Tag Archives: anniversary

50 years later, the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge still does its namesake proud

Kim Snyder is a writer by trade and a biologist at heart. She is currently working as an Outreach Intern at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

Today’s blog is from Kim Snyder. Kim is a writer by trade and a biologist at heart. She is currently working as an Outreach Intern at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

“The more I learned about the use of pesticides, the more appalled I became. I realized that here was the material for a book. What I discovered was that everything which meant most to me as a naturalist was being threatened, and that nothing I could do would be more important.” -Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Portrait of Rachel Louise Carson, environmentalist and author of Silent Spring. Credit: Smithsonian Institutional Archives. Retrieved from Wikicommons

Portrait of Rachel Louise Carson, environmentalist and author of Silent Spring. Credit: Smithsonian Institutional Archives. Retrieved from Wikicommons

This year, 2016, marks the 50th Anniversary of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge, named for that champion of conservation, public outreach, and careful scientific reasoning strives to uphold the ideals Rachel put forth in her classic, Silent Spring as well as her many other publications.

In 1969, our refuge was dedicated posthumously to Rachel, a mere 5 years after her death from heart disease and breast cancer. Rachel may have never set foot on the land that bears her name, but her influence can be felt everywhere.

Since our inception, chemical pesticides have been extremely limited in our management repertoire. Our invasive species populations have instead been managed by labor-intensive, long-term projects that are beginning to yield victories over problem species. This year saw a significant reduction in our yellow-flag iris population, turning the fight against its spread into a hunt for its hiding places. After years of steady pulling, garlic mustard and glossy buckthorn populations were also in decline, making way for native milkweed and asters. Just as Rachel’s book, Silent Spring called not for a complete moratorium on pesticides but rather careful application and knowledge of their impacts, the Refuge strives to find the perfect balance between chemical and biological control.

“If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals — eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones — we had better know something about their nature and their power.” -Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

After 30 years of careful work to protect them, piping plovers continue to breed on refuge beaches and are showing signs of recovering from the wide-spread habitat destruction that threatened them in the 1970’s. Least terns are also faring well on the refuge, diving headfirst into tidal waters to snatch up sandlances and glass eels to feed to their young. Endangered roseate terns frequent refuge waters as well, banded birds being spotted by our biologists and reported to ornithologists tracking their populations. Birds of all shapes and sizes visit the refuge or call it home and continue the great migrations that were so fascinating to Rachel.

“To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.” -Rachel Carson, The Edge of the Sea

Salt marsh channel on the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Harrington/USFWS

Salt marsh channel on the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Harrington/USFWS

On the dynamic shores of the refuge, change is constant, but one certainty remains — tidepools continue to pull people to the Refuge and the edge of the sea. The tiny and diverse creatures in these shoreline habitats capture the interest of visitors in the sea around us; just as they did to Rachel for most of her professional life.

Thanks for 50 great years as another piece of Rachel Carson’s great legacy!

Dedication stone. Photo by Kim Snyder/USFWS

Dedication stone. Photo by Kim Snyder/USFWS

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” – Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Three Years After Sandy: Building a Stronger Atlantic Coast

Three years ago this week, Hurricane Sandy devastated communities along the Atlantic Coast with record storm surge, fierce winds and torrential rain. Earlier this month Hurricane Joaquin again reminded us of nature’s power, inundating much of the Atlantic Seaboard with heavy rains and chest-deep floodwaters and setting historic records in the Carolinas. And only days ago, Hurricane Patricia — the most powerful tropical cyclone ever measured in the Western Hemisphere with maximum sustained winds of 200 m.p.h. — threatened the coast of Mexico before weakening significantly after landfall.

Visit doi.gov/hurricanesandy to learn more about how Department of the Interior investments are helping to build a stronger Atlantic Coast three years after Hurricane Sandy.

In this age of uncertainty we have come to expect the unexpected. The science tells us that climate change will cause hurricanes and tropical storms to become more intense — lasting longer, unleashing stronger winds, and causing more damage to coastal ecosystems and communities. The question is, what can we do to help coastal areas stand stronger against the storm?

An aerial view of coastal damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in Mantoloking, NJ. Credit: Greg Thompson/USFWS

An aerial view of coastal damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in Mantoloking, NJ. Credit: Greg Thompson/USFWS

Federal funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery has spurred an unprecedented effort to strengthen natural defenses along the Atlantic Coast to protect communities and wildlife against future storms. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other Department of the Interior agencies are investing $787 million in hundreds of projects to clean up and repair damaged refuges and parks; restore coastal marshes, wetlands and shoreline; connect and open waterways to improve flood control; and increase our scientific understanding of how these natural areas are changing.

The Service is investing $167 million in more than 70 projects to clean up refuges, restore and strengthen coastal areas (marshes and beaches), connect and open waterways for better fish passage and flood protection and support other efforts to protect wildlife and communities from future storms. These investments support the goal of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to make communities more resilient to increasingly intense storms predicted with a changing climate. They also create jobs and provide opportunities for fishing, hiking, wildlife watching and other recreational opportunities. Here are a few projects that have been completed or are under way:

Cleanup of post-Hurricane Sandy debris, removed from coastal marshes at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in southern New Jersey made possible through Department of the Interior funding. Credit: (before) Ryan Hagerty/USFWS, (after) Virginia Rettig/USFWS

Post-Hurricane Sandy debris removal from the coastal marshes of Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in southern New Jersey, made possible through Department of the Interior funding. Credit: (before) Ryan Hagerty/USFWS, (after) Virginia Rettig/USFWS

  • In New Jersey, we’ve completed a $13 million debris removal project at E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge to clean up more than 32,000 acres of saltmarsh and coastal habitat. The project removed 1,900 tons of debris from 22 miles of coastline and employed more than 100 workers. Removing the debris allows coastal areas to recover, providing healthier habitat for native wildlife while acting as a buffer against future storms.
  • In Maryland, we’re constructing 20,950 feet of living shoreline to protect marshes at Fog Point, a coastal section of Maryland’s Glenn Martin National Wildlife Refuge in Smith Island. The $9 million project will help protect more than 1,000 acres of interior tidal high marsh, sheltered water, submerged aquatic vegetation and clam beds against the effects of future storms. It also will enhance the natural defenses of saltwater habitats important to the island’s soft crab fishery, a natural resource local Smith Island residents depend on for their livelihoods.  

Learn more about the Fog Point living shoreline project in this video.

Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge marsh restoration - dredge work to drain flooded marsh CREDIT David Eisenhauer

Dredge work drains a flooded marsh in Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, part of an ongoing $38 million marsh restoration effort in Delaware. Credit: David Eisenhauer/USFWS

  • In Delaware, we’ve invested $38 million in a marsh restoration effort under way to build storm and sea-level rise resilience into the natural landscape at Delaware’s Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. The project is repairing breached marshes and reconstructing severely damaged shoreline, including critical dune restoration. Restored marshes at the refuge will provide a more resilient coast against future storms and create additional habitat for birds, including American oystercatchers and federally listed species such as rufa red knots and piping plovers. Along with the restoration of coastal wildlife habitat, the project provides the added benefit of enhanced storm protection for nearby residents.
Removal of the White Rock dam in Westerly, R.I. and Stonington, Conn. open up close to 25 miles of the Pawcatuck River and associated wetlands for migrating American shad, alewife, blueback herring, American eel, and sea-run trout. Credit: USFWS

Removal of the White Rock dam in Westerly, R.I. and Stonington, Conn. opens up close to 25 miles of the Pawcatuck River and associated wetlands for migrating American shad, alewife, blueback herring, American eel, and sea-run trout. Credit: USFWS

  • In Connecticut and Rhode Island, we worked with The Nature Conservancy to remove White Rock dam. The $794,000 project will reduce flood risk to local communities, restore habitat for fish and wildlife and open up several dozen miles of  fish passage in the Pawcatuck River for the first time in nearly 250 years. It is among 13 Hurricane Sandy-funded  projects to remove dams or  evaluate them for removal in four states.

Three years after Hurricane Sandy, communities, government and nonprofit organizations are working together like never before to better understand and adapt to changing conditions. Clearly it will take time and careful planning before we see a return on many of these investments. But the Service is confident the long-term benefits of building a stronger coast will far outweigh initial costs when it comes to protecting communities, sustaining wildlife and lessening the financial impact of damages resulting from future intense storms. To that end, we are establishing systems to carefully monitor and evaluate our progress to ensure this work is effective and lasting. The nature we care about and the public we serve deserve no less.

You can track the status of our projects and investments by visiting the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Hurricane Sandy website at www.fws.gov/hurricane/sandy/

50 years after Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring

In honor of today’s 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, we’re highlighting some of the discussion about the anniversary and the book’s connection to modern issues. 

Who among us will make the next Rachel Carson possible? David Klinger, writer in the Service’s Endangered Species Bulletin, poses this question with a “critical reexamination of both the woman and her groundbreaking bestseller, written by Carson amid the supercharged Cold War atmosphere of John Kennedy’s ‘New Frontier'”: 

To some, she was a saint. The “fountainhead” of the modern environmental movement, deified almost a half-century after her death. To her memory are dedicated wildlife refuges and elementary schools, bridges in Pittsburgh and office edifices in Harrisburg … and a training center dormitory in the Federal agency she had to quit in order to write what she truly wanted to write. Read the rest of Klinger’s story.

In addition, check out the essay series by our neighbor, the Service’s Midwest Region, articles about more recent problems and projects and how those relate back to Carson’s work and her findings: 

Snapshots from 50 Years After Silent Spring: 

Cleaning Up Ohio’s Ashtabula River: But even decades after Silent Spring, we continue to encounter contaminants in the environment, some new, some from our past. Northwest Ohio’s Ashtabula River is an example. For more than 30 years, beginning in the 1940s, industries in Ashtabula improperly disposed of wastes in the river, contaminating the lower 2 miles of the Ashtabula River with over 30 hazardous substances including polychlorinated biphenyls, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, chlorinated solvents and low-level radioactive materials. 

Lessons Learned at Indiana’s Cane Ridge: Carson’s warning of the potential for a silent spring has been widely heeded, but awareness of the problem is not always enough. For example, wet-management of fly-ash from coal-fired power plants can cause high concentrations of selenium in nearby aquatic systems, harming fish and wildlife. Although the problem was first recognized and addressed at Belews Lake North Carolina in the 1980s, wildlife managers found themselves faced with a similar, significant selenium problem in Indiana in 2008, one that threatened Indiana’s nesting population of endangered least terns. 

Investigating the use of Herbicides in an Endangered Species’ Habitat: Rachel Carson’s research in the 1950s on the effects of pesticides to the American robin sparked awareness of and a concern for the risks of chemicals to human and wildlife health….Although regulated, chemicals are widely used in the environment and there is evidence that some chemicals used today can cause a health risk to wildlife, something Carson warned us about decades ago. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains Carson’s legacy of due diligence and continues investigations on the effects of chemicals on wildlife today. 

Read the rest of these and more. 

Last, but of course not least, did you know that the Service has a Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells, Maine? 

The refuge consists of 11 divisions between Kittery and Cape Elizabeth and will cover more than 9,000 acres when complete. Since its establishment in 1966, it’s helped preserve 10 important estuaries that are key points along migration routes of waterfowl and other migratory birds. 

During harsh winters, the refuge’s marshes provide vital food and cover for waterfowl and other migrating birds at a time when inland waters are frozen. The refuge also supports piping plover, least terns, peregrine falcons, bald eagles and other state and federally protected species. Nesting success of plover and terns has benefited through the increased habitat protection. In addition to sea-run fish, many important commercial and recreational fin and shellfish rely on these coastal wetlands as critical nursery areas.