National wildlife refuge staff working with polar bears in Alaska, the Nihoa millerbird in Hawaii and piping plovers on the Atlantic Coast have won 2011 Recovery Champion awards from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A total of 56 teams and nine individuals were honored for their work to conserve endangered or threatened species. “These groups and individuals have done amazing work in helping to bring dozens of species back from the brink of extinction, while improving habitat that benefits many other species and local communities,” said Service Director Dan Ashe.
Piping Plover Team
Among the people most dedicated to recovering the piping plover, staff members at National Wildlife Refuges along the ocean coast from Maine through Virginia protect more than 16 percent of the Atlantic breeding population in the United States.
Staff members devote thousands of hours to monitoring birds, posting and signing nesting and foraging habitat, building predator “exclosures,” and conducting outreach on private, state, and municipal properties. Staff members include refuge law enforcement officers, visitors services staff, administrative staff, biologists, maintenance staff, and project leaders at these Refuges and Complexes —Rachel Carson, Parker River, Eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Stewart B. McKinney, Long Island, Edwin B. Forsythe, Cape May, and Chincoteague.
Jennifer Reed and Susi Miller
Alaska Region wildlife biologist Susi Miller and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge visitor services supervisor Jennifer Reed are the primary Service staff members involved in a program to avoid conflicts between people and polar bears. They are working to conserve the species through partnerships with the Alaska Nanuuq Commission, North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management, and Native Villages such as Kaktovik.
In concert with Alaska Native Villages, Miller and Reed helped design and implement a bear detection and deterrence initiative across the North Slope and outreach to affected communities. Through non-lethal hazing techniques, the program has reduced the occurrences of polar bears entering coastal villages, thereby reducing the number of the animals killed for human safety reasons.
In addition, Miller and Reed have solicited community involvement in oil spill response planning and are helping with Village polar bear viewing guidelines.
Nihoa Millerbird Team, Laysan Island, Hawaii
In a historic initiative, a recovery team released 24 endangered Nihoa millerbirds on Laysan Island in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, culminating decades of research and planning to save a species from extinction. The team had captured the birds on the Hawaiian Island of Nihoa and transported them during a three-day voyage to their new home.
Millerbirds had been absent from Laysan for nearly 100 years after a closely related subspecies went extinct. This translocation restored the insect-eating songbird to Laysan's ecosystem. Two months after arriving, all birds were doing well and some were establishing territories, forming pair bonds, and initiating courtship behavior.
Partners include the American Bird Conservancy, Pacific Rim Conservation, U. S. Geological Survey, and U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.