Facebook icon Twitter icon Flicker icon You Tube icon

Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

A Yearly Dose of Wisdom the Laysan Albatross

Wisdom incubating her egg, December 2018. Photo credit: Madalyn Riley/USFWS Volunteer

In cheesy horror movies, the bad guy always comes back. Real life tends to have more finality to it. But on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial, a Laysan albatross keeps coming back year after year after year. In fact, she’s been coming back for more than 60 years, and we’re delighted each time.  

PHOTOS: Wisdom through the years

Wisdom, the world’s oldest known wild bird, was first banded on Midway Atoll as an adult in 1956 and is at least 68 years old

She and recent mate Akeakamai have returned to the same nest site on Midway Atoll to lay and hatch an egg every year since 2006.

And biologists on Midway have confirmed that she has laid an egg again this year.

A ‘Field of Dreams’ Moment: Endangered Razorback Sucker Numbers on the Upswing

   2 people hold the  ends of a big screen in brown water while a third wwatchesSan Juan Recovery Program biologists search the San Juan River for yearling razorback sucker. Photo by USFWS

Fishery surveys conducted by San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program have revealed surprising—and quite welcome—information about an endangered fish. The number of yearling razorback sucker discovered by biologists who examined fish populations in the San Juan River in northwest New Mexico during the fall of 2018 reached an all-time high. 

 man holds a small fish with both hands, shows it to cameraBiologists captured 50 yearling razorbacks—the greatest number found since surveys began more than 20 years ago. The number suggests that yearling fish could number in the thousands through the approximate 180-mile study reach. Moreover, this year marks only the second time in that same period that yearling razorbacks (at left, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish biologist Matt Zeigler with a yearling razorback sucker. Photo by USFWS) were captured in the fall.  

“It was amazing to see these little fish in the river,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Nate Franssen. “We have been stocking razorbacks and managing the river for many years hoping to see these signs of recovery. It’s a ‘Field of Dreams’ moment: Build the habitats and they will come.”

Large amounts of water, more than 8,000 cubic feet per second purposely released a week at a time from Navajo Reservoir by the Bureau of Reclamation in the spring of 2016 and 2017, created fish habitat. The high flows scoured the channel and created slow-flowing, warm backwaters needed by young fish. The amount of these nursery backwaters was at its highest level this year, dating to the mid-1990s.

What’s more, Navajo Nation biologists moved nearly 300 adult razorbacks over a migration barrier, while researchers led by the Bureau of Reclamation moved hundreds of adults upstream of a waterfall at the bottom end of the river near Lake Powell. Razorbacks migrate upstream in the spring to spawning habitats.

“This is likely the first time in decades that the San Juan River has supported these fish through their most vulnerable period in their life: from egg to hatching to a fall yearling,” said Franssen. 

 fish with underslung mouth, yellow belly

The razorback sucker (at left, by Mark Fuller/USFWS) was determined in 1991 to be endangered with extinction under the Endangered Species Act. This fish lives only in the Colorado River and its large tributary streams. Its body form—a prominent keel on its nape speaks to habitat. The fish is at home in swift water formerly typified by free-flowing rivers. Razorbacks live in eight rivers in the Colorado River basin and only those in Lake Mead, Nevada, show consistent wild reproduction and yearling survival, punctuating the importance of the recent San Juan River findings.  

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program is a collaborative endangered species program run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, states of New Mexico and Colorado, Navajo Nation, Jicarilla Apache Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, water users from the basin and organizations such as The Nature Conservancy. The Service’s Southwestern Native Aquatic Resources and Recovery Center in New Mexico, and Ouray National Fish Hatchery in Utah, stock razorback sucker.

To learn more about the razorback sucker and other fishes of the Colorado River, visit www.fws.gov/southwest/sjrip/ .

--Eliza Gilbert, New Mexico Ecological Services Field Office, Albuquerque

Thank You, Veterans

Fish and Wildlife Service Thanks Our Veterans

The brave women and men in the military make daily sacrifices to safeguard our freedoms. We are privileged that after their military careers, many veterans put their skills toward the defense of wildlife and their habitats. Continuing in the service of the country, these veterans join the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as biologists, story-tellers, administrators, law-enforcement officers and more.

See just a few in our photo gallery.

The military is also a key partner in conservation, using  their lands to protect and recover wildlife.

Opening Wide the Doors to Balcones

   man in straw hat pointing at list of species

Even if you want to, it is not always easy to connect with nature.

But youth in Texas Hill Country have two big advantages: Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge and refuge neighbor Candlelight Ranch, a nonprofit that provides therapeutic and educational nature-based experiences to young people with significant challenges accessing nature.

The two partnered in summer 2017 to help young people develop a relationship with nature, and the partnership had more success in the summer that just ended.

The Friends of Balcones Canyonlands NWR secured a grant to sponsor an environmental education intern, Ma’Darius Tyler (left), for nine weeks in support of the partnership.

Ma’Darius, a Texas A&M University Prairie View student, presented STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) based curriculum to 100 more campers than in 2017.

The partnership brings campers from Candlelight Ranch to the nearby refuge to enjoy the refuge’s accessible trails and overviews, and to participate in interactive, hands-on, real world activities designed to teach them about endangered species, water quality, careers in conservation and more.  The program has been highly successful and we look forward to continuing it in the future. 

Gila Trout: A Native Trout Conservation Story


That’s the sound of a barbless beadhead nymph falling into a glassy glide of Mineral Creek, a headwater stream of the Gila River in southwest New Mexico.  There’s a short drift over a stony run, barely time to mend your line. Then follows that transmutation of fish flesh to your forearm—the taut tug of a trout on your 3-wt. fly rod.

But it’s not just any trout.  This one is yellow like a school bus. Petite black shards fleck its flanks over a hint of a pink stripe and fading oval parr marks. It’s not a rainbow trout—no, this fish is far less common. Rare, even.  It’s a Gila trout, a threatened species. 

The Gila trout was for a time the only trout considered endangered in the United States.  But decades of conservation work by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, U.S. Forest Service and other partners are pushing the fish toward recovery.

  hand holds yellow fish In 2007, select waters in the Gila National Forest were opened to anglers. Photo by USFWS 

Gila trout were off limits to anglers for 50 years until it was downlisted. In 2007, select waters in the Gila National Forest were opened to anglers and remain so.

The crystalline water of Mineral Creek above the storied ghost town of Mogollon, New Mexico, is but only one place to catch Gila trout. Conservation work—much heavy lifting—employing pack mules with panniers filled with young trout or carrying in on foot freshly fertilized trout eggs in backpacks have improved the lot of Gila trout, and grown the number of places where you can catch them.

Success begets success. Excise taxes on rods and tackle and fishing license sales fund much of this on-the-ground conservation work via the Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program.

Craig Springer, External Affairs, Southwest Region

FWS, Kansas City Chiefs Engage Young People at Urban American Outdoors’ Kids Fishing Derby

man in FWS uniform shows young man a device with fish attachedRoderick May, the hatchery manager at Neosho National Fish Hatchery, weighs a catch. 

Urban American Outdoors TV’s (UAO TV) National Urban Kids Fishing Derby Tour stopped in Kansas City, Kansas, on October 8, bringing together the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Kansas City Chiefs and others to engage Kansas City youth. 

group shotUrban American Outdoors TV’s National Urban Kids Fishing Derby Tour stopped in Kansas City, Kansas. 

“The purpose of the fishing derby was to teach kids to fish, engage them in healthy outdoor recreation, and introduce them to wildlife conservation and related career opportunities,” said Wayne Hubbard, who cofounded Urban American Outdoors TV with his life partner Candice Price. 

RELATED: More photos of the fishing derby are on UAO TV’s flickr page.

Representing the Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Fish Hatchery System was Roderick May, the hatchery manager at Neosho National Fish Hatchery in Neosho, Missouri.  

“Everyone benefits when we engage youth in personal, physical and professional development,” May said.  “Teaching kids how to fish and talking with them about conservation is good for kids and everyone else, as today’s kids are the conservationists of tomorrow.” 

man with white floppy hat squats downto chat with angler on riverbankKansas City Chiefs defensive end Allen Bailey talks to one of the anglers.

 Representatives of the Kansas City Chiefs football team were also there.

“To be able to come out here and spend time with these kids and members of our community means a lot,” said Brett Veach, general manager for the Kansas City Chiefs. “It’s fun to see our guys out there fishing and giving back, and I’m glad that I was invited to be a part of it.”

Other Chiefs’ executives and players at the fishing derby included President Mark Donovan, defensive end Allen Bailey, safety Eric Berry, wide receiver Gehrig Richard Dieter, quarterback Chad Henne, fullback J.D. Moore and defensive tackle Xavier Williams.

people fish off both sides of dockPeople try their luck at the Urban Fishing Day.

The fishing derby brought out others who support youth development programs in the Kansas City area, including Kids on Campus, Fringe Benefits of Education (FBOE) and Bass Pro Shops. 

A Kansas City Kansas Community College program, Kids on Campus is an eight-week summer camp for youth ages 8 to 18 from the Kansas City metro area.  The program provides hands-on adaptive learning experiences outside the classroom in science, technology, education, arts and math. 

With support from community educators, leaders and professionals, the Kids on Campus program engages approximately 300 youth per year in educational, physical and social activities that empower them with personal awareness, life skills and educational ambitions.

“I didn’t catch anything,” Chiefs GM Veach said, “but we still had some fun.”

Story by Edward Stoker, External Affairs, Headquarters; photos by UAO TV

Embracing and Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

By Jim Kurth, Acting FWS Director

Hispanic and Latino roots in our nation run deep – predating the founding of the United States by centuries. And this rich, vibrant culture has shaped and influenced what it means to be American in myriad ways.

From the food we eat, the music we listen to, and our art, literature and language, every part of American culture is influenced by Hispanic and Latino Americans. Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated in the United States from September 15 to October 15, serves to remind us of the many contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to our nation over the centuries.

This includes the earliest Western settlement in North America at St. Augustine, Florida in 1565, as well as the founding of cities across the Southwest and into California by Spanish settlers. And it continues up to now, with Hispanic and Latino Americans becoming one of our fastest-growing ethnic groups.

Cultural and Demographic Shift

According to the Census Bureau, Latinos currently comprise more than 18 percent of the U.S. population – and in states like California, New Mexico, and Texas, more than 40 percent of the state populations.  Projecting into the future, by 2045, the U.S. population will be 25 percent Latino.

Recognizing this cultural and demographic shift, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working hard to engage Hispanic Americans and help them connect with their natural heritage. Research shows that support for wildlife, public lands and conservation is higher among Hispanic Americans than among any other ethnic group in the nation.

We’re also working to help Hispanic American children explore careers in wildlife conservation – and to recruit young adults from the community to join the Service. Our goal is to create a professional workforce for the future that reflects our nation’s growing diversity and can inspire and engage Americans from all walks of life.

To achieve these critically important goals, the Service is working with national Hispanic-serving organizations. For example, we partnered with the Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) to support Latino Conservation Week (LCW) through communications efforts, but by also placing HAF interns at National Wildlife Refuges across the country.  LCW was established by HAF to recognize and encourage Hispanic participation in outdoor recreation and wildlife conservation.

This month, we invite Americans of all backgrounds to celebrate the contributions of Hispanic Americans to our nation’s rich cultural diversity – and to explore the great outdoors with family and friends.  Together, we can ensure the future of our shared natural heritage for generations to come.

VIDEO: Doves in the Wild

symbol of dove

Sierra Snyder, a summer intern at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, recently spent the morning at Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland with two Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sisters. It was a new experience for all of them.

Doves in the Wild blogs

Celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day

   hunter with bow and arrow in icy forestWayne Hubbard is the co-founder of Urban American Outdoors.

By Wayne Hubbard; photos by Urban America Outdoors

We all love the outdoors, including those of us that hunt and fish. That is why Urban American Outdoors is pleased to join the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and many others in celebrating National Hunting and Fishing Day.

girl holding harvested deer as adult kneels next to her

National Hunting and Fishing Day, celebrated in the United States on the fourth Saturday in September, was established by Congress in 1972 to honor hunters and anglers for their role in conserving wildlife and their habitat.

Though other outdoor enthusiasts may not know, hunters and anglers care and contribute significantly to the conservation of wildlife and their habitat. In addition to paying for hunting and fishing licenses, hunters and anglers pay an excise tax on firearms and ammunition, bows and arrows, and rods and reels that generates more than $1.75 billion per year to support the work of state conservation agencies. (At left: Wayne Hubbard, co-founder of Urban American Outdoors.)

My friends at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognize the positive contributions hunters and anglers have on wildlife conservation. The lands and waters they manage not only provide vital habitat for wildlife but also access to outdoor recreation, including hunting and fishing.

The Service, which manages a network of 566 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts, welcomes approximately 10 million hunters and anglers each year. Hunting is currently permitted on 340 wildlife refuges and 37 wetland management districts. Fishing is currently permitted on 278 wildlife refuges and 34 wetland management districts. Find your next hunting or fishing spot.

   adult and youth pose with harvested turkeysWayne Hubbard is the co-founder of Urban American Outdoors.

If you do not hunt or fish (yet), I still encourage you to find a refuge near you. Other types of wildlife-dependent recreation you can engage in at refuges include hiking, biking, camping, canoeing, photographing wildlife, and more. More than 100 national wildlife refuges are within an hour drive of most major metropolitan areas.

When engaged in outdoor sports or recreation, know that hunters and anglers stand alongside you in your love for the outdoors and in promoting the conservation of natural resources, including wildlife and their habitat, for the benefit of future generations.

Wayne Hubbard is the co-founder of Urban American Outdoors (UAO), which encourages and facilitates diversity in the outdoors. UAO produces the UAO TV show, the first African-American owned and produced outdoor sport and adventure show in the United States. Aired on TV networks across the country, the syndicated show has received four Emmy nominations and more than 70 broadcast awards. UAO also engages in youth outreach and education through its Urban Kids Fishing Derbies in cities across the country. Earlier this year, Wayne was appointed to serve on the Department of the Interior’s Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council, established to provide advice regarding wildlife and habitat conservation.

This content is presented for informational value only. It is neither authored nor sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We make no claims as to the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information it contains.

Check Out Your Lands on National Public Lands Day

Saturday is packed with potential adventures for all outdoor enthusiasts.

YOUR public lands need you, so why not join with others in the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands?

The 25th annual National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is Saturday, September 22, and it’s a perfect time to connect with YOUR public lands and communities. As an extra incentive, you can visit national wildlife refuges and other federally managed public lands free.  

  children water and look at plannts on a table At Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, the NPLD event is on pollinators. Photo by USFWS

Volunteer or get outside

National wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries across the country are just waiting for you.

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia needs your help with its annual beach cleanup.

Saturday is also National Hunting and Fishing Day, which celebrates the important role sports men and -women play in conservation, and Back Bay Refuge has you covered there as well.

After the morning’s cleanup, a local anglers group will talk about surf fishing from the refuge beach.

On the other side of the country, Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery in Washington hosts the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival, one of the first natural resource festivals in the country.

Help out September 29, too

I am working all day this Saturday, you say. Is there anything the next week?

You’re in luck. Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri, for instance, will be tagging monarch butterflies on September 29.

   girl in  wheelbarrow and lots of other volunteersVolunteering at Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Lisa Cox/USFWS

Also on September 29, Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge in California will be working on a native habitat restoration with conservation partner Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach.

You can find hundreds of events on public lands across the country.

Of course, you don’t need an event. It is never a bad time to visit YOUR public lands. National fish hatcheries and national wildlife refuges will do their best to make you feel at home whenever you visit.

RELATED: Find a refuge near you | Find a hatchery near you

Explore the outdoors. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it.

More Entries