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A Talk on the Wild Side.

From Dust to Lush: Wyoming Partnerships Take Lessons from the Past to Build a Greener Future

   black and white photo of house with windmill on top, surrounded by dirt, dying plantsA homestead during the Dust Bowl. Photo by Dorothea Lange, Library of Congress.

Sometimes, we really do learn from our mistakes.

In the 1930s, the Dust Bowl taught Americans a painful lesson: when we mistreat our soil, our plants and our land through unsustainable practices, the land reacts in-kind, and we pay the price. In response to the Dust Bowl crisis, the federal government purchased nearly 5 million acres of damaged lands in order to rehabilitate them, and thus the system of National Grasslands was born.

“Some of the lands that were repaired and restored were sold off. Those are the ones that are privately owned today,” says Mark Hogan, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Wyoming. “Many were never sold off because they were so damaged at the time, but today they’ve become productive.”

The farming, ranching and scientific community now know that in prairies and pastures, grass with healthy root systems is essential to sustain healthy, nutrient-rich soil that stays put and doesn’t blow away. Today, the U.S. Forest Service manages the National Grasslands and issues leases to established grazing associations, who then provide permits to their members to allow their cattle to graze. Cattle belonging to members of the Spring Creek Grazing Association use portions of the Thunder Basin National Grassland in northeastern Wyoming.  In April, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department was awarded $150,000 in grant funds by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help the association make rangeland improvements that benefit owners of working lands while conserving local wildlife.

“We are encouraged by the support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the opportunity to collaborate with the grazing association to improve range conditions and wildlife habitat,” says the project’s lead, Todd Caltrider with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. “By improving grazing distribution with rangeland grazing infrastructure, we can better manage cattle to get the wildlife habitat value that we would like to see on the landscape.”

This practice, called “rotational grazing,” takes its cues from history by mimicking how the land was used by roaming bison. The bison would arrive, graze the grass, then move on. Their nomadic nature and foraging patterns resulted in a diversity of grass heights across the prairie, providing a variety of habitats for many grassland species. The period of rest the grass received between grazing events gave it time to recuperate, which is essential in order to maintain strong root systems underground; something the Dust Bowl taught us is necessary to sustain a healthy soils.

   herd of cowsCurious cattle. Photo by Krista Lundgren/USFWS

“If you can manage a site that will allow plants time to rest and recover, you can improve the health of the rangeland, have more production, and increase carrying capacity for both wildlife and livestock. It’s a win-win for the producers and wildlife,” says Mark, who is also member of the project team.

Improving the availability of water is another key to any habitat improvement project, because whether you’re a herd of mule deer or a herd of cattle, you need water. “By adding livestock watering systems and cross-fencing, landowners can better implement a rest rotation grazing system that allows for better control of rangeland utilization,” Todd says. This also relieves pressure on the natural gulches where rainwater collects, giving them a chance to recover and regrow grass.

That bodes well for one of Wyoming’s most celebrated species, the greater sage-grouse. Often found on private lands during the summer, grouse appear at grassy gulches to drink, nest, feast on bugs and raise their young.  “This is in our sage-grouse core area. It’s been identified as prime sage-grouse habitat, so that makes it a priority area for us,” Todd says.

   far off photo of greater sage-grouse at a lek A greater sage-grouse lek in the Thunder Basin National Grassland. Photo by Christi Painter/Forest Service

In addition, the team will be assessing portions of the 150 miles of Dust Bowl era woven wire and barbed wire fencing. “They’re a barrier to big game migration and a threat to greater sage-grouse,” Mark says. New, wildlife-friendly fences that big game can slide under or leap over will be built in more preferable locations for the ranchers. Plus, if the biologists spot a patch of troublesome cheatgrass along the way, they’ll treat it.

Mark views the project as an opportunity to benefit wildlife and to build trust within a community. “This is important for us and really exciting,” he says. “The grazing association has not worked with such a broad coalition of conservation partners, especially wildlife agencies and non-governmental organizations, so we need to pull it off right.”

“There’s definitely a need for this project and I’m excited to see the changes in the ecosystem,” Todd says. “I’ve been working with Mark about three years and his experience with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has been helpful, because this grant is different from what Wyoming Game and Fish typically works with.”

The Dust Bowl was time in American history that forced us to not only accept failure, but to collaborate, innovate, and rely on science to guide us toward greener pastures. When we take the time to respect the land, its creatures, and to learn from our mistakes, together we build a better future for wildlife and people alike.

  rollung green field A portion of the project site. Photo courtesy of Todd Caltrider/Wyoming Game and Fish Department

JENNIFER STRICKLAND, External Affairs, Mountain-Prairie Region

The Northern Great Plains Program was launched by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in 2013. Major funding partners include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, a private foundation, and BNSF Railways. The program seeks to conserve, restore and improve one million grassland acres by 2026. Learn more at http://www.nfwf.org/greatplains/Pages/home.aspx.

Protect Yourself and Wildlife From Fire

   an owl flies over a wildfireAn owl hunts over a prescribed burn safely conducted at Matagorda Island along the Texas Gulf Coast within Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Planned burns help reduce wildfire risk and improve habitat for wildlife. Photo by Jeff Adams/USFWS.

The 2018 wildfire season is already challenging firefighters with no end in sight. Wildland fire specialists are beginning to use the term "Fire Year" instead of "Fire Season" because fire activity is occurring year-round. 

Here are some ways you can help:

Protect People During Wildfires

It is critical for families and communities to have escape plans and materials ready in the event of an emergency evacuationNever fly unmanned remote-controlled aircraft near fires – this can endanger firefighters!

Protect Refuges from Wildfire

During lightning-caused wildfires or planned prescribed burns that mimic natural fire cycles, wildlife know how to seek safety in holes or moist areas until the fire passes, and later enjoy the benefits of rejuvenated habitat.  How we manage fire on refuges.

But approximately 95 percent of all wildfires on national wildlife refuges are started accidentally by people. These unnaturally timed wildfires cause unnecessary risks to visitors, wildlife and nearby communities.

Only people can prevent unwanted human-caused wildfires. Whether it’s ensuring a campfire or landscape debris burn of leaves and branches is completely extinguished, or keeping a vehicle well maintained to prevent sparks, following just a few simple steps can help prevent wildfires.

Fire Prevention How-tos:

Protect Your Home from Wildfire

Every year many families unnecessarily lose their homes and possessions to wildfire. You can minimize these losses by becoming aware of fire safety measures and taking steps to maintain a survival space.  

Things You Can Do Today:

  • Spring Cleaning: Clean roof surfaces and gutters of pine needs, leaves, branches, etc., regularly to avoid accumulation of flammable materials.
  • Pruning Trees: Remove branches from trees to height of 15 feet, and remove portions of any tree extending within 10 feet of the flue opening of any stove or chimney.
  • Landscaping: Space vegetation so that fire cannot be carried to the structure or surrounding vegetation. Clear an area with no burnable material around all structures and propane tanks.  Locate picnic tables and firewood away from buildings
  • Fuel storage:  Store gasoline in an approved safety can away from occupied buildings. Locate propane tanks far enough away from buildings for valves to be shut off in case of fire.  
  • Driveway maintenance: Post street address clearly at all intersections and on structures. Widen all entry roads and driveways to at least 16 feet. Ensure your home has at least two different entrance and exit routes.
  • Daily living. Keep garden hoses connected to spigots. Make a habit of backing into parking spaces, which affords more visibility for exiting.

Last Week in Nature’s Good Neighbors

Man with red shirt, orange and brown ballcap, mustache

A cud above

Non-native grasses are pretty tasty to rancher Frank Imhof’s cattle herd that he grazes on a tract of Don Edwards San Francisco Bay NWR. By Doug Cordell, San Francisco Bay NWR Complex

A ripple effect

Texas lawyer Nelson Roach is having a conservation awakening as he transforms the creek that winds through his Couch Mountain Ranch. By Ben Ikenson, freelance writer


Nature’s Good Neighbors is a series of stories highlighting people who depend on the land as much as the land depends on them. They are entrepreneurs who manage forests, farms, ranches and fisheries. They are private landowners, land managers, tribal members, recreational guides and individuals in the energy, agriculture and timber industries. With support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which provides expertise, assistance, funding and tools to conserve and restore wildlife habitat for future generations, these modern-day stewards are working with nature to make a home for people and wildlife.

Researchers Work on a Sweet Solution to Sticky Problem of Phragmites

   boardwalk passes through a stand of PhragmitesA boardwalk passes through a stand of Phragmites australis at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Steve Droter

When you’re a biologist at a site named for a famous environmentalist, you feel a responsibility to do your job with the planet in mind.

Just ask Dr. Susan Adamowicz, the Land Management Research and Demonstration Area biologist for the Northeast Region of the Service, stationed at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine. Tasked with finding the best ways to manage wildlife habitat, Adamowicz takes inspiration from Carson as she plans her research projects.

In 1962’s Silent Spring, Carson, who also worked for the Service, sounded the alarm about pesticides that imperiled wildlife and people alike. She knew that many of the synthetic chemicals used to control unwanted plants and insects were dangerous to more than their targets.

   Woman crouching down to look at yellowing cordgrassService biologist Dr. Susan Adamowicz examines Spartina patens, a native salt marsh cordgrass, at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Steve Droter

For a healthy environment, Adamowicz also seeks other solutions.

Today, Adamowicz hopes she has found a new one, with the help of a University of New Hampshire researcher.

A ’consummate invasive species’

Phragmites australis, or common reed, is an aggressive, non-native marsh grass that pushes out native wetland plants. It is known for its tall (up to 18 feet), feathery, golden stalks.

Phragmites is plentiful in the high salt marsh of the Great Marsh, the largest continuous stretch of salt marsh in New England. Three thousand acres of the 20,000-acre marsh in eastern Massachusetts lie within Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.

   Water with stands of grass throughoutParker River National Wildlife Refuge, in eastern Massachusetts, protects 3,000 acres of the Great Marsh, the largest continuous stretch of salt marsh in New England. Photo by Matt Poole/USFWS

The invasive grass changes the structure of the salt marsh, filling natural channels and tidal pools where waterbirds, fish and invertebrates would otherwise find food and safety. Many wildlife species find its dense patches impassable, and in the fall, when the stalks die back, stands of the plant turn to tinderboxes primed for wildfire, putting nearby homes and businesses at risk.

Biologists have long searched for effective ways to control Phragmites. It’s a determined adversary, however. Like those birthday candles that re-ignite—it springs back to life just when it seems defeated.

According to Adamowicz, “Phragmites is the consummate invasive species. If you cut it or burn it, it comes back. If you can flood it for six months, that might kill it, but flooding is not always feasible.”

Restoring natural tidal flow to coastal marshes is the preferred way to fight Phragmites, but replacing culverts, filling ditches and improving drainage takes time. Treating it directly is necessary to keep it in check in the meantime.

There has been no good way to do that. Herbicides work in certain locations but pose a risk to native vegetation and groundwater—certainly not a solution Rachel Carson would embrace.

So Adamowicz teamed up with Dr. David Burdick, research associate professor and interim director of the Jackson Estuarine Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, to explore innovative ways to control Phragmites. One of the methods they tested was sweet and simple.

Turning the tables

Burdick had a hunch that sugar, the same kind you put in your coffee, might be Phragmites’ Kryptonite.

   researcher examining pail In the field, Phragmites plants were isolated using tubes made of bottomless five-gallon pails. Photo by Gregg Moore/UNH

Each summer, rising air temperatures and increased plant growth stimulate bacteria in salt marsh soils to convert organic matter and oxygen into carbon dioxide, water and energy—a process called ›› aerobic (“with air”) respiration. The activity quickly uses up soil oxygen, forcing other groups of bacteria to make energy using anaerobic (“without air”) respiration.

One byproduct of anaerobic respiration is hydrogen sulfide gas, a potent toxin for plants as well as people. At typical levels, the gas is not deadly to most native plants, but it can be toxic to Phragmites.

Burdick thought increasing bacterial anaerobic respiration, and therefore hydrogen sulfide levels, could kill the invasive. He couldn’t control air temperatures, but he could increase fuel for the bacteria—using glucose in the form of table sugar.

“Because Phragmites is a master at getting oxygen to its roots for its own respiration, we could use this strength to kill it,” he says. “By elevating soil hydrogen sulfide levels, we might stimulate the plant to oxidize the gas into a strong acid that it may not be able to tolerate.”

Pour some sugar on it

Burdick and his team first tested their idea in the greenhouse. They soaked Phragmites plants with bay water for three hours every two weeks to mimic the flooding that high-marsh plants get during the extra-high “spring” tides that come with the full and new moons each month.

Some plants (the control) received only the bay water; others got water with table sugar; still others water with extra salt; and the remaining, water with sugar and salt.

   4 potted plants, 2 distressed, two notIn the greenhouse study, plants receiving sugar or sugar-plus-salt (right, top and bottom) showed clear signs of distress within weeks of treatment. Photo by Gregg Moore/UNH

Both the sugar- and sugar-and-salt-treated plants showed signs of stress within weeks and eventually died. Only the plants that received plain bay water or bay water with added salt lived.

The sugar-treated plants had very high soil acidity, possibly caused by sulfuric acid, the product of hydrogen sulfide oxidation. This supported Burdick’s theory.

Next, Burdick and Adamowicz headed to Parker River Refuge to set up a field study in the northern part of the Great Marsh. The research was supported by federal funds for Hurricane Sandy recovery and resilience projects.

They isolated individual Phragmites plants and applied the same treatments as in the greenhouse. Sugar and salt were put on the plants every two weeks, after the spring tides flooded the marsh.

 Man in field with notepad and pen   Dr. David Burdick takes notes in the field at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge during field testing. Photo by Gregg Moore/UNH

The plants that got sugar showed far greater mortality than the other treatments, even with uncontrollable environmental factors, such as rain—a clear sign that sugar is not sweet to Phragmites.

Refining the technique

Adamowicz is pleased with the study results so far and eager to set up more field trials. She’s exploring ways to treat Phragmites with sugar and salt more efficiently and broadly, perhaps using a backpack sprayer to apply corn syrup at more-frequent intervals than every two weeks.

“This is another tool in our toolbox, and it’s nontoxic to wildlife, which is very desirable,” she says. “The more complicated response to Phragmites is ecosystem restoration, but in the meantime, we need a fast-acting tool to help native plants come back and buy time.”

If Rachel Carson were alive today, she would approve of this environmentally sound method—and just might be thinking, “Sweet!”

LAURI MUNROE-HULTMAN, External Affairs, Northeast Region

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

Spring Curator's Corner: Museum Objects Come to Life

  symbol of Prince of Wales A Curator’s Work Is Never Done

Not too long ago a student attending a class at NCTC dropped down to the museum to ask a question. He was from a different agency, BLM I think, and he suspected that a curator could help him. He had a very old brass buckle or button that he had found on the beach in Florida. He was wondering if I could help him identify it, tell him its age or anything about it. Wow, that is some overwhelming confidence in a complete stranger who is just a curator. After a little searching on the Web, I could tell him it was British because it had a crown with three feathers on it. It was the symbol of the Prince of Wales. Wouldn’t have had a clue without the Web. Easy knowledge at our fingertips. Photo Credit: FRY1989/Ceative Commons

Murie Cabin in a Car

  model cabin with cutout roof

One of our most beloved objects is a scale model of Olaus and Mardie Murie’s cabin, which has been on display at NCTC for years. It is a beautiful hand-made model that is about 4 foot by 3 foot, and it was made by volunteers of the Murie Foundation. It is an exact replica of the house, and you can look into it from the cut-out in the roof. It includes all the furniture down to a tiny framed photograph of Mardie with John Denver sitting atop the diminutive mantle. It is almost like being in the cabin yourself. There are even intricate deer and a porcupine in the yard outside. The funny part of this story is that years ago an intern and I had to go pick it up in Moose, Wyoming, and drive it back to NCTC. The stares we got when people passed us were amusing and frequent. It is not often that you pass an SUV carrying an entire cabin in it!

Challenge Coins

   coin shaped like flying blue goose

I think that one of the coolest trends that has come down the pike is challenge coins. I have seen many of them from several Service programs, especially law enforcement. We would like to start a collection of any and all challenge coins that have to do with the Service, and eventually put them on display here at NCTC. So, if you have a coin you would like to donate to our museum, please send them to me! (Email me at jeanne_harold@fws.gov for an address.) Round, square, triangular or shaped like the blue goose flyer, we will be overjoyed to have the coin collection for future display, the more the merrier. 

Snakes on a Plane

feet of 2 people around white canvas bags

I was recently reading a Department of the Interior news release from July 1981 titled “Live Animal ‘Sting’ Reveals Massive Illicit Market in U. S. Wildlife.” It was about an 18-month investigation concluding in a sting operation involving the trafficking of thousands of snakes, turtles, lizards and migratory birds carried out by more than 175 individuals. At that time, hundreds of thousands of these animals were being taken from the wild in the United States and sold in the thriving black market and smuggled into Europe and Japan. Many of the animals moved through the Atlanta Wildlife Exchange, a wholesale reptile business in suburban Atlanta run by undercover agents. Many of the snakes and reptiles were extremely dangerous. This sting operation was conducted by about 200 federal and state wildlife conservation officers. The Service estimated back then “that at least 100,000 venomous and nonvenomous snakes are shipped secretly through the U.S. mail annually…[and] masking tape is commonly placed over the rattles of rattlesnakes so they won’t be heard.” Wow, talk about snakes on a plane. These airmail flights would be Samuel L. Jackson’s worst nightmare. The Service continues to fight wildlife trafficking at home and abroad. You go, FWS officers!

Jeanne M. Harold, 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.

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

Global Community Unites to Combat Wildlife Crime

   2 people check luggage on a conveyor belt  in an airportService wildlife inspectors examine passenger baggage with CBP officers at Los Angeles International Airport.

In May 2018, the Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) participated in a worldwide anti-wildlife trafficking effort codenamed, Operation Thunderstorm.  “Thunderstorm” follows the success of 2017’s Operation Thunderbird and is the second operation in the “Thunder” series.

These operations were organized through the auspice of the International Consortium to Combat Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) and facilitated by the INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group (WCWG), the World Customs Organization, and the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora Secretariat. 

Operation Thunderstorm had three main objectives: to interdict wildlife smuggling on every continent; dismantle transnational organized criminal syndicates; and increase international collaboration and information sharing. 

Protecting our Borders and Native Resources

USFWS wildlife inspectors work alongside of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers every day to protect our nation’s borders at major ports of entry.  Wildlife inspectors protect native wildlife in the trade from exploitation and are the nation’s first line of defense to prevent the spread of disease and the introduction of invasive and injurious species, which can have devastating impacts on native wildlife and U.S. agriculture.

   3 photos: From left: A dog and handler inspect a small plane on the tarmac; snails with evidence tags; scorpions in a dishFrom left: A  Service  K-9 team inspects a plane for injurious species in Alaska, giant Africa land snails, and dictator scorpions interdicted at the Port of New York.

During Operation Thunderstorm, USFWS and CBP performed border inspections at the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona and at the U.S.-Canada border (Alcan) in Alaska.  During the Alcan blitz, wildlife violations were discovered in 16% of the total number of vehicles that contained wildlife.  At the Port of New York, wildlife inspectors interdicted smuggled, live, venomous scorpions and injurious giant African land snails before entering the U.S. where they could have endangered humans and adversely affected our country’s agriculture, and therefore, its economy.  Across the U.S., thousands of reptile skins, live protected turtles, American ginseng, and nearly 1,800 sea turtle shells were stopped by law enforcement before being unlawfully exported.

Combatting Transnational Organized Crime                       

Hawksbill sea turtles are critically endangered and illegal in the international trade; therefore, sea turtle products are highly valuable on the black market.  They are native to the U.S, but also have habitats around the world.  Globally, countries share a joint responsibility to ensure their survival.  One seizure was particularly significant.  Nearly 1,800 partial sea turtle carapaces falsely manifested as “plastic recycle” were interdicted.  Several of the turtle shell scutes had bullet holes through them, a stark reminder of the continued poaching of these endangered animals.  CBP seized the shipment and referred the case to the USFWS.  This seizure exemplifies U.S. law enforcement supporting each other and highlights that the U.S. is a transit point as well as a consumer in the illegal wildlife trade.  From this interdiction, USFWS launched a broader investigation in collaboration with foreign partners. 

   Seized hawksbill sea turtle shells cover the floor in rowsCritically endangered hawksbill sea turtle shells were seized.  Many of the shells had bullet holes.

International Collaboration and Solutions

USFWS special agent attachés perform critical roles in such international investigations.     

They are experienced criminal investigators with a specialty in wildlife and natural resource investigations.  Seven attaches are stationed at the following U.S. embassies and are responsible for large regional areas: Bangkok, Thailand (Southeast Asia Region); Beijing, China (Asia Region); Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (Eastern Africa Region); Gaborone, Botswana (Southern Africa Region); Libreville, Gabon (West/Central Africa Region); Lima, Peru (South America Region); and Mexico City, Mexico (Mexico, Caribbean, Central America Region).  Their mission is primarily to support wildlife investigations within the host country and region, provide training and capacity building, and advise on the leverage of U.S. assets in the host region to combat wildlife trafficking.  Attachés play a critical role to connect enforcement authorities and foster transnational investigations. 

At New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, a passenger from Guyana was caught smuggling live songbirds, which were discovered hidden inside of hair curlers and placed in personal baggage.  In addition to conservation concerns, live birds also pose a disease risk to our native birds and possibly to the U.S. poultry market.  The USFWS South America attaché is working with Guyana officials to create new protocols that will allow the immediate repatriation of the wildlife and deportation of the smuggler for prosecution within Guyana.  Immediate removal of the wildlife will support the species survival and prevent avian viruses from entering our country.

   hand holds hair curlers finches were smuggled in Live finches were smuggled into JFK to be used as songbirds.  They were discovered passenger baggage and hidden inside hair curlers.

Why this Work is Important

Wildlife and plants are valuable commodities.  In addition to interdicting illegal wildlife, the USFWS also facilitates the legal wildlife trade that is worth over $4 billion annually to the U.S. economy.  Global operations like Thunderstorm are important because strong, effective, and collaborative wildlife law enforcement is a major deterrent to wildlife poaching and smuggling.

The illegal trade decimates wildlife and plants; reduces the legal trade, makes it increasingly difficult to monitor the sustainability of wild species, propels extinction, robs local communities in developing countries from creating businesses based on their local resources, promotes transnational organized crime, and has been tied to drug and weapon trafficking.

During Operation Thunderstorm, law enforcement officers from 92 participating countries shared intelligence and data to the INTERPOL WCWG.  Weekly, officers discussed recent smuggling activities and initiated multi-national investigations. 

The number of participating countries more than doubled from last year and worldwide reporting is remarkable.  INTERPOL reported:  

  • 647,000 tons of wood and timber.
  • More than 40 tons of raw and processed ivory.
  • More than 25 tons of wild meat (including bear, elephant, crocodile, whale and zebra).
  • 27,000 reptiles (including 869 alligators/crocodiles, 9,590 turtles and 10,000 snakes).
  • Almost 4,000 birds, including pelicans, ostriches, parrots and owls.
  • 64 wild cat bodies and parts (including jaguar, leopard, lion, tiger and small wild cats).
  • 48 live monkeys.
  • The carcasses of seven bears, including two polar bears.

The U.S. reported equally impressive results.  During this one-month period, the OLE cleared 14,560 wildlife shipments that were valued at $351 million in legal trade.  In addition, OLE conducted 7,025 inspections and interdicted 276 illegal wildlife shipments.  The following is just a sample of the protected wildlife that was stopped at U.S. ports during the course of the operation:

  • 3,800 crocodilian skins including alligator, crocodile, and caiman species;
  • 1,030 live reptiles such as snakes, turtles, tortoises, lizards, and geckos;
  • 3,014 traditional medicines that contained tiger, bear, macaque, python, and tortoise;
  • 1,796 sea turtle carapaces (partial shell scutes); and
  • 400 marine mammal parts from walrus, whales, and seals.

   white bottle with red top  and orange seal“Traditional medicines” often contain products from endangered species.  The “medicine” above contains tiger bone.

The ICCWC requested the U.S. to participate in this international exercise.  The USFWS is the only U.S. agency that regularly inspects the import or export of wildlife and wildlife products for conservation and trade purposes. 

This action supports President Trump’s Executive Order 13773, “Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking,” which directs agencies to strengthen enforcement of federal law in order to thwart transnational criminal organizations and subsidiary organizations engaged in illicit activities, including wildlife trafficking.

Last Week in Nature's Good Neighbors

A marriage of opposites?
Can a biologist working on California condor recovery find happiness with a guy who searches for oil? Nadya and Luke Faith share a love story in more ways than one. By Nadya Faith, Santa Barbara Zoo

Artifacts of epochs past
After a long career with the New Mexico Dept. of Game and Fish, biologist Lief Alm is conserving legacy Rio Grande cutthroat trout at (Ted) Turner Enterprises’ Vermejo Park Ranch. By Craig Springer, Southwest Region


Nature’s Good Neighbors is a series of stories highlighting people who depend on the land as much as the land depends on them. They are entrepreneurs who manage forests, farms, ranches and fisheries. They are private landowners, land managers, tribal members, recreational guides and individuals in the energy, agriculture and timber industries. With support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which provides expertise, assistance, funding and tools to conserve and restore wildlife habitat for future generations, these modern-day stewards are working with nature to make a home for people and wildlife.

Why I Took These Shots

brown and yellow dragonfly on a budJessica Bolser captured this image of an eastern amberwing dragonfly at Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge. What she loves about this shot “is the delicate detail on the wing and the tiny hairs on the legs.”

National wildlife refuges are wonderful places for nature photography – for visitors and employees. Jessica Bolser, a wildlife biologist, uses her keen observation skills to capture amazing images at Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Iowa. She has taken hundreds, maybe thousands, of photos there in recent years.

The story Why I Took These Shots includes some of her favorites.

woman with a ponytail takes a photo in a forestWildlife biologist Jessica Bolser. Photo by Sally Jack/USFWS

Why I Took These Shots 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 page on Wednesdays. The stories are archived here.

Last Week in Nature’s Good Neighbors

couple in front of wooden rail fence in front of lush yard Bob and Judy Spiering on their farm in Greensboro, Maryland. Photo by Steve Droter.

Bringing back the 'prince of game birds

With income from his automotive garage, Bob Spiering is bringing bobwhite quail and other wildlife back to his Maryland farm. By Meagan Racey, Northeast Region

What the eyes don’t see the heart doesn’t feel

Jewell Reed’s way of life reflects what she believes is important—her family, her values, the ranching life and the preservation of her home in Wyoming’s Thunder Basin. By Jennifer Strickland, Mountain-Prairie Region

Nature’s Good Neighbors is a series of stories highlighting people who depend on the land as much as the land depends on them. They are entrepreneurs who manage forests, farms, ranches and fisheries. They are private landowners, land managers, tribal members, recreational guides and individuals in the energy, agriculture and timber industries. With support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which provides expertise, assistance, funding and tools to conserve and restore wildlife habitat for future generations, these modern-day stewards are working with nature to make a home for people and wildlife.

Turning Wrongs into a Right: The Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program

  a large group of kayackers and canoeists stand in the sun on a grassy shore next to a river A group of paddlers sponsored by the Calhoun Conservation District gather at Ceresco Green along the Kalamazoo River. Photo by Calhoun Conservation District

Spills and releases of hazardous substances in the United States threaten millions of miles of coastline, river systems, lakes and the land itself with serious, and potentially permanent, ecological damage. They also can keep people from enjoying healthy public rivers and lands that are teeming with wildlife and safe for recreation.

When fish, wildlife, and other natural resources are harmed by such spills and releases our Environmental Response and Restoration specialists work with other response agencies to minimize the damage. In addition, we research and document the impacts of the spill or release, which can be used to pursue a Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) claim. The claim helps us recover damages from those responsible, and then work with them to plan and carry out restoration activities to offset the injuries.

 2 people, one with binoculars look out at  the ocean

The primary benefit of the NRDAR Program is to achieve restoration of injured resources for the benefit of the American people. At left, the Exxon Valdez Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program recently protected 1058 acres of coastal habitat near Kodiak, Alaska. Termination Point’s coastal shoreline, uplands, and freshwater wetlands provides habitat for sea otters and several species of seabirds, provides subsistence harvest opportunities for local Alaskans, protects three sites culturally valuable to Alaska Natives, and provides recreational hiking and wildlife watching to the public. Photo courtesy of Great Land Trust.

We just released our NRDAR Accomplishments Report for the last federal fiscal year (October 1, 2016 – September 30, 2017), and you can see we are doing just that! FWS used more than $13.5 million in funds recovered from responsible parties to implement restoration projects for the benefit of the American people:

  •  Nearly 400 river miles and 3,500 acres were made available for recreational opportunities,
  • More than 6,000 acres and 200 streams/shorelines were enhanced/restored,
  • More than 20,000 acres were newly managed and more than 4,500 acres were protected through fee title or conservation easement, and
  • A total of 85 restoration projects were completed:
    • 26 projects benefited threatened or endangered species,
    • 56 projects benefited migratory birds,
    • 30 projects benefited fishes and
    • 1 project benefited marine mammals.

Throughout the report, you can find case studies and examples of this collaborative program from around the country, so be sure to see what type of exemplary projects are happening in your area.

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