Facebook icon Twitter icon Flicker icon You Tube icon

Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

The Road to a Future Filled with Monarchs

 monarch on road

Managing rights-of ways for monarchs and other pollinators is part of the "all hands on deck" conservation to ensure a future filled with monarchs. The Illinois Department of Transportation has joined a growing list of government allies to the monarch butterfly by adjusting its mowing routine along state highways.

Read what IDOT is doing

National Wildlife Refuge Delivers Much Needed Break For Humans, Wildlife

geeseCanada geese at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Brent Lawrence/USFWS

There are few things that clear Brent Lawrence’s mind like the deafening quiet of nature.

Read about his visit to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

Students Get Hands-on with Wildlife through Schoolyard Habitats

student digs Student Daniel Norris is one of many Caleb Greenwood Elementary School students who helped establish the schoolyard habitat. Photo by Jennifer Norris

Recognizing the importance of connecting children to nature, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funds schools throughout the nation to establish schoolyard wildlife habitats. One shining example of the Schoolyard Habitat Program is at Caleb Greenwood Elementary School in Sacramento, California. Our staff provided technical assistance on habitat design, development, and ongoing maintenance. According to Caleb Greenwood Teacher Anna Symkowick-Rose, "The biologists were right there next to the kids when they planted, so they were helping them get out the plants, showing them how to take care of the roots, how to keep the plants high—just right there physically with them. It was really cool. They were able to tell us how big the plants would get and whether or not they would do well in the location we chose, so it was good."

 

Read More from our Pacific Southwest Region

Serenity on the Water

Wallkill River Refuge   Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge on the New Jersey/New York border offers peaceful paddling opportunities 65 miles northwest of midtown Manhattan. Photo by USFWS 

Whether you’re in a canoe, a kayak or a rowboat, propelling yourself through waters in unspoiled nature is physically and spiritually exhilarating. It’s a wonderful way to spend a few hours outdoors – with friends or by yourself. Please join us as we tour a sampling of national wildlife refuges across America that offer just that experience in this week’s photo essay, “Serenity on the Water.”

   Fort Niobrara Refuge Kayaking Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge is in Nebraska, about 310 miles northwest of Omaha and 210 miles southeast of Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo by Nebraska Tourism

You don’t have to own a boat to paddle on national wildlife refuges. Usually, there are places nearby to rent canoes or kayaks.

For instance, at least nine commercial outfitters in or near Valentine, Nebraska, provide canoe, kayak or float trips on the Niobrara River, which flows through Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in a deep canyon that encompasses a nationally designated scenic river and recreation trail.

   Blackwater RefugeBlackwater National Wildlife Refuge on Maryland’s Eastern Shore is roughly equidistant from Baltimore and Washington, DC – 100 miles away. This photo was taken at dusk in November. Photo by Hector Picart

“I love evening paddles, with the sun setting on the horizon, all the reds and yellows, and the sound of the birds roosting for the night,” says Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge manager Marcia Pradines. “The Green Trail is my favorite, and is open year-round. Bald eagles are extremely common. We have the largest population on the East Coast, north of Florida. No matter how often you see them, they are still impressive. Osprey are also very common, and you are likely to see one grab lunch right in front of your bow. I also love sneaking up on the painted turtles basking along the banks.”  

Great Dismal Swamp Refuge   Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge along the Virginia/North Carolina border is about 25 miles from downtown Norfolk, Virginia. Paddling is popular on Lake Drummond. Photo by USFWS

Serenity on the Water” is part of the Refuge System’s series of photo essays that highlight the conservation work and visitor opportunities at national wildlife refuges, wetland management districts and marine national monuments. New photo essays are posted on the Refuge System home page regularly. The essays are archived here.

Why I Conserve

   red salmon in forest streamSockeye salmon in southcentral, Alaska. Photo by Katrina Liebich/USFWS

According to our mission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “works with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.”

If you come to work for the Service, you become a conservationist (on the off-chance that you weren’t already). That’s the nature of the job—everyone, whether a writer, IT specialist, administrator or biologist, is working to conserve the wild things and wild places where they live.

We asked some folks why they conserve and got some beautiful answers.

  • From the Director: Why Jim Kurth Conserves
  • The Path That Chose Susan Jewell
  • For Don MacLean, Conservation Is Just ‘the Right Thing to Do’
  • Kate Miyamoto’s Lifelong Love
  • Nothing Better for Biologist Michael Glenn
  • Alicia Protus Works ‘to Keep Every Cog and Wheel’ for Future Generations
  • Craig Springer on Impressionism and Native Trout
  • Intern Elizabeth Braatz Conserves for You and for Me
  • Beautiful Future Drives Student Deja Perkins
  • Intern Mikaela Oles Wants to Make Sure Everyone Has a Connection to Nature


Fish & Wildlife News  

For Don MacLean, Conservation Is Just ‘the Right Thing to Do’

 Don MacLean
Photo courtesy of Don MacLean

The Service’s Don MacLean firmly believes that conservation “is the right thing to do” but admits he has trouble explaining why.

One of his first jobs out of college was working for a civil engineering firm.

“We were a small group of biologists who helped the engineers do the necessary environmental work prior to land development,” he says.

He found it satisfying because, he says, “we shaped a group of non-biologists who never thought of the environment into engineers who actually came to us with environmental concerns.”

But, he adds, he wasn’t totally happy because at the end of the day, the conservation achieved was just done so the land could be developed.

“I wanted to work in a place where the mission was conservation, not land development. I wanted to work in a place where the people around me were working toward conservation because it was the right thing to do, not because they had to do so.”

WHY I CONSERVE
  • From the Director: Why Jim Kurth Conserves
  • The Path That Chose Susan Jewell
  • Kate Miyamoto’s Lifelong Love
  • Nothing Better for Biologist Michael Glenn
  • Alicia Protus Works ‘to Keep Every Cog and Wheel’ for Future Generations
  • Craig Springer on Impressionism and Native Trout
  • Intern Elizabeth Braatz Conserves for You and for Me
  • Beautiful Future Drives Student Deja Perkins
  • Intern Mikaela Oles Wants to Make Sure Everyone Has a Connection to Nature

MacLean has been with Service 22 years as a habitat restoration specialist and later as an invasive species expert.

In explaining his career choice, he says, “To me, at my deepest root level, deep in my psyche, conservation’s just the right thing to do for many reasons.”

First, as any scientist, he talks science. “Certainly the scientist in me understands the value in natural biodiversity; ecosystems have a certain level of diversity—some are more diverse than others—but that level of natural diversity is inherently healthier.”

But it is more than that, he says. “These plants and animals and ecosystems are part of our world, and they should continue to be part of our world.” And, he adds, “Who are we to make decisions on which ones should no longer exist?”

From a spiritual perspective, he says, “We should practice conservation because it does our soul some good. It makes me feel good to know that I am helping conserve our nation’s natural resources.”

The simplest answer to MacLean: “We should conserve our natural resources because they are part of our culture, our art, our history, our recreation, our survival. We should conserve them so that we can continue to enjoy them, watch them, hunt them, fish them, draw them, learn from them and much more.”

MATT TROTT , External Affairs, Headquarters


Fish & Wildlife News  

Nothing Better for Biologist Michael Glenn

 

Mike Glenn and partners   Glenn and a group of kids and adults at a Schoolyard Habitat Program planting day. Photo by USFWS

 

Michael Glenn has a knack for getting kids to dig in the dirt. It’s a character trait few possess in an era of on-demand television, cell phone games, and dwindling green spaces.

 

Read More: Respected biologist and kid at heart

 

   • From the Director: Why Jim Kurth Conserves
  • The Path That Chose Susan Jewell
  • For Don MacLean, Conservation Is Just ‘the Right Thing to Do’
  • Kate Miyamoto’s Lifelong Love 
  • Alicia Protus Works ‘to Keep Every Cog and Wheel’ for Future Generations
  • Craig Springer on Impressionism and Native Trout
  • Intern Elizabeth Braatz Conserves for You and for Me
  • Beautiful Future Drives Student Deja Perkins
  • Intern Mikaela Oles Wants to Make Sure Everyone Has a Connection to Nature

 


 

Fish & Wildlife News  

Alicia Protus Works ‘to Keep Every Cog and Wheel’ for Future Generations

Alicia Protus in cave   Protus works on a bat census at Hibernia Mine in Rockaway, New Jersey. Photo by MacKenzie Hall/ NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife.

WHY I CONSERVE
  • From the Director: Why Jim Kurth Conserves
  • The Path That Chose Susan Jewell
  • For Don MacLean, Conservation Is Just ‘the Right Thing to Do’
  • Kate Miyamoto’s Lifelong Love
  • Nothing Better for Biologist Michael Glenn
  • Craig Springer on Impressionism and Native Trout
  • Intern Elizabeth Braatz Conserves for You and for Me
  • Beautiful Future Drives Student Deja Perkins
  • Intern Mikaela Oles Wants to Make Sure Everyone Has a Connection to Nature

Alicia Protus, a fish and wildlife biologist in the New Jersey Field Office, says she’s “always been inspired by people that ‘fight the good fight’ and lend a voice to those that cannot advocate for themselves,” so a conservation career was probably fate—especially for someone with “a small obsession with bats.”

Initially, she says, she was “drawn to the conservation field by the glitz and glamour of international conservation.”

But when she came back to the United States, she “became engrossed in the conservation of our own homegrown endemics and listed species.” The names might be less familiar, but she says that each species faces a “conservation plight no less interesting than their overseas brethren.”

After graduation, a Service fellowship and volunteer work, she took her position in New Jersey.

Aldo Leopold’s famous quote “to keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering” drives her. She says she works “to safeguard the existence of vulnerable species on our landscape and ensure the resiliency of our ecosystems for generations to come.”

MATT TROTT, External Affairs, Headquarters


Fish & Wildlife News  

The Path That Chose Me

Susan Jewell    Jewell on a water-quality sampling trip in a marsh at A.R.M. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in the Everglades. All photos courtesy of Susan Jewell/USFWS

Susan Jewell conserves to restore harmony within the environment

WHY I CONSERVE
  • From the Director: Why Jim Kurth Conserves
  • For Don MacLean, Conservation Is Just ‘the Right Thing to Do’
  • Kate Miyamoto’s Lifelong Love
  • Nothing Better for Biologist Michael Glenn
  • Alicia Protus Works ‘to Keep Every Cog and Wheel’ for Future Generations
  • Craig Springer on Impressionism and Native Trout
  • Intern Elizabeth Braatz Conserves for You and for Me
  • Beautiful Future Drives Student Deja Perkins
  • Intern Mikaela Oles Wants to Make Sure Everyone Has a Connection to Nature

p>More than a few times I have wondered how I came to be so enamored with the natural world. I grew up in flat, monotonous, suburban New Jersey. Although I probably inherited my penchant for science from my father, a physician, no one in my family had shown such an all-consuming affinity for the outdoors. In the early years, I doubt that my parents or siblings understood my career choice. To them, I was a forest ranger, or more likely, a forest stranger—an enigma—not quite a black sheep, but something more baffling. I was the green sheep of the family.

While coming of age in the 1960s, I saw news stories about water and air pollution, and I learned the connection between people and the natural world by the time I was a teenager. I joined my high school’s fledgling ecology class, started recycling at home, went on litter-collecting patrols, and have never let up on conserving natural resources since. My path was laid out for me after high school. I already knew what would give meaning to my life. Off I went to college and graduate school to learn how to take care of the earth.

In my university days, the faculty repeatedly drilled into our heads how demanding the field of wildlife biology would be, both physically and mentally. They were right. Even our curriculum required more credit hours than most other majors, including pre-medical. As budding scientists in the 1970s, we discussed all types of environmental issues, including the emerging news about how greenhouse gases from the release of fossil fuels could be causing the earth to warm.

Susan Jewell    Jewell, out at Loxahatchee, driving an airboat.

In addition to the occupation’s physical and academic demands, the faculty impressed upon us students that, as wildlife biologists, “You’ll never get rich.” Those who had enrolled with visions of a romantic career in the wilderness soon found their dreams extinguished. They dropped out, one by one, until only a few die-hards remained.

On the Job

We were then delivered into a life of grueling physical labor, shaky employment prospects and general uncertainty about the future.

I persevered, not anticipating the dim probability of succeeding as a petite woman in a so-called man’s occupation. Now, after early jobs with environmental organizations and the National Park Service and 25 years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I don’t regret the path that chose me. I have worked in many hazardous field situations, endured chronic injuries and worked long hours to make deadlines. As an endangered species listing biologist, ignoring quitting time could mean protecting a species before it was too late. In my current position, I can write a regulation to designate species as injurious (usually foreign invasive species). Injurious species can’t legally be imported, except by permit for certain purposes. That is a truly efficient and effective way of keeping harmful species out of our country and from entering new regions if they are already here, and only the Service has the authority to designate an injurious species.

Susan Jewell
Jewell shows off the Everglades rat snake she found while driving an airboat.  

Far from Trivial

Throughout time, people’s lives have been entwined with the land and the natural world. In the past we didn’t need to know why herons move their nesting sites around the Everglades or why alligators are smaller in the Everglades than in Louisiana, as long as herons still nested and alligators lived. But in today’s world, we do need to know why the herons relocate and why the gators are smaller, to ensure there will always be herons and alligators.

As the senior biologist at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in the Everglades, I learned that herons have a keen insight into future water levels, knowing before we do when a marsh will go dry. And the alligators in the Everglades are smaller because of the changes to the food web caused by people draining, diverting and otherwise tampering with the surface water. While these tidbits of information may seem trivial, collecting them represents a tremendous amount of work—long, backbreaking hours in the field, sometimes at a risk to a biologist’s life. This is what it takes to find the answers needed to restore harmony within the environment.

Sadly, many people spend their whole lives never comprehending how deeply entwined we all are with the natural world. I am grateful that I do comprehend, and I know that, by working for the Service, one person’s actions can help restore the harmony of the environment that is the foundation of all life.

SUSAN JEWELL, Fish and Aquatic Conservation, Headquarters


Fish & Wildlife News  

From the Director: Why Jim Kurth Conserves

By Jim Kurth, Acting Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Now that I have been sitting at a desk and pushing paper around the headquarters office for 15 years, some might be surprised to learn that I still consider myself first and foremost a conservationist. Although it has been a long time since I was out in the field wearing a uniform and “saving dirt,” I connected with conservation early, and I’ve never looked back.

WHY I CONSERVE
  • The Path That Chose Susan Jewell
  • For Don MacLean, Conservation Is Just ‘the Right Thing to Do’
  • Kate Miyamoto’s Lifelong Love
  • Nothing Better for Biologist Michael Glenn
  • Alicia Protus Works ‘to Keep Every Cog and Wheel’ for Future Generations
  • Craig Springer on Impressionism and Native Trout
  • Intern Elizabeth Braatz Conserves for You and for Me
  • Beautiful Future Drives Student Deja Perkins
  • Intern Mikaela Oles Wants to Make Sure Everyone Has a Connection to Nature

Going to school at the College of Natural Resources at the University of Wisconsin—Stevens Point, I immersed myself in the land ethic pioneered by Aldo Leopold in nearby Sand County. Leopold taught me the need to recognize our intertwined relationship with the natural world and tend that relationship with great care. And so I enthusiastically embarked on my career in conservation as a steward of wildlife and the wild land and waters.

This calling has taken me all across the nation, from my first U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service job at Mississippi SandhiIl Crane National Wildlife Refuge in 1979 to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to my stints in Washington, DC, and many places in between.

At each one of those stops, I’ve taken something unique away that further cemented my connection with nature, sometimes in unexpected ways.

At Arctic Refuge I saw the hawk owl. In a way, it became my very own hawk owl.

I was exploring the refuge’s Firth River Valley with a few colleagues, enjoying the peaceful nature of the place. The bird flew low along the horizon to the south. Someone quickly identified it as a hawk owl, and I recalled a biological survey of the Firth conducted some 15 years earlier.

The survey recorded a hawk owl nesting in nearly the exact location we were exploring. I wondered if the hawk owl soaring above us was the grandson or great-granddaughter of that bird.

Had this bird’s ancestors seen the first humans, or the scimitar cat and the short–faced bear? Did they hear the thunder of the mastodon? And I thought about my descendants, and whether they’ll be lucky enough to see a hawk owl if they visit the Firth generations from now.

My hawk owl captivated me and connected me to the past and future of nature.

So did a clutch of mallard eggs.

My first trip to the field after moving to Service Headquarters in 1999 was to Windom Wetland Management District in Minnesota. It was a beautiful spring day at Windom, full of songs of meadowlarks, bobolinks and red–winged blackbirds. I joined refuge staff and walked across a waterfowl production area, when a hen mallard flushed a few feet ahead of us.

One of our group gently pulled back some of the grasses, and there it was—the nest with the eggs.

I remember feeling incredibly happy and proud. Those eggs were a reminder of the past—we successfully worked to protect wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region for waterfowl. But they also reminded me of an uncertain future. With new and accelerating old threats, it’s hard to envision what the Prairie Pothole Region will look like a hundred years from now.

Working to secure a better future for wildlife in the Pothole Region and across North America is why I conserve and am still excited to come to work every day for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Every Service employee has similar touchstones that have shaped their career and outlook on life. For Craig Springer in our Southwest Region, it’s native trout. Kate Miyamoto in our Mountain-Prairie Region chased butterflies as a child in Texas and now hopes to give the next generation the same spark butterflies gave her. You can read these and other compelling stories about why we do what we do in this issue of Fish & Wildlife News.

We have incredibly challenging jobs (even me!), but we are also truly lucky. We get to “play in the dirt,” to experience the blessings that nature offers, some of us on a daily basis. Even when others of us are cooped up in meetings, we can take some solace knowing that we are still conserving the nature of America.

Thank you for all you do.


Fish & Wildlife News  

More Entries