Author Archives: meaganraceyFWS

About meaganraceyFWS

Meagan Racey considers herself pretty green but can't seem to keep a house plant alive. She manages the blog and leads Northeast Region communications and outreach for endangered species, restoration of polluted sites, conservation on private lands, energy, wetlands, and bald eagles.

A Noah’s Ark amid combat training in coastal Virginia


From wetlands to old-growth forests, Fort A.P. Hill holds some of the most unique landscapes in the Coastal Plain of Virginia. Photo courtesy of Fort A.P. Hill

Between the sprawl of the Northern Virginia beltway and the Richmond capital lies a window to the rich natural heritage of Virginia’s Coastal Plain: 76,000 acres of old-growth forests, swamps, bogs, wetlands and pine savannas.

There’s a catch, though.

The nature of the area is occasionally interrupted by artillery fire and helicopters, and the other sounds of live training under combat-like conditions.

Mortar Check

Live fire training at Fort A.P. Hill. Credit: Sgt. Steven Galimore

Yet the wildlife at Virginia’s largest military reservation don’t seem to mind.

In fact, the Army’s Fort A.P. Hill in Caroline County seems to attract some of the rarest plants and animals in the eastern U.S.: Threatened and endangered bats. The rarest orchid east of the Mississippi. A stunning pink wetland flower and a grass-like herb that survive in just a few states. There’s even some rare underground crustaceans.



We interviewed the biologists who oversee these species, including a biologist who made a rare discovery here, stumbling upon a critter that had never been documented in the state before. Check out the story here.

Enticing the “prince of game birds” back to a Maryland farm

Northern bobwhite were once common in the eastern U.S., but experienced a sharp decline in population in the second half of the 20th century. Photo from Chesapeake Bay Program/Will Parson (Creative Commons).

Northern bobwhite were once common in the eastern U.S., but experienced a sharp decline in population in the second half of the 20th century.
Photo of bobwhite quail in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, from Chesapeake Bay Program/Will Parson (Creative Commons).

As a young mechanic just out of the Air Force, Bob Spiering said the whistling call of the bobwhite quail went silent.

It was the early 1980s in Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and the decades of disappearing quail populations had finally hit Caroline County. The years where he and a buddy could sustainably harvest the iconic game bird appeared to be over.

It was a loss—in many ways. Spiering grew up quail hunting with his dad and grandfather. “My grandfather was the biggest quail hunter in the world,” he said. “I was probably 10 years old when I started walking along with him, watching the setters get the birds.”

Bob Spiering on his farm in Greensboro, Maryland. That IS indeed a raptor on his arm. Photo courtesy of Bob.

Bob Spiering on his farm in Greensboro, Maryland. That IS indeed a raptor on his arm.
Photo courtesy of Bob.

Could they help bring the quail back? Spiering’s family gave it a shot.

Bob Spiering's dog races through a field of soybean. Photo courtesy of Bob.

Bob Spiering’s dog races through a field of soybean.
Photo courtesy of Bob.

His dad owned a farm—which has since been bought by Spiering—where he farmed every bit of tillable land and harvested all the crops. What they could leave for wildlife were the ditch banks, the sloped land alongside the ditches that drained the fields and made them usable. He started working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which could cover the costs of planting those ditch banks with native grasses. The grasses provide cover for quail to travel the field edges, to nest and to raise young.

But the quail didn’t come.

Time passed, and Spiering picked up the baton when he bought the farm in the headwaters of the Choptank River watershed. As his wife, Judy, said, “Bob was interested in hunting, in establishing it back to the kind of environment that was good for birds, deer and different wildlife.” With the income from his automotive garage downtown, Spiering would be able to leave more of the land for wildlife. Of the 175 acres of forests, meadows and fields, he tills 50 acres and manages the rest for wildlife.

Bob and Judy Spiering on their farm in Greensboro, Maryland. Bob got into falconry after a falconer came by his farm with a red-tailed hawk. Photo courtesy of Bob.

Bob and Judy Spiering on their farm in Greensboro, Maryland. Bob got into falconry after a falconer came by his farm with a red-tailed hawk.
Photo courtesy of Bob.

He brought in an expert from USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service to guide him. Turned out that Spiering needed to do more than just grasses, the expert suggesting he restore weedy areas, stubby cover and other habitats needed by the birds. He enrolled the farm in a federal program to manage for wildlife, created hedgerows to add more cover and food, and disked fallow areas so that the disturbance would promote certain types of plants. He grew corn, soybeans, alfalfa and clover, leaving some of it for the animals.

Work at the Spiering farm. Photo courtesy of Bob.

Work at the Spiering farm.
Photo courtesy of Bob.

The rabbits started to show up like crazy, Spiering said. But he kept waiting.

One day, he finally heard the call. The quail had returned.

“I turned the farm into a place for rabbits, deer and a few quail. I see one almost every day now,” Spiering said, noting he has two quail coveys—families—on the farm, and room for one more.

The work didn’t end there. Spiering turned to waterfowl.

With over 60 acres of upland and wetland forest enrolled in the USDA-NRCS Wetland Reserve Program, Spiering set out with NRCS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore a 10-acre freshwater wetland (see before/after below).

“The goal of the most recent project was to restore hydrology to a forested wetland and to create an open emergent wetland,” said Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Rich Mason. “The wetlands will provide habitat for ducks, geese, wading birds, shorebirds and songbirds. Turtles, frogs, toads, and salamanders will also live in the restored wetlands.”

“The wetland buffers and grasslands will provide excellent areas for pollinators, too,” he said.

CBFO Partners biologist Rich Mason with landowner Bob Spiering Credit USFWS

Chesapeake Bay biologist Rich Mason and landowner Bob Spiering stand by the new 10-acre wetland.
Credit: USFWS

Three intense rain events occurred after the wetland was finished last October. Within days, shorebirds showed up in the shallow water. Shortly after, the couple was excited to see ducks and geese arrive in their wetland sanctuary. During daily walks, their dogs love to romp through the shallow water.

In the spring, a Fish and Wildlife Service volunteer secured the assistance of a Girl Scout troop to build and install wood duck boxes by the wetlands. This year, Spiering saw at least five families of wood ducks.


Landowner Bob Spiering checks his wood duck box.
Photo courtesy of Bob.

Bob Spiering opened Spiering's Auto Service Center as a young mechanic in Greensboro, Maryland. Photo courtesy of Bob.

Bob Spiering opened Spiering’s Auto Service Center as a young mechanic in Greensboro, Maryland. He and his wife run the shop.
Photo courtesy of Bob.

“The ground was mostly wet anyway, and a pain to farm,” he said. “I’m way happier having ducks in there. If I was relying on the farm for income it’d be different. Now it’s a place to relax.”

His wife likes the comfort of knowing the area around their farmhouse won’t be developed. “My goal is to not have a bunch of houses around me,” she said. “I take hikes and take my grandchildren on walks. They see the ducks and the different animals, a snake or two every once in awhile, turtles.”

Partnering with the government worked out just fine for him, Spiering said. What’s next? A pond, maybe, and retirement from the automotive business. “I’m just the supervisor these days, and I sneak off as much as possible,” he joked.

To enjoy the call of the bobwhite, perhaps.

In Memory of Jed Wright


On Friday, October 6, 2017, the conservation community in Maine lost one of its most inspiring leaders in Jed Wright, the project leader of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Gulf of Maine Coastal Program. He leaves a legacy as a public servant whose dedication to conservation forged strong partnerships, conserved thousands of acres of land, and restored hundreds of miles of healthy rivers.

Jed made his way to the Service over two decades ago following graduate studies at SUNY Buffalo and Yale University, and work with the World Bank in Mozambique and Angola. Eventually taking the helm of the Gulf of Maine Coastal Program in 2014, Jed joined the Service in 1994 to assist with a mapping project for Atlantic salmon. Already tuned to conservation in Maine, Jed began the first of many years committed to restoring the country’s last stronghold for wild Atlantic salmon and many other fish species.

His focus in rivers and aquatic wildlife stemmed from a childhood playing in a backyard stream, racing sticks in the current and spending hours searching for fish. At the Gulf of Maine Coastal Program, Jed and his colleagues championed partnerships improving river and stream health. His efforts bolstered shared successes with Project SHARE, The Nature Conservancy, Penobscot River Restoration Trust and many other partners crafting win-win situations in streams and rivers for communities and fish.

For years, Jed worked with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to build capacity and empower local grassroots salmon conservation organizations in downeast Maine to encourage salmon and river restoration in that region. Through the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Fund, Jed helped to permanently protect thousands of acres of riparian habitat, strengthen local conservation organizations and develop innovative restoration approaches. The fund’s work received national prestige with the 2005 Secretary of the Interior’s Cooperative Conservation Award recognizing outstanding cooperative conservation achievements accomplished with a diverse range of partners.

Jed was instrumental in helping his colleagues complete a multi-agency regulatory agreement in 2017 on building road-stream crossings that will facilitate recovery of Atlantic salmon and restoration of habitat for other native fish species. His expertise in stream simulation design and his leadership skills were key to accomplishing this endangered species consultation–an agreement that exemplifies how together partners can fulfill the needs of transportation, flood hazard reduction and river restoration. When a complicated bank stabilization project crossed his colleagues’ desks, Jed brought in experts from the West Coast to demonstrate how a technique new to Maine could maintain fish habitat in the Sandy River while also meeting the local community’s goals to protect an important town road. Jed also saw this work as critical preparation for the expected environmental changes shaping Maine’s coast, often remarking that current habitat protection and restoration efforts will drive how ecosystems will respond to future changes.


Jed at the Sandy River project with Brian Bair of the U.S. Forest Service and Dennis Castonquay, director of Farmington public works department.

Kennebec Journal photo by David Leaming.

Every spring, Jed helped children and teachers release salmon fry in Maine rivers as part of the Atlantic salmon Adopt-A-Salmon Program, and he assisted local schools in obtaining salmon eggs and educational materials each year.

While some might see conservation as work focused on wild places and wildlife, Jed knew it all boiled down to people. As project leader, he carried on the office’s focus on voluntary, collaborative partnerships with people who have similar goals—working in respectful partnerships, with flexibility, creativity, and a ‘we-can-do-it-together’ outlook. Countless anecdotes from partners illustrate his endeavors to build relationships and capacity for the greater good, always with his signature attitude of humility and calm. In partnership with Keeping Maine’s Forest, Jed coordinated and facilitated the 10th annual Private Lands Partners Day event in Bangor, Maine. The workshop brought attendees from across the nation to see how economic interests and conservation are balanced in Maine’s multiple-use forested landscape.


Jed’s energy and determination, his creativity and thirst for new ideas, the daily care and commitment he devoted to our shared goal of ecosystem restoration and to staff and partners through the Gulf of Maine Coastal Program were absolutely amazing to behold, a model for us all, and a truly great loss for our community.

– Alex Abbott, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The loss of Jed leaves a profound void in the conservation family. He had a rare mix of great intelligence, deep compassion, calm patience and energetic passion to persevere in the face of resistance and to push for real and lasting change. He inspired and challenged all who worked with him, and had a sincere interest in developing people. His colleagues noted that they always left a conversation with Jed believing a bit more in themselves, in other people, and in the future.

We are dedicated to living by his example and carrying on his work.
Fish and Wildlife
We invite Jed’s peers, friends and partners to share thoughts and memories below by commenting. Photos and other remembrances can be via email. Donations in memory of Jed can be made at Yellow Tulip Project:

This tribute was developed in collaboration with our Maine Ecological Services staff.

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