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Louella Cable, First Female Scientist Hired by FWS Predecessor

 B&W PORTRAIT OF WOMAN  A Google search for “Louella Cable” produces some enthrallingly esoteric results, among the first, a publication available through Amazon: “Plankton (Fishery leaflet) Unknown Binding – 1966”; or a 1967 prototype for digital fish-measuring calipers; or, perhaps, the fish named in her honor – “Cable’s goby” – in 1933. 

It’s a somehow fitting tribute to Dr. Cable who was, above all, a devoted aquatic biologist -- and the first female scientist hired by the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, the predecessor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in 1927. 

“Louella was the consummate scientist,” recalls Thomas Todd, a now retired U.S. Geological Survey fisheries expert who began his life’s work on Great Lakes whitefishes with Dr. Cable after she herself had retired from federal service in 1970. “When I was a young fisheries biologist, she was always generous to offer her ear and her expertise, which made a huge impression on me. The work we did together continued to provide fruitful research throughout my career, and we became friends for the rest of her life.” 

Born and raised in South Dakota, Louella Cable attended the University of South Dakota, where she became the school’s first graduate student to study fisheries, earning a master's degree for her work on the foods of catfish. 

  tan fish on water's bottom Cable's goby was named for Cable. Photo: (c) Julien Renoult, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC)

A superb scientific illustrator, Cable spent her first year with the government sketching fish species at the federal biological laboratory at Beaufort, North Carolina. (She would later illustrate the goby species that was subsequently named for her.) At the lab, she spent five years studying commercial fisheries with Dr. Samuel Hildebrand, a pioneer in the study of systematic ichthyology with whom she published several important articles. 

Indeed, Hildebrand and Cable were at the forefront of early fish identification. According to records, in 1929, “24 local fish species had been described ‘more or less completely’ through a series of drawings illustrating their stages of development. At the time, culture methods had not been developed to enable keeping fish eggs or early larval forms in aquaria through their development – so most of these early series were drawn from individual specimens caught from the wild at various times and at different stages of development.” 

In the summers of 1929 and 1930, Dr. Cable successfully reared several fish through their larval stages in the lab, a ground-breaking achievement for the study of early life history of fishes.  During this period, she helped identify previously unknown larval stages of many species, including the spot, croaker, gray trout, menhaden and pigfish. 

In 1937, Dr. Cable joined the newly organized Atlantic Coast Shad Investigation Team in Charleston, South Carolina, where she worked for several years on various aspects of the ecology and early life history of the American shad. 

 fish in someone's handsWe are working to re-establish cisco to the lower Great Lakes to help improve connections in the food web. Cisco were once a major prey item for lake trout. Photo by USFWS

In 1950, a decade after the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries became the Fish and Wildlife Service, she transferred to the Great Lakes Fishery Investigation Center, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to study ciscoes of the Great Lakes. Here, in 1959, she earned a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, studying the scales and growth of marked lake trout in Lake Michigan.

As with so much of her work, Dr. Cable’s research in Michigan had profound and lasting impacts, according to Charles Bronte, director of the Service’s Great Lakes Fish Tagging and Recovery Lab. “As a young Service biologist tasked with working on lake trout restoration, her publication (published the year I was born) on the validity of aging these fish with scales was one of the first papers I read. The level of detail and scholarship she devoted to such a seemingly mundane topic was a model for me to strive for.”  

Dr. Cable went on to write and illustrate several well-known publications on a range of ichthyology subjects throughout the remainder of her government career. And even after retiring from the Fish and Wildlife Service in 1970 at the age of 70, she remained active in her research and art, even mentoring proteges like Mr. Todd, the young biologist with whom she worked on issues pertaining to Great Lakes whitefishes. When she died in 1986, an annual scholarship fund was established in her name at her alma mater, the University of South Dakota, for promising undergraduate biology students.  


-Ben Ikenson/USFWS


A more detailed profile of Dr. Cable and her work will appear in a forthcoming U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service book (as yet untitled) that documents the history of fisheries work by the federal agency on the occasion of its 150th anniversary in 2021.


Photo of Cable, credit: University of South Dakota Archives

Service Partners with Urban American Outdoors to Better Reach Youth

 2   men with big group of kids outdoors  Urban American Outdoors co-founder Wayne Hubbard with Roderick May, the hatchery manager at Neosho National Fish Hatchery, and young people at a fishing derby. Photo by Urban American Outdoors

For the past several years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has helped support, coordinate and promote Urban Kids Fishing Derbies in cities across the country, with Urban American Outdoors. These fishing derbies get kids fishing and thinking about conservation in some of the major cities across the country.  

We recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Urban American Outdoors to formalize our partnership and provide more opportunities to reach diverse urban youth.

“Teaching kids how to fish and talking with them about conservation is good for kids and everyone else,” says Roderick May, the hatchery manager at Neosho National Fish Hatchery in Neosho, Missouri, “as today’s kids are the conservationists of tomorrow.” 

We can’t wait to begin our closer collaboration with Urban American Outdoors founders Candice Price and Wayne Hubbard.

Conserving America’s Birds by Keeping Our Eyes in the Sky

pilot over riverbank

Zinging along at 100 mph, 150 feet above the boreal forests of Canada in a floatplane, the ponds go by in quick succession. A glance by the pilot-biologist to the horizon ahead reveals an infinite number of wetlands. Below the plane, a black bear is patrolling the shoreline while a pair of ducks skitters across the water.

“Buffleheads, pair,” the pilot-biologist calls into the microphone.  Ten seconds later two pairs of black scoters bob on a pond. By day’s end, the pilot-biologist and passenger - called an observer - will have flown more than 500 miles at tree-top altitude and tallied hundreds to thousands of ducks.

RELATED: How Do They Do That?

It is all part of what is believed to be the largest and longest running annual wildlife survey in the world: the Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey, also known as the May Survey.

plane sitting on lake

Each spring, more than a dozen pilot-biologists and observers fan out across the North American waterfowl breeding grounds, an area that extends from the Canadian Maritimes west to the Pacific Ocean, and from the U.S. Midwest north to the Arctic. In all, they will fly more than 80,000 miles of transects, counting waterfowl and assessing wetland conditions in an effort to determine the status of waterfowl populations and the habitats that support them. 

Aviation is the only tool in this natural resource conservation program that permits such a large-scale survey to be completed accurately, efficiently and safely.

Manned flight has been around for just over 100 years, and for almost that entire time aviation has played a role in wildlife conservation. Around the time Orville and Wilbur Wright took flight over the sand dunes of Kill Devil Hills, NC, factors such as market hunting and habitat loss were taking a huge toll on North America’s migratory birds. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 established the first legal protections for migratory birds. To establish regulations that afforded ample hunting opportunity without being detrimental to waterfowl populations, biologists had the challenge of assessing bird populations.

RELATED: Follow Along with Pilot Blogs

Frederick C. Lincoln, a biologist with the Bureau of Biological Survey (the forerunner of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service), envisioned the use of airplanes for conducting waterfowl surveys.  In 1931, he persuaded the Army to take him and a photographer on a test flight over waterfowl wintering on the Potomac River near Washington, DC. The results were promising, and over the next two decades Fish & Wildlife Service biologists - many of whom were former military pilots - helped develop techniques to survey waterfowl using World War II surplus aircraft. 

N754 on river bank An early and famous survey plane.

The first coordinated aerial breeding population survey was the May Survey in 1955. Additional aerial surveys were established, such as the Midwinter Waterfowl Survey, which was designed to determine the wintering distribution and abundance of waterfowl in the lower 48 states.

May 2019. Parkland wetland habitat

The use of aviation as a conservation tool continued to grow over the decades. Concurrent with the aerial breeding and wintering waterfowl surveys, America’s  National Wildlife Refuge System was expanding. Refuge managers interested in determining how many birds and of what kinds were using the habitats and when, kept pilot-biologists and their planes busy surveying at various times throughout the year.


N769 and Crew Mark Koneff and Heidi Hanlon May 2018

Just as surveys continued to be added and modified, aviation technology was evolving. Early airplanes ranged from hulking metal beasts supporting piston-pounding radial engines to two-seat planes made from metal tubes and covered in cotton fabric. Float-equipped airplanes were soon added to the fleet, enabling pilot-biologists to survey farther into remote areas of North America. By the early 2000s, more reliable turbine-powered airplanes became standard.

Supporting aviation equipment changed, too. Pilot-biologists who used to plot courses with pencil and paper and stopwatches now use global-positioning systems to locate survey lines or an airport shrouded in weather. Onboard computer systems replaced clipboards for recording data. Cumbersome box cameras like those used by Lincoln have been supplanted by digital sensors that record visible, near infrared or thermal images. Finally, unmanned aerial systems are rapidly developing into a cost-efficient and effective tool for natural resources management, especially for local-area missions. All these advances have increased the functionality of aviation as a wildlife conservation tool.

Aerial waterfowl surveys were the first efforts that used airplanes, and over 75 years later they still provide key support for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s mission. These surveys provide information on migratory bird population abundance, distribution, and trends, which are important to harvest and population management. Some of our surveys cover vast regions and long time periods, while others focus on single species in small geographic areas. All of these surveys contribute to our understanding of migratory bird populations, and help us make informed decisions to manage them wisely for future generations.

Ensuring the End of the “Eel-Iicit” Trade: Operation Showcases FWS’ International Coordination

   European eel Mature European eel. Photo by Roland Lupoli/CC BY-NC 4.0, sourced at iNaturalist

The theme of this year’s World Wildlife Day, celebrated March 3, was “Sustaining all Life on Earth.” With nearly a quarter of the Earth’s species facing the risk of going extinct in the coming decades, international coordination is increasingly important to ensure the survival of species – in particular where the species’ range is transnational or it is threatened by unsustainable demand from more than one country. The European eel (Anguilla anguilla) is one such species. 

The European eel is widely distributed and depending on its life-cycle stage can be found in aquatic ecosystems in Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, as well as all the way to the Caribbean where it starts and ends its life cycle. As a catadromous fish – meaning it lives in freshwater and enters salt water to spawn – European eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic Ocean. The eggs and larvae are carried over one to three years by the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Current toward the European and North African coasts. Young eels, known as “glass eels,” eventually mature in freshwater habitats from silver eels to mature eels. The mature eels journey back to the Sargasso Sea where they spawn and die. This lengthy life cycle (~25 years) and nearly 4,000-mile journey leaves European eels susceptible to several threats including habitat loss and modification, migration barriers, pollution, parasitism, fluctuating oceanic conditions and exploitation for human consumption.

   graphic of eel's life cycleThe life cycle of American and European eels are fascinating. After spawning in the Sargasso Sea, they migrate in the larval stage to freshwater habitats on the Eastern Seaboard (American) and the European and North African coasts (European). In coastal waters and into the freshwater ecosystems, they develop into glass eels and over time into adults before returning to the open ocean to spawn. Illustration by Eric S. Taylor, WHOI Graphic Services, with stage sketches by Salvor Gissurardottir

Although it is protected by law, demand for European eel consumption remains high in Europe and Asia. Protecting this species requires strong collaboration between targeted international law enforcement efforts.

In 2007, at the 14th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Parties agreed to include the European eel in CITES Appendix II, to help ensure that international trade is legal and sustainable.  And in March 2009, the listing came into force.  This action by CITES Parties was in recognition that populations of the European eel had decreased significantly – approximately 90 percent over three decades.  Subsequently, the European Union adopted the Eel Regulation (EC No. 1100/2007) and started enforcing a zero export quota to further ensure protection and sustainable use of the species.

Caught and traded mostly for human consumption, adult eels are targeted for their meat while young glass eels are collected to be grown to marketable size in aquaculture farms. The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (EUROPOL) estimates that about 100 tons of baby eels are trafficked abroad each year. Trafficking involves a myriad of crimes (often transnational crime) including environmental crime, smuggling, document fraud, tax evasion and money laundering. To combat these crimes, international coordination between CITES Parties and law enforcement in different countries is necessary.
In April of 2019, the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and 14 member states of the European Union participated in a second iteration of the Wildlife Crime Working Group Intersessional Activity to combat illegal trade in the European eel, named Operation 'Eel-Licit' Trade. During the operational period, imports of frozen eel meat from China were inspected and genetically sampled to determine species and compliance with CITES. During the course of the operation, Canada conducted a market survey and, despite no legal nexus for importation into Canada, determined nearly 50 percent of the eel meat in Canadian markets to be European eel. Australia also determined six shipments to contain illegal European eel. In the United States, several imports with illegal, unreported European eel were discovered upon genetic analysis and many were further determined to be contaminated with the prohibited substance, “malachite green."


4 people hold something and look at camera   From left: USFWS Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the North Atlantic-Appalachian Interior Region, Jeff Odom; CITES Secretary General, Ivonne Higuero; USFWS Division of Management Authority Chief, Pamela Scruggs; and USFWS Office of Law Enforcement Deputy Assistant Director, Luis Santiago hold broiled eel. Photo by Amy Snyder/USFWS

During the course of the operation, the CITES Secretariat General (SG), Ivonne Higuero, visited the Port of Newark, New Jersey and participated in inspections with representatives from the Service’s Office of Law Enforcement and International Affairs program. During her visit, SG Higuero was briefed on the issue of illegal trade in Anguilla species and observed the seizure of a large consignment of illegal eel meat, held at a perishable freezer storage facility. Across the United States, authorities interdicted several shipments containing illegal and undeclared European eel. Authorities also interdicted shipments which contained covertly marked, illegal product from a container that was refused entry  during an August 2018 operation, and smuggled back into the U.S. utilizing different company names, addresses and container numbers.

2 photos of FWS inspectors going through stuff   Operation “Eel-Icit” Trade investigation at the Port of Newark Photos by Pamela Scruggs/USFWS

The operation proved successful in interdicting significant illegal trade in CITES-listed species and in coordinating international cooperation to combat the illegal trade, including with China. As a direct result of the operations, at least one investigation has been initiated by Chinese authorities and one container of refused and re-exported eel meat was seized in Hong Kong. In addition to the seizure of nearly 600,000 CITES specimens (filets), the Service has initiated two felony smuggling investigations in collaboration with Chinese authorities.

2 photos of FWS inspectors going through stuff   Operation “Eel-Icit” Trade investigation at the Port of Newark Photos by Pamela Scruggs/USFWS

“Operation Eel-Licit Trade highlights what a coordinated global law enforcement action may achieve,” said the Office of Law Enforcement, Deputy Assistant Director, Luis Santiago.  “Working collaboratively with our counterparts around the world, we were able to remove illegal eel shipments from the marketplace, some of which were treated with a compound known to be toxic to humans.”

“Being part of this investigation and participating in the sampling of eel shipments was an eye-opening and inspiring experience,” said Pamela Scruggs, who implements CITES as Chief of the Division of Management Authority within the Service’s International Affairs program. “Knowing that this was a small part of a successful, coordinated effort across numerous countries gives me hope that we can collaborate at the scale needed to prevent the extinction of species like the European eel.”

This is just one of many examples of success in collaborating to combat wildlife trafficking and provides some hope for conserving and protecting endangered species. This World Wildlife Day, we celebrate our responsibility of protecting the Earth’s wildlife while acknowledging that there is more work to do. Together, we will continue harnessing our expertise in science, management and law enforcement while coordinating with other countries to sustain all life on Earth.

By Jenell Walsh-Thomas, PhD, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow, International Affairs, and Bryan Landry, Office of Law Enforcement

Do One Thing to Sustain Life

World Wildlife Day logo

Celebrated yearly on March 3, the date the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was signed in 1973, World Wildlife Day has been set aside by the United Nations to raise awareness of the importance of conserving wild plants and animals. More importantly, World Wildlife Day is a call to action for everyone to do at least one thing every day to help conserve wildlife.

The theme of World Wildlife Day 2020 is “Sustaining all life on earth,” not just us humans or the myriad of animal- and plant-based products we use. As all the components of the world’s biodiversity are interconnected, each of us must get involved in helping sustain all animals and plants, even those that are geographically far away and unfamiliar to us.

 World Wildlife Day poster

Everyone is impacted by how we sustain life on earth, starting with those closest to and most dependent on nature. While it may not be immediately apparent, particularly in urban areas where most of us live, the livelihoods of billions of people throughout the world depend directly on how they sustain animal and plant life. And since all of us need clean air, water, food, clothes, shelter, medicine, energy and more, all of us depend indirectly on how animal and plant life is sustained. It is in all of our best interests to get involved

How can you get involved? To learn more, you can visit the World Wildlife Day website where you will find a variety of outreach materials, including posters, a social media kit and a video. The social media kit includes information about the value of wildlife, threats faced by wildlife and the importance of sustainability.

You can also learn more at our website. Within the Service, the International Affairs Program and the Office of Law Enforcement implement and enforce CITES in the United States.

To gain an increased appreciation for wildlife, you can visit a National Wildlife Refuge near you.

  Tiger Stamp

With increased awareness often comes increased responsibility to take action. The World Wildlife Day website includes suggestions of things all of us can do. If all of us do one positive thing, we will help the planet and all animal and plant life on it.

To consume responsibly, seek to buy sustainably sourced products. In sharing knowledge, encourage others not to buy products that harm threatened or endangered species. After visiting a nearby refuge, think about volunteering or joining a Friends Group. Consider using the Save the Vanishing Species Stamps sold by the U.S. Postal Service. Instead of paying 50 cents for a stamp, you pay 65 cents and the additional 15 cents goes to help endangered animals around the world. Through the purchases of the stamps, Americans have contributed $5.7 million since 2011 to support worldwide conservation.

 vulture on rocky groundA hooded vulture in Zambia's Kafue National Park. Photo by Wynand Uys/Creative Commons | Video Showcases Threat Wildlife Trafficking Poses to Vultures 

The purpose of World Wildlife Day is to increase both awareness and action. Any and every thing each of us does can make a difference. If everyone does something, the sum total of all our actions will help sustain life on earth, including our lives and those of our children and grandchildren. Thanks for doing your one thing today and every day to enjoy, celebrate and sustain all life!

By Edward Stoker, External Affairs

It’s a First: Ocelot Crosses Under the Road

black and white photo of ocelot entering underpass

On January 25, a remote camera captured the first-ever ocelot using an ocelot underpass in the United States, a tribute to the long-term planning, hard work and scientific research of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) in the name of ocelot roadway safety. 

TXDOT installed the underpass the ocelot used, along FM106, a road that runs through and adjacent to Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, home to one of only two populations of ocelots in the United States.

OM331, a 5-year-old male ocelot, crossed beneath the FM106 roadway, perhaps starting the dispersal process or maybe just exploring his range’s boundaries. Photographed approaching the same underpass on January 17, he took more than a week to actually use the underpass to travel to the other side of the road -- without ever needing to cross the road surface! Given the high risk of vehicle-collisions to ocelots that travel onto roadways, the use of underpasses and other crossing structures to keep ocelots off of roadways is crucial to reducing ocelot mortalities caused by vehicles and supporting ocelot conservation in South Texas.

In 2013, the two agencies came together to develop plans to build eight underpasses on FM 106 during a roadway rehabilitation project. Construction started in November of 2015 and underpasses were completed mid-summer 2019. These underpasses have been monitored using remote cameras during the project by USFWS and TXDOT.  Many  South Texas species -- alligators, armadillos, bobcats, coyotes, javelina, long-tailed weasels, opossums, rabbits, raccoons, skunks and tortoises to name a few -- have made great use of the underpasses.

TXDOT and USFWS look forward to continuing to improve the safety of motorists and wildlife by keeping wildlife safely off roads.

Save Vanishing Species Stamps are Back


After a hiatus, the Save Vanishing Species Stamp is now on sale again online and at post offices. Purchases of the stamp help support conservation projects for endangered elephants, rhinos, tigers, great apes and sea turtles. To date, 99 projects in 35 countries have been funded to help protect these beloved, yet highly threatened species. More than 50 million "Tiger Stamps" have been sold to date, raising $5,740,478 million for the MultiNational Species Funds FWS administers.

Learn More

Volunteer Honored for 35,000 Hours of Service

 man in snow with trashbag, wearing camo helmet  Carl Zenger cleans a wood duck box at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS

Refuge volunteer Carl Zenger, 81, was recently honored by Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama, NY for devoting a record 35,000 volunteer hours to the refuge over the past 23 years. Thomas Roster, manager of the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge Complex, praised Zenger for his remarkable achievement. “For someone to provide this incredible number of hours, days and years of giving is just hard to imagine!” he said. “Carl's contribution goes way beyond a sum of hours; it means birds banded, habitats managed, facilities maintained, and kids educated.”

Full Story

National Wildlife Refuges with Ties to African American History

men at a water pump   The Civilian Conservation Corps at Bombay Hook Refuge. Photo courtesy of Creation of a Legacy:  The Story of the Civilian Conservation Corps at Bombay Hook – 1938 to 1942


As we celebrate the many contributions of African Americans and African American culture to the United States during National African American History Month in February, let us take a moment to recognize the National Wildlife Refuges with ties to African American history.


Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge – What is now the refuge housed one of the 143 segregated Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps from 1936-1941. Even though segregated, African American workers received the same pay and benefits as other CCC workers. White River was the only CCC camp that was a floating camp where CCC enrollees operated former Corps of Engineers’ quarterboats throughout the rivers surrounding the refuge. This was the easiest way for the CCC enrollees to maneuver over the refuge and have access to areas inaccessible by land.

   man shake older woman's hand


Lape-Read House (Salt Meadow) at Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge – The home of Esther Lape (seen, shaking hands with Assistant Secretary of the Interior Nathaniel P. Reed during the ceremony to create Salt Meadow National Wildlife Refuge) and her partner Elizabeth Read was frequented by Eleanor Roosevelt as early as the 1920s when the three first met, and the visits continued even during Roosevelt’s time as First Lady. Many of the discussions at the home centered on women’s rights and desegregation. The refuge interprets the Lape-Read House for visitors.


Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge – As with Dale Bumpers White River Refuge, Bombay Hook Refuge housed a segregated CCC camp around 1937-‘38 that housed 12 men. Enrollees focused on clearing wood swamps and building a causeway to separate Shearness and Finis pools. They also created three freshwater impounds, planted trees, and built headquarters buildings, a boathouse, a marine railway, an observation tower, and a manager’s and patrolman's houses. Bombay Hook Refuge was the only segregated unit in Delaware.


St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge — The refuge was home to a segregated CCC camp from 1933-1942. The enrollees worked on various improvements to the refuge under the auspices of the Bureau of Biological Survey (from 1940 on, the Fish and Wildlife Service). The camp was briefly closed in 1934 because of a malaria outbreak and then relocated near Woodville, Florida. Camp workers made a number of improvements at the refuge, including constructing Lighthouse Road, building earthen levees to create large water impoundments for waterfowl and clearing more than 20 miles of firebreaks.  As part of its Lighthouse interpretation, the refuge talks about CCC history. 


Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge — Evidence from Peru Plantation, which included a large portion of present-day Harris Neck Refuge, in the form of original photographs, maps and house foundations, show settlements created by original and current Gullah Geechee (freed Creole communities) descendants.

   image of a man


Holt Collier National Wildlife Refuge – The refuge commemorates African American conservation efforts. As a youth, Holt Collier became a skilled tracker and hunter. He was a local celebrity and even organized a hunting trip for President Theodore Roosevelt, who called Collier the best tracker he had ever known. It was Collier and his trackers who located and held a bear for the president, who then refused to shoot a restrained animal. The event was the birth of the Teddy’s bear story. Collier remained a figure of importance in the community.

South Carolina

Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge — A Civil War-era plantation that now serves as refuge headquarters and the visitor center, Jehossee was owned by the William Atkins family until acquired by the Service. It has extensive ruins of slave quarters, a number of which later were used by the plantation's African American tenants. At The Grove Plantation House, which was owned by John Berkeley Grimball, Adam Deas (one of his former slaves) grew rice more successfully than contracted "white" hands. Deas lived in the nearby Willtown community, an African American community that is still present.

Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge – Evidence, in the form of original maps and photographs showing houses and demarcating the extent of land for the community along with remains of house foundations and roads, documents the presence of original and current Gullah Geechee (freed Creole communities) descendants.

  photo of a woman

Virginia and North Carolina

Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge – The swamp served as a “safe” area on the Underground Railroad, meaning escaped slaves could hide and rest before continuing their trek or even stay and live in the small but thriving community that found a home deep inside the swamp. The history and archaeology of these communities is well-documented and refuge staff share the story. (At left, Harriet Tubman)


Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge — The refuge includes a portion of the Harriet Tubman National Monument. It contains wetlands and forests similar to those of the mid-19th century that provided protection to freedom seekers as they followed the rivers northward, hid in the forests and marshes, foraged for food and struggled through water to throw pursuers off their trail. Knowledge of the terrain was vital to survival while hiding and fleeing to freedom. Several escapes did occur within the refuge boundaries, and refuge visitors learn about them.


Venture Smith Homestead at Silvio Conte National Wildlife Refuge –After 30 years of slavery, Venture Smith purchased his own freedom in 1765 for 70 pounds and 3 shillings. He subsequently purchased his remaining family’s freedom and soon after settled on land that is now within the Salmon River Division of Conte Refuge. At his death, Smith owned more than 100 acres, three homes and several profitable businesses.

New Stamps Showcase Orchids Native to United States

   sheet of 10 postage stamps of orchidsPhoto by U.S. Postal Service

On February 21, the U.S. Postal Service celebrates the exotic beauty of orchids with the release of 10 new Forever stamps, each featuring a photograph of a native U.S. species, including: California lady's slipper (Cypripedium californicum)crested coralroot orchid (Hexalectris spicata)showy lady's slipper (Cypripedium reginae), lady's tresses (Spiranthes odorata)nodding pogonia (Triphora trianthophoros)greater purple fringed bog orchid (Platanthera grandiflora)yellow cowhorn orchid (Cyrtopodium polyphyllum)tuberous grasspink (Calopogon tuberosus) and Eastern prairie fringed orchid (Platanthera leucophaea). The stamps were designed by Art Director Ethel Kessler using existing photographs taken by U.S. author and nature photographer Jim Fowler. The stamp series, called "Wild Orchids," will be unveiled at a ceremony in Coral Gables, Florida.

More than 400 orchid species are native to the United States and its territories. These fascinating plants occupy specialized habitats and have special relationships with pollinators and with soil fungi. Their beautiful flower shapes and colors serve the biological purpose of attracting specific pollinators to facilitate plant reproduction. Orchids are popular as houseplants and extracts taken from orchid plants are used in health and personal care products, as well as foods, such as vanilla. International trade of all orchids is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, known as CITES. CITES is a treaty among more than 180 nations that regulates international trade in certain plant and animal species and their products to ensure that trade is not detrimental to the wild populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the lead agency implementing CITES in the United States. Most orchid species are included in CITES Appendix II and can be traded commercially, but commercial trade in a select few Appendix-I species and genera (none of which are U.S. native) is generally prohibited. The Eastern prairie fringed orchid is also protected as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (as amended).

By Dr. Patricia De Angelis, International Affairs Program

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