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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Big Thinking in Texas

  Houston toadHouston toad. Photo by USFWS

Austin, Texas, ranks among the fastest growing cities in the United States.  Like most of the Lone Star State, it is also a hotspot for a diversity of species and their habitats, and it is almost entirely privately owned.

A key issue along the Interstate Highway 35 corridor, which passes through rapidly growing cities including Austin and San Antonio, is how to protect wildlife and their habitat in the face of increasing development.  Big thinking and innovative solutions mixed with community-based collaboration and incentives has helped Texas set the stage for landscape-level planning to benefit species across the nation and beyond. 

More on the Big Thinking in Texas

Celebrating Lighthouses

  Thacher Island Refuge lighthouseThe north tower at Thacher Island National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts, built in 1861, offers magnificent views of the island and the Atlantic Ocean surrounding it. The tower is one of more than two dozen lighthouses associated with the National Wildlife Refuge System. Photo by Matt Poole/USFWS

Everybody loves a lighthouse. Or so it seems. This Sunday, August 7, is National Lighthouse Day. This week we are celebrating the lighthouses of the National Wildlife Refuge System on our homepage. Check it out.

Please click through photo gallery, follow along in the captions, click on hotlinks along the way. If you do, you’ll discover that more than two dozen lighthouses stand on or near public land managed for you by the Fish and Wildlife Service. You’ll also learn that many lighthouses in the Refuge System are supported and staffed by Friends organizations and volunteers.  If you would like to volunteer at a national wildlife refuge, please go here to find out more.

The lighthouse celebration is part of the Refuge System’s new 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 story is posted on the Refuge System homepage each Wednesday.

The Sounds of Nature

Last month, we told you how folk band River Whyless was headed to Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming to make music inspired by Seedskadee’s unparalleled landscape. Well, they’re there. Check out this short clip of a jam session in the carpentry shop and be sure to keep an eye on Seedskadee’s Facebook page for the latest adventures.

Corpus Christi Municipal Marina a Showplace for Sport Fish Restoration Grants

  Corpus Christi Municipal Marina Corpus Christi Municipal Marina. Photo by City of Corpus Christi

Craig Springer in our Southwest Region tells us about the revitalized Corpus Christi Municipal Marina.

The journey of many miles starts with the first step. The renovation of the Corpus Christi Municipal Marina dates back to the year 2000, when the first of what would become seven grants from our Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR) was made available to modernize the popular boating facility. 

Sixteen years later, boaters and anglers from across the United States and around the world come to the Texas Gulf Coast to enjoy a top-notch marina for boats big and little. It’s an excellent launch point for near-shore anglers and recreational boaters on long sojourns.

“This marina is hugely important to both boaters and anglers on the Texas Gulf Coast, and exemplifies how the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program works in partnership with others to improve boating access and infrastructures,” says Cliff Schleusner, Chief of WSFR in the Southwest Region.  “Boaters and anglers paid for it in excise taxes, and now they and others reap the benefits.”

The WSFR Program stems from two acts of Congress, laws originally enacted in 1937 and 1950 that laid the path for a user-pay, user-benefit system where the outcome is improved hunting and fishing and boating. Manufacturers and importers of firearms, ammo, archery gear, boats and motors and fuel, and fishing gear pay excise taxes to the federal government.  That tax is passed on to consumers at the cash register. That little bit extra is held in trust by the WSFR Program and reapportioned in grants, like the ones received by the Corpus Christi Municipal Marina.

Since 2000, the marina has received $1,764,050 in federal funds via WSFR grants, specifically targeted at an improved marina infrastructure, access for boaters and improved sanitary facilities to maintain clean water. The grant monies, matched by the City of Corpus Christi and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, have built modern septic pump-outs, restrooms and showers, a laundry, meeting rooms, a four-lane boat ramp, and more than 80 slips for boats greater than 26 feet in length.  The City of Corpus Christi dedicated the most recent work—35 slips for boats 30 to 45 feet in length—in a ceremony in May.

The new infrastructure replaces outdated and decayed materials, and it should better withstand the forces of hurricanes that may hit the coast. Part of the infrastructure upgrade includes Internet systems needed for navigation.

“Boating and angling are to Corpus Christi and the Texas Gulf Coast what finance is to Wall Street: inseparable,” says Schleusner. “The upgrades made to the Corpus Christi Municipal Marina should be a boon to boating and business.”

To learn more about the WSFR Program in the Southwest Region, visit: www.fws.gov/southwest/federal_assistance

Son Helps FWS Museum Preserve Memory of Wilderness Act's Howard Zahniser

   Howard Zahniser
Howard Zahniser. Wilderness areas refresh and preserve the soul, and reinforce our national pride in the beauty and majesty of our nation’s wild spaces

Ed Zahniser, a longtime employee of the National Park Service in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, as an editor of park brochures and literature, has been monumental in keeping alive the legacy of his father, famed conservationist Howard Zahniser.

Howard Zahniser was the primary author of the Wilderness Act of 1964. A school teacher piqued his interest in birds and birding. In 1930, “Zahnie” began working for the Bureau of Biological Survey (later the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) where he remained until 1942. There he worked under J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling and Ira N. Gabrielson, and absorbed the love of wilderness from naturalists Edward N. Preble, Olaus J. Murie and others. In 1945, Zahnie went to work for The Wilderness Society as its Executive Secretary and Editor of The Living Wilderness. With David Brower and the Sierra Club, he helped lead the successful fight in the early 1950s to defeat the proposed Echo Park Dam in Dinosaur National Monument. After decades of lobbying and innumerable drafts that he wrote and edited, the Wilderness Act was signed on September 3, 1964. Sadly Howard Zahniser, who devoted so much of his life to the act, died on May 5, 1964, several months before the bill became the first of its kind law protecting wilderness. The Wilderness Act now protects more than 110 million wild and beautiful acres in the United States –  20 million of those acres within the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Ed has donated numerous documents, photographs and objects to the Fish and Wildlife Service Museum and Archives.  From old LPs of Howard Zahniser’s speeches and radio broadcasts to auspicious photos and manuscripts, the museum dispenses information to researchers and the public on the important contributions of Howard to the country and to those who cherish and enjoy pristine wilderness areas. 

More information about the FWS Museum/Archives, located in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, or our history in general can be found at: https://nctc.fws.gov/history/index.html or https://www.facebook.com/USFWSHISTORY.


Summer’s On at Your National Wildlife Refuges

Quick. What does summer bring to mind? Ice cream. Belly flops. National wildlife refuges.

National wildlife refuges? That’s right. These tranquil wildlife oases — located in all 50 states and U.S. territories — serve up tons of summer fun, from paddling to hiking and from netting butterflies to catching your very first fish. Don’t be surprised if you spot a groundhog, a kingfisher or some other elusive creature along the scenic way. And judging by visitors’ enthusiasm, the secret is out.

“Glorious Summer” — the second in the National Wildlife Refuge System’s new series of weekly online stories — offers a dazzling look at some of the most popular seasonal sights and goings-on at national wildlife refuges.

Here’s a preview of just some of what you’ll find this summer.

Visitor favorites:
bison on the prairiePhoto by Scott Fairbairn at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge

Say hey, big guy. North America’s largest living land mammal is now our national mammal. What kid wouldn’t thrill to see a bison? (For that matter, what adult?) Find this beast and others in the wild at refuges. Great places to see bison include: Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa (pictured here) and Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Colorado.

Fun for the kids:  

Learning in nature can be a blast. Family-friendly interpretive programs on refuges include nighttime sea turtle walks at Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Florida and nature walks at John Heinz  National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum in Philadelphia. In photo, youngsters guess the weight of elk antlers while visiting the historic Miller Ranch at National Elk Refuge in Wyoming.

Elk antler programPhoto: Lori Iverson, USFWS

Natural wonders:

Prepare to feel chills up your spine. How? By heading into the woods after dark to hear the howls of endangered red wolves in one of their last natural habitats. Guided wolf howls take place Wednesday nights in summer at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in Manteo, North Carolina.
howling with the wolves at Alligator River NWR
Photo: Steve Hillebrand, USFWS


paddling Upper Klamath(Photo: Steve Hymon)

Summer is a great time to explore water trails on national wildlife refuges. Immerse yourself in nature while you paddle the 9.5-mile Upper Klamath Canoe Trail leading through a freshwater marsh at Upper Klamath National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.


Read the full story: “Glorious Summer.”

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

Compiled by Susan Morse, USWFS

What It Means to be a Salt Marsh Intern

 Salt marsh intern Bridget Chalifour and Technician Toni Mikula in the process of installing a Surface Elevation Table. Salt marsh intern Bridget Chalifour and Technician Toni Mikula in the process of installing a Surface Elevation Table. Because a footprint can undo years of sediment accumulation and thus throw off measurements, the team must stay on special platforms to do their work.

Bridget Chalifour is a salt marsh intern at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine. A what? you ask. Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that are regularly inundated with tidal salt water, and they are vastly important to the environment  and humanity. Read on to find what Bridget does and why.  

   A Surface Elevation Table, or SET.
A Surface Elevation Table, or SET. Photo by Bridget Chalifour  

In my day-to-day life as a college student, I often wonder what the lasting impact of my time in the classroom will be. When will I use this piece of advanced Calculus? Will people generations from now remember me for the concoction I made in my chemistry lab? But as a salt marsh intern working in the Land Management Research Demonstration (LMRD) office at Rachel Carson Refuge, I never doubt that my work will greatly influence and aid future researchers.

Every day, I am involved in the Salt Marsh Integrity (SMI) Assessment Project. This ongoing survey aims to provide a standardized integrity score (an overall assessment of health) of area salt marshes with regard to factors like nekton (free-swimming fish and shrimp) richness and density, native vegetation cover, water levels, and surface elevation. Data like these will report the overall health of salt marshes for years to come.

When I am knee-deep in a mucky pool, I know that the nekton I am sampling will provide an essential baseline not only for new interns in the following year, but for all scientists working to effectively manage salt marshes in the near and distant future. When I am jack-hammering 20 steel rods into the earth during a Surface Elevation Table (SET) installation, I hope that the "monument" I built will stand against the seasons and help LMRD scientists monitor the rising and sinking of the marsh surface long after my summer in Maine is over. Even when the days are long and the weather is hot and muggy, I take comfort in the fact that the LMRD office’s efforts are critical for evaluating and improving management methods. Then, I take a swig of water and get back to work.

   Salt marsh intern Bridget Chalifour, in mid-nekton sampling stance.
  Salt marsh intern Bridget Chalifour, ready for nekton sampling. Photo by Nadine Hyde

To me, being a salt marsh intern is much more than the temporary rush of a plentiful catch in a nekton throw trap or a productive day of SET readings — being a salt marsh intern is the permanent satisfaction of working toward a cause greater than yourself. It is being part of a project that will help preserve ecosystems and measure successes for decades to come. It will sustain the services the marsh provides to the public, from filtering groundwater to providing a blissful kayaking creek. What pop quiz can say that?










Operation Crash Team Could Win Prestigious Government ‘Oscar’ Award – Polls Now Open!

   baby rhinoFirst black baby rhino born on Kenyan sanctuary.  Photo by nrt-kenya.org

In May, we were delighted to learn that Law Enforcement Deputy Chief Ed Grace and his Operation Crash team were named as finalists in the “Oscars” of government service, and voting is now open for the “People’s Choice” award.

Ed and team were nominated in the Homeland Security and Law Enforcement category of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals. Named after the founder of the Partnership for Public Service, the prestigious “Sammies” highlight the best work of our country’s dedicated public servants. 

An official selection committee chooses the eight category winners, but the public chooses who gets the the People’s Choice award.

Our federal law enforcement officers are making a positive difference by putting wildlife traffickers behind bars.  Also, funds garnered by this operation helped to establish the Sera Rhino Sanctuary, a black rhino sanctuary in Kenya.  An exciting success of this program was the birth of the first baby black rhino earlier this year.

Operation Crash is an ongoing nationwide criminal investigation led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement, Special Investigation Unit.  The investigation focuses on the illegal trade in rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory in response to the involvement of international poaching and smuggling syndicates.

How to Vote

Voting is open to active Facebook account holders at servicetoamericamedals.org/peoples-choice/. The finalists are on the bottom right side of the page. Check the box for your pick or picks and click the “Submit” at the very bottom of the list.  It will then pull up a Facebook sign-in window.  Voters may make their selection once each day until the polls close on September 9 at 11:59 p.m. Please note that every time you open the link to the voting page, the list of finalists displays in a different order.

Winners will be announced at the 2016 Sammies ceremony on September 20 in Washington, DC. 

Good luck, Operation Crash!

Travel Tip: Purchase Carefully to Avoid Supporting Wildlife Trafficking

  Items seized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of investigations into wildlife trafficking.
Items seized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of investigations into wildlife trafficking. Photo by Brent Lawrence/USFWS

The summer travel season is a prime time for travelers heading outside the United States to inadvertently purchase souvenir items that are illegal to bring back to America. “Just because something is for sale in a foreign country, doesn’t mean it is legal. Just because you see it for sale, it doesn’t mean it’s legal in that country. And if it is legal in that country, it doesn’t mean that it’s legal to bring back into the United States,” says Sheila O’Connor, Resident Agent in Charge for Oregon for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement.

Read More

A Beginner’s Guide to the National Wildlife Refuge System … and More

  Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. President Theodore Roosevelt established the National Wildlife Refuge System in 1903 at what is now Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. Photo by George Gentry/USFWS volunteer

They say a picture is with worth a thousand words. The lands and waters conserved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within the National Wildlife Refuge System are among the most picturesque natural places on Earth. They are also home to some of the most compelling fish, wildlife and plants on the planet.

So, today the National Wildlife Refuge System is beginning a series of weekly online stories that will use photos to highlight the conservation work and visitor opportunities at national wildlife refuges, wetland management districts and marine national monuments. These photo-heavy stories are scheduled to be posted prominently on the Refuge System homepage each Wednesday and to remain there for a week.

The first story, “A Beginner’s Guide to the National Wildlife Refuge System,” is – as its title suggests – designed to give veteran conservationists and newcomers alike a brief sense of what the Refuge System has become since its founding by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903.

RELATED: Find a refuge near you

Please click through the photos, follow along in the captions, click on a hotlink or two along the way. If you do, you’ll see that, yes, the Refuge System is primarily for fish, wildlife and plants, but it’s also for people.

  whooping cranes Endangered whooping cranes at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Photo by Diane Nunley

In addition to providing habitat for more than 380 threatened or endangered species, providing resting, nesting, feeding and breeding spots for hundreds of millions of migratory birds, and conserving ecosystems from the Pacific to the Caribbean and Alaska to Maine, the Refuge System offers world-class recreation.

On hundreds of national wildlife refuges, you can fish, hunt, hike a trail, photograph wildlife and enjoy environmental education programs.

 Schoolchildren at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife RefugeSchoolchildren at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Justine Belson/USFWS

The network of lands and waters conserved within the National Wildlife Refuge System includes some of the most important, distinctive, breathtaking and pristine habitat in the world. Among those places are Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma and the deepest area on Earth, Mariana Trench National Wildlife Refuge in the Northern Mariana Islands.

  Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Photo by Cathy CurbyArctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Photo by Cathy Curby

Learn more about all of it by checking out “A Beginner’s Guide to the National Wildlife Refuge System,” by regularly checking in on our homepage, and by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Please consider sharing what you find with folks you know. Thanks.


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