Tag Archives: bethany

That's me on the right, standing with endangered species biologist Robyn Niver. Credit: USFWS

Goodbye and thank you!

That's me on the right, standing with endangered species biologist Robyn Niver. Credit: USFWS

I’m Bethany Holbrook (on the right), and I’ve been sharing stories from our New York Field Office. You’ve heard from me every week for four months, and I’m now moving on from my work there. Here I’m holding a threatened bog turtle and standing with endangered species biologist Robyn Niver. Credit: USFWS

I’m sad to share with you today that I’ll be moving on from my work at the New York Field Office.

Working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been one of the greatest experiences I’ve had.

They have provided me with numerous encounters with rare species, exciting field work and supportive personnel.

I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in the New York Field Office with a group of highly motivated and encouraging conservation professionals. They are wonderful people to work with, which makes it very difficult for me to leave.

That's me holding a juvenile lake sturgeon. Here's my post about it. Credit: USFWS https://usfwsnortheast.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/sturgeon-stocking-success/

That’s me holding a juvenile lake sturgeon. Here’s my post about it. Credit: USFWS

Four months is not a long time to work with an organization, but I have learned so many new skills and important lessons in that time. I would like to share them with you:

  • Collaboration is key: Teamwork is always important in any problem-solving situation, and handling conservation issues is no different. In addition to the support of many biologists and multiple resource agencies, conservationists rely heavily on the public and private landowners to gain access to a large portion of otherwise restricted restoration locations.
  • Restoration takes TIME: As with any project, results usually take a long time, especially when those results are minuscule along the road to recovery. Patience and dedication to a project turns those mini impacts into milestones.
  • Hands-on learning is most effective: You learn and retain much more information when you can rely on all of your senses to strengthen your memory. I would not have had such a memorable experience had I not gone out in the field with biologists to assist with field work.
  • Love what you do: Your work ethic shines through in your job, especially if you love what you’re doing. Pick a career and a concentration that you love, so you will enjoy it and excel at it.
This is Sandie Doran, a biologist with the New York Field Office. Credit: USFWS

This is Sandie Doran, a biologist with the New York Field Office. Credit: USFWS

I would like to thank all of you at the New York Field Office for my exciting experiences in the field, and most importantly, your support and encouragement. And for those of you that have kept up with my posts, thank you for lending me your ear and your support!

I have never met a group of people that truly love their jobs as much as the staff at the New York Field Office. This dedication is visible in every aspect of their job, and makes working with them a pleasure.

Thank you for everything, and I will miss you all!

Two men shake hands and hold an award.

Improving fish habitat one dam at a time

I'm Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You'll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York. USFWS photo with Bethany holding a bog turtle

I’m Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You’ll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York.

If you enjoy fishing in the St. Lawrence River, you can thank Stephen Patch, Senior Fish and Wildlife Biologist at the New York Field Office, for his contributions to fisheries conservation.

Steve recently received the New York State Council of Trout Unlimited’s Professional Resource Award for his outstanding work in ensuring that dam operators and power producers meet rigid standards regarding water flows, fish protection and other issues affecting fish habitat and propagation.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requires dam licenses to be reviewed every 30 to 50 years.  During relicensing, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducts environmental reviews and suggests conditions or approaches a company must make to improve fish and wildlife habitat.  Steve has played a major role in many hydroelectric project relicensings in New York, all of which have received new licenses that improve the general ecology of the stream.

Three men pose with an award

Trout Unlimited NY Chapter President, Rob Urban (left) and Region 5 Chairman and Hydro Coordinator, Bill Wellman (right), presents Steve Patch with his award at a general meeting in Cold Brook, NY.

  • St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project on the St. Lawrence River
    • Goal: Address the issue of downstream eel passage on the St. Lawrence River
    • Action: Steve helped create the Eel Passage Research Center, which will develop measures to help guide eel and collect them for passage or transport downstream around the two large dams on the river (the Moses-Saunders Dam and the Beauharnois Dam).  He was also instrumental in developing the $24 million Fish Enhancement, Mitigation, and Research Fund (FEMRF) to benefit multiple fish species, including eel.
    • Result: This 5-year, $3.5 million project will benefit American eel and European eel populations on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.  The FEMRF money has helped fund some of the eel work and improve habitat for species such as northern pike, walleye and lake sturgeon.

      Eels climb a green eel ladder to an orange trough at the top

      An eel ladder on the Moses-Saunders Dam allows eels to climb to the top, and out to the other side of the dam through a series of pipes.

  • Hogansburg dam removal
    • Goal: Remove the Hogansburg dam
    • Action: Steve helped initiate decommissioning negotiations between Brookfield Power and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe for the purpose of dam removal.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing process is complex, so Steve is working with Brookfield Power, the tribe and other partners to find a workable solution for dam removal.
    • Result: Once negotiations are complete, dam removal will open up several hundred miles of mainstem and tributary habitat to a variety of fish species, including American eel, Atlantic salmon and lake sturgeon.
  • Relicensing Settlements  
    • Goal: Create settlements that will improve current and future hydroelectric projects
    • Action: Steve has helped with settlements on the St. Lawrence, Black, Beaver, Oswegatchie, Raquette, St. Regis, Saranac, Hoosic, Sacandaga, Hudson and Oswego Rivers. 
    • Results: (1.) The settlements have created hundreds of miles of new or improved aquatic habitat, allowing fish to safely pass many dams.  (2.) Established a baseline of measures that most hydro developers now strive to include in all new licenses and new project proposals.
Two men shake hands and hold an award.

“Fish and fishermen in every part of New York can be grateful to Steve Patch for his dedication and talent in protecting one of our most fragile natural resources,” said Ron Urban, Chairman of the New York State Council of Trout Unlimited.

So the next time you go fishing or visit a waterway, think about all of the conservation work done to protect such an important ecosystem!

White-tailed deer at Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Newington, NH. Credit: Greg Thompson/USFWS

Get wild in your backyard

I'm Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You'll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York. USFWS photo with Bethany holding a bog turtle

I’m Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You’ll hear from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York.

Are you someone who enjoys a glimpse of wildlife running in nearby woods and pastures, or even your own backyard?

If so, there are ways you can improve habitat for species such as deer, other small mammals, young forest birds, amphibians and even plants.

Our agency partners with private landowners to make changes that restore important fish and wildlife habitat through a cost-share program called Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. One landowner took our program to the next level and used the knowledge he gained to make even more habitat changes on his own.

Female Northern harrier flying over Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in New York's Finger Lakes Region. Credit: Doug Racine/USFWS

Female Northern harrier flying over Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in New York’s Finger Lakes Region. Credit: Doug Racine/USFWS

The result? A landscape that boasts new species, a higher volume of wildlife, and a new appreciation for and greater attraction to his land. I visited his 325-acre site to see these changes and their benefits for wildlife just a few years after construction.

Here’s what he recommends if you, too, are interested in making your property more suitable for wildlife: “Study the landscape to learn how animals will use it and to determine what is best.”

Let it grow. The landowner knew that deer prefer covered corridors that they can travel through, as opposed to open areas. Deer were creating their own trails between the woodlot and the open field, so he allowed a 60-foot-wide corridor of natural vegetation through the field to go un-mowed.

”There is no doubt that deer are spending more time in the field as these areas develop,” he says. “They love hiding in the tall growth, slipping out to feed on all the clover and taking a break in the wet areas in darker woods.”

Make some space. The landowner turned to us and the Ruffed Grouse Society for help with an aspen clonal cut in January. This involves cutting older aspen trees in a colony of trees to allow new aspen trees to grow, along with other young forest plants that will attract birds like the American woodcock and grouse.

Six months later, tall grasses fill the area, and aspen trees have popped up like tall twigs in the ground. To make the new habitat even more attractive, the landowner stacked piles of wood and brush to create bird nesting habitat.

Aspen regeneration cut in Canastota, N.Y., after four months of growth. The aspen responded particularly well because the area is open and receives a lot of sunlight. Credit: Andy Weik, Ruffed Grouse Society

Aspen regeneration cut in Canastota, N.Y., after four months of growth. The aspen responded particularly well because the area is open and receives a lot of sunlight. Credit: Andy Weik, Ruffed Grouse Society

Add a bit of water. We also added six vernal pools, which are small shallow ponds that fill up during the wet season and usually dry out periodically throughout the year. Following construction, the landowner said he noticed frogs and salamanders in the pools, and occasionally ducks in the pools not covered by trees.

The landowner was genuinely amazed with the transformation of his land. He was noticing calls, sounds and nests of different birds, and markings of animals traveling through the woods.

Your conservation strategy can be as simple as purchasing wood duck boxes and placing them on trees, or as difficult as constructing your own vernal pool. By doing a little research and consulting with wildlife agencies, you too can transform your property into a landscape that provides suitable habitat to a range of species.

Here are some simple alterations you can make:

  • Grow plants/crops/trees that you know will attract a certain species. For example, turkeys like acorns, beechnuts, and hickory nuts, so it would be wise to plant oak, beech or hickory trees.
  • Cut down trees that compete with desirable trees. The desirable trees will grow better if they don’t have to compete with other trees for resources.
  • Plant hemlock trees. Deer will bed under the branches.
  • Plant a hedgerow of native berries. You will attract wildlife and gain privacy!
  • Add large sunning rocks, logs, etc. to the edge of a pond or vernal pool.
  • Collect twigs and branches. Make a large pile in the woods for nesting and protection.
  • Cut down trees to create openings in the forest. Some species prefer grasses and plants that thrive in sunlight, providing feeding and nesting opportunities. Forest opening also attract insects for wildlife to eat.