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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Thank You, Volunteers! ‘Working Together We Accomplish Many Things’

child kneels next to a white dog wearing a yellow bandana. He holds certificate saying Certified BARK Ranger   A volunteer and his dog are ready to take to the trails of John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum. Photo by USFWS

We are celebrating National Volunteer Week and our volunteers – nearly 42,000 – who give more than 1.5 million hours to help conserve the nature of America.

Of course, volunteerism has always been a part of America.

Just ask French researcher Alexis de Tocqueville, who visited the United States in 1831.

Describing the new country growing up over the Atlantic Ocean, he wrote in Democracy in America: “I have often seen Americans make great and real sacrifices to the public welfare.”

Folks on the front lines of conservation see those sacrifices every day. Listen to just a few of them:

• “On Alligator River and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuges, volunteers provide the manpower to accomplish most of our biological and maintenance work, as well as interpretive/educational programming. They also staff our Visitor Centers 100 percent of the time, so they are literally the ‘faces’ for our national wildlife refuges! Our jobs would be impossible without them!” Bonnie Strawser, visitor services manager, Alligator River/Pea Island National Wildlife Refuges in North Carolina

   man works on a project with two kids. All wear rubber glovesBerk Moss dedicated 15 years to volunteering at Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS

• “At Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, we depend on volunteers for so many things, from mowing around freshwater ponds to staffing the visitor contact station to working in the pollinator garden to constructing boardwalks and bridges, and so much more! We could not accomplish much of what we do without the hard work of our volunteers.” Laura A. Bonneau, visitor services manager, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas

• “Volunteers are integral to Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Working together we accomplish many things!” Sarah Inouye-Leas, volunteer coordinator, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

• “At John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum in Philadelphia, volunteers are cherished assets to the refuge. Early this year, volunteers made up of 36 brave pups with 72 people participated in the first class of B.A.R.K. Rangers! After learning some safety tips and receiving their bandanas and certificates, the new ambassadors were ready to hit the trails! B.A.R.K. is an acronym for Bag your waste; Always wear a leash; Respect wildlife; and Know where to go. The volunteer program’s debut was a huge success in building shared stewardship and community trust with both new visitors and a longtime user group. The program will help in management efforts to keep trails clean and litter free.” David Stoughton, visitor services manager, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum

• “Our volunteers not only supplement all aspects of our work, but, in many cases, provide core work usually done by permanent staff. In 2018, we had 20,600 hours of donated time. That’s the equivalent of 10 staff members, doubling the size of our workforce.” Lori Iverson, supervisory outdoor recreation planner, National Elk Refuge in Wyoming

• "Volunteers are critical to the work and mission of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex, helping staff our visitor center, assisting with environmental education programs, performing important maintenance of our facilities, and keeping our public trails clean!" Chris Barr, deputy manager, San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex

  2 young women look at object in the palm of one's hand

Or consider Salmon Camp at Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. Volunteers are vitally important to the refuge’s award-winning program. (At left, youth volunteer and former Salmon Camper Nia Pristas helping at camp.) At Salmon Camp, the volunteers gain almost as much as the campers.

“I feel like I will never be able to put how meaningful this summer has been into words. I know that my job here has been to teach, but I feel that I learned even more,” Ashleigh Lusher wrote at the end of her experience.

For some volunteers, their impact carries on long after their death. Berk Moss dedicated 15 years to volunteering at Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge near Portland, Oregon. Take a look at the pictures on the wall of the refuge’s Discovery Classroom and you can sense his joy of helping thousands of youth connect with nature in very real and meaningful ways. It’s a legacy that’ll live for generations.

As we celebrate National Volunteer Week, we thank those whose gifts help us do our job better. We also thank volunteers everywhere who make sure de Tocqueville’s vision of America endures.

Cliff Schleusner Talks WSFR, Archery

   man holding bow and arrows  and kneeling behind a harvested caribou

Cliff Schleusner, Chief of our Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR) in the Southwest Region, has been with the Service   24 years. He is an avid bowhunter and recently checked in with The Archery Wire. Take a read:

Five Minutes with Cliff Schleusner

[Video] New Film Showcases Effort to Combat Trafficking of Scarlet Macaws

  bird with red, yellow and blue feathers in a tree A wild scarlet macaw. Photo by USFWS/Christi Lowe Productions

In the dangerous Moskitia region of Honduras, poachers seek out the chicks and eggs of wild scarlet macaws. Their goal: Sell them in the lucrative illegal pet trade. To counter the traffickers, brave community members have united to patrol and protect the nests, recognizing that in some ways, their own fates are tied to those of the birds. Poachers and Protectors: The Story of Scarlet Macaws in Honduras puts a spotlight on the wildlife trafficking crisis in Latin America, and introduces us to some of the heroes who are willing to risk it all for these iconic birds. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service International Affairs Central America Program has supported INCEBIO, One Earth Conservation and their community partners in this critical conservation effort. Our financial support has helped make this initiative the largest community-patrolled parrot conservation area in Latin America. Prior to the implementation of the community patrols, eggs and chicks from every known nest were poached. The patrols have been effective, with an estimated 80 percent reduction in the number of eggs and chicks poached since the project began. Learn more about our efforts to protect scarlet macaws. 

Poachers and Protectors: The Story of Scarlet Macaws in Honduras was produced by Christi Lowe Productions and premiered at the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital. 

Watch the short film below in English, Spanish or with audio descriptions:

English version

Spanish version

Audio-described version

Jim Gale Honored with Prestigious National Law Enforcement Award

   3 men, one holdng a plaque, and one  woman stand on a stagePictured left to right: Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the Service’s Office of Law Enforcement; Jim Kurth, Service Deputy Director for Operations; Retired SAC Jim Gale; and Amanda Bassow, Director of the Northeastern Regional Office for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Photo by USFWS

More than 100 years after Guy Bradley became the first wildlife officer killed in the line of duty, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Jim Gale became the federal recipient of the 2019 Guy Bradley Award.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) annually presents this prestigious award to one state and one federal recipient, “to recognize extraordinary individuals who have made an outstanding lifetime contribution to wildlife law enforcement, wildlife forensics or investigative techniques.”

Jim Gale retired from the Service in December 2018. At that time, he served as OLE’s Acting Deputy Assistant Director and was the Special Agent in Charge of the Special Operations Division.

RELATED: 2014 profile of Jim Gale

“Effective conservation of wildlife depends in large part on the leadership and professionalism of wildlife law enforcement officers such as SAC Jim Gale,” says NFWF Executive Director and CEO Jeff Trandahl. “Jim’s tireless efforts to develop increasingly advanced enforcement capabilities at the federal level will leave a lasting legacy for conservation in the United States and abroad.”

Gale led Operation Crash, an award-winning investigation into rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory trafficking.

Curator’s Corner: Irwin Allen and Rachel Carson, Paunchy Tiger, Fooling Whoopers, Leisure Suits

The Ultimate Irwin Allen Film

movie poster of The Sea Around Us featuring diver in trunks and helmet batling sea serpeant     Have you ever seen a movie that was directed or produced by the late, great Irwin Allen? Several decades ago, he was the king of big budget disaster movies. The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea are just a few of his excursions into the exciting world of the larger-than-life, dramatic movie genre. Irwin also made Rachel Carson’s book The Sea Around Us into a movie! It includes bombastic, dramatic narration and vivid videography, as would be expected from one of his films. We have a framed movie poster from this particular film in our museum collection, and it is proof that Rachel Carson knew how to write movie worthy books along with the best of authors. Eat your heart out, J. K. Rowling.


Paunchy Tiger

rearing mounted tiger

An adult pouncing, mounted tiger in our collection is a favorite of those touring the archives. Visitors love to take selfies standing by the outstretched claws of the massive beast. One visitor, a biologist and tiger expert from India, told me that our tiger was definitely a zoo specimen. It is. She knew because its fur is worn in patches at its elbows from continual resting on hard surfaces like cement. In addition, it has a paunch from regular zoo feedings and lack of exercise. I can attest that, I, and many adult visitors might also be a bit paunchy! Does that mean that we live a life of captivity also?

How to Fool a Whooping Crane

   Whooping Crane   costume, puppet

The whooping crane and Sandhill crane are the only two crane species in North America. The whooping crane was pushed to the brink of extinction with only 21 specimens remaining by 1941 because of habitat loss and unregulated feather trade and egg collection. Now, thanks to the conservation of significant portions of their range, such as the breeding grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada and the wintering grounds at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas along with laws such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act regulating the taking of birds and bird parts, there are more than 800 of these majestic birds. Captive breeding efforts have been used to rear and reintroduce the species to portions of its former range. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center just wrapped up 50 years of captive breeding efforts, and now all captive breeding is done by private facilities such as the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin. In captivity, one rearing method that was developed involved humans feeding chicks by hand while wearing outfits with whooping crane puppet heads so that they will not get used to or imprinted upon humans. We have an entire costume, a wooden puppet head and an arm puppet head from various captive breeding centers. I guess baby cranes are easily fooled! Oh well, so are curators!

Hot Outfits

   brown suit coat with four poskets on front, Service logo on arm

Back in the 1970s, the official Service uniforms were made of polyester, which was very popular back then because it did not wrinkle and lasted forever. The uniforms were actual leisure suits, and boy, did they convey that hip ‘70s vibe. Far out! We have a collection of them from a retired manager from National Elk Refuge whose wife ordered him to get rid of them. She said that if the house ever burned down, there would be a charred pile of molten plastic in the closet where the suits resided! My lasting thought on these horrible fashion statements is that it must have been highly uncomfortable to wear a polyester suit on a stifling, humid summer day on a refuge down South. This uncomfortable situation would never, indeed, be the definition of leisurely!

Previous Curator's Corner

Jeanne M. Harold, former curator of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Museum and Archives at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, says the history surrounding the objects in the museum gives them life. Jeanne retired in November but provided articles to keep Curator's Corner going.

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

11 Ways Wildlife Refuges Make Life Better

RAFT floats down a river surrounded by green treesNational wildlife refuges generate billions of dollars in economic activity through recreation visits. (Photo of Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska by Ian Shive/Tandem)

Even if you’ve never set foot on one of the country’s 567 national wildlife refuges, you’ve probably benefited from its existence.

How could that be? That’s because national wildlife refuges add to the economic and social and physical well-being of the country.

Refuges generate billions of dollars in jobs and services, filter pollutants from our air and water, provide top-class outdoor recreation, enrich learning, and reduce fire and flood risk to communities.

kids in green shirts, some with goggles, gather around USFS employee planting a plant; 2 girls hold purple watering canNational wildlife refuges connect Americans to nature — inside their communities and out. Photo by Ian Shive/Tandem

Our story highlights these and other key ways that national wildlife refuges improve the lives of everyday Americans.

Look for a new online story about your national wildlife refuges every Wednesday on the Refuge System homepage.


Susan Morse and Bill O’Brian, National Wildlife Refuge System communications

Refuge Animals From A to Z

 alligator crawling into river  A is for alligators. This one is at Anahuac Refuge National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Photo by Norman Welsh

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conserves land and water on national wildlife refuges for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species, and more than 1,000 species of fish. Our Refuge System home page story “Refuge Animals From A to Z” includes a sampling of them.

  seal with mouth wide open P is for pinnipeds. This seal is at Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Ian Shive/Tandem  

Pinniped is the scientific term for seals, sea lions, walruses and other meat-eating marine mammals. Pinnipeds haul out of the water to rest at national wildlife refuges along the West Coast, including Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge in California, Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge in Washington and Togiak National Wildlife Refuge and Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

   zebra mussels Z is for zebra mussels. These freshwater mussels are an aquatic invasive species that threaten the health of inland waters and other mussel species. Photo by Dave Britton/USFWS

“Refuge Animals From A to Z” is part of the Refuge System’s series of online stories that highlight the conservation work and visitor opportunities at national wildlife refuges, wetland management districts and marine national monuments. New stories are posted on the Refuge System home page on Wednesdays. The stories are archived here.

How to Build a Pollinator Garden in Seven Steps

   garden with lots of purple flowers; monarch on one Pollinator garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Creating habitat, no matter the size, is helpful for monarchs and pollinators. Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS

Pollinators are in trouble. You can help by planting a pollinator garden! You can plant a garden anywhere - your yard, school, church, business or even in a pot for your front steps. A simple, native flower garden will attract beautiful butterflies and birds to your yard and help pollinators stay healthy. In addition to nectar from flowers, monarch butterflies need milkweed to survive, so if you notice the leaves on your milkweed have been chomped, don’t worry, it’s a great sign!

Step 1: Choose your location and 6 more 

Lessons from a Butterfly Basket

man sitting with two smiling little girls   Spike Jackson, with his duaghters, Coco Neytiri Jackson, 6, and Arrow Rose Jackson, 2, during the November 2018 Saline Valley monarch butterfly survey. Photo courtesy of Spike Jackson

Surrounded by blue skies and the vast open desert, Spike Jackson, a member and environmental director of the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, describes a large basket, woven with ornate geometric patterns, and orange and black butterflies.

“The basket was handcrafted by my great-great aunt, who lived here (California’s Saline Valley) at one time,” Jackson says. “The butterflies must have been significant to my ancestors, but I don’t know why and I’d like to know.”

Inspired by a chance to visit the home of his ancestors and see the butterflies adorning his family’s handwoven basket, Jackson and his family volunteered to monitor monarchs as part of the second annual Saline Valley Monarch Count.

Relearning History (Full Story)

In Desert or Great Lakes Region, We All Need Water

2 photos, one of path through green forest and one of desert with cacti      Despite obvious differences between the Midwest and the Southwest, the need for water is the same. Photos by USFWS

Indu Roychowdhury works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Water Resource Division in the Southwest Region.

We know water as a resource we all rely upon, but how does its role in nature and society change throughout the different areas of the United States? When talking water, the Midwest may just be the most drastically different area from the Southwest desert, and that’s why I made the 1,125 mile trip from Albuquerque to Minneapolis last year: to investigate the similarities and disparities.

As my car pulls up to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Midwest Region office, my groggy post-travel eyes can process only one thing: green. Even in the midst of the bustling city, the large office sits nestled in an alcove of trees—a testament to the abundance of water in the area. Hydrologist Jennifer Gruetzman (whom I would later accompany in monitoring fieldwork) guides me through the building. Large, glass windows allow for a romantic view:  Typing in a cubicle on the 10th floor feels comparable to wading in the field.

In both the Southwest and the Midwest, water is coveted, leading to conflicts. This similarity, of course, is laced with a multitude of differences. As human activity and shifting weather patterns continue to deplete the Rio Grande of water, the biggest issue in the Southwest rings glaringly clear: With everyone staking claims to it, there’s just not enough water to go around. Hydrologists and other employees with the   Fish and Wildlife Service Water Resource Division focus on resource distribution and use of the desert’s remaining water—and how to keep this use sustainable. 

   field with a pond  amid greenery

The Midwest may have enough water (they are, after all, renowned for it), but they face a number of alternative challenges. I travel to St. Croix Wetland Management District in west central Wisconsin and speak with Project Leader Bridget Olson. Wetland Management Districts are scattered across large landscapes. The main problem Olson reports has to do not with water scarcity but with pollution and damage to natural areas. She discusses the way ditches have destroyed wetland areas and outlines present-day restoration efforts. Conservation strategies include working closely with private landowners—placing conservation easements on properties, effectively “restricting building in that area and protecting all the cold water springs.” Another issue in the St. Croix area has to do with industrial groundwater use. Discussing the connections between groundwater extraction and surface wetland ecosystems, Olson laments the challenges in protecting both: explaining impacts of groundwater impacts on small wetlands.

Drainage is one of the biggest issues in the Midwest Region. Tile drainage, the extracting of water from beneath the Earth’s surface using underground “tiles” is a practice that can alter natural drainage through the soil and potentially pollute water. I speak with Doug Norris, the Minnesota State Department of Natural Resources Wetlands Program coordinator, who describes how agriculture “drained over 90 percent of the original wetlands in parts of Minnesota.” This loss of wetlands presents another concern–the subsequent depletion of aquifers—that is, groundwater. Lead hydrologist Josh Eash stresses the importance of water monitoring. “We’ve polluted so much of our surface water here in the Midwest that we’re now drawing from groundwater.”

I traveled to the Midwest to learn a bit about how the different arms of the Service complement and compare to each other. It’s easy to get caught in the perspective of the region you work from, but the United States boasts an incredible diversity of environment and culture. In the Southwest, we always have water on the mind; its scarcity makes it a hot commodity. Our growingly arid environment demands that we work toward conserving what little water we have. The Midwest, on the other hand, is one zone with a culture of abundant water pride. From fishing to boating to other water sports, the region relies on water and its protection. Whether in context of desert sand or Midwestern fields, water rules the way we live and thrive. It informs our cultures and lifestyles, our recreations and enjoyments, our wants and necessities. Everywhere, it demands active protection from depletion and pollution—it is the tie that binds us all together.

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