Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, in the southeast part of the state, plans to dedicate a new 500-foot boardwalk in March. The boardwalk was built with the help of several partners and more than 1,000 hours of free labor by the AFL-CIO Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. The “green” boardwalk — spanning a low-lying section of the Knobby Knees Trail — will connect eight to 10 miles of recreational trail to nearby Liberty. Refuge manager Stuart Marcus voiced pride in the project, achieved despite flooding. The refuge saw 95 inches of rain in 2015 — an all-time record. “We will feel ecstatic when we get this boardwalk completed,” said Marcus in January, when the Trinity River was still three feet above flood stage. “It will be something we really worked hard at getting done.” Teams from the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance worked manually on weekends hand-carrying supplies, jack-hammering metal poles through concrete blocks, mounting railings and installing the boardwalk’s wooden deck. Other project partners included the City of Liberty, Friends of Trinity River Refuge, the American Hiking Society and the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife. Volunteers from local schools also helped out.


An intentional levee breach reintroduced tidal water to inner Bair Island at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge for the first time since the area was diked off for agriculture in the 1880s. The breach culminated a $7.5 million restoration project overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that will enable the 1,500-acre site, the largest undeveloped island in South San Francisco Bay, to grow back into the marshland it was 150 years ago. “This project is a key piece of the puzzle in restoring the lost wetlands around the bay,” said Anne Morkill, manager of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex.


Federal wildlife officer Josh Hindman and his police service dog, Ukkie, recently became the ninth law enforcement canine team in the Refuge System. Because Ukkie, a two-year-old Belgian malinois, was born and bred in Holland, he doesn’t understand English yet. As a result, Hindman gives commands in Dutch — or a version of it. “A Dutch person might not agree with me, but it’s Dutch,” Hindman told Northwest Public Radio this winter. Hindman and Ukkie are based at Mid-Columbia River National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which includes eight refuges and Hanford Reach National Monument. Hindman and Ukkie are available for deployment across the Pacific Region. Ukkie offers protection for Hindman, especially in isolated places at night. “It’s almost like there are two officers out there,” Hindman says. Ukkie can search for illegal drugs and other articles. He can track people. And he’s very social, the ideal temperament for a canine who interacts often with hunters and their Labs. “He’s a hyper ball of energy, but very controlled,” says Hindman. “I love the companionship of a dog to ride along with. And he doesn’t get tired of your jokes.”


The South Georgia-North Florida Fire Initiative, which includes Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, received the 2015 Pulaski Award. It is the second time in a decade that the refuge and its partners were recognized for their wildland fire management work. The initiative brings together government agencies, private and commercial landowners, non-government organizations and other groups interested in wildfire protection. A spin-off team from the initiative strives to educate the public about the importance of fire in longleaf pine restoration. The success of the initiative is attributed to all partners’ willingness to work where the most good can be accomplished, regardless of ownership. “The value is in knowing that when we must act, we are better prepared to defend our communities, our homes and our livelihoods,” says Okefenokee Refuge project leader Michael Lusk. The award is given annually by the National Interagency Fire Center.


Staff, Friends and volunteers removed seven dumpsters’ worth of marine debris, largely metal lobster traps, from the shoreline at Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge in three days over the past six months. That’s more than 19,000 pounds of debris. The work was completed by dozens of volunteers, including students from Unity College; people from The Nature Conservancy; the Maine Island Trail Association; the Service’s Old Town Ecological Services Office; Friends of Acadia; and neighbors. Four mainland units and acreage on 60 islands comprise the refuge. The cleanup cleared .66 miles of the Petit Manan Point unit’s beaches.


Moose have colonized areas of western Alaska where they had not been observed previously. This development and climate change present new challenges at Togiak National Wildlife Refuge and elsewhere. Moose numbers at and near the refuge have increased from fewer than 10 observed during surveys in the early 1980s to more than 1,600 moose in 2011. For years, biologists have estimated moose numbers by conducting low-level aerial surveys in winter. This method has worked well because, historically, the refuge was completely snow-covered, and moose could be seen easily against the white background. In recent years, however, snowfall has decreased. Brown moose on a brown landscape are difficult´┐╝to spot and accurately count from the air, ultimately making it difficult to make solid hunting-season decisions and science-based management decisions. Scientists are predicting less snowfall in the area over the long term as a result of changing climate. Statisticians and wildlife biologists from the Service, Alaska Department of Fish and Game and University of Alaska Fairbanks are working to improve their ability to estimate moose abundances. Moose are an important subsistence resource and have been shown to play a central ecological role.


The new visitor center at Desert National Wildlife Refuge received a 2015 Department of the Interior Environmental Achievement Award. The 10,524-square-foot Corn Creek Administrative Office and Visitor Center, which opened in 2014, was honored as a “superlative example of zero net-energy, sustainable design in the Mojave Desert.”

New Jersey

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and the Trenton chapter of Phi Beta Sigma hosted two dozen young people from urban neighborhoods at a kickoff event at the refuge designed to introduce the youth to the variety of careers available on refuges. The Sigma Beta Club is a youth auxiliary arm of Phi Beta Sigma, a service fraternity that is partnering with the Service. The event last November was also intended to establish a personal connection among the youth, their advisers and refuge staff. The day included a behind-the-scenes tour of the wildlife biology, visitor services and maintenance programs. Friends of Great Swamp and several other New Jersey-based Service staff members helped with the event.