Tag Archives: habitat conservation

Beach restorations along New Jersey's Delaware Bay will help horseshoe crabs spawn in early May.

Changing fortunes on Delaware Bay

One might think a creature named the horseshoe crab would be naturally lucky–and in some ways it is. The prehistoric throwback has retained its basic physiology for around 350 million years, so it’s already far outlasted our own species on an evolutionary scale. Evolved as it may be, its luck has been challenged along the shores of the Delaware Bay. Beaches that traditionally serve as one of the crabs’ major spawning grounds were severely eroded by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and the species is projected to be impacted by continuing shore development, frequent intense storms like Sandy and ongoing sea level rise.

The eggs of mating horseshoe crabs at Delaware Bay will sustain thousands of migrating shorebirds on their long trips to the Arctic. Credit: Gregory Breese/USFWS

The eggs of mating horseshoe crabs at Delaware Bay will sustain thousands of migrating shorebirds on their long trips to the Arctic. Credit: Gregory Breese/USFWS

Even less fortunate are the migrating shorebirds who depend on their critical stopover at Delaware Bay to refuel on sustaining horseshoe crab eggs on their way to the Arctic—a journey that, for some, clocks more than 18,000 miles annually. Take the rufa red knot for example, a species whose numbers have declined so sharply that it is being considered for federal Endangered Species Act protection. It’s estimated that more than 50 percent of the entire rufa red knot population stops at Delaware Bay, one of the last undeveloped shores on the Atlantic coast, making the area essential to the continuing survival of the species.

Fifty to 70 truckloads of sand are being added daily to five beaches on Delaware Bay that were badly eroded by Hurricane Sandy. Click below to view video of the beaches being replenished.

But sometimes good fortune is the result of foresight. To help both of these species and the beach habitats upon which they depend, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has broken ground on the first of 31 forward-looking Hurricane Sandy resilience projects: a $1.65 million restoration of several beaches along the Delaware Bay. The effort includes repairing storm surge and erosion damage at Reeds Beach, Kimbles Beach, Cooks Beach and Pierce’s Point in New Jersey’s Cape May County and at Moore’s Beach in Cumberland County (all important habitat areas for both crabs and shorebirds). The project involves  depositing some 50-70 truckloads of locally-mined sand daily to re-establish the diminishing coastline, with total sand replenishment estimated at 45,500 tons.

A map of the Reeds Beach restoration area. Inset: Greater Delaware Bay with beach restoration proposals highlighted in red. Credit: American Littoral Society.

A map of the Reeds Beach restoration area. Inset: Greater Delaware Bay with beach restoration proposals highlighted in red. Credit: American Littoral Society.

Partners in the effort, including the American Littoral Society and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, are coordinating the restoration with the Service’s Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, and with the Conserve Wildlife Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. These partners have not only been instrumental in helping to implement the Service’s core coastal resilience and habitat restoration goals, they’ve also been seeking to secure further funding to restore additional spans of Delaware Bay shoreline.

Restoration crews have been employing something of a hurry-up offense, as the sand must be added, spread and graded by early May, when the horseshoe crabs typically return for spawning.

Cape May National Wildlife Refuge hosts annual nighttime horseshoe crab tagging events on Kimbles Beach. Credit: USFWS.

Cape May National Wildlife Refuge hosts annual nighttime horseshoe crab tagging events on Kimbles Beach. Credit: USFWS.

Cape May Refuge Manager Brian Braudis says the refuge plans to host horseshoe crab taggings on May 15 and May 29 at 8:30 p.m. when the crabs return, on its Kimbles Beach parcel. Last year, volunteers including veterans, retirees and school children—some bussed in from upstate classrooms—tagged 1,000 horseshoe crabs. With a support network like this, who needs luck?

To read more about U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Hurricane Sandy recovery and resilience projects, visit http://www.fws.gov/hurricane/sandy. To view media coverage of Cape May beach restoration projects, click here. To learn about the Service’s broader conservation and habitat restoration efforts on Delaware Bay, click here.

Release of the latest Duck Stamp!

Hear from Paul Baicich, the president of the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp about the importance of Duck Stamps to help conserve national wildlife refuge lands for people and wildlife. 

Today, the 2013-2014 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, often called the Duck Stamp, was released at a first-day ceremony in Ashland, Virginia. The Duck Stamp was originally created in 1934 as a federal license for hunting migratory waterfowl, but Ducks Stamps have a much, much broader purpose today.

2013-14 final WAG

The 2013-2014 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation (Duck) Stamp. The artwork is by Robert Steiner and is of a common goldeneye.

The Stamps are vital for conservation and refuge growth, as 98 cents out of every dollar generated by the sale of the Stamps goes to secure wetland and grassland habitat in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Since 1934, Stamp sales have helped generate more than $850 million, funding which has been used to purchase or lease over 5.5 million acres of Refuge System habitat in the lower 48 states. Stamp proceeds go into the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF) to be spent on fee purchase, easement, or leasing of Refuge System lands.

But waterfowl are not the only wildlife to benefit from the sale of Duck Stamps. Other birds, mammals and fish have benefitted too! And the benefits don’t stop there; people have also reaped the rewards. Hunters have places to enjoy their sport and other outdoor enthusiasts have places to hike, watch birds, photograph, and explore. Protected wetlands also help purify water supplies, store floodwater, reduce soil erosion, and provide spawning areas for fish.

Find out which 252 refuges owe their existence, in whole or in part, to Stamp investments!

In the Northeast, many national wildlife refuges have been able to conserve lands because of these Stamp/MBCF dollars. For example, almost 98 percent of the 4,700-acre Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts was purchased through Stamp/MBCF dollars, as have 95 percent of the 16,000-acre Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware.

The Stamp is also a free pass for an entire year, July to July, at all national wildlife refuges that charge for admission. It’s a real bargain!

Once you buy your Stamp, available at a post office, national wildlife refuge or sporting goods store, you may also be interested in investigating our friends group, the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp, dedicated to the promotion, preservation, sales, and better understanding of the Stamp and Refuge System it helps support: www.friendsofthestamp.org

Buy and display a Stamp; spread the word, and show that you care!

Extreme Makeover: Young forests edition

“Give this land two years,” says U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Ted Kendziora, as he excitedly refers to 22 acres of desolate land in south New Hampshire that received a habitat “makeover” by the Town of Lee Conservation Commission. The property was converted to a young forest, an important environment for many species of native plants and animals, like the New England cottontail.

The 22 acres was covered in exotic plants and aging tree stands that didn’t provide as many benefits to wildlife as native shrubs and tree saplings. Young forests are disappearing at a rapid rate in the northeast.

New England cottontail

New England cottontails need brush to survive.
Credit: USFWS.

This project is part of the solution. By responsibly managing forests by harvesting stands of trees, prescribed burning, and mowing, patches of young forest can be created and maintained within largely mature forest landscapes. Like your own home and yard, our forests require routine maintenance.

This isn’t your typical makeover, as a clear-cut or burned area may look bad to people for a few years. But, as Kendziora explains, it will be a welcoming and life-sustaining home for wildlife.

Kendziora works for the Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. Along with numerous partners he is helping to complete two restoration projects that will create much needed habitat for early successional or young forest-dependent wildlife, like New England’s only native rabbit. Read more about the project.

More habitat conservation projects: Gumpas Pond Conservation Area