Tag Archives: West Virginia

Kids Dig in the Dirt to Save Pollinators

Pollinators are in peril, but with the help of Union Elementary they will have a safe home in Upshur County, West Virginia. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Partner’s for Fish & Wildlife Program in West Virginia teamed up with Union Elementary to install the program’s first schoolyard habitat pollinator garden in the state.

West Virginia Field Office AmeriCorps members, Aeriel Wauhob and Tom Fletcher, designed, organized, and installed a new Partner’s for Fish & Wildlife Schoolyard Habitat project using funding from the USFWS Monarch Initiative. Nearly 300 kindergarten through 5th grade students, at Union Elementary School in Upshur County helped to transform the front lawn of their school into pollinator garden using native seeds and perennials.

Union Elementary students and staff in newly finished pollinator garden.

Students started each day with a short presentation on who pollinators are, how they help grow our food, and the threats they face every day. The installation was a two day process. Kindergartners through 2nd graders leading the way by lending a hand and foot to prep the area for planting of flowers and stomping native seeds into the ground. The second day of the install consisted of 3rd through 5th graders learning how to transplant flowers and work as a team to spread mulch.

Every child at Union Elementary had the chance to get their hands dirty learning about native plants and gardening techniques to encourage pollinators to visit. All grades helped, from planting wildflower seeds, weeding and digging, to mulching and watering!

To add more of a personal touch, each class designed a stepping stone that would be placed around a sitting area with a bench. The 4th graders enjoyed breaking dishes to make mosaic tiles for the class designs. The stones featured pollinators such as birds and butterflies, along with the plants they seek like flowers and trees.

This inspiring project will be a gateway for similar accomplishments connecting children with nature throughout the state. The pollinator garden was an effort made possible by Nick Millett – Partner’s for Fish & Wildlife, Aeriel Wauhob & Tom Fletcher – AFHA AmeriCorps, Russ McClain – Center for Sustainability Studies of Davis & Elkins College, and Dr. Stankus – Union Elementary Garden Committee.

Left to Right: Nick Millett, Russ McClain, Tom Fletcher, & Aeriel Wauhob

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/.

Fish Friends Make for a Great Partnership

As winter starts up and outdoor projects begin to hibernate until the warmer months, one field crew keeps trudging on. Based out of the West Virginia Field Office, the Trout Unlimited/USFWS Partners Conservation Crew is plenty active during the cold winter months just like the fish the organization is named after.

Last week, I spent my time helping out by putting the finishing touches of tree tubes and weed mats on newly planted trees that marked the completion of 3 Trout Unlimited/USFWS Partners Conservation Crew projects. The Service’s West Virginia Field Office Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (Partners Program) specializes in riparian/riverbank habitat restoration and enhancement through the construction of streambank fencing and division fencing to exclude livestock. These unsung heroes work year around in all weather conditions to enhance grazing management practices, protect habitat for fish and wildlife, and improve water quality from Virginia Beach to New Orleans.

The Partners Program works with private landowners, other federal and state agencies, municipalities, and non-government organizations to restore riparian habitat using techniques such as: livestock fencing, and streambank tree and shrub planting. Fencing off riparian zones improve fish and wildlife habitat, herd health, streambank stabilization, and water quality; along with reduced run-off and sedimentation to streams, increased nesting cover within the buffer zone, and connected wildlife travel corridors.

The fencing installed is typically constructed as three-strand , high tensile electric fence placed along streams in ordered to limit livestock access to waterways creating a buffer zone between pasture and stream. Newly constructed fencing is flood tolerant, easily maintained or repaired, and is very beneficial to fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, and farm operation. Installed divisional fencing increases efficiency, production, and profitability for the farmer by enhancing land and herd health through rotational grazing practices.

Restricting grazing in riparian zones restores habitat and resources for wildlife while increasing farm profitability by directing nutrients onto pastures and encouraging livestock to graze in high production areas. Since excluding stream access eliminates a potential water source, the TU Conservation Crew installs watering troughs to provide an alternative water source for the cattle that is clean, safe, and reliable. Cows’ growth is enriched by drinking clean water and this new water source increases the herd health and decreases landowner expenses for the veterinarian care.

The fenced riparian buffer zones are planted with large stock trees and live stakes to jump start the restoration process. Trees planted in the riparian area will provide shade, decreasing water temperature and reducing nutrient inputs to the stream, improving water quality for native Brook trout. Many fencing projects also include the installation of habitat boxes for bats, bluebirds, and wood ducks.

All of this is made possible due to Farm Bill cost share incentive programs through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency along with the West Virginia Conservation Agency.  Programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) provide incentives to landowners to implement a variety of conservation measures.  Without this assistance, farmers are forced to prioritize operational purchases over environmental considerations.  By making fencing affordable, landowners are able to spend towards a mutual benefit of the farm and of the land.

To date, our Trout Unlimited Conservation Crew has installed nearly 1.5 million feet of fence protecting thousands of acres of riparian habitat on farms across West Virginia. The Partners Program is an invaluable resource for landowners who wish to restore and conserve their property for wildlife. Counties, cities, and private citizens have partnered with the Service, as well as with other federal and state agencies, to help maintain healthy ecosystems in West Virginia. Without the Partners Program the countless miles of stream restoration would not have been possible.

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Farmers, agency personnel, and NGO staff gathered to celebrate the completion of 1 million feet of conservation fence by the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program in WV.(Hardy Co.,2013)