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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Congrats to Isaac Schreiber, Winner of Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest

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U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a talented young artist from Duffield, Va., took top honors at the National Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest. A pair of trumpeter swans painted by 12-year-old Isaac Schreiber will grace the 2017-2018 Junior Duck Stamp, which raises funds to educate and engage our nation’s youth in wildlife and wetlands conservation, and outdoor recreation.

PHOTO GALLERY: All the entries

Daniel Billings, 16, of Gallatin, Mo., took second place with an oil painting depicting a wood duck. 

Third place went to Rene Christensen, 17, of Nekoosa, Wis., for her graphite rendition of a pair of Canada geese. 

The 2017 Federal Junior Duck Stamp Conservation Message Contest winner was 14-year-old Catherine Wang from Johns Creek, Ga., who wrote: “Conservation is the promise that the children of tomorrow will witness the beauty of today.” The conservation message expresses the spirit of what students have learned through classroom discussions, research and planning for their Junior Duck Stamp Contest entries.

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Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest Underway

   Jr. Duck StampThe 2016-2017 Junior Duck Stamp features a pair of Ross's geese by Stacy Shen, 16, of Fremont, California.

Young artists are gathering today at Charleston Music Hall in South Carolina for the 2017 National Junior Duck Stamp Art Contest.

Young people whose artwork won "best of show" awards in contests all over the country are competing to have their work appear on the 25th Junior Duck Stamp, which we produce annually. This $5 stamp has become a much sought after collector's item. One hundred percent of the revenue from the sale of Junior Duck stamps goes to support recognition and environmental education activities for students who participate in the program.

Good luck to all the contestants!

Clamping Down on Illegal Grass Carp Sales in Indiana

   grass carp

Nonnative grass carp can be an effective alternative to chemical treatments in controlling aquatic vegetation, but they can harm our native fishery. Indiana allows people to use sterile grass carp as a biological control method in man-made ponds, and the state has in place regulations that keep these fish out of rivers and streams and away from Indiana’s native fishery.

Earlier this year, conservation officers within the investigation section of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources worked closely with special agents within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement to investigate and quickly close a case of a company trying to bypass those regulations.

Read More: Fighting Asian Carp is a Collaborative Effort

'Friends' Better Their Communities

   Friends of Alaska RefugesRefuge Friends groups, like the Friends of Alaska Refuges, do it all, from helping pull weeds to assisting with environmental education programs. Photo by USFWS 

Some conservation-minded citizens find their calling through the nonprofit Friends organizations that are the helping hands of national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries. Some 200 Friends organizations work on behalf of national wildlife refuges. Thirty-three other groups work hand-in-hand with national fish hatcheries. As they work on behalf of conservation, they are improving your community, one project at a time.

   Chesnut CreekIn southwest Kentucky, Friends of Clarks River took quick action when they learned that Chestnut Creek was impaired. Photo by Ray Stainfield 

When the Friends of Clarks River learned in 2010 that Chestnut Creek -- which flows into the refuge’s namesake river -- was impaired, they took action. The group obtained Environmental Protection Agency grants to identify the threats – and the solutions. Now, the Marshall County Sanitation Department is repairing failing sanitary sewer facilities, and local homeowners can find help to replace their failing septic systems.

   Friends of Heinz Refuge The Friends of Heinz Refuge is helping to revitalize southwest Philadelphia and involving young people in the process. Photo by USFWS 

With 40,000 vacant lots in the city of Philadelphia, conservation stewardship can seem more a dream than a reality. The Friends of Heinz Refuge in Pennsylvania is changing that, first by identifying at least six lots to revitalize. The Friends also worked with Philadelphia University architectural students to design the Cecil Street Garden. 

   kids at Tamarac Discovery Center Environmental education takes many forms, sometimes incorporating music to celebrate nature. Photo by Denise Warweg

Through activities ranging from family workshops on flora and fauna to summer explorations for kids, Tamarac Discovery Center – built with the fundraising acumen of the Friends of Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge – is the hub for connecting its Minnesota community with natural resources and Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. Among other advances, the Friends have helped keep aquatic invasive species out of local waters by teaching anglers proper boat cleaning techniques. “The Friends of Tamarac are building a legacy of conservation stewards,” says Tamarac Refuge manager Neil Powers.

   Trinity River boardwalkA trails network has welcomed the city of Liberty into Trinity River Refuge. Photo by USFWS 

The city of Liberty in east Texas has moved closer to Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge — thanks to the still-expanding “From Crosswalks to Boardwalks” hiking and biking trail complex. The Friends of Trinity River Refuge were at the very heart of the trails’ development, even helping to build a 500-foot boardwalk.  

   Pinckey islandThe Friends of the Savannah Coastal Wildlife Refuges bought an electric shuttle for Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina, giving people — regardless of physical abilities — the chance to see wildlife. Photo by Eric Horan 

The impact of Friends’ work goes way beyond the borders of federal lands and waters. Got a yen to help? Find a Friends group near you.

Friends Are Bettering Their Communities 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. A new photo essay is posted on the Refuge System home page each Wednesday. The essays are archived here.

National Elk Refuge Reaching Out to Latino Community

   wagon rideA wagon ride to remember. Photo by USFWS

With 4 million visitors to the area each year, National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming, works to give the visiting public experiences to remember. With winter sleigh rides, May’s antler auction and breathtaking views year-round, there is always something to help people connect with nature.  

As a prominent member of the community, the refuge also looks for opportunities to connect residents to nature, and one group in particular offers the potential for a lot of new connections to nature: Jackson’s large and growing Latino population.

“Historically, local Latino youth and their families have visited the neighboring federal lands at much lower rates than other populations,” says the refuge’s Lori Iverson.

Working to combat that, the refuge recently took part in Grand Teton National Park’s Pura Vida program, a program designed to educate and engage the Latino community in Jackson. One part of the program encouraged Latino students to visit their public lands during their spring break.

“Our hope was to spark discussions about the importance of stewardship and instill a desire to seek out more experiences in the outdoors,” Iverson says.

 meeting the horses  Meeting the horses. Photo by USFWS

Eight students followed through on the refuge visit, and despite some nasty weather, they enjoyed a wagon ride to get up close with the elk and a driving tour of the refuge. They also heard about the refuge’s purpose and the mission of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

At the end of Pura Vida week, the students led their families on a Friday evening tour of the refuge, park and Bridger-Teton National Forest. Nearly 40 people came on the tour, with the Pura Vida students acting as naturalists/tour guides for their families, sharing the knowledge they learned.

“By participating in Grand Teton National Park's Pura Vida program,” Iverson says, “the National Elk Refuge staff had the opportunity to dissolve any barriers, introduce the students to the refuge and what it has to offer, and welcome the participants to return with their families to share their experience.”

Sounds like they succeeded.  

-- Matt Trott, External Affairs

Conservation Goes to the Dogs, and It's Great

   Momo and Ukkie (with Federal Wildlife Canine Officer Joshua Hindman)Momo and Ukkie (with Federal Wildlife Canine Officer Joshua Hindman).

Brent Lawrence in our Pacific Region tells us about two top-notch tail-waggers out there – Momo and Ukkie. They’re both assigned to help the Service’s law enforcement officers sniff out illegal activities.

Workin' like a dog

Taking Out the Trash

Marine Debris on Kure AtollEmployees for the State of Hawaii collect marine debris. Photo by Andy Sullivanhaskins/Hawaii Department of Lands and Natural Resources

We worked with partners recently to remove more than 100,000 pounds (that’s 50 tons!) of marine debris that had been collected over the last six years from the reefs and beaches of Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary and Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial in the Pacific. The debris, a potentially lethal entanglement and ingestion hazard for wildlife, was transported to Honolulu and will be incinerated to produce electricity.

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More Photos and Videos

Bats: ‘The Coolest Mammals on Earth’

Ann FroschauerAs part of her work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ann Froschauer sometimes gets to explore bat caves up close and personally.

We know bats may seem scary sometimes, but they are cool. And they are important to all of us. So, to help celebrate National Bat Appreciation Day this Monday, April 17, we’ve asked our U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service colleague Ann Froschauer a few questions about bats. See her answers in this week’s story, Bats: “The Coolest Mammals on Earth.”

pallid batThis pallid bat is being examined by a researcher. Pallid bats are found in dry areas across the western United States, including at Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona. Photo by Ann Froschauer/USFWS  

Froschauer loves bats. She got interested in them in high school and has been studying them professionally for more than 10 years. “I think getting a chance to see a bat in real life helps a lot of people get over their fears,” she says.

“I like all kinds of bats,” Froschauer says, “but one of my favorites is the pallid bat – they have beautiful white fur and huge ears, which they use to listen for the footsteps of prey like scorpions and centipedes.”

mariana fruit batThis young Mariana fruit bat looks at the world upside down. These bats are found at Guam National Wildlife Refuge and on other islands in the Pacific Ocean. Photo by Anne Brooke/USFWS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with many organizations and people to protect bats and learn more about them. Staff members at many of our national wildlife refuges study bats and work to protect their habitat. Would you like to help out? Check out 10 Ways to Be a Friend to Bats.

hibernating batsMore than 1 million gray bats hibernate each winter at Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama. Photo by Jennifer Pinkley/USFWS volunteer

Bats: “The Coolest Mammals on Earth” 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. A new photo essay is posted on the Refuge System home page each Wednesday. The essays are archived here.

For Winter Adventures Off the Beaten Path, Visitor Center is Blazing a Trail

 Group with background of Northern Lights  Winter visitors enjoy the northern lights in Wiseman, a town near Coldfoot, Alaska. Photo by Jack Reakoff

Kristen Reakoff, Interpretive Park Ranger at Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, is no stranger to being off the beaten path. Kanuti Refuge straddles the Arctic Circle. But they do get visitors, and now have a new way to share information with them.

Blazing trails — that’s something we Alaskans and visitors to Alaska know a lot about. We love to traverse far and wide through wilderness, skiing, mushing or hiking. Why? Out there in the quiet and solitude of nature — we feel like we are the first ones to have explored an area — and we actually might be. The expression “blazing trails” was first used in the late 18th century to mean marking a forest trail by making blazes, or notches, in bark. Today, the term refers to breaking new ground or doing something with a pioneering spirit. It’s that pioneering spirit that is both fed by and helps protect Alaska’s unique wilderness and places like Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge.

But blazing trails isn’t just about being out in the wilderness — it’s about finding creative ways to connect people to the wonderful wild places of Kanuti Refuge. In the past few years, Kanuti Refuge staff, along with partners, blazed a special trail — providing winter-time visitor services in remote Coldfoot, Alaska.

Coldfoot Field Station   Coldfoot Field Station covered in snow. Photo by USFWS

Two years ago, as winter visitation was sharply increasing in the Brooks Range — an area near to our Coldfoot Field Station — our team realized the growing public need for winter visitor services. We could provide services such as information and interpretation about the nearby public lands (Kanuti, Yukon Flats and Arctic National Wildlife Refuges, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, and the Bureau of Land Management’s Dalton Highway Corridor).

We identified and carved out an underused area in the Kanuti Coldfoot Field Office, no bigger than a tiny Alaskan dry cabin (for us non-Alaskans, think an episode of Tiny House Hunters), and transformed it into a vibrant one-stop spot that provides winter visitor services—for the first time ever. Though the center is small, the vision behind it isn’t. Kanuti staff, partners and volunteers created the new center almost exclusively by recycling resources, using them in fresh ways to provide most of the visitor services any new visitor center would —just without the cost! Now in the second winter of being open to the public, our little center continues to see increasing visitation, and a growing need for additional public services.

Winter adventurers    Winter adventurers express their appreciation for the winter visitor center in Coldfoot, Alaska. Photo by USFWS

The winter visitor center will soon close as springtime takes hold, and we prepare to open the nearby Arctic Interagency Visitor Center, which is open from late May to early September. Before we open again next winter, we will complete improvements that will increase heating and electrical efficiency and provide visitors with a little more room. Until then, Kanuti Refuge staff will keep “blazing trails” for the conservation of this special Refuge. We look forward to seeing visitors next year at the winter visitor center and helping them blaze trails of their own.

Innovative Program Builds Partnerships, Provides Wildlife Habitat

   Dustin Taylor, Joshua Du Bose and border collieDustin Taylor, a pest management specialist from the Klamath Basin Refuge Complex, and Joshua Du Bose, manager of Horsley Farms, visit a section of wetland near Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Byrhonda Lyons/USFWS

After years of building trust and forming relationships with each other, we are working together with local farmers to improve wildlife habitat near the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge in California and Lower Klamath Refuge on the California/Oregon border. Both refuges are located along the Pacific Flyway, and during spring and fall, the wetlands serve as resting stops for migrating birds and leftover grain from nearby farmers serves as the birds’ food.

Walking Wetlands

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