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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Wildlife Selfies

Bighorn sheepBighorn sheep, Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona. Photo by USFWS

In our lives, they’re everywhere: goofy close-ups, noses pressed to glass, against a scenic backdrop. Now selfies are proliferating on national wildlife refuges, too.

Animals trigger these candid snaps when they approach remote-action trail cameras. The resulting shots not only entertain; they also inform refuge science and help drive management actions.

photo essay from the National Wildlife Refuge System takes a look at some wondrous refuge trailcam shots.

“Biologists often depend on those photographs to help them understand what is happening on the ground,” says Benjamin Tuggle, the Service’s assistant director for science applications. “Trail camera images help them make better decisions about wildlife and habitat management because they provide a definitive snapshot record of the species that are out there ...” 

Refuge trailcams help demystify the behavior and movements of rare and secretive animals that refuges are trying to protect, such as endangered ocelots and threatened Canada lynx.

OcelotOcelot, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas. Photo by USFWS

“Often, we can better understand [ocelots’] reproductive status based on photos of visibly pregnant females or females with a kitten or two in tow,” says wildlife biologist Hilary Swarts at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in south Texas.

At some refuges, trailcam shots help managers monitor the size of deer populations. Data helps biologists assess fawn survival and determine when action is needed to cull growing herds.    

At Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific, trailcams revealed why protected Laysan albatross were bearing head wounds; the discovery led to a plan to deal with non-native rodents. At Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, a trailcam showed why pipes were breaking in an old supplemental drinker. Black bears were bathing in the drinker. A redesign solved the problem: http://bit.ly/2kjyhhd.

Refuge trailcams also capture scenes of high drama and serene beauty.  

Susan Morse, National Wildlife Refuge System communications

Working Together to Ensure Healthy Ginseng Populations

   American ginsengThe wholesale value of wild American ginseng roots is estimated at roughly $26.9 million per year. Photo by Eric Burkhart

Harvest of American ginseng roots, popularized in recent years by television series such as the History Channel’s Appalachian Outlaws and National Geographic’s Smoky Mountain Money, has traditionally been a trade passed down through generations, carving an important role in the culture and economy of parts of rural America. The annual harvest of wild American ginseng roots averages 65,000 pounds, and harvesters, often called “diggers,” receive $300 to $500 or more per pound for dried roots. Conservative estimates have placed the wholesale value of wild American ginseng roots at roughly $26.9 million per year.

The Service relies on partnerships with states and tribes to manage this trade, while also ensuring the long-term viability of the ginseng population and, in turn, the industry. As part of its ongoing efforts to improve coordination, the Service hosted an American Ginseng Program Coordination Meeting in July in West Virginia, bringing together state and tribal ginseng program officials to discuss pressing issues, including management and regulatory efforts, and necessary steps to improve the sustainability of wild ginseng.

Demand for ginseng is driven by consumers in Asia, where it has long been used in traditional medicine, with recent evidence showing that it may help boost the immune system, reduce risk of cancer, and improve mental performance and well-being. Because wild roots of American ginseng are sometimes shaped like a human, it is considered “good for the whole man” and revered for its medicinal value. Nearly all wild American ginseng roots are exported, primarily to Hong Kong, where they are sorted and graded for the Asian market.

American ginseng has been protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since the treaty went into effect on July 1, 1975.* Beginning in 1978, the Service approved state and tribal programs for ginseng export where harvest is conducted in a way that supports the long-term survival of the plant. Today, the ginseng export program includes 19 states and one tribe, which regulate the harvest, inspection and certification of harvested ginseng roots. CITES permits must be obtained from the Service before export.

“The meeting provided an excellent opportunity for meaningful discussion on the management, conservation and international trade of American ginseng,” says Carolyn Caldwell, CITES Technical Work Group representative for the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “With the continued collaboration of the state, tribal and federal personnel, appropriate measures are being implemented to ensure international trade in wild ginseng is sustainable.”

For nearly 40 years, the Service and the states have cooperatively managed ginseng and supported rural livelihoods. That, in and of itself, is a success. But, as new pressures emerge, such as increasing global demand for ginseng and poaching by unscru­pulous individuals out to make a quick buck, the long-term survival of ginseng and an entire industry are at risk. The July meeting provided an opportunity to strengthen coordination and ensure many more decades of enjoying all the benefits of American ginseng.


*It’s worth noting that the CITES listing only covers export of ginseng roots whole, sliced or parts. If you’re traveling overseas and want to take ginseng capsules, teas or other products with you, that’s perfectly fine.

DANIELLE KESSLER, International Affairs, Headquarters

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

Jana Myers Grew up on a Reservation and is the First Tribal Liaison for our Migratory Bird Program

Jana Myers in a blue shirt ina crowded office   January Myers at Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery in Washington. Photo by USFWS

Sometimes you are completing a circle without even knowing it, and no one more so than Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program graduate, January Myers, whose path to full-time Service employee unknowingly ended in a reconnection with her roots.

January “Jana“ Myers grew up on the Lower Brule Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. She attended a Native American high school, which she found very rewarding, with exposure to a diversity of cultures, as many of the more than 500 federally recognized tribes were represented. This appreciation of diversity would serve her well in the years to come.

Jana Myers in uniform

She had always dreamed of joining the Army and enlisted right after graduation. She served more than eight years as an ammunition specialist while deploying to Afghanistan and rising to the rank of sergeant.

After finishing her military career, she continued to work with the Department of Defense while earning both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in business. She believes in the idea of serving the public through government service, and she wanted to both return to public service and continue developing her leadership skills. She found a program that would do just that: PMF.

The program is government-wide and designed to give graduate students and recent college graduates a unique leadership and career development opportunity through an entry-level placement, training and developmental assignments. At the end of a two-year assignment, fellows have an opportunity to be converted to a career appointment. For Myers, this seemed like an ideal opportunity.

Myers was one of about 500 finalists eligible to apply for a federal placement, and after a long search, she found the Service’s Duck Stamp Office, housed in the Migratory Bird Program. Although she was not familiar with wildlife issues, she thought it would be a good fit with her background in managing inventory.

“It was hard to leave behind my family in North Carolina,” she says, “but I was really excited to continue my career of service and develop my skills.”

She started work as a program analyst in November 2014. She also served a six-month developmental assignment in the Ecological Services Office in Raleigh, North Carolina. Myers had a special opportunity to work on developing a tool to document and manage collaboration with landowners. “I can’t imagine a better development opportunity.”

Myers had several other assignments during her development phase, including a stint in the National Wildlife Refuge System Budget Office. However, it was the unexpected one that had the most impact on her. Myers was invited to participate on a call that included several tribal members and Service Native American Liaison Scott Aikin.

That invitation changed her life.

“I had no idea something like that existed,” she says. “But once I found out, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”

Jana Myers

She was able to spend more time with Aikin, learning more about the Service’s involvement with tribal consultation. At the end, she was more determined than ever to make this part of her career path, and she did not let the fact that there had never been such a position in the Migratory Bird Program deter her. After many discussions among Service leaders and Myers’ completion of the PMF Program, she joined the Service as the first-ever Migratory Bird Program tribal liaison in November 2016.

She has worked closely with the Native American Liaison Office updating the Service’s Tribal Consultation Handbook and taking training for liaisons.

Myers also serves as the program’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) coordinator. Her FOIA work covers the entire spectrum of the Migratory Bird Program’s activities.

Assistant Director Jerome Ford of the Migratory Bird Program had nothing but praise for Myers. “She brings a strong sense of discipline and regimented approach to accomplishing her work,” he says. “Her military background and leadership aids her in our program by making sure a plan of operation is always clear and then executing that plan accordingly.  January’s work ethic is one of her greatest assets.”

As for Myers, not only did she end up connecting back to her tribal roots, but she is fulfilling a dream of her father’s. “I never knew, but he studied fish and wildlife in school, and was connected to that world. He couldn’t believe it when I told him where I was working!”

As Myers’ path comes full-circle and she embarks upon a new stage in her life, she has some words for those who would consider following in her footsteps: “If you can dream it, you can do it. If you want it badly enough, you can work hard and make it happen.” With a drive, vision and ability like that, Jana’s journey is just beginning.

CHRISTOPHER DEETS, Migratory Bird Program, Headquarters

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