Apr 28, 2013

Discover the Coastal North Carolina NWR Gateway Visitor Center

Coastal North Carolina NWR Gateway Visitor CenterThe North Carolina Coastal Federation recently posted a nice look at the newish Coastal North Carolina National Wildlife Refuges Gateway Visitor Center on Roanoke Island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This visitor center represents eleven national wildlife refuges that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages along the North Carolina coast.

This long-planned visitor center is a beautiful facility that offers many hands-on exhibits and activities for both young and old alike.

“Can You Find Me?” features a falsified natural habitat containing mounted turtles, birds, deer, bears, a wild turkey, snakes, a squirrel and a raccoon, to name a few. We saw 3-D molds of bear scat and deer droppings, and felt the furs of a bear, deer and the surprisingly soft river otter.

We pushed buttons to light up migration ranges for several bird species on a map. We moved our heads to view from different angles an optical-illusion map, which showed northeastern North Carolina’s current sea level and what one-, two- and three-foot sea rises would look like…

A walk-through exhibit on flooding and draining refuges featured mounted ducks, one frozen in mid-underwater dive, loving the plentiful water on the “fall” flooded side. The opposite display had mounted rabbits, turtles and wading birds enjoying the low water level of spring.

Intermittent howling from the far corner punctuated the factual narrators’ voices on various displays and led us to the mounted red wolves exhibit. My daughter’s favorite part was the button that lit up an underground den, revealing two wolf pups at play.

The pups were adorable, even though the adults exuded more menacing looks. Still, their authoritative body positions commanded respect.

In addition the visitor center also has a Cessna airplane where visitors may “fly over” the eleven national wildlife refuges represented at the Center, and the “Wild Things” Book/Gift Shop where visitors may purchase refuge items and a wide assortment of books and other educational merchandise.

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Apr 14, 2013

White-Nose Syndrome Present at Fern Cave NWR

Fern Cave NWRMother Jones magazine reports that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has confirmed the presence of white-nose syndrome at Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama — reportedly one of the most spectacular caves in the country and a prime habitat for bats.

This cave provides winter hibernation space for several bat species, including the largest documented wintering colony of endangered gray bats. More than a million individuals of this federally listed and IUCN listed species nest at Fern Cave.

“With over a million hibernating gray bats, Fern Cave is undoubtedly the single most significant hibernaculum for the species,” says Paul McKenzie, Endangered Species Coordinator for USFWS. “Although mass mortality of gray bats has not yet been confirmed from any WNS infected caves in which the species hibernates, the documentation of the disease from Fern Cave is extremely alarming and could be catastrophic.”

More information can be found on the White-Nose Syndrome.org website.

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Apr 11, 2013

Sally Jewell Confirmed as the 51st Secretary of Interior

Sally JewellYesterday the U.S. Senate confirmed Sally Jewell as the new Secretary of the Interior with a vote of 87-11. She succeeds Ken Salazar, who is retiring.

Reaction from the National Wildlife Refuge Association:

The National Wildlife Refuge Association today expressed its strong support for Sally Jewell as the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior following the Senate’s confirmation of her nomination last night. Jewell’s appreciation for the outdoors and wildlife as well as her extensive knowledge of the economic benefits of our natural resources will bring a unique perspective in the President’s cabinet.

“We are extremely pleased by the Senate’s confirmation of Sally Jewell to be the 51st Secretary of the Interior and look forward to working closely with her to grow our nation’s commitment to wildlife conservation at a landscape level, in places such as the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area in Florida, the Silvio Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in the Connecticut River watershed and Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas.” said David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “She will undoubtedly be an excellent spokesperson for the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative and will continue to bring attention to our nation’s great public lands.”

Jewell has earned national recognition for her management skills of the nearly $2 billion outdoor equipment company, REI. This expertise makes her uniquely qualified to lead an agency with hundreds of millions of acres of lands where Americans go to enjoy outdoor recreation.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The sun literally never sets on its 150 million acres spanning 560 units from Guam to Puerto Rico. Over 40 million annual visitors contribute over $4.2 billion in economic output and over 34,000 jobs from recreation-related spending. National wildlife refuges and their recreational opportunities is part of a growing industry in the United States. Jewell’s leadership at the helm of the Department of Interior comes at a crucial time.

“Sally Jewell has been a leader in the outdoor recreation industry using innovative strategies to protect and restore wildlife habitat throughout the Pacific Northwest and across the country; as Secretary of the Interior, she will have an opportunity to articulate and implement a larger conservation vision for the nation.” said Houghton. “We look forward to working with her to further the goals and mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Wildlife Refuge System.”

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Apr 08, 2013

Forsythe NWR Recovers from Hurricane Sandy

Five months of work have gone into restoring Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge after the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy, and finally the refuge is getting back on its feet.

NBC40 in New Jersey has a report and video on the recovery.

The refuge reports as of April 4: The Wildlife Drive, the Songbird Trail, Jen’s Trail, and the road to Gull Pond Tower, all in Galloway, will be OPEN ON WEEKENDS ONLY from sunrise to sunset beginning Saturday, April 6. The Wildlife Drive, the Songbird Trail, Jen’s Trail, and the road to Gull Pond Tower will continue to be closed on weekdays due to reconstruction activities from hurricane damage. Other hiking trails in Galloway are open from sunrise to sunset daily, including the Akers Woodland Trail and the Leed’s Eco-trail. The Visitor Information Center’s hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends. All fees have been temporarily waived. Scott’s Landing Boat Launch is open. Barnegat Observation Platform is open. The deCamp Wildlife Trail in Brick Township is open for the first 2000 feet. Holgate remains closed.

Also, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey has placed a high resolution camera at the refuge to capture the events at an osprey nest. The Osprey Cam can be viewed on the Conserve Wildlife NJ website and also on the Friends of Forsythe website.

Forsythe NWR Osprey Cam
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Apr 08, 2013

Virginia Plans to Study Bacteria Risk at Back Bay NWR

WTVR in Virginia reports that the bacteria levels in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge near Virginia Beach have been a growing concern for 40 years, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has finally announced it will conduct a study this year to identify the source of the bacteria.

The refuge was established in 1938 and contains over 9,250 acres within the Back Bay Watershed. Thousands of tundra swans, snow and Canada geese and a large variety of ducks visit the refuge during the fall-winter migration. The refuge also provides habitat for other wildlife, including such threatened and endangered species as the loggerhead sea turtle, piping plover and recently recovered species like the brown pelican and bald eagle. Back Bay NWR also provides over eight miles of scenic trails, a visitor contact station, and interpretive programming.

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Apr 05, 2013

Important Role of Environmental Education at Refuges

UMR Refuge Ranger Ed LagaceAs the ongoing sequester threatens to close down visitor programs at refuges around the country, it’s important to consider what we could be losing.

The Winona Daily News recently published a profile on Ranger Ed at the Winona district of the Upper Mississippi Natural Wildlife and Fish Refuge in Minnesota.

[Ed] Lagace took his job with the Fish and Wildlife Service six years ago, and since has worked tirelessly to engage children and adults in the Winona area with the environment that surrounds them. In his presentations, he particularly works to encourage children less familiar with the outdoors.

“I enjoy the experience with young people because they are sponges,” Lagace said.

Lagace said he regularly encounters kids he speaks to in classrooms who don’t know a lot about the river and haven’t even been on it.

“If our future generations don’t have a connection to the outside world, they won’t make sound decisions about it for future generations after them,” he said.

So Lagace creates partnerships and networks with area schools and hosts events on the river, like canoeing adventures. This year he’s planning seven trips at different parts of the Mississippi River starting in May. Examples include a trip on birding, and one on invasive plants and species.

The trips are free —attendees are just required to bring water and food.

“My strongest stories involve showing a child nature and seeing the recognition that you’ve lit their soul,” Lagace said.

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Apr 02, 2013

Sewage Leaks into Minnesota Valley NWR

Outdoor News posted details about the 100,000-gallon sewage leak into Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in February.

The leak occurred when a blockage in a pipe caused sewage to back up and overflow into the refuge. The sewage leaked for at least two days, possibly longer.

While much of the solid waste will have been removed, it’s likely liquids seeped into refuge waters, according to Holler (deputy refuge manager). What might be the results? Among the possibilities, she said, are fish kills and increased algae blooms. The possible effects on waterfowl are unknown.

Outcomes are somewhat unpredictable, Holler said, considering “all the things people put in the toilet.”

Holler said Burnsville crews initially removed about six cubic yards of waste from the area – by scraping solids off the ice and snow – and considered the cleanup complete. However, refuge officials inspected the site and decided more could be done. “It’s federal property, and you have to (clean up) to our satisfaction,” she said. “They thought they’d done all they could, and we thought they could do more.”

Refuge officials will continue to monitor the effects of the sewage as the spring and summer progress, Holler said. And they’ll add to their refuge plan how to react should a similar leak occur in the future.

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