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Slackwater darter. Photo: Patrick Rakes, Conservation Fisheries International
Federally threatened slackwater darters have a unique reproductive strategy that leads them to small, ephemeral rivulets during the winter for spawning. The adults must be able to pass over natural and man-made barriers to reach their spawning grounds.
One of these barriers was removed for a project done in Upper Brier Fork, in the range of the slackwater darter. At the site, three adjacent 36” culverts were replaced with a larger box culvert that could pass storm event stream flows while allowing for natural stream bed load material to be maintained. The new culvert will restore connectivity to historical breeding sites and improve habitat for many other aquatic species.
Our PFW biologist worked with many partners including Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources-Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, Madison County Public Works Department, Madison County Commission, Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District, USFWS-Fisheries Division, USFWS-Ecological Services Division, and USFWS-Refuges Division.
This 65-acre project is on private land outside of Hope, Arkansas and in the Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program’s Blackland Prairie focus area.The landowner bought the land to enjoy the outdoors, and was referred to the Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program. A partnership then developed between PFW, which paid for the native seed mix, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, which donated herbicide, and the landowner, who hired a contractor to apply herbicide in the spring and fall.
A site visit in May 2015, the first spring after removing the fescue, documented hundreds to thousands of milkweed plants of at least two species that were present in the seedbank. The PFW Biologist also transplanted butterfly milkweed to supplement the native seeds planted. This project will provide habitat for the monarch butterfly, northern bobwhite, indigo bunting, loggerhead shrike and several other songbird and small game species. The project also shares a border with a state wildlife area, providing one large contiguous block of habitat.
Our Florida PFW staff have been developing a highly successful partnership with the Turner Endangered Species Fund. On their Avalon Plantation in northern Florida, PFW biologists worked with them to expand the Red Cockaded Woodpecker population by installing artificial cavities to establish recruitment clusters and manage habitat for surrounding clusters. We have previously worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to enroll TESF in the statewide RCW Safe Harbor Program. As a result of this work, three RCW recruitment clusters are now active with potential breeding groups. Once the population goal of 20 - 25 breeding groups is achieved, it is TESF’s intent for Avalon to serve as a donor site for other restoration efforts.
The Georgia Field Office worked with Monarchs Across Georgia to start 13 new monarch habitats in schools and other public areas this year. These sites were all added to the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail, which was started by the former First Lady to benefit monarchs and other butterflies. Monarchs across Georgia also conducted a workshop in Plains, Georgia so that teachers could learn about the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly trail, how to create monarch habitat and how to become involved in monarch tagging. Our Georgia Office also partnered with the Atlanta Botanical Garden to collect seed from native milkweed around the state and begin propagating it for installation in our monarch habitat sites and conduct seven monarch Larval Monitoring Project (MLMP) training workshops in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. MLMP teaches citizens to monitor a patch of milkweed for larvae and eggs and add their information to a national database at the University of Minnesota. This information helps scientists understand the distribution and abundance of monarchs in the Southeast.
In spring of 2015, PFW combined efforts with Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and and The Nature Conservancy to burn 400 acres at the Shaker Village, which is 2,500 acres of forest and farmland in the bluegrass region of Kentucky. The burn was part of a larger effort to enhance migratory bird and pollinator habitat at the site. In addition to the prescribed fire, PFW added additional butterfly milkweed seed to a 60-acre grassland restoration done under the Environmental Quality Incentive Program through NRCS and to another 200 acres of existing native grassland habitat. Over time and with management, the 260 acre butterfly milkweed plantings have the potential to enrich an additional 500 acres adjacent to the plantings. This was done specifically for the monarch butterfly, which relies on this area for breeding and migratory habitat. Over time, prescribed fire and strip disking will be used to maintain and enhance these plantings.
This project on 350 acres of privately-owned agricultural/pasture land will restore native vegetation and hydrology. Phase 1 of this project was completed in 2015, resulting in the reforestation of 107 acres of bottomland hardwood forest and restoration of 21 acres of shallow water habitat. Twenty-three species of native bottomland hardwood tree and shrub species were planted at 435 seedlings/acre (10X10-foot spacing). Prior to tree planting, contract ground crews conducted two herbicide treatments to remove exotic Chinese tallow-trees from the site. The project is one mile from Lake Chicot State Park, and helps create a nearly contiguous forested corridor between that park and larger wooded tracts to the east. The project is also in the Louisiana Black Bear Corridor Focus Area as identified by the Louisiana PFW Strategic Plan. In 2015, the Service proposed that the Louisiana Black Bear no longer needed protection under the Endangered Species Act, a landmark announcement in which PFW played an integral role. In addition to its potential to provide habitat for the Louisiana black bear, the project provides habitat for forest-adapted migratory songbirds, wading birds, shorebirds, raptors, and waterfowl.
Fire on the Forty is a joint effort in Mississippi between private landowners and conservation organizations to improve wildlife habitat on private lands by (re)introducing fire in degraded upland pine forests.
In addition to providing cost-share to private landowners, the program also helps to reinvigorate the fire culture among private landowners and natural resource professionals, promotes certified prescribed burn manager training for private landowners, and helps establish prescribed burn associations among neighboring private landowners.
Many open pine-associated species benefit from this initiative, including red-cockaded woodpeckers (endangered), gopher tortoises (threatened), black pine snakes (at-risk), Bachman’s sparrow, bobwhite quail, brown-headed nuthatch, Henslow’s sparrow, and many others.
In 2015, 6,000 acres of private land were burned under this initiative.
This project restored a native grassland community on 25 acres of The Triangle Land Conservancy's 700 acre Horton Grove Nature Preserve in Durham County, North Carolina. Restoration was done by removing volunteer trees, using controlled fire, and planting warm season grasses and forbs. The restored grassland is benefiting early successional migratory bird species such as the loggerhead shrike, prairie warbler, grasshopper sparrow, and possibly American woodcock. The project is also beneficial to pollinators such as bees and butterflies, including the monarch. In addition to restoration at the site, seed from common milkweed was collected from the site and propagated by the North Carolina Botanical Gardens for distribution around the state for the benefit of monarch butterflies. The site is now registered as part of the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail.
Other partners included NRCS and the Durham Soil and Water Conservation District. Triangle Land Conservancy volunteers played an important role by providing planting labor, herbicide application, and prescribed burning. The role of the Service was specifically to provide on-site guidance and technical expertise during project design, implementation, and monitoring.
The site is open to the public and will serve as a demonstration area for restoring native grasslands and as an educational site for promoting native grasses and vegetation on other open early successional lands in the Piedmont area.
Salinas Fortuna Salt Flats are in La Parguera Natural Reserve in the municipality of Lajas. These salt flats were historically operated for sea salt production and are diked and channeled into a larger salt lagoon and smaller evaporator ponds. The variety in salinities produces a diversity of foraging habitats and nesting sites for wading, shore, and seabirds. In addition, the area is in designated Critical Habitat for the endangered Yellow-shouldered blackbird, as well as 9 other endangered species. The recently delisted Brown pelican forages in the site and nests in cays nearby.
Over time, the channel facilitating water flow has filled in with sediment, disrupting hydrology at the site. PFW helped restore the site by dredging sediments to allow water flow, restoring a wooden bridge that connects the ponds, restoring a dike to facilitate channel dredging, and restoring a sluice gate to control the entry of seawater into the east salt pond. This work has improved 27 acres of wetland habitat for a variety of migratory and resident birds, as well as provided improved coastal water quality by reducing sediments.
This project along Meadow Branch, a tributary to Hickory Fork Creek in Tennessee, was designed to enhance habitat and improve water quality for several listed and at-risk species, including the Cumberland pigtoe, barrens darter, and barrens topminnow. To do this, 18,500 feet of fencing was installed to exclude livestock from the stream, which allowed for a natural buffer to protect the stream. In addition, multiple watering facilities and pipeline were provided for livestock once they were removed from the stream. Partners for this project included the Coffee County SCD, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Southern Middle Tennessee RC&D and NRCS.