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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Harvesting the Power of Co-management for Bird Conservation in Alaska

   chldren run around over bird puzzlesChildren play at an AMBCC event in Barrow. Photo by AMBCC

The Migratory Bird Treaty between the United States and Great Britain (on behalf of Canada) set the foundation for bird conservation in North America. While the prohibition on hunting from March 10 to September 1 that resulted was a critical provision in protecting birds while they breed and raise their young, it made the traditional spring-summer subsistence harvest of migratory birds by northern indigenous peoples illegal.

In Arctic and sub-Artic regions, fall, and its attendant bird migrations, come earlier than in more southerly latitudes, and by September, many birds are already gone. Prior to 1918, when the treaty was enacted, the traditional spring-summer harvest had occurred for thousands of years as an integral part of the northern peoples’ subsistence way of life and thus continued despite the closed season. Efforts to enforce the treaty in Alaska resulted in hardship for the subsistence communities and created conflict between indigenous peoples and government agencies.

   AMBCC logo
The AMBCC logo features a Yup’ik mask by artist Katie Curtis from Toksook Bay, Alaska. It depicts a Canada goose surrounded by eight feathers, which represent the steps to implement a legal, regulated spring subsistence bird hunt: Notify people of the intent to form management bodies, meet to share ideas, send out ideas and listen, choose the form of management bodies, start rule-making, recommend rules for Alaska, link with management in other U.S. Flyways, and link with the nation.  

To remedy this situation, Alaska Natives and others worked to successfully amend the treaty in 1997. The amendment authorizes a regulated spring-summer subsistence harvest of migratory birds in Alaska and improves bird conservation by including subsistence harvest in the management system. The amendment also states that subsistence harvest is to remain at traditional levels relative to bird population sizes and that subsistence harvesters are to have a meaningful role in harvest management and bird conservation. This inclusion of Alaska Natives as true partners in the management of migratory birds returns to them a sense of ownership, thereby improving bird conservation in Alaska, in the Pacific Flyway and across the nation.

To implement these provisions of the amendment, the Alaska Migratory Bird Co-Management Council (AMBCC) was formed in 2000 as a co-management partnership among the U.S. government (represented by the Service), Alaska (represented by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game) and Alaska Natives (represented by the Native Caucus, which includes Alaska Native representatives from 10 geographic regions across the state). The AMBCC considers recommendations for subsistence harvest regulations and other topics related to bird harvest and conservation. These proposed regulations are based on traditional and cultural practices of Alaska Native peoples as well as western science. Traditional Ecological Knowledge is also a key component in both the development of regulations and the review process.

   men at table People buy Duck Stamps during a festival in Barrow. Photo by AMBCC

“The AMBCC is one of the best examples of co-management in the state of Alaska today,” says Patty Schwalenberg, AMBCC executive director. “Alaska Natives have ownership in this process because they are included as an equal partner, and their advice and expertise is seriously considered when issues begin to be discussed.”

By working together, these three partners have been able to successfully engage Alaska Natives in 1) the development of regulations; 2) the review and approval of the proposed regulations; and 3) in the implementation of the regulations during the spring-summer subsistence season.

CONNECTED CONSTITUENCY
backs of young bird watchers
  • From the Directorate: Connecting Our Constituencies
  • FWS and Greening Youth Foundation Place Members of Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta in FWS Internships
  • Building Connections for Wildlife, People, Environmental Resilience in Baltimore
  • Arctic Youth Ambassador Wants Everyone to Feel ‘Power of Nature’
  • Increasing Native American Participation

As a result, the AMBCC’s first management plan was approved last September. This plan will guide the harvest of emperor geese, which haven’t been harvested in nearly 30 years.

“Co-Management, collaborative management, cooperative management, call it whatever you want. All we know is what we have at the AMBCC works. It works for all partners and most importantly, it works for the conservation of the migratory birds we all enjoy,” says Schwalenberg.

The first legal Alaska subsistence harvest season was just 13 years ago in 2003. The AMBCC partners have made much progress since, and continue to work together to fine-tune harvest regulations and related processes and to heal from the decades of conflict. Though challenges remain, much progress has been achieved through this unique partnership — a truly collaborative approach to manage harvest and conserve migratory birds for current and future generations.

TAMARA ZELLER, Migratory Bird Management, Alaska


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 early February.

From the Directorate: Connecting Our Constituencies

group of Scouts laughGirl Scouts gather before helping plant 80 native plants to aid the monarch butterfly at San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Kayt Jonsson/USFWS

We know that to thrive as an organization and remain relevant in society, we must adapt to the changing world. And this past summer, the Service leadership approved a new way for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to tell our conservation story.

CONNECTED CONSTITUENCY
backs of young bird watchers
  • FWS and Greening Youth Foundation Place Members of Phi Beta Sigma, Zeta Phi Beta in FWS Internships
  • Harvesting the Power of Co-management for Bird Conservation in Alaska
  • Building Connections for Wildlife, People, Environmental Resilience in Baltimore
  • Arctic Youth Ambassador Wants Everyone to Feel ‘Power of Nature’
  • Increasing Native American Participation

In doing so, they recognized that we cannot continue doing business as usual.—.we need to communicate with the public in different ways and reach people outside our traditional audiences.

The country is changing. Fewer people hunt, fish or even spend a lot of time in the outdoors so many of us love.

We can’t rely on our traditional audiences to reach everyone who cherishes all the things that conservation brings — wild things and wild places, clean water and air, and so much more.

It is up to us to find and engage new groups to tell our conservation story.

And that is a key part of the new communications strategy.

We will not ignore our traditional audience, which has done, still does and will do wonders for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and for conservation. But we must augment that constituency with groups who in the past were left out of the conservation conversation and who can help us succeed in achieving our mission for all Americans.

tree plantigngStudents plant trees to celebrate the New Haven Harbor Watershed Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership. Photo by USFWS

We need to appeal to the next generation, and that means going to cities, where the majority of Americans live. These young people will often be people of color and of diverse ethnicity. We must also do a better job engaging federally recognized Native American and Alaska Native tribes. We must reach all these Americans — and more — to succeed.

Another part of the strategy is to communicate as “One Service” rather than our disparate regions and programs. 

And yet another will improve our storytelling, both telling stories better and telling better stories to engage audiences who may not be familiar with the Service or even wildlife conservation.

Instead of focusing on processes and organizational machinations, we will talk about wild things and wild places, heralding the Service’s role in preserving them. Or the public servants committed to them.

This will work!

People don’t want to have to send their children or grandchildren to a history website so they can see a monarch butterfly or an elephant. They need to know that nature is there for them if they need to “dip their toes” in its calming waters after a week filled with the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Above, you will find links to stories about some of our early efforts at a Connected Constituency. There are still many groups to reach — the business community, chambers of commerce, religious groups and more. We hope you join in!

Betsy Hildebrandt is the Service’s Assistant Director for External Affairs.


Fish & Wildlife News   This article appears in the winter issue of Fish & Wildlife News, our quarterly magazine.

Leaving on a Jet Plane: Black-footed Albatross Chicks Moved to a New Home

   black-footed albatross chick

Late at night on February 16, 15 black-footed albatross chicks made a special landing at Honolulu International Airport. These former residents of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial were flown from the remote atoll and then transported from the airport to their new home at James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, on the north shore of Oahu.

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Conservationists in the Caribbean Take on Wildlife Trafficking

  Sharleen Khan and ma cawSharleen Khan holding a blue and gold macaw at the Emperor Valley Zoo in Trinidad. Photo courtesy of Emperor Valley Zoo

Many of the species found in the Caribbean are unique, making them an appealing target for wildlife smugglers who wish to sell them abroad to people looking for exotic pets.

FWS supports the Conservation Leadership in the Caribbean Program, and several of its members have been working on combating wildlife trafficking of species in both the Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago.

Learn more about how these young conservation leaders are working with law enforcement groups, their fellow citizens, and companies like JetBlue to build awareness of the challenge and take on traffickers.

Wildlife Refuges: Where the Birds Are

green jay   A green jay perches at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, where more than 400 bird species have been documented. The refuge is 30 miles northeast of Brownsville, Texas. Photo by Mike Carlo/USFWS

Some people gladly awaken at 4 a.m. and drive hours to glimpse a rare Kirtland’s warbler. Other people barely know a robin from a bald eagle, but they love to walk outdoors. For both types – experienced birders and newbies alike – national wildlife refuges are wonderful places to see birds in natural habitat.

This week’s Refuge System photo essay, Wildlife Refuges: Where the Birds Are, features three refuges that are great for newbies, three that are great for experienced birders, and three refuge pairs that could suit bird nerds and neophytes.

roseate spoonbill    A roseate spoonbill seems to ponder its next move at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge on Florida’s northwest coast, 20 miles south of Tallahassee. Photo by Craig Kittendorf/USFWS

Refuges well suited to novices “provide some combination of accessible trails, roads, structures and facilities offering opportunities to observe and hear interesting wild birds,” says U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ranger Mike Carlo. “These refuges tend to have knowledgeable staff and online resources that welcome causal birders; offer loaner field guides and binoculars to visitors; and schedule introductory experiences that highlight year-round or seasonal birdlife.”  

   Red knots Red knots are common at and near Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware, about 15 miles north of Rehoboth Beach. Photo by Gregory Breese/USFWS

Experienced birders might be looking for something more.

They “often visit refuges to improve their birding skills, to have the chance to observe uncommon birds and perhaps add new species to their life lists,” Carlo says. “They tend to choose birding locations that provide widespread access and excellent bird habitat, and are near other birding hotspots.”

   American white pelican An American white pelican takes off at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, 60 miles north of downtown Salt Lake City. Photo by Roger Lewis

Wildlife Refuges: Where the Birds Are 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.

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.

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