Tag Archives: refuge

Protecting endangered species on national wildlife refuges

Happy Endangered Species Day! Our biologists team up every day with people across the Northeast to bring our over 100 protected wildlife and plants closer to recovery. Today we’re bringing you updates on a few projects that are doing just that.

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Endangered freshwater mussels in the Clinch and Powell River Watersheds in Virginia (Bottom diagonal row, left to right: Cumberlandian combshell, Oyster mussel. Middle Row: Shiny pigtoe, Birdwing pearlymussel, Cumberland monkeyface. Top row: Rough rabbitsfoot) Credit: USFWS

At the bottom of a river, a rock-like creature extends a single muscular foot from its shell. This creature – capable of filtering through several gallons of water per day – sounds like a sci-fi character but is actually a freshwater mussel. Mussels clean our streams, rivers, and lakes as they feed on small food particles and algae. If you find mussels, you can usually find good water quality. We are working to establish 2-4 new populations of four endangered species of mussel; the club shell, orange-foot pimpleback, spectiaclecase and purple cat’s paw on or near the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Together, with the help of 15 cooperators, the Service has already established 5 new populations of the clubshell mussel and successfully raised 3 different year classes of purple cat’s paw mussel.

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A pair of Roseate Terns on Gull Island, NY. Studies in 1975, on Gull Island, reported the hybridization of common terns and roseate terns. Similar crosses have not been documented since. Photo Credit: Sarah Nystrom

If you’ve ever been to Gull Island in New York or traveled along a saltwater coastline, you may have witnessed a Roseate Tern diving headfirst into the water after its prey. Six National Wildlife Refuges, Ecological Services and Coastal Program offices partnered with state agencies and non-governmental organizations are working to protect this Federal and state endangered species. These agencies are reducing the risks from predation, habitat loss, and disturbance to Roseate tern breeding and staging sites across the North Atlantic breeding range.

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While adult Karner blue butterflies feed on the nectar of flowering plants, Karner blue caterpillars feed only on the leaves of the wild lupine plant. Credit: Joel Trick/USFWS

 

Karner blue caterpillars work together with ants, providing nectar in exchange for protection against the caterpillar’s natural enemies. 2-3 subpopulations of Karner blue butterflies are being restored on the Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge through habitat restoration, captive rearing and propagating lupine, to save the species from extinction. Funding has already allowed for prescribed habitat burns, the removal of fencing, lupine propagation and the release of 750 butterflies into the wild.

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Seabeach amaranth. Photo Credit: Gene Nieminen.

 

Plant species face extinction too! Seabeach amaranth is an annual plant species endemic to the Atlantic Coast from South Carolina to Massachusetts. The species has rapidly declined over the past 13 years from over 200,000 plants to only 1,320 in 2013 – largely due to climate change, sea level rise, development of beach front property and increased beach use. More than 3,800 seeds have been collected from four sites to establish more self-sustaining populations on 6 National Wildlife Refuges in areas less vulnerable to man-made threats.

 

 

These projects are funded by a special initiative in our agency called the Cooperative Recovery Initiative. The initiative was established in 2013 to restore and recover federally listed threatened or endangered species on national wildlife refuges and surrounding lands. It funds on-the-ground conservation projects that provide high conservation benefits.

Through the $6.86 million in CRI funding, the Service is working to recover threatened or endangered species across 27 states on or near national wildlife refuges. The 16 CRI funded projects will benefit a number of other species as well; including piping plover, bull trout and the Yellowstone grizzly.

For more information about Endangered Species Day – May 20, 2016, click here.

For more information about the 2016 Cooperative Recovery Initiative, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Increased use of renewable energy is a priority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Credit: USFWS.

Self-Empowered

Oct. 29, 2012: Hurricane Sandy knocked out power to an estimated 8.1 million individual locations in 17 states, as far west as Michigan. Outages affected some areas for weeks, and often more remote locations – like those that tend to encompass wildlife refuges – remained without for longer or were forced to rely on whatever backup power generators they had on hand.

Power Line damage at Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge on Long Island. Credit: Todd Weston/USFWS.

Power Line damage at Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge on Long Island. Credit: Todd Weston/USFWS.

In the New York-New Jersey region, even some facilities that had generators found themselves faced with unexpected challenges like post-hurricane fuel rationing. This lasted an average of two weeks in the metro area and limited power supply, in many cases, to however much fuel had already been stockpiled. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Staff from the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Basking Ridge, N.J. (only 25 miles from Times Square) found themselves driving as far as Pennsylvania to buy diesel for their generators. Other Fish and Wildlife refuges suffered in darkness for days after the super storm as well, including the Canaan Valley refuge in West Virginia, which was buried in over three feet of wet snow—a condition that did nothing to help keep power lines up in the region.

In response to extreme circumstances like those that occurred in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, backup and solar power system installations are planned for 18 U.S. Fish and Wildlife facilities throughout the Northeast region, including 17 refuges and the National Conservation Training Center in Shepardstown, West Virginia. The power projects form a unique subset of the Service’s Sandy recovery efforts—one that focuses keenly on resilience and preparation for projected future storms. They represent a substantial investment by the U.S. Department of the Interior in reliable emergency resources, and reaffirm its commitment to increasing federal facilities’ utilization of renewable energy sources.

After initially contracting out design work for a few planned power systems in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey, Service engineers Mark Orton and Chuck Gess were tapped from within in an effort to speed up design and approval processes and save taxpayer dollars. The decision proved to be a good one, and now the power projects are nearing something of a critical mass, with many locations looking at installation by the summer of 2014.

Backup generators and photovoltaic solar power systems will be installed this year at 17 national wildlife refuges and the National Conservation Training Center.

Backup generators and photovoltaic solar power systems will be installed this year at 17 national wildlife refuges and the National Conservation Training Center.

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service facility management specialist Kevin Ortyl, sites equipped with backup and solar power proved invaluable in the aftermath of the super storm.

“Those stations that had backup power during Hurricane Sandy, including those at Long Island and Rhode Island refuges, were a great resource for their local communities,” says Ortyl. “Their headquarters and offices were used to coordinate emergency responses, provide logistical support, make phone calls and even offer cooked meals and showers.”

Increased use of renewable energy is a priority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Credit: USFWS.

Increased use of renewable energy is a priority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Credit: USFWS.

Photovoltaic (PV) solar power systems also represent an important part of the Service’s mission, he says.

“Solar PV and the need for alternative energy have always been important to FWS. The more we are off the grid and can lessen our carbon footprint, the better, and installing more solar PV is an ongoing opportunity to achieve this. Using a renewable resource such as the sun aids in our continuing effort to tread lightly.”

In addition to reducing the carbon output of Service facilities, solar PV will also save taxpayer dollars. At the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, Maryland, solar PV systems that Mark Orton designed are being installed at two buildings, and between them will save the refuge an estimated $6,210 in annual utility bills. Gess says that the systems he’s been designing will offset 40 percent of a building’s load (on average), though at least one PV system at Rhode Island’s Beane Point will provide 100 percent of its needs and will be totally off-grid.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been working to repair and restore public lands on the Atlantic coast since Hurricane Sandy impacted them in October of 2012. To learn more about the Service’s ongoing efforts to facilitate habitat recovery and build coastal resilience that helps protect communities, please visit http://www.fws.gov/hurricane/sandy.

 

A Blue Whale-sized Milestone

Cleanup workers at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Southern New Jersey have been busy of late, hauling garbage out of the marshes that line a 22-mile stretch of coastline near Atlantic City. The debris was dumped there when Hurricane Sandy made landfall at the refuge’s doorstep, sweeping up all manner of jetsam from the densely populated surrounding area and depositing it, as it were, on the front porch.

Debris scattered by Hurricane Sandy across the coastal marshes at E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (Credit Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)

Debris scattered by Hurricane Sandy across the coastal marshes at E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (Credit Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)

Crews have been working through brutally cold days this winter to complete the cleanup in Brick Township. When the cleanup ends,the Service will begin restoring the marshes, making them a stronger front line protecting coastal communities during future storms.

The Service oversees work being done to remove debris from fragile marsh areas.  (Credit Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)

The Service oversees work being done to remove debris from fragile marsh areas. (Credit Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)

As of early March, about 200 tons of debris—roughly the equivalent of a blue whale in sheer mass—have been removed, including boats, docks, remains of buildings, barrels, drums and fuel tanks, some of which contained contaminants.

“Lands protected as a part of Forsythe Refuge buffered inland areas from the full brunt of Hurricane Sandy…we will clean and restore this vibrant and resilient stretch of coast to sustain wildlife and protect the people of New Jersey in the future,” said Refuge Manager Virginia Rettig.

Refuge Manager Virginia Rettig gives Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell a tour of the marsh at Forsythe. (Credit Keith Shannon/USFWS)

Refuge Manager Virginia Rettig gives Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell a tour of the marsh at Forsythe. (Credit Keith Shannon/USFWS)

Click here to read about how and where the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is working to restore natural areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy. You can also view photos of cleanup projects here.

The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge protects more than 47,000 acres of southern New Jersey coastal habitats which are actively managed for migratory birds.