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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Rewetting Pocosin Peatlands to Mitigate Climate Change

   peatlandsThere is a tremendous opportunity to reduce GHG emissions, restore hydrology, reduce fire frequency and intensity, and improve resilience to climate change by rewetting peatlands. Photo by Sara Ward/USFWS

In its 2015 Global Lands Report, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) notes that at least 20 percent of global emissions of human-caused greenhouse gases (GHG) can be offset through protecting, restoring and enhancing such managed natural landscapes as grasslands, forests and wetlands. With the National Wildlife Refuge System responsible for more than 850 million acres of land and water, the Service’s management practices can be a natural climate solution, capable of meeting the Service’s wildlife mission while simultaneously achieving climate adaptation and mitigation.

For example, did you know that the Service collaborated with conservation organizations and other private entities on projects that have restored more than 80,000 acres of bottomland hardwood forests and will sequester more than 33 million tons of carbon?

The Service can expand this approach to other priority ecosystems where the restoration need and carbon sequestration capacity are great. Peatlands, such as those at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina, are one such ecosystem, and the Service is collaborating with partners to increase resiliency to climate change by restoring the hydrology of these carbon-rich wetlands.

CLIMATE CHANGE
  • Rising to the Urgent Challenge of Climate Change
  • Thinking like a Spruce: The Case for Stewarding Ecological Transformation
  • Conserving Monarch Butterflies in a Changing Climate
  • Moving from the Dire to Stories of Inspiration and Optimism
  • One Salt Marsh at a Time: Building Coastal Resiliency after Hurricane Sandy
  • On the Wings of Change: Bringing Some Predictability to the Uncertainty of our Changing Climate
  • Working Toward Carbon Neutrality
  • Planning for Future Changes in America’s Heartland
  • The Kenai Mountains to Sea Partnership: A Local Effort to Address Climate Change at a Landscape Scale
  • The National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy
 • WHAT YOU CAN DO: What’s Your ‘Climate Handprint’?

Pocosins are unique peat-based wetlands, also known as south­eastern shrub bogs, which occur from southern Virginia to northern Florida along the southeastern Coastal Plain. The typically thick (up to 14 feet) layer of peat soil underlying pocosins has acted as a chemical sponge over geologic time, locking up metals, carbon and nitrogen in vegetation and the deepening soil layer. North Carolina’s Albemarle-Pamlico peninsula has the greatest pocosin acreage in the United States, but, like peatlands all over the country, 70 percent of this habitat in Albemarle has been drained and converted to agriculture and forestry since the 1960s.

Drained pocosin peatlands present several problems: They are a source of carbon emissions and are particularly vulnerable to catastrophic wildfires that emit large amounts of carbon and negatively impact wildlife habitat and air quality.

Peatland forests are gaining global recognition for their tremendous carbon sequestration potential. Restoring the wetland hydrology in peatlands stops the loss of carbon via peat oxidation while allowing carbon seques­tration via soil and biomass accumulation to resume (halting surface elevation loss and enhancing resiliency in low lying pocosins vulnerable to sea-level rise). Partnerships with TNC, North Carolina and others have already restored 20,000 acres of pocosins at Pocosin Lakes Refuge, which the Service estimates should ultimately sequester more than 21 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents.

Given the magnitude of the carbon-mitigation benefit and the geographic scope of restoration needed (nearly a half million acres of degraded pocosin wetlands in North Carolina alone), the Service has partnered with TNC, TerraCarbon, East Carolina University and the U.S. Geological Survey to implement a 1,300-acre peatland restoration demonstration project at the refuge to test a first-of-its-kind accounting methodology to quantify the carbon-sequestration benefits gained.

The accounting methodology is undergoing review for adoption as an eligible method to verify carbon offsets. Approval could provide entities a new way to offset their carbon impact that, because of the amount of carbon retained in restored peatlands, could offer a high return on investment. Additionally, these entities might not otherwise have broad interests in restoration efforts. But the value of peatland restoration could entice nontraditional partners to help meet priority Service restoration, land conser­vation and monitoring goals in peatland habitats nationwide while meaningfully contributing to achieving GHG emission reduction targets.

SARA WARD, Raleigh Ecological Services Field Office, Southeast Region


Fish & Wildlife News   This article appeared in the fall issue of Fish & Wildlife News, our quarterly magazine.

Rising to the Urgent Challenge of Climate Change

   sea level riseBecause of sea-level rise, salt water intrusion is killing the pond pine pocosin habitat at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. Photo by Steve Hillebrand/USFWS

The unmistakable signs of a rapidly changing climate are everywhere.—.increased global air temperature; melting glaciers; rising seas; more frequent and intense weather events, droughts and wildfires; flowers blooming earlier and lakes freezing later; migratory birds delaying their flights south; among many, many indicators.

No geographic region is immune to what is, and will continue to be, the transformational conservation challenge of our time.

While numerous fish and wildlife species will still thrive, some populations and species may decline, many will shift their ranges substantially, and others may be lost despite the best efforts to intervene.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. But as the late Fish and Wildlife Service Director Sam Hamilton said, “We must act now, as if the future of fish and wildlife and people hangs in the balance—for indeed, all indications are that it does.”

   strategy

Rising to the Urgent Challenge: Strategic Plan for Responding to Accelerating Climate Change is the Service’s framework to uphold public trust responsibilities and help ensure the sustainability of fish, wildlife, plants and habitats in the face of accelerating climate change.

The plan is threefold:

Adaptation.—.minimize the impacts of climate change on native fish and wildlife using the best science available to inform decisions and actions;

Mitigation.—.decrease greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere by reducing the Service’s emissions and supporting carbon sequestration; and

Engagement.—.work with partners to seek solutions.

   glacierFloating ice from a glacier melting at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Photo by Steve Hillebrand/USFWS

Read on for just a glimpse of the widespread efforts by Service staff with partners to safeguard natural as well as important cultural resources to make the greatest difference in swinging the balance forward.

  • Thinking like a Spruce: The Case for Stewarding Ecological Transformation
  • Conserving Monarch Butterflies in a Changing Climate
  • Moving from the Dire to Stories of Inspiration and Optimism
  • One Salt Marsh at a Time: Building Coastal Resiliency after Hurricane Sandy
  • On the Wings of Change: Bringing Some Predictability to the Uncertainty of our Changing Climate
  • Rewetting Pocosin Peatlands to Mitigate Climate Change
  • Working Toward Carbon Neutrality
  • Planning for Future Changes in America’s Heartland
  • The Kenai Mountains to Sea Partnership: A Local Effort to Address Climate Change at a Landscape Scale
  • The National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy
 • WHAT YOU CAN DO: What’s Your ‘Climate Handprint’?

LAURA MACLEAN, Science Applications, Headquarter


Fish & Wildlife News   This article appeared in the fall issue of Fish & Wildlife News, our quarterly magazine.

Building Resilience to Climate Change One Landscape at a Time

  RoseateSpoonbill Roseate spoonbills at J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which is located in Southwest Florida. Photo by Steve Hillebrand/USFWS

Approximately 2,216 Disney Magic Kingdoms… that’s the equivalent number of acres of habitat that Florida could lose to sea-level rise and urbanization by 2060. That’s just Florida. Across the country, conservation challenges like sea-level rise, urbanization, land-use changes and invasive species emphasize the critical need to identify, conserve and restore important lands and waters, and make them more resilient to a changing climate.

Southwest Florida is one of seven landscape-scale partnerships selected to participate in the Resilient Lands and Waters Initiative along with the California Headwaters, California's North-Central Coast and Russian River Watershed, Crown of the Continent, Great Lakes Coastal, Hawai’i, and Puget Sound's Snohomish River Watershed.

The Initiative is a key part of President Obama’s Interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience’s Priority Agenda for Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources (Priority Agenda), a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive commitment across the federal government to collaborate with partners to build the resilience of natural resources in the U.S. 

Great Lakes coast. Photo by NOAA

The culmination of this nearly two-year effort resulted today in an event hosted by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the release of the Resilient Lands and Waters Initiative final report and companion website

“America's natural resources are vulnerable to many threats, including invasive species, habitat loss, pollution, and extreme weather. Climate change is compounding the impacts from these challenges,” said Christy Goldfuss, Managing Director of White House Council on Environmental Quality. “The Resilient Lands and Water Initiative provides our nation’s natural resource managers with lessons learned and tools that can help them prepare their own landscapes for a rapidly changing future.”  

The final report and website feature the accomplishments of the seven partnerships and describe overarching challenges, lessons learned, and recommendations. The website also provides links to decision support tools, maps and related websites developed by the individual partnerships.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been engaged in the Resilient Lands and Waters Initiative through the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs). Five of the seven projects leveraged LCC leadership, capacity, public-private partnerships, and/or resources: including Southwest Florida-Peninsular Florida LCC; Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands-Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC; Hawai’i-Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative; Crown of the Continent-Great Northern LCC; and California's North-Central Coast and Russian River Watershed-California LCC. 

   SW Florida storymapA screen capture of a story map created by the Southwest Florida partnership.

“No one group will be able to do it all,” said Steve Traxler, Science Coordinator for the Peninsular Florida LCC, in talking about the future of conservation. “I hope the Initiative will be a catalyst to encourage similar resilience efforts to look around for opportunities to build relationships and collaborate to be a unified voice for their landscapes.”

The Resilient Lands and Waters Initiative supports the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy (NFWPCAS) whose first goal is to build and maintain an ecologically connected network of terrestrial, coastal and marine conservation areas that are likely to be resilient to climate change and support a broad range of fish, wildlife and plants under changing conditions. To learn more, visit www.wildlifeadaptationstrategy.gov/partnerships.php.

 

Going Coastal

   Tijuana Slough Refuge aerial Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, on the Mexican border south of San Diego, is one of 180 coastal refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Photo by Ralph Lee Hopkins with aerial support by LightHawk

Healthy coastal habitat is vital breeding, nesting, feeding and resting territory for fish, wildlife and migrating birds. Humans also derive substantial benefits from healthy coastal habitat. It improves storm resiliency, flood control, water quality, insect control, erosion control, carbon sequestration of greenhouse gases, and access to recreation.

This is especially important because while coastal counties make up only 10 percent of the lower 48 states’ land mass, they are home to more than half of the lower 48 states’ population.

This week, the Refuge System presents Going Coastal, a photo essay that highlights a handful of national wildlife refuges near coastal habitat restored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its private and public partners.

 Great Bay Refuge, NH Salt Marsh Creek   A creek meanders through a salt marsh on its way toward the Atlantic Ocean at Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge in New Hampshire. Photo by Katherine Whittemore/USFWS

Fish and Wildlife Service employees work with private and public landowners to restore coastal habitat and estuary ecosystems. Employees with knowledge of local communities, their natural resources, environmental challenges, and political and economic issues collaborate with local partners to develop conservation strategies and leverage funding for projects.

Through the Coastal Program, the Fish and Wildlife Service has restored 557,790 acres of coastal wetland and upland habitat, restored more than 2,625 miles of stream habitat, and helped protect more than 2.1 million acres of important wildlife habitat since 1985.

   Bird at Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge against sunGreat White Heron National Wildlife Refuge is one of four refuges in the Florida Keys, a locale where the “living shoreline” concept is being used. Photo by Mickey Foster

In addition to longstanding coastal restoration practices, the Fish and Wildlife Service and partners are using two new concepts.

In the Florida Keys, home to National Key Deer, Crocodile Lake, Great White Heron and Key West National Wildlife Refuges, the Fish and Wildlife Service is working with partners on a new concept known as living shorelines. Living shorelines use plants, sand and as little rock or concrete as possible to control shoreline erosion. “I see living shorelines as a win-win-win,” says John Schmerfeld, who oversees the Coastal Program. “Living shorelines are generally less expensive, usually more effective, and always greatly enhance the ecosystem services of near-shore estuarine and vegetated habitats.”

 

   Ding Darling Refuge, FL, mangroves Mangrove habitat, such as this at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, captures carbon from the atmosphere in what is called blue carbon sequestration. Photo by Karen Leggett/USFWS

Blue carbon sequestration is an even newer concept. Coastal blue carbon is the carbon stored by and sequestered in coastal ecosystems. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Forest Service are leading a blue carbon pilot project in the low-lying Pacific islands of Micronesia. The project is assessing the vulnerability of mangrove ecosystems to climate change and sea-level rise, developing strategies to increase the resilience of mangroves, and evaluating the feasibility of funding mangrove conservation through the marketing of blue carbon credits. The information collected and lessons learned from the pilot program will be transferable to other islands in the Pacific and Caribbean.

Going Coastal is part of the Refuge System’s series of weekly online stories that use photos to 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 front page each Wednesday. The stories are archived here.

What’s a Pollinator Ambassador and Why We Need One

   monarchThe monarch butterfly is an ambassador to broaden our support for conservation actions across North America. Photo by Jim Hudgins/USFWS

It’s the end of the migration season for monarch butterflies, and the nation has been keen to aid them on their journey.

The annual monarch migration is becoming a community event. In Minneapolis, conservationists organized educational – but festive – butterfly send-offs. And from Philadelphia to Texas, residents are collecting and planting milkweed and other native nectar plants so winged travelers can survive their journey.

But many pollinators lack the cultural charisma that has made the monarch so popular with humans– you’re unlikely to find any pollen wasp festivals. This is why we are using the butterfly’s star-power to help those often-forgotten insects, even if it draws some attention away from monarchs.

Humans have related to monarchs for centuries. Many Latinos believe the monarchs are the returning spirits of their deceased relatives, arriving in Mexico at the same time each year, coinciding with the Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead.

In Japan, butterflies represent young women who find marital bliss. This is why many family crests have a butterfly in its design. Several Native American tribes believe that if you have a secret wish you must capture a butterfly, whisper your desire into its antenna and release, allowing the butterfly to find the great spirit to grant your wish.

Our next generation is required to learn about the evolution in living systems. Educators rely on readily accessible, practical science to instruct their students. Here lies the monarch butterfly- with its historical abundance across the entire country, simplicity of collecting and rearing, swift life cycle and the capability to return them to the wild.

People constantly look for connections – patterns on a butterfly wing, metamorphosis as a symbol of rebirth. We when find them, a bond tends to form. Monarch’s characteristics make them captivating. They flutter instead of buzz, they are a non-stinging insect and they parade in vibrant colors. Their charisma is able to inspire universal support, making the monarch butterfly an undeniable ambassador for all pollinators.

“This is a great opportunity to engage people around a charismatic animal. Helping the monarch butterfly plays an important role in protecting other pollinators and broadens our reach to support conservation actions across North America,” says Tom Melius, Midwest Regional Director.

Other pollinators face environmental challenges similar to those of the monarch. Urban sprawl has significantly decreased habitat with homeowners using herbicides, reducing native nectar-producing plants. Agricultural land has degraded habitat by using neonicotinoid pesticides, along with transportation sectors mowing during the milkweed growing season. Climate change has also been linked to shrinking the geographic range for many pollinator species.

By protecting one ambassador or surrogate species using a landscape conservation approach, the benefits can trickle down to others. For example, the rusty patched bumble bee, our nation’s first potential endangered bee in the Lower 48 states. This bumble bee, once widespread, is now found in scattered, small populations in 12 states and one Canadian province. Supporting monarchs alongside the bumble bee can provide the needed resources for its recovery. Our campaign to plant native flowers that bloom throughout the growing season is key. If people leave flowers on the stem as long as possible, especially in fall, this makes it possible for the bees to survive the winter and to produce new colonies in the spring.

Or look at a non-pollinator species – the federally threatened eastern massasauga rattlesnake. Habitat loss is the primary threat driving declines of eastern massasaugas. Snakes may be killed while crossing roads as they travel between wetlands or by prescribed fires and mowing when those activities are conducted after snakes have emerged from hibernation. Massasaugas live in wet prairies, marshes and low-lying areas along rivers and lakes. They also use adjacent uplands during part of the year. Using a mix of wetland and upland habitat, supporting habitat for monarchs can offer this rattlesnake increased habitat in both locations as well. Milkweed and native nectar plants grow in almost every soil type and terrain.

Monarchs can provide potential solutions for the recovery of species. So, embrace our orange-black and white winged ambassador; connect it to your conservation actions; and share timely activities that people can contribute toward our conservation efforts.

Visit Save the Monarch to learn more.


By Mara Koenig, External Affairs, Midwest Region

Working With Florida Keys Citizens to Save Key Deer from Screwworm Outbreak

   A Key deer eats at one of the medication stations. A Key deer eats at one of the medication stations. Photo by Kate Watts/USFWS

Peter Rea (down from Desoto National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa to help) and Ken Warren (of the South Florida Ecological Services Office) update us on the outbreak hitting an endangered species.

The fight at National Key Deer Refuge and other areas of the Florida Keys to save the endangered Key deer from the recent outbreak of a parasitic insect called screwworms continues.

To date, most of the more than 1,000 preventative treatment doses of the anti-parasitic Doramectin have been administered to healthy Key deer on Big Pine Key with the help of nearly 200 refuge volunteers.

But while 75 percent of the Key deer population lives on Big Pine and No Name Keys, herds are found in some of the more rural parts of the Keys. These backcountry deer are harder to locate than those in more urban environments, and partners have also been looking at techniques to administer preventative treatment to them.

As of this week, 15 individual medication stations, which were built in-house, have been strategically distributed by Service staff on Cudjoe, Sugarloaf and Big Pine Keys. The stations have a self-applicating roller system, four rollers on each side, which apply a topical anti-parasitic medication to the deer’s neck as it lowers its head to feed on limited amounts of sweet feed. Deer are enticed to the medication stations by sweet feed, which mainly consists of oats, various grains and cracked corn.

   Kate Watts and Erin Myers Fish and Wildlife veterinarians Kate Watts and Erin Myers stand near one of the Key deer medication stations they helped design and build. Photo by Kevin Lowry/USFWS

"We came up with the idea and design for the medication stations through research on the Internet regarding various sheep and cattle feeder designs and ideas from deer tick treatment feeders developed in Texas," says Service veterinarian Erin Myers. "We've seen deer using the feeders. We're still experimenting with the best way to measure and apply doses as well as paint markers to show which deer have been medicated."

These medication stations are along heavily used deer trails on remote sections of the refuge. "We are seeing fewer infested deer in neighborhoods and also in natural areas, as seen on trail cameras," says Kate Watts, another Service veterinarian. "Our volunteers have been critical in implementing the preventative treatment program on Big Pine Key. We're optimistic that the preventative treatments are working."

Myers adds, "The citizen volunteers have been invaluable. They've been assisting non-stop with administering oral doses both around their homes and in other areas far from their homes."

Dan Clark, Manager of the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuge Complex, based here, agrees, "This community values these iconic deer and is partnering with us to save them from this infestation. I'd also like to thank the nearly 40 Service employees who have deployed down here to work with our local staff in response to this screwworm outbreak. These medication stations are just one indication of how innovative and dedicated they've been throughout this situation."

   A Key deer eats at one of the medication stations. A Key deer eats at one of the medication stations. USFWS trail cam photo

For safety, people are asked to please stay on designated refuge trails, keep pets on leashes and not approach medication station sites. "If folks have any pet concerns, they should contact their local veterinarian. Sites are checked daily to monitor activity of Key deer and to ensure other animals are not getting into the medication station sites," says Watts.

Making the Endangered Species Act Work for All in Texas

   Texas wild riceThe population of Texas wild rice, a local, aquatic grass species limited to only a small segment of the San Marcos River, has doubled since the Edwards Aquifer HCP began in 2013. Photo by USFWS

Deep in the heart of central Texas are many of the nation’s fastest  growing cities and counties. This rapidly growing region is also considered a national biodiversity hotspot. It is home to numerous rare wildlife species found only in Texas, some of which are protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

This unique natural heritage is associated with the Balcones Escarpment, a rugged landscape that houses one of the most productive artesian aquifers in the world, the Edwards Aquifer. The Balcones Escarpment is where the ocean once met the land and is now where the Texas Hill Country meets the prairies of Central Texas. Interstate Highway 35 (I-35) follows the escarpment and passes through rapidly growing cities including Austin and San Antonio. This region, as with most of Texas, is almost entirely privately owned, and a key issue has been to both protect wildlife and facilitate development.

What’s an HCP?
A Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) is one tool the Service uses to protect species and habitat with any nonfederal landowner like a private individual, corporation or a municipality. If worried that its actions might accidentally harm a protected species, an entity (or individual) can apply for an Incidental Take Permit. To get the permit, they have to have an approved HCP. Among other things, the HCP describes potential harm to listed species, how it will be avoided and minimized, how it will be mitigated for, and how the HCP applicant will pay for the conservation. In return, the Service gives the applicant “no surprises” assurances. That means the Service will honor the HCP—and not require more conservation—as long as the applicant does likewise. An HCP is one way the Service conserves the nation’s imperiled species in light of developmental interests.

Landscape-Level Conservation Planning

Texas is a place of innovation, and a model for making the ESA work for people and wildlife. Breaking new ground in 1996, the Service issued its first ESA permit for a landscape-level, regional Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) in the nation: the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan (BCCP). To offset the development that has taken place throughout the area, the BCCP has guided the strategic acquisition of habitat preserves in and around Austin for the benefit of 46 species, including the golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo, through a collaborative partnership with the City of Austin, Travis County and numerous other key partners.

Following the lead of the BCCP, landscape-level conservation plans in nearly 10 adjacent I-35 corridor cities  and counties have taken root over the past 20 years. These plans, managed by local governments, have proved to be  an efficient way of administering the ESA, effectively applying the concepts of Strategic Habitat Conservation.

Community-Based Collaboration and Incentives

These landscape-level plans provide locally driven solutions with the Service as a partner. Each of these plans has developed solutions to potential conflicts through community incentives such as regulatory certainty, permit streamlining, species recovery, water quality protection, regional water supply security, property tax benefits for participating landowners and open space preserves, which provide economic benefits to local communities through trails, recreation and youth education.

In Travis and Williamson counties alone, almost 700 projects have taken advantage of HCPs for a streamlined process  that affords regulatory certainty, while providing a benefit to rare species covered by the plans.

Additionally, these plans provide landscape-scale conservation benefits that far exceed the time-consuming, project-by-project permitting. Almost 100,000 acres of preserves and open space have been strategically protected through the BCCP, and these acres support conservation preserves established by the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge and City of Austin watershed protection lands. These preserve lands protect the endangered golden cheeked-warbler, black-capped vireo and numerous rare cave-dwelling species, along with the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, which benefits central Texas’s beloved Barton Springs, home of the endangered Barton Springs and Austin blind salamanders.  The BCCP’s preserve system also  plays a critical role in educating future generations about conservation; over the past three years more than 14,000 young people attended 285 individual events hosted by the BCCP.

   Houston toadMany species, including the Houston toad, are found nowhere in the world but Texas. Photo by USFWS

The Bastrop County HCP has provided many of its participants the ability to utilize Texas’s property tax exemption law that allows landowners to realize property tax reductions when they enroll in a Service-permitted plan that benefits a federally protected species. The state tax law and HCP have served as a strong incentive for landowners to enroll in this HCP, seeking the financial incentive associated with conservation actions that benefit the endangered Houston toad.

The Edwards Aquifer HCP is restoring Texas wild rice, a local, aquatic grass species limited to only a small segment of the San Marcos River. Its population has doubled since the HCP began in 2013. The HCP provides water security to the 2 million users of Edwards Aquifer, including the seventh largest city in the United States, San Antonio, through the Edwards Aquifer water market. The water market helps to maintain spring flow at Comal and San Marcos springs, the two largest springs in Texas (and the southwestern United States) through a voluntary irrigated agriculture suspension program. The water not pumped for agriculture is dedicated to spring flow.

  girl at a monarch festival
Austin is just one of the major cities along I-35 working to conserve monarchs. Photo by Adam Zerrenner/USFWS

What’s Next?

One thing is certain, implementing the ESA in Texas requires thinking big and continually identifying new solutions that work for local communities, private landowners and Texas’s natural heritage. Leveraging past successes, the I-35 corridor is now quickly becoming a conservation model for the monarch butterfly. Many major metropolitan cities along I-35 have voluntarily agreed to implement a variety of monarch conservation actions.

The Service is also working proactively with its Texas partners to get ahead of potential species listings by using the Species Status Assessment process. This framework allows the Service and partners to use the best available science to get an early look at a species’ future viability. The Service and partners then can collaborate on important scientific research and conservation tools for species in need, and leverage strategic resources for high priority species conservation.

Texas is setting the stage for creative ways to approach conservation and  these conservation strategies may  well become the way of the future for successful ESA implementation across the nation and beyond.

ADAM ZERRENNER, Austin (Texas) Ecological Services Field Office, Southwest Region


Fish & Wildlife News   This article appeared in the fall issue of Fish & Wildlife News, our quarterly magazine.

Pangolin Protection Strengthens, and MENTOR-POP Can’t Wait

   pangolinsPangolins (fake and adorable) at CITES. Photo by MENTOR-POP

The 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was held in Johannesburg, South Africa from September 24 – October 5, 2016.  All nine Fellows and the Coordinator of MENTOR-POP (Progress on Pangolins), an 18-month program by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Zoological Society of London, were there, and they went straight to business on their agenda: ensuring that all three Central African pangolins as well as all the other pangolin species (there are eight species of pangolin in total) were uplisted to Appendix I in CITES, which provides the highest level of protection afforded by the treaty. As part of our MENTOR-POP blog series, Euphemia Ewah Fosab, one of the MENTOR-POP Fellows, offers a personal account of her experience at CoP17.

  MENTOR-POP Fellows with FWS Director Dan Ashe. MENTOR-POP Fellows with FWS Director Dan Ashe. Photo by MENTOR-POP

All nine Fellows saw our participation at the CITES CoP17 as a unique learning opportunity where we could hone our conservation skills, network and establish exciting new contacts, and – most importantly – make a difference for Central Africa’s pangolins. As soon as we arrived at CITES CoP17, we plunged into learning, networking, disseminating information, and advising as many countries as possible to vote for pangolins.

 pangolinTree pangolin, also known as African white-belllied pangolin. Photo by Tim Wacher/Zoological Society of London

MENTOR-POP
Based in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Zoological Society of London, MENTOR-POP (Progress on Pangolins) is developing a trans-disciplinary team of nine early-career Central African and Asian conservation practitioners with academic and field-based training and internships to champion the conservation of the three Congo Basin pangolin species. To find out more about the Service’s other MENTOR programs, please visit: https://www.fws.gov/international/pdf/factsheet-mentor.pdf.

And it worked! Pangolins were uplisted on September 28 to Appendix I of the CITES treaty. The most exciting part was the near-unanimous support the pangolin changes received.

MENTOR-POP has focused on pangolin conservation in Cameroon. Three of the four species of African pangolins occur in Cameroon. The country is also believed to be a major hub for pangolin trafficking from West and Central Africa. In June, for example, more than 4 tons of pangolin scales coming from Cameroon were confiscated in Hong Kong. We also have many partners aligned for pangolin conservation in Cameroon. It is the right place to test innovative methods to address national and regional pangolin bushmeat trade, and international pangolin trafficking. 

So we were thrilled by the support from the Cameroonian delegation to uplist the African pangolins. Until the very last moment, we were unsure what Cameroon’s position would be, but thanks to persistent efforts by Francis Tarla, the Coordinator of MENTOR-POP, Cameroon voted YES for pangolins, to the relief of all range states. 

The uplisting will help law enforcement officials, who until now faced confusion in distinguishing between pangolin scales of protected as opposed to non-protected species.

   pangolin meetingFellows keep working for pangolins. Photo by MENTOR-POP

But there is still so much left to be accomplished for Central Africa’s pangolins. The MENTOR-POP Fellows are working on projects to come up with appropriate methodologies to assess pangolin strongholds and populations in Cameroon, to reduce local, regional and international demand for pangolins, and finally, to ensure that existing and new legislation is properly implemented to guarantee that the trade in pangolin species ends – stay tuned for future updates! 

With the large amount of seizures recently recorded both in and aound Cameroon, Appendix I is a safer place for this harmless, scaly anteater. The MENTOR-POP Fellows look forward to better days ahead for our pangolin species, and above all, are anxious to see how the CITES outcome on pangolins plays out in our national laws. 

HURRAY, PANGOLINS, HURRAY!!!

 

Antlers!

   A Tule elk forages at San Luis National Wildlife RefugeA Tule elk forages at San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in central California. Photo by Doug Ridgway

From Wyoming to California to Alaska, from Washington state to the Rockies, from the upper Midwest to northern New England, national wildlife refuges are home to many thousands of antlered animals. Among them are elk, caribou, moose, white-tailed deer and mule deer. 

And who doesn’t love antlers? 

This week, with the holiday season approaching, the Refuge System presents Antlers! – a dozen factoids about antlers. 

   Moose are found at Agassiz National Wildlife RefugeMoose are found at Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge in northern Minnesota. Photo by USFWS

Maybe you don’t know an antler from a horn. Maybe you’d like find out how fast antlers can grow, what they are made of, what their biological purposes are and if size matters. Maybe you’d just like to browse through the beautiful photographs. Whatever the reason, if you’re curious about antlers, the full photo essay is for you.

   National Elk RefugeNational Elk Refuge, where thousands of Rocky Mountain elk spend each winter, could be considered the antler capital of United States. Photo by Lori Iverson/USFWS


“Antlers!” is part of the Refuge System’s series of weekly online stories that use photos to 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 stories are archived here.

After CITES Experience in South Africa, Megan Reed Ready for Next Conservation Adventure

Megan Reed and elephants Megan saw elephants!

When preparing for her recent trip to South Africa, Megan Reed, a Special Assistant in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), told folks that she wasn’t coming back until she saw an elephant in the wild. She saw plenty, but it turns out that wasn’t the highlight of her trip.

Reed was in Johannesburg for part of September and October to take part in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 17th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Youth Forum for People and Wildlife that preceded it.

The youth forum brought together 34 young adults (18-25 years old) from 25 countries who are working on wildlife issues to discuss conservation (more tuned in online.). “Being surrounded by so many young people who are all working to conserve species was a very inspiring and humbling moment,” Reed says. It got even better.

Megan Reed at CITESMegan and Director Ashe at CITES. 

Recognizing that educating and connecting the next generation of conservation leaders is key to success, the United States introduced a document at CoP17 to encourage youth participation in CITES. Reed had the privilege of presenting it to the 3,000 attendees.

“It’s not my favorite experience because I was able to speak to so many people from all over the world or because it was well-received and accepted by other countries,” she says. “It’s my favorite because as I introduced it, I was sitting with the USFWS Director, Associate Director and Assistant Director of International Affairs, and I could feel how much they value engaging the younger generation.”

Megan Reed at CITESMegan and lots of USFWS folks.

“Their support that day was more than I could ask for, and showed not only me, but other countries how important youth are in conservation and that we are stakeholders of these resources, too.”

The member nations of CITES agreed, adopting the resolution Reed introduced. The move sets CITES on a clear path to ensure that the voices of youth are heard in this vitally important conservation forum.

elephantsAnd it’s not as though seeing elephants in the wild was bad. It was “one of the most memorable moments of my trip,” she says, in part because of her earlier attendance at the USFWS Ivory Crush in Times Square in 2015. Reed put a piece of ivory onto the belt to be crushed, “showing that ivory has zero value as an ornament.”

“Remembering that moment as I witnessed elephants in the wild was powerful and strengthened my commitment to conservation,” she says.

That commitment took root early in her life as a result of her family moving every two years because her dad was in the military. In every new state or country, Reed says, “I always found it interesting how places and animals could be so different, yet have so many similarities.”

She remembers “sitting on my grandma’s porch with my great uncle, and we would watch monarch butterflies land on him. I was mesmerized by every creature, big and small.”

Reed didn’t know it then, she says, “because I didn’t realize someone could have a job saving these animals and the places they live, but looking back, it was pretty obvious I would work in a conservation field.”  She soon found out about conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

By now, though still young, Reed, could be considered a veteran of conservation work. She started her career with the USFWS when she was just 16 at Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge in her hometown of Warsaw, Virginia, doing such things as leading nature walks and conducting bobwhite surveys. She also worked at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts and Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in New York before taking on her current position in Washington, DC, as Special Assistant to both the Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System and the Assistant Director for External Affairs.

These jobs have enabled Reed to use her degrees in Wildlife and Fisheries Science and Public Administration and have helped her on the path to her “dream job”: conducting landscape conservation and working on conservation policy. “It is extremely important to look at conservation on a landscape scale,” she says, “because the wildlife we conserve don’t necessarily stay in one place or know political boundaries.”

These jobs have given her many memorable experiences, including “helping provide veterinary treatment to Sonoran pronghorn antelope, teaching the next generation about archery, and shadowing every refuge manager I’ve worked for.” And while her work supporting youth engagement at CITES is currently her favorite conservation moment, who knows what the future holds? All Reed knows is that it is going to be good.

Megan Reed at CITESMegan and Director Ashe at CITES.

“I'm not sure what will be around the next corner, but I'm excited to continue my career with the Service because of its conservation mission and dedication to young professionals like myself.”

And wherever her career takes her, rest assured that  Reed’s voice, and that of all young people, will be an important part of the usfws’s conservation conversations. “Our leadership truly understands that these resources belong to my generation just as much as they belong to everyone else.”

-- Matt Trott, External Affairs

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