Tag Archives: earth day

Sprucing Up the Place

Every year Earth Day is a time to celebrate our wonderful planet and the amazing resources it has to offer. From cascading waterfalls nestled in the mountains to the blooming flowers on the desert floor, the Earth has given us awe-inspiring sites, artistic inspiration, and consumable resources. But with increasing urbanization, changing climate, and widespread diseases, our planet is in need of our help. In West Virginia, where Earth Day is every day, people are lending a “limb” to help deter forest degradation and fragmentation.

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Many organizations, including the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, have come
together in common interest to restore the disappearing red spruce to conserve the biodiversity of the region. More than 500,000 acres across Central Appalachia’s high elevations were once covered by red spruce forest. Less than 10 percent of that remains today. What is left is limited to fragmented high ridge tops and protected coves. Red spruce forests are home to over 300 rare plant and animal species including the West Virginia Northern flying squirrel, Cheat Mountain salamander, and the native brook trout.

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This Earth Day, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge planted nearly 2,500 trees with the help of 62 volunteers. Lauren Merrill, AmeriCorps member serving with the refuge and co-host of the tree planting event, said, “It was raining when the event started, and some people didn’t have rain jackets. Some people even came in shorts! The WVU’s Sierra Student Coalition really pulled through and brought a large group. Everyone was great…” The refuge will have a 4H group come out in May to bring the total to 3,000 planted red spruce. Another organization that held a red spruce planting on Earth Day was The Nature Conservancy at Blackwater Falls State Park. Two AmeriCorps members from our office assisted with restoration efforts.
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Even though the Earth Day festivities have come and gone, it’s a reminder to plant a seed today to ensure the heath and growth of tomorrow.

To get involved in events as described in this article please visit –https://www.fws.gov/refuges/.

Helping monarchs when red goes green for Earth Day!

If you’re into pollinators and monarch butterflies like I am, and you were not in Philadelphia last night, you missed out! Actually, even if you aren’t, you still missed out. I joined staff from our regional office and from our John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Citizens Bank Park to celebrate Earth Day with the Phillies. The team has an environmental sustainability initiative, what they call “Red Goes Green,” in which they work to lead the way in sustainable practices at professional sports venues. They invited us out with other conservation agencies and organizations last night and we had a great time with the fans.

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You may have heard that the Service is working with partners to help save monarch butterflies, whose numbers have declined by approximately 90 percent in recent years, a result of numerous threats, particularly loss of habitat due to agricultural practices, development and cropland conversion. Thanks to the Friends of Heinz Refuge, we were able to help the cause. So many fans took the pledge to protect pollinators and plant common milkweed to help us save monarchs. Here’s a few:

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After taking the pledge and picking up the milkweed seeds, no one could get enough of the bug eye glasses so they pretty much made an appearance in every photo pledge. I love it.

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In a short time, we got some great support for our pollinating friends.

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If you missed last night, fret not; we’ll be participating in the Philadelphia Science Festival the next couple of weeks and we’ll be at Science Night at the Ballpark. We’ll be spreading more love for monarchs and showing off some animal athletes.

For more information about monarch butterflies and how you can help, visit www.fws.gov/savethemonarch.

 

What’s growing in your yard or local park? Plant natives!

Common sneezeweed is a native plant that flowers from July to November and will grow in woods, swamps, meadows and other areas. Photo from Dan Mullen in Flickr Creative Commons.

Common sneezeweed is a native plant that flowers from July to November and will grow in woods, swamps, meadows and other areas. Photo from Dan Mullen in Flickr Creative Commons.

Today you're hearing from fish and wildlife biologist Dave Byrd in our Virginia Field Office. As a Partners for Fish and Wildlife biologist, Dave works to restore upland, stream and wetlands. He focuses on restoring streams within the endangered Roanoke logperch range, restoring longleaf pines in the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker's range, and restoring large scale peat based forested wetlands for migratory birds. Photo courtesy of Dave.

Today you’re hearing from fish and wildlife biologist Dave Byrd in our Virginia Field Office. As a Partners for Fish and Wildlife biologist, Dave works to restore upland, stream and wetlands. He focuses on restoring streams within the endangered Roanoke logperch range, restoring longleaf pines in the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker’s range, and restoring large scale peat based forested wetlands for migratory birds. Photo courtesy of Dave.

As we approach another Arbor Day celebration, I am reminded of how I developed my love of native plants. Growing up in Northern Virginia, I was raised by a father that loved working the soil and watching the fruits of his labor grow into landscapes both edible and aesthetically pleasing. Few pastimes brought him more pleasure than planting trees, shrubs, vines, flowers and vegetables.

After leaving government service, he started a landscaping business, involving his sons and daughters and further instilling a love of plants and nature in us all. It was said that he never saw a plant he didn’t love and this philosophy translated into bringing back to our yard any plant removed or replaced at each landscaping site. While many of the trees, shrubs and vines were quite beautiful and attracted abundant wildlife, they also included a number of plants that were non-native and in some cases invasive, such as English ivy, yellow bamboo and five-leaf akebia.

Sure, Callery pear in bloom is pretty, but a simple swap with a native tree would provide the same beauty while being better suited for wildlife and pest control. Photo from Creative Commons Flickr user wilbanks.

Sure, Callery pear in bloom is pretty, but a simple swap with a native tree would provide the same beauty while being better suited for wildlife and pest control. Photo from Creative Commons Flickr user wilbanks.

Most readily available landscape plants are non-native, originating from countries with similar climates such as parts of Asia, Europe, South America and other far flung places. Many of these non-native plants are not invasive and pose little risk to the environment, while others are moderately to highly invasive, escaping from cultivation, colonizing both disturbed and undisturbed habitats and outcompeting existing native species.

Unfortunately, many of these invasives are still readily available in the nursery trade. You can usually check with your state’s natural heritage program, department of forestry or native plant society to determine which species are considered invasive in your state.

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Spicebush is a native shrub that produces red fruit in the fall and flowers yellow in the spring. Birds, butterflies and squirrels love it! Credit: Dave Byrd/USFWS

Instead of planting a Callery pear, Norway maple or other non-native tree for Arbor Day, plant a native species instead. Native plants provide all the benefits of non-native species (flowers, fruit, fall color, screening) with additional benefits including:

    • Shelter and food for native mammals, birds, and insects;
    • More resistant to insect pests and diseases
    • Little to no need for pesticides;
    • Adapted to local soil and climate conditions;
    • Less need for water/fertilizer once established; and
    • Nutrient removal capabilities.

While Arbor Day focuses on tree planting, remember that in addition to native trees, native shrubs, perennials, biennials and annuals also play an important role in maintaining animal and plant diversity, soil stabilization, clean air and water. So if you can’t plant a tree for Arbor Day, plant common milkweed for monarch butterflies or other native plants for pollinators.

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) and a Common Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus), both on Swamp Milkweed

Monarch butterfly and a common milkweed bug, both on native swamp milkweed. Learn more about planting milkweed at fws.gov/savethemonarch. Photo from Creative Commons Flickr user Dharma_for_one.

Sources of native plant information include: