensing in biological studies.

After reading the descriptions of DFP projects from past years, I knew this program would be an amazing opportunity for me. I had worked field jobs for other Department of the Interior agencies before during my undergrad, but had never worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. After being selected for a project that combined the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), remote sensing techniques, and fisheries research, I was both excited and nervous to start my adventurous summer.

For the past 11 weeks, I have worked on a fisheries enclosure experiment taking place at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Oregon trying to determine the threshold of biomass of common carp at which submerged aquatic vegetation can grow.

Carp are an invasive species that can cause significant damage to aquatic ecosystems. At Malheur, common carp are a significant problem and have been linked to decreases in overall water quality, healthy aquatic vegetation and waterfowl production of Malheur Lake. There have been various attempts at eradication since carp were introduced in the lake in the 1950s, without long-term success.

New methods of removal are being tested, with hopes of reaching low enough carp biomass levels to allow for aquatic vegetation to grow and support/increase waterfowl populations on the lake.

The purpose of the study was to determine this critical biomass level that removal methods must reach. The enclosures in the study were stocked with different weights and age classes of carp and we used UAVs and imagery analysis, in addition to water quality measurements, to quantify changes in the aquatic habitat.

While the project had a number of components to make it all come together, I got to help with nearly all of them. I assisted in setting up and securing all 24 enclosures, taking water quality samples, netting and PIT-tagging carp for stocking, and flying the UAVs to collect imagery of the study site.

Back at the office in Helena, the aspect of the project that I really took the lead on was the processing and analysis of the UAV-collected imagery. I used software to create orthomosaics and analyzed them to determine the percent vegetation cover for each enclosure. More imagery will be collected to continue to monitor the carps’ effects, and others will be able to continue the vegetation analysis using a workflow I created.

I found it rewarding to work on a research project that will have implications for the control of an invasive species and guide refuge management decisions.

I could not have imagined a better DFP experience; I learned so much about the Service and its mission, worked with a number of its dedicated employees, got to explore a new and beautiful part of the country, and grew as a person and as a biologist. While I am uncertain which direction my career will take me, I hope to become part of the USFWS family. I would love the opportunity to integrate more UAV and remote sensing technologies into research completed by the Service to conserve fish, wildlife, and their habitats so that future generations can enjoy them as I have.

National Wildlife Refuges Make Life Better

By Margaret Everson, Principal Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Mid-October brings much to savor: crisp air, turning leaves and the sprouting of Halloween goblins on lawns. Here’s something else that belongs on your things-to-celebrate-this-fall list: national wildlife refuges.

This week—National Wildlife Refuge Week — is a great time to reflect on how much we all owe these wondrous lands and waters. It’s worth taking a moment to learn why these are the most important public lands you may never have heard of.

National wildlife refuges, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are public lands and waters set aside to conserve wildlife. Since 1903, when President Theodore Roosevelt established the first wildlife refuge on Florida’s Pelican Island, refuges have provided vital habitat for thousands of American species — including bald eagles, bison and whooping cranes. By helping protect refuges, we are supporting America’s abundance and diversity of wildlife – biodiversity that’s vital to the nation’s economy and way of life.

National wildlife refuges also offer access to world-class outdoor recreation. Fishing, paddling, hiking, environmental education and wildlife observation are popular activities on many of the system’s 567 refuges. Hunting, carefully regulated to ensure sustainable wildlife populations, is another popular historic use. Under the leadership of President Trump and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, the Department of the Interior (DOI) this year completed the single largest effort to expand fishing and hunting opportunities at refuges, totaling 1.4 million acres that are newly open or expanded for additional opportunities. Three hundred and sixteen refuges now allow fishing and 381 now allow hunting. More than 101 million Americans — 40 percent of the U.S. population age 16 and older — enjoy wildlife-related recreation, including hunting and fishing.

 bunch of white birds with black wing tipsSnow geese, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico Photo by Diana Robinson

These recreational activities generate tremendous value in our economy, benefiting local communities. National wildlife refuges provide over $7 billion per year in economic output for local economies and support more than 48,000 jobs, according to a recent DOI report.
President Trump understands the significant value that national wildlife refuges provide to local communities and the vital role of these places to protect and conserve wildlife and wildlife habitats. Refuges situated along vulnerable coastlines and rivers help buffer neighboring cities and towns against flooding. During the three days following Hurricane Florence in 2018, Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina took on almost 100 billion gallons of water from the Pee Dee River, sparing some communities from intense flooding. Refuges also help purify our air and water and reduce erosion and risk of wildfire. To support win-win outcomes, refuge staff work with private landowners — 48,000 of them in 2018 — to encourage conservation on neighboring lands.

Finally, refuges boost people’s physical and mental health. How? By hosting family walks, teaching kids to fish and holding birding lessons and other events to get people moving outdoors. They also build bridges and trails to connect nearby communities with green space.

As the country grows increasingly urbanized, the national wildlife refuge system’s 101 urban refuges are partnering with community groups and schools in San Diego, Albuquerque, Houston and many other cities to connect people with nature and increase their access to green space. John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum in Philadelphia helps residents convert empty lots to pollinator gardens. Many refuges, including Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida and Desert National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada, help schools create wildlife-friendly gardens.

National wildlife refuges aren’t hard to find. There’s at least one refuge in every state and every U.S. territory and within an hour’s drive of most major cities. Maybe it’s time you visited one this fall as you give thanks for national wildlife refuges and celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week.

Directorate Fellow Amy Walsh: Future Solicitor Works on Potential Impacts of Development Projects

   woman with backpack outdoors

Hello! My name is Amy Walsh. I am from a suburb outside of Chicago called Crystal Lake. I am a senior at Washington University in St. Louis studying environmental policy and environmental biology. I am also a part of the softball team there. Outside of school and softball, I enjoy working out, spending time with my friends, cooking and being outdoors. I am eager to finish up undergrad and prepare for attending law school as well as a career with the Service. My goal is to become a solicitor for the Department of the Interior so I will be able to support the FWS from the legal perspective.

Directorate Fellows
During the summer of 2019, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Region hosted nine students that participated in the Directorate Resource Assistant Fellows Program (DFP).

FWS partners with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) every summer to manage the DFP, an 11-week, full-time, paid program where students have the opportunity to work on projects that support FWS conservation priorities. Applicants must be pursuing degrees in biological sciences and/or natural resources management. They must also be soon-to-be college graduates or enrolled in a graduate program.

I just finished my DFP fellowship in the Mountain-Prairie Regional Office in Denver, Colorado. My project focused on developing effects pathways and conservation measures for four species: Canada lynx, white-tailed ptarmigan, whitebark pine and Salt Creek tiger beetle, in Effects Pathways Manager (EPM). Essentially, an effect pathway describes the specifics of how a particular development activity effects a given species. FEPM is a database that contains information regarding potential impacts of development projects on listed wildlife with the intent of making Section 7 consultations under the Endangered Species Act more efficient.

I really enjoyed my experience in the DFP program! I was able to explore a variety of FWS branches and be part of unique experiences that enhanced my knowledge of the Service and its goals. I also got to explore other facets of the FWS through stocking greenback cutthroat trout in Herman Gulch, shadowing opportunities, and visiting Leadville National Fish Hatchery and Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. All have contributed to my life-changing experience that has really shaped me and my interest in a career in the Service.

Aside from work, I have loved being able to explore Denver. I was able to go hiking in a new place every weekend and explore nature in a way that is much different from my experiences in the Midwest. I have also been working at a farmer’s market selling jam. I have enjoyed embracing the Colorado culture and would love the chance to come back. I am very honored and thankful to have had this opportunity through the DFP program!

Canadian Nighthawk (on Way to South America?) is First Bird Detected by Florida Tracking Tower

  bird in someone's handThe common nighthawk that was detected by the Vero Beach Motus tower is tagged and measured in a Canadian lab. Photo courtesy of Elora Grahame

By Ken Warren, South Florida Ecological Services Office 

About 25 days after it was captured and tagged, a common nighthawk migrating from Canada became the first bird detected by a new tracking tower on top of Vero Beach High School in Florida on August 29.

Thanks to the efforts of South Florida Ecological Services Office Supervisory Biologist Tim Breen, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service donated the Motus tower to the School District of Indian River County. 

The Motus Wildlife Tracking System is a coordinated system of automated receiver stations, or towers, used to track migratory animals, primarily birds and bats, through terrestrial and coastal environments. The network has more than 350 towers that are currently active across the Western Hemisphere. The tower at Vero Beach High School fills a gap in data collection along the east coast of Florida.

 man on roof with hand on big antenna  The Motus tower is mounted on top of Vero Beach High School by electronics technician Steve Alfano. Photo courtesy of the School District of Indian River County

Robert Michael, of the School District of Indian River County, says: “We think this is great. When Tim (Breen) approached me about installing the antenna and using it for the students to be able to track the birds and learn, we were pretty excited."

This particular nighthawk was captured and tagged on August 4, 2019 in Ontario, Canada, by Elora Grahame, a Ph.D. student from the University of Guelph in Ontario. The nighthawk is an adult male, at least two years old and part of the breeding population at Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve in Muskoka Lakes, Ontario.

“My Ph.D. research focuses on movement ecology for both common nighthawks and eastern whip-poor-wills,” says Grahame. “They’re both secretive species and relatively understudied. I’m researching their breeding ecology and habitat requirements for successful reproduction and migration in order to improve conservation management strategies.”

Grahame says she originally caught this nighthawk at her study site in Ontario in summer 2018. She banded him that year, but unfortunately he didn’t get a tag. This year she was lucky enough to re-capture and tag him.

The Motus system allows Grahame and other researchers to look at factors that influence timing of migration such as weather, wind, temperature, age, sex, etc.

“I had several nighthawks detected in Panama and Colombia last year so it will be exciting to see if this bird gets detected down there this year!” says Grahame. “Based on what we know about the species wintering grounds, he is probably headed for Brazil, maybe northern Argentina.”

   man at lecttern talking to council meetingSupervisory Biologist Tim Breen tells school board members, teachers, students and parents about the Motus Wildlife Tracking System. Photo by Ken Warren/USFWS

Breen is confident that the Motus tower in Vero Beach will be a great educational tool for students and wildlife enthusiasts alike. “I’m looking forward to coordinating with the school district on developing an educational program based on migration data collected by our very own Motus station,” says Breen.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Skipwith Joins Refuge Celebrations

  woman with butterrfly on fingers Deputy Assistant Secretary Skipwith with a tagged monarch at Masonville Cove in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by USFWS

What did you do this weekend? Aurelia Skipwith, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior and nominee to lead the Fish and Wildlife Service, was busy celebrating National Public Lands Day and Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day.

  woman looks at bird in man's hand Deputy Assistant Secretary Skipwith visits Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts. Photo by USFWS

Deputy Assistant Secretary Skipwith journeyed to Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts on Friday to spend the day in the Monomoy Wilderness for National Public Lands Day. Of course, National Public Lands Day would not be complete without some volunteer work, and Deputy Assistant Secretary Skipwith joined in.

   people on a dock pose for photoDeputy Assistant Secretary Skipwith at the Keepin' it Reel fishing event on the Hudson River in Yonkers, New York. Photo by USFWS

She then joined with folks from Groundwork Hudson Valley, part of the Groundwork-Wallkill Connection Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, at the Keepin' it Reel fishing event on the Hudson River in Yonkers, New York, to celebrate National Public Lands Day and Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day. 

 2 people draw back bows

She also practiced her archey skills.

2 women in kayak   Deputy Assistant Secretary Skipwith kayaking  at Masonville Cove in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Maryland Port Administration

Finally, Deputy Assistant Secretary Skipwith visited the urban wildlife refuge partnership at Masonville Cove in Baltimore, Maryland.

At Masonville, she did some kayaking, monarch butterfly tagging, and met with partners who are helping nature reach into cities.

Thank you, Deputy Assistant Secretary Skipwith, we hope your sense of wonder got its fill. And we hope everyone was able to take part in these two important celebrations.

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