photo of a waterfowl habitat
The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission approved the purchase of waterfowl habitat at San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge, TX. (Michael Lange/USFWS)

Three New Regional Refuge Chiefs

The Alaska, Northeast and Southwest Regions of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have named new regional refuge chiefs.

Mitch Ellis, a 25-year Service veteran, was selected in April as chief in Alaska to replace Todd Logan, who retired. Ellis has managed refuges in three regions and five states, worked in wildlife resources management in the Washington office, and was the first chief of Refuge System law enforcement. He has diverse experience with a variety of issues, including endangered species management, water issues, fire management, wilderness stewardship and working with state agencies. Most recently, he was refuge manager at the Southwest Arizona National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Scott Kahan, a 21-year Refuge System veteran who was project leader at Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District in Minnesota, was selected in June as refuge chief in the Northeast Region. He succeeds Tony Leger, who retired. In addition to eight years at Detroit Lakes WMD, Kahan has worked in North Dakota at Devils Lake WMD Complex and at Tewaukon Refuge. Kahan, who is from Massachusetts, began his Service career in the Northeast Region at Ninigret Refuge, RI.

Aaron Archibeque was named in August to be chief in the Southwest Region, where he replaces Chris Pease, now with the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. Archibeque, a native New Mexican who had been regional refuge supervisor for Texas and Oklahoma since 2003, has worked in the Refuge System for 28 years. He served as refuge manager at the 4.7-million-acre Togiak Refuge in Alaska from 1991-2003; before that, he worked at six refuges in the Southwest Region.

Migratory Bird Habitat

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced in June that the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission approved more than $3 million from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to protect an estimated 1,600 acres of waterfowl habitat on three national wildlife refuges: Nestucca Bay Refuge, OR; San Bernard Refuge, TX; and Canaan Valley Refuge, WV. The commission also approved $23.5 million in federal funding for grants to conserve more than 139,000 acres of wetlands and associated habitats in Canada through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA).


A remarkable fossil found encased in shale last fall in a remote portion of Charles M. Russell (CMR) National Wildlife Refuge is likely a juvenile elasmosaur, or perhaps a species entirely new to science, initial examination by a world-renowned paleontologist indicates.

A team that included marine reptile expert Patrick Druckenmiller, CMR range technician Dan Harrell, other Service employees and the family of David Bradt, a bow hunter who discovered the fossilized bones of the prehistoric sea creature last year, trekked into the site in July to excavate the find. Working in cramped conditions and 90-degree heat, the team was to able remove the specimen. Druckenmiller, a curator at the University of Alaska Museum, is studying it now, but it will remain in the permanent custody of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and will be made available for public display and education or for further scientific study.

An elasmosaur is a long-necked plesiosaur. Plesiosaurs were a common group of marine reptiles in the Western Interior Seaway of North America, a 1,000-mile-wide sea that extended north to south from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico 74 million years ago. Marine reptiles are not considered dinosaurs.

photo of a turkey sculpture
This turkey sculpture, crafted from spare lawnmower parts, won a prize in a Trash to Treasure contest at Erie National Wildlife Refuge, PA. Participants made artistic or useful items out of materials that otherwise would be thrown away. The contest highlighted the green theme of the annual Summer Fest, which attracted 266 people to the refuge on a rainy day in June. (USFWS)

While dinosaurs dominated the land, marine reptiles thrived in the oceans. Numerous scattered triceratops and tyrannosaurus rex fossils have been found on the 1.1-million-acre refuge along the Missouri River in the north-central part of the state, but an intact plesiosaur is rare.


What was once Skaggs Island Naval Station is now part of San Pablo Bay Refuge. The formal transfer of the 3,000-acre island from the Navy to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was marked by a ceremony in late June. The station, which was a secretive base that performed communications and intelligence-gathering functions for the Navy and other federal intelligence organizations for more than 50 years, was closed in 1993. Over the past year-and-a-half, buildings that formerly housed about 300 military members and their families were torn down to restore the land. Refuge manager Don Brubaker says the island could be open soon for such things as bird-watching tours.

Midway Atoll

Biologists at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge have banded the first confirmed short-tailed albatross chick ever hatched outside of Japan. In June, the chick, then five months old, received a permanent metal band on its right leg and a red-and-white one coded "AA00" on its left. The bird has since fledged, and the bands will help biologists track the rare and endangered seabird to learn where it will go to nest. Most albatross return to the island where they were hatched. The chick hatched at Midway in January—and then survived several storms and the March 11 Japanese tsunami. Short-tailed albatrosses had previously reproduced only at two islands off Japan. Feather hunting pushed the species to near-extinction by the early 20th century.


Necedah National Wildlife Refuge is collaborating with Dairyland Power Cooperative to help provide renewable energy to local homes and businesses through a solar project at the refuge’s visitor center. The new visitor center, whose grand opening took place in May, is a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient facility. It includes a 46-kilowatt photovoltaic solar energy system that was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The refuge has an agreement with Dairyland to sell all renewable energy produced through the solar installation for distribution to cooperative members, which include homes and businesses. The refuge is a member of Oakdale Electric Cooperative, a subsidiary of Dairyland that provided electrical transmission infrastructure for the project.


In keeping with its efforts to go green, Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge recently put into service an electric-powered, golf cart-size vehicle dedicated primarily to monitoring the 33 bluebird nest boxes along its Harris Creek Trail. The vehicle, tentatively named the Bluebird Buggy, is easy to operate, able to climb reasonable grades, simple to charge and can navigate narrow trails that are inaccessible to larger vehicles. "It’s also quiet," says Hagerman Refuge administrative officer Gayle Ellis. "It doesn’t bother the wildlife at all." Made by E-Z-GO Company, the vehicle cost $7,700 through a General Services Administration contract, according to Ellis. It will be particularly useful in the dead of summer, she says, because "some of the trails are just too long to walk in the heat."

Conservation Stamp

The U.S. Postal Service is issuing a special stamp to benefit elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, great apes and marine turtles under the Service’s Wildlife Without Borders Multinational Species Conservation Funds. Only the fourth of its kind, the "semipostal stamp" will be available in the nation’s 37,000 post offices on September 21. It is scheduled to remain on sale for at least two years. A semipostal stamp is a U.S. Postal Service stamp issued to raise money for a particular purpose and is sold at a premium over the postal value. The three previous stamps benefitted campaigns related to breast cancer, 9/11 and domestic violence. Del. Gregorio Sablan—the House of Representatives member from the Northern Mariana Islands territory, which includes Marianas Trench Marine National Monument in the Pacific—this summer, coincidentally, introduced a bill to provide for the issuance of a National Wildlife Refuge System semipostal stamp in the future.