New Mexico

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge and nearby Bottomless Lakes State Park have been recognized as International Wetlands of Importance under the Ramsar Convention. Together, the two distinct entities are recognized as the Roswell Artesian Wetlands Site. It is the first Ramsar site in New Mexico and the 29th in the United States. The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971 to encourage voluntary protection of wetlands. Countries that sign the treaty demonstrate their commitment to conserve wetlands as a contribution toward sustainable development throughout the world. Bitter Lake Refuge lies within an ecological meeting place where the Chihuahuan Desert, shortgrass prairie, Pecos River and the Roswell artesian basin come together and create unusual biological situations. Numerous lakes, seeps, springs, oxbows, marshes, shallow waters and water–filled sinkholes provide habitat for a wide array of species. At least 357 species of birds have been observed on the refuge, and more than 60 dragonfly species and several invertebrates found nowhere else on Earth call the wetlands home.

This spring, as part of an unpaved road training workshop Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge partnered with San Miguel County and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to rehabilitate a 1.3–mile stretch of county road and three wildlife viewing parking lots. The stretch of road is part of the eight–mile, self–guided auto tour route of the refuge. Each year, more than 15,000 visitors view and photograph wildlife along the auto tour route. Federal, state and county employees who participated in the workshop received specialized hands–on training while correcting drainage problems and surfacing the road with gravel.


Quivira National Wildlife Refuge recently received a $25,000 Playa Lakes Joint Venture/ConocoPhillips grant to help enhance wetland habitat. The grant, combined with about $65,000 from a local Ducks Unlimited chapter fund–raising effort and $25,000 from the George Stumps Wildlife Trust, will provide a substantial portion of the money needed to transform narrow, deep, open water sites near dikes/outlet structures and cattail–choked sites into moist–soil habitat. Such habitat can be more efficiently drained and flooded to encourage annual plant and invertebrate production, and so increase forage resources for shorebirds and waterfowl. “We’re restoring wetlands areas that were created in the 1960s,” says refuge manager Dan Severson. “We’re recontouring and filling in the borrow area.” Nine Quivira Refuge seasonally flooded freshwater wetland units, totaling 760 acres, are to be improved as part of the two–year project. “We get so much better wildlife value when the wetlands are managed as moist–soil habitat not choked by cattails,” Severson says. “It’s crucial that we manage our habitat to its fullest potential.” The habitat benefits shorebirds, waterbirds and waterfowl at the refuge in the south–central part of the state—including northern pintails, mallards, greater white–fronted geese, snowy plovers, American avocets, long–billed dowitchers, whooping cranes, sandhill cranes and American white pelicans.


photo of birthday cake
On the spur of the moment, Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge hosted a party to celebrate the Refuge System’s 108th birthday.
Credit: USFWS

Sonja Jahrsdoerfer and the Charles M. Russell Refuge staff sure know how to throw an impromptu party. Jahrsdoerfer, the Alaska Region endangered species coordinator who was on an Advanced Leadership Development Program (ALDP) detail as project leader at the refuge, responded to an early March news release about the Refuge System’s 108th birthday by, in less than a week, arranging an open house at the refuge for the big day, March 14. “We were able to have this event on short notice because refuge staff jumped in to help,” says Jahrsdoerfer. “People were available to answer questions, and we helped kids explore the collections of skulls, skins and fossils. We ran a photo show of refuge wildlife and set up a spotting scope on the deck, so people could check out the waterfowl on the nearby wetland and the bison in the field below the office.” The birthday gathering—which included a cake, complete with a Blue Goose, and drew about 30 people—attracted the attention of the Lewiston News–Argus newspaper and a local radio station.


Thousands of recycled Christmas trees collected after the holiday from homes in the New Orleans area were airlifted onto Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in late February to help establish a breakwater in open ponds on the refuge. The recycled tree project, which is the result of partnership among the refuge, the city of New Orleans and the Louisiana Air National Guard, is designed to help trap silt and encourage growth of marsh grasses. Many of the ponds have enlarged in recent years as wave action has eaten away at the shoreline. “Every bit of marsh we can reclaim is very important,” refuge manager Jack Bohannan told a local TV station. “We’re losing much more marsh than we can ever regain right now.” Bayou Sauvage Refuge is 25,000 acres of fresh and brackish marshes, all within the New Orleans city limits. The brackish marshes serve as estuarine nurseries for various fish species, crabs and shrimp. Freshwater lagoons, bayous and ponds serve as production areas for largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish.


Solo, the trumpeter swan that lived at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge for decades, is believed to have died along with one of his 2010 cygnets. Biologists believe Solo may have been one of the original cygnets reintroduced to the refuge in the 1960s. His longtime mate was killed by a coyote in 1988, but Solo kept returning to the refuge each spring. In 2009, he appeared with a new mate, and four cygnets were born; there was another brood last year. This January, refuge biologist Mike Rule says, 10 swans were seen together on Cheever Lake at the refuge—most likely Solo, his mate, five cygnets from 2010 and three from the 2009 brood. Four days later, refuge staff recorded the first observation of only one adult with four cygnets. Examination of photos leaves biologists almost certain that the remaining adult is Solo’s mate. “I am sure that we lost Solo and one of his 2010 cygnets this winter,” Rule says. He hopes all seven of Solo’s offspring “make it to breeding age, find mates and stay to nest at Turnbull Refuge. The earliest this will happen is next winter. Trumpeter swan pairs are usually formed where they winter.”


photo of Ruby Lake Refuge
Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Nevada is completing a $1.2 million wetland enhancement project with help from Ducks Unlimited and other partners.
Credit: Mark Pelz/USFWS

Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge, with the support of Ducks Unlimited and other partners, is in the final stages of a $1.2 million wetland enhancement project. The effort improves 1,755 acres of habitat in the refuge’s East Marsh by rebuilding a levee; replaces water control structures vital to another 4,245 acres of marsh habitat; and improves 7,300 acres of waterfowl and waterbird nesting habitat in the South Marsh by increasing water management capabilities and controlling overgrown vegetation. The remote 39,928–acre refuge is a vital waterfowl nesting area that supports the largest population of nesting canvasback ducks west of the Mississippi River outside Alaska. More than 220 species of birds migrate through the refuge, 15 species of waterfowl nest on it, and it is an important sanctuary for the greater sage–grouse, northern leopard frog, pygmy rabbit and pronghorn antelope. Non–native trout and largemouth bass were introduced to the marsh more than 30 years ago, and the refuge has become a popular fishing location. In February, a 39–year–old state record for the largest rainbow trout caught in Nevada fell at Ruby Lake Refuge when Elko resident Mike Mott caught a 16–pound, 8–ounce fish. The trout, which broke the previous record by four ounces, was 30.5 inches long.

New Jersey

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and the Friends of Great Swamp are partnering with local libraries to spread the message about the Refuge System. The Friends have developed an exhibit about the refuge and the System as a whole. The exhibit moves from library to library. Since the fall of 2008, displays have been placed in 15 local libraries. The exhibit includes a map of Great Swamp Refuge, background information and books about its history. There are also informational folders and pictures of the wildlife that inhabit the refuge. The display also includes pamphlets from all five refuges in New Jersey.