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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Service Getting the ‘Lead Out’ at Midway

   dump truck on a beachHauling clean coral sand at Midway Atoll. Photo by USFWS

The Service has been busy the last several years cleaning up lead-contaminated soils at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.

In 1903, buildings were constructed on Midway Atoll as part of a surface way-station for the trans-Pacific telegraph cable. Later that year, President Theodore Roosevelt placed the atoll under control of the U.S. Navy to protect the station. The Naval Air Station Midway Island was built in 1941 and operated until 1993. The Navy managed Midway until 1996 when the atoll (containing over 100 structures) was transferred to the Service. Most of the structures at Midway contained lead-based paint that over the years contributed to the lead in the soil. To learn more about Midway and the cleanup, visit the Midway Atoll story map.

Curator's Corner: The Bear Necessities

 wooden bear We have a taxidermied bear cub holding a wooden nut holder in our archives. It has really left an impression on our visitors, both because it is so cute and because it is unbelievable that someone would illegally kill it and have it stuffed. It was confiscated because it was poached. One such visitor, a Service law enforcement official, took photos of the cute little bear, and had it duplicated in a wooden sculpture done by renowned wood sculptor Joe Stebbings, so he could display it next to his fireplace. It turned out really well.

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.

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Fish & Wildlife News   This article is a preview of the winter issue of Fish & Wildlife News, our quarterly magazine. The winter issue is due online in final form in mid-February.

 

Curator's Corner:Cat Lady!

 Carson collage

So guess what? Rachel Carson was a cat lady! That is so exciting to me because I idolize her so much and it has made her even more relatable to me, a rabbit lady! We received many of Rachel’s personal possessions in a magnificent donation from the Rachel Carson Council. Within the collection, were several cat books, funny cat post cards and a binder of photos from a Time magazine photo shoot of her with her pet cats. It is wonderful to see the human side of our heroes, and it makes us understand that perhaps her great love of nature and all earth’s creatures may have been sparked by her great love of companions like housecats! We should all strive to help all of earth’s creatures, just as Rachel certainly did.

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.

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Fish & Wildlife News   This article is a preview of the winter issue of Fish & Wildlife News, our quarterly magazine. The winter issue is due online in final form in mid-February.

 

Curator's Corner: Outsmarted

   ottoman

One of our visitors’ favorite objects is a large footstool or ottoman covered in zebra skin. This object was confiscated when imported to the United States because the skin is from a Hartmann’s Mountain zebra. Many zebras are not protected by the Endangered Species Act, but the Hartmann’s Mountain zebra is listed as threatened under the ESA, which makes it illegal to import it or its parts without permits. The wildlife inspector who saw it was talented enough to recognize it, even though the difference between its pattern and that of non-endangered zebras is subtle to the untrained eye. I am always amazed at the impressive smarts our employees have.

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.

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Fish & Wildlife News   This article is a preview of the winter issue of Fish & Wildlife News, our quarterly magazine. The issue is due online in finished form in mid-February.

Working for Wildlife

   collage of people working with wildlifePhotos by USFWS

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees who are entrusted to be stewards of our nation’s wildlife refuges work hard to ensure a healthy future for wildlife and people. Their work is not only important; it also can be cool. This week’s Refuge System photo essay, Working for Wildlife, features some employees briefly describing their work.

   wildlife officer Darryn Witt and Rudi  in boatDarryn Witt is a federal wildlife canine officer. He and his four-legged partner, Rudi, are based in Illinois at Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. Photo by USFWS

Fish and Wildlife Service employees are on the front lines innovating ways to conserve and restore America’s wild heritage. They look for ways improve outdoor experiences for hunters, anglers, photographers and families.

   Lamar Gore & Tajuan Levy Lamar Gore, left, is manager at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum in Philadelphia. Tajuan Levy, right, is a maintenance worker at the refuge. Photos by USFWS

Fish and Wildlife Service employees often get to share their knowledge with visitors and show us the glory of nature, even in our cities.

   collage of people working with wildlifePhotos by USFWS

And sometimes they get up close and personal with wildlife, or travel to remote locales many of us will never see firsthand.  

Working for Wildlife is part of the Refuge System’s series of weekly 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.

Curator's Corner: No Joke

 Wilderness Act pen

We have a pen that was used by President Lyndon Johnson to sign the Wilderness Act in 1964. The acrylic clear and black pen with a metal nib is mounted in a frame and engraved on the side “The President—The White House.” We purchased it from an antiques shop in Virginia. It is such an enormous part of the history of wildlife conservation, and it is a miracle that this implement that was given to someone who was instrumental in enacting the Wilderness Act made its way to us. We treasure it! There is no funny story here, just a plea to readers, please donate your important relics to a relevant museum and ensure that they are loved and respected forever.

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.

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Fish & Wildlife News   This article is a preview of the winter issue of Fish & Wildlife News, our quarterly magazine. The issue is due online in finished form in mid-February.

 

Monarchs Still Need Your Help

Morning warmthA monarch butterfly has been exposed to the elements. Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS

Monarch butterflies are astonishing creatures undertaking one of the most epic migrations in the animal kingdom. Beginning around October,  they fly from central and northern U.S. states and parts of Canada to Mexico and the coast of California, where they form dense clusters high up in the trees and hunker down for the winter months. 

In 1997, a few scientists and volunteers in California, inspired by these brilliant insects, began an organized effort to estimate the number of butterflies forming these clusters along the coast, and the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count was born. 

Scientists also monitor the eastern overwintering population in Mexico. This year’s population reports indicate that monarch butterflies continue to decline. The eastern population occupied 7.19 acres of forest, which is a 27 percent decrease from the 2016-2015 occupied area of 9.91 acres. This was due to a series of severe storms that hit at the worst possible time for the monarch. With numbers already significantly down as a result of a variety of human-caused factors, particularly the steady loss of its milkweed habitat over many decades, these sorts of weather events impact the population particularly hard. 

Western monarchsThe western migratory monarch population, those west of they Rocky Mountains, typically migrate to the California coast. Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS

The number of western monarchs counted this year was slightly greater than last year, but so was the army of volunteers. More than 100 volunteers monitored a record 253 sites and estimated western monarch numbers at nearly 300,000 butterflies. Despite the large effort to count monarchs, numbers were down at many of the historically large sites. This is the single greatest effort since the count began in 1997 and likely accounts for the increase in western monarchs compared to last year. 

“This year’s population numbers accentuate how imperative it is for our countries to continue working together to protect and conserve this amazing species - as well as the role every person plays in ensuring a future filled with monarchs,” said Tom Melius, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest Regional Director and Service lead for the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Initiative. 

“It will take all of us working together in city backyards and across vast agricultural acres, to reverse this population decline,” he continued.

Next month, the Service will release preliminary conservation targets to help plan monarch butterfly conservation strategies. These preliminary target acres identify habitat needed to reverse the downward trend in monarch numbers for eastern and western populations. The best available science demonstrates that monarchs need every land cover type to have enough milkweed and nectar plants across the nation to reverse the trend. This includes private lands such as marginal crop lands, public lands such as city green space, protected grasslands such as national wildlife refuges, and road, rail, utility and other rights-of-ways.

In January, the National Resource Conservation Service strengthened conservation for the monarch butterfly through the Working Lands for Wildlife Program. Through the Farm Bill, this program offers technical and financial assistance to help landowners manage for monarch habitat on farms, ranches and forests. This assistance helps producers plan and implement a variety of conservation activities, or practices, that benefit the monarch, pollinators and many other wildlife species. 

Hope on a logOverwintering monarchs face many challenges for survival which include habitat loss, weather patterns and predation. Photo by Mara Koenig/USFWS

"We are excited to see people mobilizing around monarchs - whether it’s planting milkweed or becoming involved in citizen science,” said Paul Souza, Director of the Service’s Pacific Southwest Region. “Monarch butterfly conservation has all of the monikers of epic conservation – working at large landscapes, having reverberating benefits for multiple species, building new partnerships and strengthening our existing ones, and capturing the hearts and minds of people."

But this is about more than just monarchs. By taking these steps, we also help many other animals and insects, improve water quality, prevent soil erosion, and beautify our landscapes. With the right tools in hand, we will be able to assess the health, sustainability and status of monarchs and other pollinators.

You can help monarchs and other butterflies and bees that have experienced recent declines by planting native nectar plants and milkweed to your area. For a list of beneficial native pollinator plants for your area, please visit this link.

 

Happy Valentine's Day

Still looking for that special something? Wildlife know the fine art of courtship.

A Fish Points to the Future in Lake Champlain

   pre-smolt salmon in waterFor communities in the Lake Champlain Basin, salmon are both a cultural icon and a natural asset. Photo by E. Peter Steenstra/USFWS

The Service leads work on Atlantic salmon habitat restoration in the Lake Champlain Basin. But the effort isn’t explicitly focused on salmon. Rather, it’s about improving the overall health of a watershed that is home to many other species, including humans. It’s about sustaining the surrounding landscape and communities.

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Solving a “Cattle Conundrum” to Protect Wildlife in Honduras

   jaguar walking Jaguars are one of the most well-known species found within Honduras’ wildlands. Photo by Levi Novey/USFWS

Levi Novey, an Outreach and Education Specialist in our International Affairs Program, recently traveled with other members of the Service's team to Honduras. Their goals were to meet some of our conservation partners and better understand the challenges they face, particularly with protecting the area known as La Moskitia. 

Moskitia is one of the five largest remaining wild areas in Central America. Protecting the Moskitia and the other four areas is the essential cornerstone of our agency’s Central American wildlife conservation strategy. While there are certainly other important areas that interest us and remain ecologically intact in Central America, these five wild places represent the best chance to conserve large, contiguous areas of habitat for the benefit of Central America’s wildlife and people. 

Working with our partners at Wildlife Conservation Society, we launched a project last March to fly over the Moskitia and the other four priority areas to document and assess the human footprint on these areas. Unfortunately, the Moskitia is perhaps the most threatened of the five areas, with illegal cattle ranching reaching deep into its areas designated for conservation. This is not to say that the other areas don’t face other significant conservation threats, but what is happening in Honduras is particularly troubling. 

Our aim is not to “say no” to beef and cattle ranching, but to certainly “say no” to illegal cattle ranching in areas of Honduras that are designated for conservation. So how is that achieved? We can’t claim to have a single solution in mind that will solve the cattle conundrum, but we do have a few ideas.

Read more about the trip, this "cattle conundrum" and our strategies to solve it.

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