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A New Beginning: Puerto Rican parrots reintroduced into Maricao Commonwealth Forest

November 30, 2016

A biologist releases a colorful parrot with radio collar..
Puerto rican parrot flying. Photo by Jan Paul Zegarra, Biologist, USFWS.

Dawn breaks at the west-central mountain region (Cordillera Central) of the tropical island of Puerto Rico. The night dew clings to every surface on the forest floor and makes fern leaves glimmer. At the Maricao Commonwealth Forest, about 1,300 feet above sea level, tropical birds call to one another announcing a new day. Today marks a new beginning for a returning resident of the forest, the Puerto Rican parrot.

The Reina Mora (Puerto Rican spindalis) shakes its painted head as the Bienteveo (Puerto Rican vireo) stoops. A foraging San Pedrito (Puerto Rican tody) catches a cricket in mid-air and three people exit from behind a blind. They walk at snail pace toward a massive 16-foot tall, galvanized steel and wire mesh cage. Thirty-one parrots are about to be set free. About two dozen people are watching from behind the blind.

Why so much interest? The Puerto Rican parrot is an endemic species of Puerto Rico, and the only native parrot in the United States. Conservation professionals have been working toward the parrot’s reintroduction to the Maricao Forest for more than 40 years. This reintroduction begins a new chapter in the history of the Puerto Rican parrot recovery program. During pre-Columbian times the parrot was abundant, but through the years, deforestation, predation, diseases and poaching caused the population to crash. In the 1970’s, chicks and eggs were captured from the wild, and a collaborative effort between state and federal agencies began. Today, the population has more than 500 birds that are distributed among state and federal facilities and, until today, only two wild locations in the El Yunque National Forest and Rio Abajo Commonwealth Forest.

Service Sends Coastal Barrier Resource System Report to Congress with Updated Maps for 65 Units

Maps include updates to units in Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana

November 29, 2016

A screen shot of the online Coastal barrier Resources System mapper.
Explore the Coastal Barrier Resources System Mapper.

The Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) of 1982 is a map-based law that continues to serve as a free-market approach to natural resource conservation by protecting undeveloped coastal barrier habitat from intensive development. While development within the Coastal Barrier Resource System (CBRS) is allowed, most federal expenditures and financial assistance that encourage development – such as flood insurance – are prohibited, meaning private developers or other non-federal parties must bear the full cost. This saves taxpayer money and helps conserve these vitally important, biologically rich areas.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) administers the law and is charged with updating the maps and making recommendations to Congress for appropriate changes to the CBRS. The Service has completed a pilot project for updating the CBRS maps and submitted to Congress a report with the final set of recommended maps for 65 CBRS units in Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana. These maps will only take effect if adopted by Congress through legislation.

In addition to the revised maps the report contains an analysis of the benefits to the public from using digital mapping technology for all CBRS units; benefits that include more accurate and user-friendly CBRS data and maps, increased awareness of and compliance with the CBRA, and opportunities for enhanced state, local, and non-governmental conservation efforts.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes to Expand Bog Conservation in North Carolina

November 22, 2016

A grass-like plant with small white flowers emerges from a marsh.
The proposed expansion would allow a population of the endangered bunched arrowhead to be conserved as part of Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by USFWS.

ASHEVILLE, NC – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeks public input on its proposal to expand the acquisition boundary for Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge.

“Since Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge was established in 2015, we’ve heard from numerous private landowners interested in supporting the refuge through land sales and donations,” said Andrew Hammond, Refuge Manager. “If approved, this proposed expansion would increase opportunities to work with those landowners. It also brings some keys sites into our focus areas.”

The Service currently has 30 sites, or Conservation Partnership Areas (CPAs), where it focuses conservation efforts for Southern Appalachian bogs - a rare habitat that is home to several imperiled plants and animals including the threatened bog turtle, the endangered mountain sweet pitcher plant, and the endangered bunched arrowhead.

Recovery Plan Available for Endangered Laurel Dace

November 10, 2016

A pale green fish with bright orange spots on its mouth and belly.
Laurel dace by Conservation Fisheries, Inc.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is announcing the final Recovery Plan for the laurel dace, a federally listed endangered fish.

The laurel dace is a small fish native to the Tennessee River Basin in Tennessee that survives in three creek systems on the Walden Ridge of the Cumberland Plateau. Only a few individuals have been found from headwaters of two creek systems in the southern part of its range, Soddy and Sale creeks, while laurel dace are more abundant in headwaters of the Piney River system in its northern range. Historically, the fish once occupied seven streams and currently it is found in six of those.

“The recovery plan for laurel dace is a blueprint to recovery for this fish that the Service and its partners can take together,” said Leopoldo Miranda, the Service’s Southeast Assistant Regional Director for Ecological Services. ”We are continuing to work closely with partners like the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute and many others on several recovery efforts to benefit this fish, such as surveys and improvements to stream crossings.”

Watch out for migrating manatees!

November 1, 2016

Silhouette of three manatees shot from below.
Manatee silhouettes. Photo by USFWS.

Manatee numbers are up and these bulky aquatic mammals are on the move this month! The annual migration of Florida manatees begins in November, as the weather cools and Manatee Awareness Month is celebrated.

Watch out for manatees swimming in Florida’s rivers, bays or coastal waters. Keep in mind this time of year manatees are searching for warmer waters to help them survive winter’s cold.

With the onset of the manatee migration, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds people in boats and personal watercraft to slow down to avoid manatees, particularly in shallow areas. Many seasonal manatee protection zones also go into effect as of Nov. 15.

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Last updated: December 1, 2016