Tag Archives: Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

A Conservation and Family Tradition

Judy Sefchick Edwards, Wildlife Biologist, shares the conservation and family traditions at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge. 

Ducks in the air and leaves on the ground mark both the end of summer, and the beginning of a long-held tradition.  The refuge boat launch is bustling with young, smiling faces, animated chatter, and enthusiastic adults taking photos, to preserve great future memories.  It’s the start of Vermont’s duck hunting season, with the Youth Waterfowl Hunting Weekend at Missisquoi NWR!

Surrounded by the genuine fervor and excitement, I can’t help but smile.  Not only did this crew have a successful refuge hunt, but they also had a memorable family day outdoors.  Again, I’m reminded that the conservation tradition of waterfowl hunting, and the purchase of Federal Duck Stamps, has made it possible for us all to experience and enjoy our National Wildlife Refuge System.

“Missisquoi NWR has one of the northeast’s largest, natural, freshwater wetland complexes, and is one of the last truly wild places in Vermont,” says native Vermonter, Chris Smith, an avid first-generation duck hunter, and father as well as mentor, to junior duck hunters, Zach and Caleb.  Not only are the Missisquoi Delta and Bay Wetlands important stopover sites for migratory waterfowl in the Atlantic Flyway, but they’re RAMSAR designated “Wetlands of International Importance” too.

What’s more, this refuge is living proof that duck stamps do more than provide a license to hunt.  With ninety-eight cents of every dollar going towards National Wildlife Refuge System lands, it’s no surprise that 87.5% of Missisquoi NWR was bought with duck stamp dollars.  Chris is proud to buy them and says, “Without duck stamps, the number of waterfowl, water birds, and other wetland-dependent species would decline, as would the opportunities to recreate in these special places.”

Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. Click image for more information about Duck Stamps.

This weekend, the Smiths arrived at the refuge with great anticipation and preparation.  Chris says, “I enjoy seeing all the ‘firsts’ for young hunters:  wearing waders, getting stuck in mud, or shooting certain ducks.”  A month earlier, the family attended the refuge’s annual Junior Waterfowl Hunter Training, to improve skills and discuss safe, ethical hunting, and wildlife conservation.  Completion of the training, and a subsequent lottery draw, gave these juniors a chance to hunt in sought-after refuge blinds.

As a mentor, Chris won’t hunt, but says, “It’s rewarding to pass along knowledge and experience, and have an opportunity for real quality time with my sons.”  He’s proud to have passed this tradition down to them.  Chris remembers when both boys shot their first banded ducks at the refuge.  “I’ll never forget their excitement and pride,” he said, then added, “Without the refuge, my hunting experiences would be greatly diminished, but the loss of wildlife would be even more devastating.”

Caleb and Zach Smith at the end of a hunt on Missisquoi NWR

Missisquoi NWR means different things to different people, but the age-old tradition of waterfowl hunting is the reason this refuge exists.  For some, like Caleb, the refuge represents a chance to observe and hunt near the greatest concentration of waterfowl in Vermont. “Seeing lots of ducks and having many opportunities to shoot, sets the refuge apart,” he said.  To others, like Zach, “It’s a place where I can get out of the house and do stuff I love—whether it’s hunting, fishing, or banding ducks with Judy.  It’s a great place.”

 

Wednesday Wisdom – Walt Disney

When you wish upon a… rainbow? One of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights recently appeared above the headquarters at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in Vermont and offered the perfect backdrop for this week’s quote from one of the world’s greatest dreamers.

Original image by Ken Sturm/USFWS

Original image by Ken Sturm/USFWS

Vermont wetlands receive international recognition

This week, we’re going international! Well, kind of. One of our refuges has been designated a “Wetland of International Importance” under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands!

The designation is the first in Vermont, encompasses 7,665 acres, and includes the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge and the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department’s Maquam, Carmen’s Marsh and Rock River Wildlife Management Areas.

cranberry pool

The Cranberry wetland management unit at the refuge. Credit: Ken Sturm/USFWS

So what does it all mean? The Ramsar Convention is a 40 year old intergovernmental treaty, signed on by over 160 countries, to promote voluntary international cooperation for wetland and waterfowl conservation. The Convention’s mission centers on the wise use and conservation of wetlands around the globe focusing on local and national action and international cooperation.

If you’re still wondering why this is a big deal, keep reading. The site is the largest wetland complex in the Lake Champlain Basin, which is considered a resource of national significance. It contains the largest contiguous floodplain forest in Vermont and unique habitat types such as the Maquam Bog. It is important for many state rare and threatened or endangered species such as the eastern spiny softshell turtle, seven species of mussel and the lake sturgeon.

Learn more about the Missisquoi Delta and Bay Wetlands

The site supports over 200 species of birds and is a breeding area for numerous species of waterfowl, passerines, raptors and wading birds. It is also the only known breeding site for black terns in Vermont. As the site is located along the Atlantic Flyway, populations of waterfowl often reach 20,000 birds in the autumn! The Missisquoi Delta and Bay Wetlands are also essential for numerous fish species that use the site as feeding, spawning and nursery grounds. The site is one of the few remaining spawning grounds of the state endangered lake sturgeon.

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A black tern at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Ken Sturm/USFWS

And we’re joining some pretty good company. There are currently 35 other designated sites in the U.S. and over 2,000 around the world. The Missisquoi Delta and Bay Wetlands join the ranks of other important wetland areas such as the Everglades and San Francisco Bay with this designation. Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge is the twentieth national wildlife refuge to be designated under the Ramsar Convention.

Congratulations to Vermont!