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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Bo Derek Joins Efforts to Combat Wildlife Trafficking

 Bo Derek  Actress Bo Derek, who is a WildAid Board Member and has also served as a Special Envoy of the Secretary of State for Wildlife Trafficking, spoke passionately about the need to protect wildlife from trafficking. She became interested in the issue after visiting the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. Photo by Frank Kohn/USFWS

We recently stopped by Capitol Hill to highlight the work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners including JetBlue, Discovery Communications, WildAid and the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance in the fight against wildlife trafficking. We held a briefing for congressional staff and the public, which allowed us to amplify our messages to Americans and consumers abroad about how they can help reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife. People who travel abroad will sometimes unknowingly make purchases of food, souvenirs, clothing and medicine that are made from imperiled wildlife. Endangered and threatened animals may even be sold as pets.

Here’s a quick overview of how each of these partners is making a difference:

 panel  Our Danielle Kessler moderated a panel with partners including WildAid, Discovery Communications, JetBlue and the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance. Photo by Frank Kohn/USFWS

WildAid

The #StopWildlifeTrafficking campaign features celebrities in airport billboards and PSAs that ask consumers to protect wildlife by questioning their purchasing choices, particularly for items like ivory. The cast of the Walking Dead TV show is featured in one PSA; a broader range of celebrities are featured in other PSAs. And the video infographic below provides some of the hard-truths about how trafficking is impacting species. More PSAs with additional celebrities will soon be released.

A WildAid campaign in China featuring basketball star Yao Ming and other celebrities has helped to reduce consumption of shark-fin soup by 50-70 percent. This is just one example of WildAid’s success in reducing demand, and we’re hopeful that their expertise in changing consumer behavior will lead to similar successes for species being impacted by U.S. consumers.

JetBlue

The Caribbean is one of the most popular destinations for many of JetBlue’s flights and protecting what makes the Caribbean special is critical to the company’s business interests. JetBlue in partnership with the Service produced a short film featuring local conservation leaders in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Grenada that seeks to empower consumers to serve as guardians of Caribbean wildlife such as sea turtles, coral, and blue and gold macaws. The film is being shown on JetBlue flights, which carry 35 million passengers each year.

Discovery Communications

In September, at the most recent international wildlife trade conference (CITES COP17), Discovery Communications released a new PSA created in collaboration with the Service. It is narrated by actor Edward Norton and is now airing on Discovery networks in the United States and abroad. The PSA was part of the company’s mission to not only inspire people, but also empower them to protect the world’s wildlife and natural wonders

U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance

The U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance has recruited a large number of companies and organizations under one umbrella to work together to take on the wildlife trafficking crisis. Sara Walker, Executive Director of the Alliance, explained that while it’s not an issue that has been on the radar (yet) for many companies, there is relevance and a role for them to play in helping to protect wildlife. Some big names have already joined the Alliance in addition to Discovery, JetBlue, and WildAid, including Google, eBay, Ralph Lauren, and Tiffany.

   Senator Jeff Flake

Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) meets with Office of Law Enforcement Chief, William C, Woody, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff, Bo Derek and our partners. Senator Flake was a lead co-sponsor of the recently passed END Wildlife Trafficking Act. Photo by USFWS

Congressional Interest in Combating Wildlife Trafficking is Significant

Giving us new tools to fight wildlife trafficking, last year Congress passed, and the President signed into law the Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act. This legislation demonstrates that protection of wildlife, both domestically and abroad, is a priority for Congress that has broad, bipartisan support. 

Following the briefing, other Members of Congress and their staff took time to meet with us and our partners to discuss the progress we are making. 

Senator Coons, one of the lead sponsors of the END Wildlife Trafficking Act said, “The collaboration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with private sector leaders is essential if we are to meet our goal of quickly and effectively combatting wildlife trafficking and poaching. Countless species worldwide, including well-known ones like elephants, sea turtles, and rhinos, could potentially be lost if we don’t take action. The partnership of well-respected advocacy organizations, like WildAid and the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, will be critical to combine the strength of all sectors to empower Americans to know what they can do to help protect wildlife around the world. I am proud of the work Congress did earlier this year to pass the END Wildlife Trafficking Act, which provides congressional authorization and guidance for this important work.” 

Senator Flake, another lead sponsor of the END Wildlife Trafficking Act stated: “Wildlife trafficking is a multibillion-dollar industry that not only threatens to extinguish iconic wildlife, but also fuels an illicit industry that threatens global security. I am thankful that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other stakeholders are bringing awareness to this important issue.”  

   Congressman Mike Thompson Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA-5) meets with Bo Derek, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff and our partners. Photo by USFWS

The Service looks forward to continuing to work with Congress on the important issue of combating wildlife trafficking.

SECAS: An Unprecedented Vision for Conserving the Southeast Landscape

   BlueprintThe SECAS Blueprint 1.0 shown here represents lands with high conservation value, but it is not an acquisition boundary. In fact, much of the “high” priority is already in the conservation estate, while the “medium” areas are important for promoting and maintaining connectivity. 

The Southeast Region’s population grew 40 percent faster than any other region over the past six decades. Cities are getting bigger. Rural communities are getting smaller.  

Urbanization, population and related growth trends, and a range of related conservation needs prompted all members of the Southeastern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA); 12 federal agencies including the Service, all members of the federal Southeast Natural Resource Leaders Group; and conservation partners steering the work of six Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) to come together in 2011 to develop a shared, long-term vision called the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS).

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Alaska is Different: It Has OSM

3 people with harvested caribou    Subsistence users transport harvested caribou in Northwestern Alaska. Photo by Lisa Maas/USFWS

From caribou and permafrost to massive refuges accessed only by float planes, most folks recognize that Alaska is different.  So different, in fact, that an entire federal initiative, the Federal Subsistence Management Program, operates only in the Alaska Region.

For rural Alaskans, subsistence fishing and hunting provide a large share of their food – annually they harvest about 18,000 tons of wild foods, including salmon and moose.  An economic benefit to be sure, but the harvest of wild foods also connects them to the land and a way of life that has been passed down for thousands of years.

“Like many in the Arctic, my family relies on the land for food,” Keemuel Kenrud, an Arctic Youth Ambassador, writes in a blog.

The Federal Subsistence Management Program and the Office of Subsistence Management (OSM), which supports the program, aim to ensure that wild resources on federal lands remain available to people like Kenrud.

UpperKenaiScenicThe Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act re-designated Kenai National Moose Range as Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS

Some may be familiar with the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), the 1980 law that established or added to Alaska’s 16 refuges.  A lesser-known function of the law was to prioritize subsistence uses by rural Alaskans on federal public lands and water over other consumptive uses.   Since 1990, when the federal government assumed management of subsistence on federal public lands from the state of Alaska, OSM has administered this subsistence priority.  

Dual management of fish and wildlife harvest is another way Alaska is different.  Only rural Alaskan residents qualify as “federal subsistence users,” so two sets of regulations govern harvest on federal public lands and waters in the state:  one for most Alaska residents and non-residents administered by the state of Alaska and one for federally qualified subsistence users administered by OSM and the Federal Subsistence Management Program.

Any U.S. citizen can submit proposals to modify federal subsistence regulations (i.e., extend a moose season, reduce the harvest limit of salmon).  OSM then analyzes the effects of the proposed regulation change on fish and wildlife populations as well as subsistence uses, and shepherds proposals through multiple rounds of review, including by the 10 Regional Advisory Councils.

The councils, established by ANILCA, are made up of local subsistence and sport/commercial users and provide a regional forum for subsistence issues.  After discussions, the councils make recommendations to the Federal Subsistence Board, which makes the final decision on proposals.  The eight-member board is composed of the Regional Directors of five federal agencies – the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service – and three public members with extensive subsistence knowledge and experience who are appointed by the Secretary of the Interior with concurrence from the Secretary of Agriculture. 

“Being a [subsistence] user, eating [the food we harvest] every day, handing that tradition down to my family, and showing them why it’s important that we have strong environmental programs, that we have regulations, that we have management plans, to protect the way of life for ourselves, I think is critical to the future of Alaska,” Anthony Christianson, the new chair of the Federal Subsistence Board, told Alaska Public Media.

Lisa Maas, Office of Subsistence Management, Alaska Region


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.

Director Dan Ashe, Key Member of the FWS Family, Steps Down

Appreciation for the people who work with him drove Ashe when he served as director and throughout Service career. His last day is January 20.

   Dan and Scout polant milkweedAshe and a Girl Scout check on a milkweed planting, done to help monarch butterflies.  Photo by Lisa Cox/USFWS

Dan Ashe has garnered his share of accolades over his 22 years with the Service, the last five and a half as Director, but when it comes to naming what he thinks are his greatest accomplishments, he hesitates. “I think I will let other people decide whether things have been great.”

That’s not to say there aren’t things he is proud of. In summary, Ashe says he is proud of his work with the Service “in a variety of capacities” and his “work on things that are important and consequential.”

Specifically, he mentions the Refuge System Improvement Act in 1997 – a framework document for managing the National Wildlife Refuge System – the Service’s first scientific integrity policy, the climate change policy, landscape-scale conservation and more.

Fish and Wildlife Service Family

But when you speak to Dan Ashe, what you hear is his appreciation for the people who work with him. He doesn’t say he is proud he did this or he did that. Instead he says “we developed,” “we drove conservation.”

   Dan diving with Susan WhiteAshe and the Service’s Susan White see the sights around Palmyra National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific. Photo by USFWS

Fitting with that, Ashe says what he will miss most at the Service when he leaves are the people.

“We use the word family a lot here in the Fish and Wildlife Service,” he says, “and in many regards it feels that way.” And he will miss working with that family on issues big and small.

Chad Karges, the manager of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, was thankful for Ashe’s help dealing with a major issue a year ago: the illegal occupation of the refuge. “Dan's engagement was fundamental to lessening impacts to Service employees and resources,” Karges says.

But the Service family needs to grow to remain relevant, and Ren Lohoefener, who just retired after 27 years with the Service, including eight years as Pacific Southwest Regional Director, credits Ashe for seeing that, calling him “a force for change within the Service.” 

  Dan with Sigma members Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity International President Jonathan Mason (left to right) chats with Ashe, Sigma Deputy Director Steve Ballard and retired Service Deputy Director Rowan Gould in 2014 after the Service and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity signed a historic agreement to encourage urban youth to experience the natural world and promote their interest in conservation and biological sciences. Photo by Tami Heilemann/DOI

Lohoefener lauds Ashe’s support of diversity in our hiring to expand our family so we better reflect the diversity of our audience.

The Service family has always played an important part in Ashe’s life. His dad, Bill, was a career employee with the Service, and Dan Ashe grew up around the refuges of the Southeast.

At an event in June, he told an audience that he used to be known around the Service as “Bill Ashe’s son.”

The idea of family extends also to some of the advice Ashe has for his successor. “Love the people that work for you,” he says, “and they’ll go to the ends of the earth for you.”

Supporting the Field

   releasing black-footed ferrets: Dan holding carrierAshe and Mountain-Prairie Regional Director Noreen Walsh release black-footed ferrets. Photo by USFWS

His father, Ashe says, taught him that. Bill Ashe was very supportive of the people in the field, and Ashe says he learned to always support the field because much of the work “that gets done in the Fish and Wildlife Service gets done by this thing we lump into ‘the field.’”

Don Campton, science advisor and fish biologist in the Pacific Region, recalls meeting Ashe at a national meeting of science staffs back when Ashe was Science Advisor to the Director at the time.  “At the meeting, Dan asked all of us, ‘What are your needs?’” Campton told him that the Service needed online electronic access to scientific journals, something that Campton says was relatively new at the time. Campton says he is sure Ashe had heard that need before, and he “made that request a reality.”

“It is impossible,” Campton says, “to overstate the value of those contributions to the Service.”

Challenges that will be Overcome

That kind of support may be key as the Service faces challenges in the years ahead – the biggest in Ashe’s mind is the growth of human population, 10 billion by midcentury. The increase, he says, means that “every day is the best remaining day” for wildlife.

He tells people this when he talks to them – because it is true, he says, and integrity is important to Ashe, something else he got from his father.

But it doesn’t mean “we won’t have success.”

Ashe is optimistic.

What it does mean, he says, is that people “will have to make places for [wildlife species] to survive.” People will have to be “energetic enough and skilled enough to make places for them to survive.”

And Ashe thinks they will.

aSHE AND mEGAN rEED   Ashe with the Service’s Megan Reed, who presented a resolution on youth engagement at the 17TH Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in October. Ashe says he’ll “remember that moment for the rest of his life.” Photo by USFWS

“I see young people who are talented and energetic and dedicated, and they have tools and will have tools we have never imagined possible to bring to the task, so I am optimistic about the future.”

Lohoefener agrees there are challenges ahead and says Ashe positioned the Service to overcome them. “Dan will be recognized as a pivotal director during a time of global challenges.”

Bryan Arroyo, the Assistant Director for International Affairs, has seen Ashe work on the world’s stage. “Dan's leadership has transcended borders, taking the conservation mission of the Service global.” 

And thanks to Ashe, Arroyo adds, the Service has become a key player worldwide. “His balanced approach between conservation and sustainability has made him and the Service a trusted partner around the globe, allowing us to be influential on both domestic and international conservation policy.” 

Advice

 Dan speaks at Ivory Crush

Ashe speaks at the Ivory Crush in New York City, the second such event designed to raise awareness of the poaching crisis that threatens the existence of elephants. Photo by USFWS

Whoever follows him will find plenty of notes on how to succeed from Ashe, who says he has been gathering advice for a while. Some are quite basic, he says, such as “don’t answer your cellphone if you don’t know the number; let them leave a message.”

More seriously, he reminds the next director that “the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is an institution, not a person … your job is to maintain it so that you can hand it off to the next temporary custodian in as good or better condition than you received it.”

And he quotes President Lyndon Johnson when he describes what he calls “the dark side of the job.” Johnson once said, “Being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There's nothing to do but to stand there and take it.” Sometimes, Ashe says, that is the director’s job.

But he was proud to represent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, something he has called “the greatest professional honor of my life.”

As he prepares to walk out the door as director one last time, Ashe thanks everyone. He knows he’ll still be working with the Service in his new role as President and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. He also knows the Service will succeed, “and I’ll be watching.”

-- Matt Trott, External Affairs


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.

Immigrant Children Connect with Nature in Their New Home

Student hugs a plant Dirt flies as students dig in a garden, the sound of laughter bouncing across the schoolyard. “There’s sand in my shoes, but that’s not stopping me!” exclaims Maryna, a third-grader digging holes for new plants at Anza Elementary School. Most of the children who attend Anza, in El Cajon, just east of San Diego, have emigrated from war-torn countries such as Iraq and Syria, and now they are are transforming themselves into confident young girls and boys through a schoolyard habitat project.

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Students at Anza Elementary are learning to love being outdoors. Photo by Lisa Cox/USFWS

Gila Trout Swim Mineral Creek

 helicopter with big tank hanging beneath it
Gila trout arrive at the treetops over Mineral Creek. Photo by Craig Springer/USFWS

How do you move a thousand captive-raised fish from their hatchery to their release site miles away? Answer: Carefully! It helps to have a helicopter, too. That’s what it took (along with a big truck and a lot of shoe leather) to get that many Gila trout safely out to the remote headwaters of Mineral Creek, well inside the Gila National Forest of southwestern New Mexico.

On November 18, the Service, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and U.S. Forest Service released the young Gila trout, ranging from 6 inches to a foot in length, into Mineral Creek. These rare, yellow trout were spawned, hatched and raised in captivity in 2015 and 2016 at the Service’s Mora National Fish Hatchery. Hatchery fish are carefully paired and spawned to maximize genetic diversity of offspring, improving chances of their survival in the wild. The captive fish were also purposely subjected to rigorous swimming conditions in the hatchery to further ensure their fitness when released.

These trout traveled by truck eight hours to meet a helicopter at the Gila National Forest’s Glenwood Ranger Station. The aircraft made multiple flights carrying an aerated tank at the end of a long line, each time full of Gila trout. Biologists from the three agencies had hiked several miles into the rugged country to meet the trout and place them in the cool, shaded runs and pools of Mineral Creek, a tributary of the San Francisco River near Alma, New Mexico.

   Andy Dean releases Gila trout into Mineral Creek.
  Andy Dean releases Gila trout into Mineral Creek. Photo by Craig Springer/USFWS

This release is a large step forward in conserving Gila trout, which live only in New Mexico and Arizona along the Mogollon Rim, notes Andy Dean, lead Gila trout biologist with the Service’s New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office. “This repatriation into Mineral Creek adds another stream to harbor Gila trout, as outlined as a necessity in the Gila Trout Recovery Plan,” he says.  “Not only does this add a population within the San Francisco River drainage, it also helps establish Gila trout populations across a larger geographical area. More Gila trout over a larger area adds greater security to this rare fish.”

That desired security will be achieved when the Mineral Creek population is naturally reproducing, and fish of multiple ages swim its waters, perhaps in 2018.

Mineral Creek came to the attention of biologists as a candidate stream to receive Gila trout after the massive Whitewater-Baldy Fire of 2012. Destructive as it was, the forest fire actually made Mineral Creek suitable for Gila trout. The fire burned in the headlands of the stream and summer rains washed a slurry of ash and debris down the creek, removing unwanted competing non-native fishes. Though the mountain slopes and streamside vegetation are not fully stabilized post-fire, sufficient habitat exists to harbor Gila trout in Mineral Creek.  With so few suitable streams available to repatriate Gila trout in the watershed, biologists seized the opportunity.

Mineral Creek was not the only stream to receive Gila trout from Mora National Fish Hatchery this autumn.  More than 8,600 Gila trout were placed in several other waters to advance the species’ recovery and entice anglers to go after native trout in native habitats of southwest New Mexico. 

The Gila trout is protected under the Endangered Species Act. The species was listed as endangered in 1973, and due to conservation measures, was downlisted to threatened in 2006. A year later, select Gila trout populations were opened to angling for the first time in 50 years. 

Craig Springer, External Affairs, Southwest Region


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.

Virtual Tour: Visiting the Winter Home of Western Monarch Butterflies

Monarch Butterflies Overwintering in Pacific Grove, CaliforniaDuring sunny winter days, monarch butterflies overwintering along California’s central coast will disperse from their clusters on trees, when they exhibit their underwings to disguise themselves as dead leaves, to bask in the sunshine until dusk. Photo by Joanna Gilkeson/USFWS

Public affairs specialist Joanna Gilkeson recently traded in a job in our Midwest Region in Minnesota for a job in California. She is a big monarch person, so when the time was right, she packed up her camera equipment and drove north along California’s coast to see monarchs overwintering in California for the first time.

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See Joanna's Photos

‘Hope Spots’ in the Ocean

  Palmyra Atoll Natl Wildlife Refuge Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge is part of Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, one of five marine national monuments cooperatively managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Photo by Kydd Pollock

The ocean covers almost three-quarters of Earth’s surface and contains about 97 percent of the planet’s water. The ocean is home to an almost otherworldly array of rainbow-colored fish, exotic plants, large-winged seabirds, powerful marine mammals, living corals and vital microorganisms. We are just beginning to understand how those ocean creatures are interconnected with one another and with us.  

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, state and territorial governments and others to conserve the ocean and remote islands and atolls in it. The two federal agencies cooperatively manage four marine national monuments in the Pacific Ocean and one in the Atlantic. 

Oceanographer and explorer Sylvia Earle has called the marine national monuments “hope spots” for ocean health. They are the subject of this week’s National Wildlife Refuge System photo essay, “Hope Spots” in the Ocean.

   PapahanaumokuakeaAn exotic and colorful assortment of fish, plants and corals inhabit reefs within Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. Photo by James Watt 

Papahanaumokuakea, at more than 580,000 square miles, is the largest marine national monument. “It’s the largest protected area under U.S. jurisdiction. It’s the largest wholly protected area on Earth,” says Matt Brown, a Fish and Wildlife Service superintendent for the Pacific marine national monuments. “At its heart is the most remote island chain in the world, the Hawaiian Archipelago.”  

The deep water at the far end of Papahanaumokuakea is home to scores of species found nowhere else on Earth.

Additionally, Papahanaumokuakea “is the spiritual birthplace and the spiritual home of the Hawaiian people, and so it is a place of enormous cultural significance,” says Brown. “It’s also a place of enormous historical significance. In June, we’re going to commemorate the 75th anniversary the Battle of Midway. It’s the turning point of World War II. It’s all of these layers that make Papahanaumokuakea so special.”

   Mariana Trench MNM Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, clockwise from bottom left: Galatheid crabs and shrimp graze on bacterial filaments on mussel shells; tropical fish and corals inhabit an area nicknamed “the aquarium”; superheated spring water spews from Champagne Vent into cold ocean water to form bubbles of liquid carbon dioxide. Photos by NOAA Submarine Ring of Fire 2004

The other marine national monuments in the Pacific are Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, and Rose Atoll Marine National Monument and, in the Atlantic, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument.

Learn more about them in “Hope Spots” in the Ocean. It 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.

Captive Rearing and Reintroduction Program Gives the Dusky Gopher Frog a Head Start at Recovery

   dusky gopher frogAdult male dusky gopher frog. Photo by John Tupy

The dusky gopher frog is a native to the longleaf pine forests of the southeastern United States. This federally endangered animal depends on temporary shallow ponds embedded in this landscape for breeding. Unfortunately, much of the open longleaf pine habitat where rainwater collects to create the ideal setting for breeding has disappeared as a result of development and fire suppression. For years, the survival of the frog has primarily depended on a single breeding pond – Glen's Pond – located within Mississippi’s DeSoto National Forest. This site has been monitored continuously since it was discovered in 1988. Since then, severe drought events and a disease outbreak in 2003 resulted in several back-to-back years where there was little to no breeding success. With few frog tadpoles surviving to adulthood, the species was in jeopardy.

A captive rearing and release program has helped bolster the wild dusky gopher frog population. By hatching egg masses brought in from the wild and raising the tadpoles in the safety of a lab, staff in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mississippi Ecological Service’s Field Office ensures the breeding population at Glen’s Pond recruits healthy adult frogs each year, even when various factors prevent the natural development of wild tadpoles into frogs.

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Monarchs and Other Butterflies

Monarch Butterfly
Monarch butterfly at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Ron Holmes/USFWS

We write a lot about monarch butterflies and our work to conserve them – with good reason! Almost everyone knows monarchs. They may well be North America’s best-known butterfly. And people are rallying to support them. Beyond their celebrity, though, there is another good reason. Planting milkweed, a key way to help monarchs, has benefits beyond monarchs. In fact, all our work, and that of many partners, to restore habitat for monarchs helps other pollinators. And we restored or enhanced more than 330,000 acres in 2016 for monarchs and other pollinators, blowing past our goal for 2016 AND 2017.

Lately, our work with other butterflies has been in the news.

Oregon silverspot butterflyOregon silverspot butterfly was listed as a threatened species with critical habitat in October 1980.  Photo by USFWS

In Oregon, we are working with partners to re-establish two populations of the threatened Oregon silverspot butterfly. At one time, the Oregon silverspot butterfly was widespread among 20 distinct locations from northern California to southern Washington.  Only five populations currently remain, four in Oregon and one in California.

Quino Checkerspot Butterfly on a wild hyacinthQuino checkerspot butterfly on a wild hyacinth. Photo by Andrew Fisher/USFWS Volunteer Biologist

San Diego National Wildlife Refuge is working to recover the critically endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly. A team of biologists from the San Diego Zoo, the Service and the Conservation Biology Institute recently released 742 larvae of the Quino checkerspot on the refuge. This was the first captive-rearing and release for this California native butterfly species. The Quino checkerspot was once among the most commonly seen butterflies in Southern California, but this species has experienced a drastic decline, primarily because increased urban development has deprived it of habitat. Climate change, drought, invasive plants and fire pose additional threats.

Male Smith's blue butterfly at Salinas River National Wildlife RefugeMale Smith's blue butterfly at Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Diane Kodama/USFWS

Also in California, Service senior fish and wildlife biologist Jacob Martin has been studying the endangered Smith’s blue butterfly for more than 10 years. Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge is a safe haven for the tiny butterflies, which have struggled to survive against trampling by humans and vehicles, proliferation of weeds and coastal development. A new survey technique and long-term monitoring effort will help the refuge know better how to support the Smith’s blue butterfly population.

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