Facebook icon Twitter icon Flicker icon You Tube icon

Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

Company Spirit: When Employees Volunteer on National Wildlife Refuges, Everyone Wins

  One FedEx volunteer gives another a plantFedEx employees plant native flowers at the entrance of a new multi-use trail extension at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum in Philadelphia. The extension will connect the refuge with local communities. Audubon Pennsylvania helped organize the event. Photo by USFWS

Across America, employees are going green in a new way.

They’re clearing trails and planting native flowers at national wildlife refuges, with enthusiastic backing from their supervisors. Sometimes, their companies even pay them to volunteer.

“Company Spirit” — this week’s theme in the National Wildlife Refuge System’s new series of online stories — showcases some of these refuge initiatives. 

  Luann Coen pushes Miroslawa  Gehman in a wheelbarrowLuann Coen, senior deduction specialist at Brother International, gives a ride to Miroslawa Gehman, senior deductions manager, at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey in April 2016. Photo by Kai H. Fan

Here’s a preview:

Companies that send teams to volunteer each year at nearby refuges include such household names as Canon, FedEx, Ford, Monsanto, The Home Depot and The North Face.

A funny thing happens in the process: Team members fall in love with refuges and wildlife conservation.

“You walk away with just a really good feeling,” says Jennifer Hickson, manager of The North Face’s Lincoln City, Oregon, store. Her group volunteers several times a year at three nearby refuges, including Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge, where they cleared invasive scotch broom this spring.  

  Kevin Haughtwout and Cristy Rosario plant native spicebushBrother International manager of product development Kevin Haughtwout and administrative assistant Cristy Rosario plant native spicebush, the host plant for the spicebush swallowtail, at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, in April 2016. Photo by Kai H Fan

“It started out being just our team. Now we bring our families. They want to be part of it, too. Because they hear you say, ‘Yeah, it was a hard day. Yeah, I’m sore. But you wouldn’t believe the feeling of accomplishment, the feeling you’re making a difference.’ ” 

  Monsanto employees transplant plants into planters 
Monsanto employees transplant more than 2,500 plants and plant nearly 600 others outdoors at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa in April 2016. Photo by USFWS

That good feeling translates into benefits for participating companies, too – like higher staff morale and more camaraderie.

“We do good work for the refuge, and the company gets something back...,” says Doriana Allyn, senior environmental health and safety manager at Brother International, which sends a volunteer crew every year to Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey.

Refuges, for their part, welcome the show of company spirit.

“Absolutely, we like it,” says visitor services manager Jonathan Rosenberg at Great Swamp Refuge. “It brings visitors to the refuge, gets work done on the ground, sells our mission and gets our conservation message out there in the corporate world. It’s all good stuff.”

See a PHOTO album of private company teams volunteering on national wildlife refuges.

Read the full story: “Company Spirit.”

We hope you’ll also check out Refuges’ homepage, and share your thoughts, photos and videos with us on FacebookTwitter, Flickr and YouTube. Like what you see? Share it with your friends and family. Thanks, and see you on a refuge!

  

 

Susan Morse, National Wildlife Refuge System communications

Threatened Seabirds Get a New Home…and a Helicopter Ride!

Newell's shearwater chick in burrow. Photo credit: Andre Raine/Kaua?i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project Newell's shearwater chick in burrow. Photo by Andre Raine/Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project

Seven threatened Newell’s Shearwater (‘A‘o) chicks had quite an adventure this week that ended with the birds in a new home complete with predator-proof fencing at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge in Hawaii. Hawaiian petrels were successfully translocated to Kilauea Point last year.

Make Way for Beetles

Living on the beach may sound like a luxury to most people, but for the tiny Puritan tiger beetle it is the only way to survive. Get an up-close view of how we are helping endangered beetles re-establish populations in their sandy homes!

Read More

Southern California Shares the Land with Native Wildlife

Dana Point headlandsOur Habitat Conservation Plan tool and unlikely allies created a strategy for balancing development and conservation across the landscape in Orange County, one of southern California’s most populated areas.

African Grey Parrot: Species in Decline

The United States is a proponent or co-proponent of various proposals to help increase protections for species at the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Read more about these species.

2 Events Celebrate the Outdoors

Both National Public Lands Day and National Hunting and Fishing Day take place Saturday.

  NLPD workersVolunteers work at Desert National Wildlife Refuge on NLPD 2014.

National Public Lands Day, or NPLD for short, encourages everyone to help your lands shine.

Here is a tiny sample of events you can take part in: At St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, volunteers will be working on milkweed propagation gardens and cleaning pollinator gardens in preparation for Monarch Month (October) and the 27th Annual Monarch Butterfly Festival.  Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, along with the Friends of Trinity River Refuge, will host a trash cleanup day. Volunteers at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey will work to control invasive species. Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota will host conversation activities during its annual Wildlife Festival.

ENTER: “I Love My Land” National Video Contest

If you need more incentive, NPLD is a fee-free day on federally managed public lands.

Find a National Public Lands Day event near you here.

Father and Son Hunting  

 

A father and son hunt on Big Muddy National Fish & Wildlife Refuge in Missouri.  Photo by volunteer Carol Weston

National Hunting and Fishing Day, first established in 1972, celebrates the many conservation efforts of hunters. Hunters and anglers are sometimes called the “first conservationists,” and they have supported conservation of the nation’s wildlife resources since the late 19th century. They willingly dug into their own pockets to provide needed money for conservation by backing programs like the Federal Duck Stamp and the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. And so much more.

“The highly successful North American model of wildlife conservation is founded on our nation’s great hunting and fishing heritage,” our Director Dan Ashe has said. “This tradition was the primary driver behind the creation of the Refuge System that has since set aside millions of acres of land for the conservation of all wildlife."

Hunting is offered at more than 300 national wildlife refuges and protected wetlands. Quality fishing opportunities are available on more than 270 national wildlife refuges.

These are YOUR lands; get outdoors and feel that connection with the natural world.

More on volunteering, hunting and fishing

Go Fish: Yes, Please

Seeing the original blog on favorite fish to catch, a few more colleagues sent in their picks:

  Nathan Renick  and son

Nathan Renick, refuge forester at Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana, said he and his son “enjoy chasing largemouth bass for the challenge and excitement.  We always come away with great memories of the trip, along with quality time spent with friends and family.”

  trophy wall

Caroline Peterschmidt, the hatchery manager at Eagle Creek National Fish Hatchery in Oregon, recalled a favorite fishing memory: “When my siblings and I were kids, Dad would take us fishing in Puget Sound and Hood Canal for blackmouth and sea run cutthroat and coho [types of salmon]. When we caught something, we'd carefully trace it out on a flattened out brown paper bag, write down the pertinent information, and it would get glued to the trophy wall in the garage. When we'd all grown and moved out, the folks sold that big house and one of the bittersweet things was having to leave that trophy wall behind. I remember not being all that interested in the fish, but more about hanging over the side of that little aluminum boat and being fascinated watching the bottom flow past as we trolled for cutthroat just offshore. Seaweed, starfish, colored rocks, mysterious shadows and strange life forms of another world. I also remember not really wanting to touch those icky slimy fish or help clean them. And look what I do now ... I'm sure Dad laughed about that more than once.”

 Andrew Mueller

Andrew Mueller, a grants management specialist with our Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, said: “Here in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, it is difficult to pick just one species to consider your ‘favorite’" but I guess I would consider the iconic striped bass, aka striper, aka rockfish.  Here is my personal best (45" and 30lbs), caught from the rocks at Indian River Inlet in Delaware on a 7' two-piece ugly stick and 6" swim shad lure (on my 32nd birthday nonetheless!).”

  Kathryn Jahn

Kathryn Jahn, the Department of the Interior case manager for the Hudson River Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), sent this photo of lake trout (second from left) and others from Owasco Lake. She wrote: “Lake trout are native to New York State waters, and found throughout the Finger Lakes (of which Owasco Lake is one). We troll for them, sometimes using downriggers, from our boat. They are fabulous as smoked fish.”

  Jason Goldberg

While saying it isn’t his favorite, Jason Goldberg in our Branch of Aquatic Invasive Species sent in a photo with an invasive bighead carp from a Carp Corral in Illinois, catching invasive carp. "One of the more surreal experiences I've had, electrofishing for carp and watching them jump." Silver carp, a type of Asian carp, are sensitive to the electrical currents, so they may jump out of the water. They are also responding to the sound/vibration of the boat motor. Recreational boaters will elicit the same reaction in silver carp without having electrofishing gear in the water.

 Andrew Mueller

And speaking of invasives, Mueller included a picture of the northern snakehead, which, according to Andrew, tastes great.

9 Awesome Animals That Showcase Mexico’s Biodiversity

Today is Mexico’s Independence Day, and what better time to celebrate one of the country’s most fantastic characteristics: its biodiversity!

In fact, while Mexico makes up only 1 percent of the Earth’s land area, it is home to an amazing 10 percent of all of the species known to science. In the infographic below, you can learn about some of the species of wildlife we are working with local partners to protect across the country through our International Affairs Mexico Program, including jaguars, sharks, Mexican gray wolves, and scarlet macaws. Viva Mexico!

Click on image or here for larger pdf.

  Mexican species

Poplar Island:It was Rebuilt, and They Came!

  black swallowtail butterfly on purplish flowers Numerous pollinators, such as this black swallowtail butterfly, visit Poplar Island. Photo by Valerie Fellows/USFWS

Valerie Fellows of our Ecological Services Program visits a partly rebuilt Poplar Island.

I started my first real job with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Chesapeake Bay Field Office in Annapolis, MD, in 2001. And it was during my very first week that I heard about a place named Poplar Island. I remember the buzz around the office on what a great opportunity it was to be on the early end of such a large-scale habitat restoration project, and how exciting it was for me personally to get to go to the island with my colleagues and work on various wildlife conservation projects there.

  Pete McGowan examines a young mallard  
Chesapeake Bay Field Office biologist Pete McGowan examines a young mallard exhibiting signs of stress. Photo by Valerie Fellows/USFWS

For those of you who haven’t heard of Poplar Island – it is AWESOME. It’s an island out in the Chesapeake Bay about 34 miles south of Baltimore. During the 1700s, it was a backdrop for Revolutionary War naval clashes and it even once supported a small town with a post office and a school. During the 1800s, it was about 1,000 acres in size.

But then it started to disappear. By 1990, erosion, subsidence, and sea level rise had cut the island into several island remnants less than 10 acres in total.

Which then begs the question, how does one rebuild an entire island?

Using sediment dredged from the Baltimore shipping approach channels, workers have been steadily rebuilding the island and restoring its habitat. When work on Poplar Island is complete in 2042, half the acreage will be turned into tidal wetlands and half, uplands – complete with trees, meadows and freshwater ponds. The island is a maze of smaller islands, ponds, channels and marshes. About 35 million cubic yards of dredge material is protected by 35,000 feet of containment dikes. And thanks to this incredibly successful restoration effort led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Maryland Port Administration and Maryland Environmental Service, it has returned to 1,140 acres in size. An additional 570 plus acres are expected to be added beginning in late 2016.

Poplar island    with lots of birds overheadRich with plants and trees and shallow wetlands, Poplar island is teaming with wildlife. Photo by Valerie Fellows/USFWS

I was lucky enough to go back out to the island to join both FWS and the U.S. Geological Survey on their wildlife research and monitoring projects this summer. What was previously mud and water more than a decade ago, is now a haven for wetland dependent species. Rich with plants and trees and shallow wetlands, the island is teaming with wildlife. Shorebirds and wading birds galore, diamondback terrapins, deer, hundreds of pollinators including monarchs, and numerous other species now depend on the unspoiled resources the island offers.

I hope I don’t wait as long to get back out there, but I can’t wait to see what it looks like in another 10 years!  

Black-footed Ferrets Return to Ancestors’ Stomping Grounds in Wyoming

  A black-footed ferret looks out of an open carrierA black-footed ferret checks out its surroundings. Photo by Ryan Moehring/USFWS

One of the most meaningful and symbolic reintroduction efforts in the history of endangered species conservation occurred July 26 when the elusive and highly endangered black-footed ferret returned home to Meeteetse, Wyoming, where it was rediscovered 35 years ago. 

“Bringing the black-footed ferret home to Meeteetse is an extraordinary achievement. [It is] a source of pride not only for the citizens of Wyoming but for conservationists everywhere,” Service Director Dan Ashe said at the release event. 

The black-footed ferret was once a familiar sight on the prairies across 12 Western states, as wells as Canada and Mexico. By the 1950s however, habitat loss and disease decimated ferret numbers so severely that the world assumed that the ferret was extinct. In 1964, a small, dwindling population was discovered in Mellette County, South Dakota, and shortly after, the black-footed ferret was designated as endangered under the precursor to the Endangered Species Act in 1967. But it was too late. When the last ferret from the South Dakota population died in captivity in 1979, the world once again thought that the black-footed ferret was extinct. 

“I remember newspaper headlines announcing, ‘Black-footed Ferret Extinct; Gone from the Planet,’ and how sad that was,” recalls Kimberly Fraser, who has been with the Service’s Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center as a volunteer and outreach specialist for the past six years. It seemed as if only a miracle could bring the species back. 

In 1981, a well-known story nothing short of miraculous turned the situation around. One summer night at the Hogg family ranch in Meeteetse, Wyoming, Shep, the family dog, scuffled with an unidentified long, slender mammal. The next morning, the Hoggs took the carcass to the town’s taxidermist where they discovered that the creature was none other than the supposedly extinct black-footed ferret. The area was sustaining the planet’s final, dangerously tiny population of black-footed ferrets. 

The world’s last 18 black-footed ferrets were caught and placed in a captive-breeding program. Over the course of the next 35 years, federal, state and local partners joined forces to enable the reintroduction of the black-footed ferret throughout the West. There are now hundreds of wild black-footed ferrets at 28 reintroduction sites in eight Western states, Mexico and Canada. And now, one of those reintroduction sites is at the very place where the last known wild ferrets were found and captured. 

  A black-footed ferret looks out of an open carrierShould I stay or should I go? Photo by Ryan Moehring/USFWS

The Endangered Species Act provides a phenomenal structure for this kind of cooperation, setting high standards for conservation, while simultaneously allowing flexibility to suit the needs of local communities. For instance, the designation for an experimental population, such as the one in Meeteetse, protects landowners from any harm they might accidentally cause to a black-footed ferret. Safe harbor agreements, another example, allow landowners to voluntarily conserve critical habitat with assurance that the government won't further restrict land use in the future, creating a mutually beneficial agreement for both interested landowners and the black-footed ferret. Partnerships with zoos and captive-breeding centers around the nation are expanding research capacity, and the state natural resources departments play a crucial role in reintroduction.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service could not have accomplished this alone. We need all of our partners in the recovery effort,” says Fraser. 

Indeed, it is a story of a committed team drawn together by a national conservation framework to a common purpose: to reestablish the black-footed ferret as more than a shadow, a ghost on the prairie, but as an essential part of a rich and dynamic prairie ecosystem that both wildlife and humans call home.

By Lynnea Shuck, intern, Headquarters


Fish & Wildlife News   This article is a preview of the fall issue of Fish & Wildlife News, our quarterly magazine. The fall issue is due out in mid-October.

More Entries