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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

We Heart Hotspots

By Rachel Penrod, USFWS

What’s a biodiversity hotspot? It’s an area of the earth that is literally ‘teeming with life,’ where a huge diversity of species can be found. 

Why’s a hotspot important? Because so many species depend on them for survival. Plus they have amazing resources and they can help us find the best areas to protect for wildlife.

woodpeckerThe Puerto Rican Woodpecker is just one of the myriad of species that thrives in hotspots. (@Alfredo Colon)

So how do you protect hotspots? Now that’s a good question. Turns out, one great way is to gather together the largest alliance of conservation organizations in the world and set the best scientists to monitor and conserve a hotspot network, a group of interconnected hotspot sites.


Preserving Change: The Southern Cone Grassland Alliance

We have a guest blogger at Open Spaces today! Haley McKey is a communications intern at the Office of Migratory Birds at Service Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.  She recently graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in biology.  Her interest in conservation in South America inspired her to highlight the Southern Cone Grassland Alliance.

We are entering into our third week of autumn here at Open Spaces. From shorter days to turning leaves, the signs of change are all around us. For bird lovers, the most dramatic sign of change may be the flocks of migratory birds flying high over-head en route to warmer climates. 

We work to protect migratory birds, and like all species, that work begins with the preservation of natural habitats. It’s hard enough to protect the habit for a cave beetle that spends an entire lifetime within a small, isolated area, but what about migratory birds, whose migrations take them across multiple habitats stretching over many countries and international borders?

Boblink in flightPhoto Credit: Anibal Parara/Birdlife International


Looking Back: Spotlight on Ira Gabrielson

Every so often it's good to look into the past to revisit the people who got us where we are today. Looking Back is a new series on the people who helped shape the National Wildlife Refuge System. The series is based on "A Look Back," a regular column written by Karen Leggett, from the Refuge System Branch of Communications, which appears in each issue of the Refuge Update newsletter.

“When I learned there were actually jobs where people were paid for studying birds and mammals, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.”

-Ira Gabrielson

Ira Noel Gabrielson devoted his life not only to studying animals but also to protecting them and conserving their habitats. Born in Sioux Rapids, Iowa, “Dr. Gabe” began working with the Bureau of Biological Survey in 1915.  

He replaced J.N “Ding” Darling as director of the Survey in 1935, and when the Survey and the Bureau of Fisheries became the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1940, Gabrielson became its first director.  Six years later, he left the Service to head the Wildlife Management Institute and later helped to organize and preside over the World Wildlife Fund.

Gabrielson releasing a duck


Putting a Stamp on Conservation

The Federal Duck Stamp.  To be honest, before I started working here, I really didn’t know much about it.  Maybe you’re like me, and you don’t know there’s a national art contest to create the new Duck Stamp each year.   If you’re an artist, you may want to consider creating something for the contest.  While time might be running a little thin to submit something this year (entries must be postmarked by midnight on August 15th), maybe you’ll consider entering next year.

2011 Duck StampCurrent Duck Stamp, Artist: James Hautman

What’s the purpose of the Duck Stamp, though?  Of course art contests can be fun, but here’s what it is all about.  Aside from being required for hunting waterfowl, the Duck Stamp serves as a very important conservation tool.  Ninety-eight cents of every dollar generated from Duck Stamps goes directly to buy or lease wetlands for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System, making the Duck Stamp one of the best dollar-for-dollar investments in the future of America’s wetlands.


How to Help Orphaned or Injured Wildlife

In recent days, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been the topic of significant national media attention concerning a youngster and her mom who picked up a baby woodpecker they felt was threatened by the family cat and took it home. The Service appreciates the family's efforts to do the right thing for the woodpecker and commends them for releasing the bird once contacted by law enforcement. The citation should never have been issued, and the Service has apologized to the family for the error.

You may be wondering what the best way to handle a situation like this if it ever happens to you.  The following is a brief rundown of what you should keep in mind if you come across this situation.  

baby robin