The Department of the Interior in early July rescinded the national blueway designation for the White River of Arkansas and Missouri. The move came after opponents contended that the designation could result in new regulations or private land seizures. Supporters said those objections could make landowners hesitant to voluntarily take part in conservation efforts. DOI spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw said the Department withdrew the designation “in light of requests received from local and state stakeholders.” The National Blueways System was created in 2012 as part of the America’s Great Outdoors initiative. The White River was the second national blueway. The Connecticut River watershed in New England was the first. An article about how blueway status would have benefited the White River watershed appeared in July/August Refuge Update.

New Mexico

A Rufous–necked wood rail was sighted at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife this summer. It was the first recorded sighting of the bird in the United States. The small, chicken–size bird typically is found in Central and South America. It was first seen by 19–year–old Matt Daw on July 7. Immediately afterward, hundreds of birders came to the refuge along the Rio Grande to see the Rufous–necked wood rail for themselves. “It’s way cool,” said refuge manager Aaron Mize. “We have people flying into Albuquerque every day, from Florida, California, the East Coast. There are people coming in renting cars and driving down because it’s such a neat and rare event.”

New National Recreation Trails

Three refuge trails were among 28 newly designated national recreation trails announced by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in May.

Mud Pond Trail—In the Pondicherry Division of Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, NH, visitors walk through a forest community uncommon to the Connecticut River Valley to a pond and a boreal forest fen. The 0.6–mile universally accessible trail has 900 feet of raised boardwalk with rest stops that offer extraordinary views.

Timber Point Trail—At Rachel Carson Refuge, ME, a 1.4–mile trail with an elevated platform takes visitors past freshwater wetlands, fringing salt marshes, cattail marshes, mixed deciduous forest, mudflats (used by shorebirds), coastal shrublands, rocky shores, and views of the Little River Estuary and the Atlantic Ocean.

Hellcat Interpretive Trail—At Parker River River Refuge, MA, two branches of the one–mile Hellcat Interpretive Trail meander through dunes, shrub thickets, vernal pools, maritime forest and brackish marsh habitats. More than 120,000 visitors enjoy the trail annually.

For more information about refuge trails, go to


  • Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge broke a record this season for green sea turtle nesting. As of mid–August, there were 8,714 green sea turtle nests on the refuge, exceeding the previous record (2011) of 6,023 nests for the entire season. And the green turtles will continue nesting until October. “We should be screaming from the rooftops,” says refuge manager Kristen Kniefl. “A 13 percent increase in green sea turtle nests year after year is unheard of in wildlife recovery efforts.” Each nest has 100–120 eggs, but only one hatchling in 1,000 survives to adulthood. Archie Carr Refuge boasts the highest density of loggerhead sea turtle nesting in the world and the highest nesting density for green sea turtles in North America.

  • Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge overlays NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The state of Florida has proposed building a 150–acre commercial spaceport on the refuge’s northern edge. Proponents say the spaceport would give the Space Coast region a much–needed economic boost. A coalition of outdoors/environmental groups has asked the Department of the Interior to oppose to the spaceport. “The northern end of the refuge is our most pristine area,” says refuge manager Layne Hamilton. “This is an area we have been managing for wildlife since we acquired it.” Hamilton is concerned about many aspects of the proposed spaceport’s impact. She is worried about adjacent habitat for waterfowl and the threatened Florida scrub jay. She is worried that the spaceport would further restrict prescribed burns vital to healthy scrub jay habitat. She says the spaceport could disturb an important cultural resource, an 18th–century British sugar mill called Elliott Plantation. She worries about the “hundreds of thousands of visitors” to the refuge and Cape Canaveral National Seashore who would be turned away during the spaceport’s one dozen to two dozen planned launches a year. The Federal Aviation Administration is overseeing an environmental impact study of the spaceport proposal. The study is expected to take about a year.

  • A mid–July frog call survey by J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and the Sanibel–Captiva Conservation Foundation discovered an invasive toad species that is potentially dangerous to local wildlife and pets. The foundation issued an action alert about giant toads, also known as cane toads or marine toads, which were found in a temporary wetland near the refuge. The foundation said the frogs’ large glands behind the eyes and above the shoulders produce a toxin that can be fatal to small wildlife—and even giant toad tadpoles are toxic. The foundation recommended that care be taken to prevent pets from putting the toads in their mouths.

North Dakota

For the second straight year, about 30,000 breeding American white pelicans returned to Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge, which appears to have recovered from a mass disappearance of the birds a decade ago. Refuge manager Neil Shook says the nesting pelican population has increased since 2004 and 2005, when almost 30,000 pelicans left the refuge and thousands of chicks later died. An aerial count this summer showed about 15,000 nests, with an estimated two adults per nest. Last year, a similar count found 31,534 breeding adults, up from 20,854 in 2011. This summer was “down a little but still above the long–term average,” says Shook. The refuge has one of the largest white pelican nesting colonies in North America. Adult pelicans generally arrive at the refuge by mid–April, nesting starts in early May, chicks hatch in June, and the pelicans leave by September. Most of the Chase Lake pelicans are believed to migrate to the Gulf Coast for the winter.

The Surprising Benefits of Refuges

A report released by the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) highlights unexpected benefits that national wildlife refuges add to the health, safety and economic well–being of the American people. Among the benefits described in America’s Wildlife Refuges 2013: Delivering the Unexpected are:

  • Eighty percent of the nation’s 561 refuges provide natural buffers against urbanization and other development pressures, thereby preserving undeveloped lands and airspace that enable military units to execute vital training missions.

  • Conservation easements on nearly 3.5 million acres of refuge lands allow many private landowners to keep their ranches and farms in production.

  • Henderson Airfield at Midway Atoll Refuge has been estimated to save commercial airlines at least $28 million annually and, in 2012 alone, was used by nearly 50 private and military flights for emergency or refueling purposes.

  • Wildlife refuges generate more than $32.3 billion each year in natural goods and services, such as buffering coastal communities from storm surges, filtering pollutants from municipal water supplies and pollinating food crops.

  • Refuge employees often double as first responders to natural disasters and other emergencies. CARE is a coalition of 22 wildlife, sporting, conservation and scientific organizations that support refuges.

CARE is a coalition of 22 wildlife, sporting, conservation and scientific organizations that support refuges.

North Carolina

Photo of a mural

This new 6–by–24–foot mural hangs at the Coastal North Carolina National Wildlife Refuges Gateway Visitor Center. It depicts scenes ranging from Pea Island Refuge barrier island beaches to Roanoke River Refuge cypress/gum swamps. It was painted by Manteo (NC) High School art students under the guidance of teacher Robin York. (USFWS)