Expanded Hunting and Fishing in the National Wildlife Refuge System

September 25, 2013

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced Tuesday that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to expand fishing and hunting programs throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System. The announcement was made before September 28, National Hunting and Fishing Day.

The proposed plans include introducing new hunting programs in six refuges in New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wyoming; and expanding existing hunting and fishing programs in 20 refuges in 13 other states. Additionally, the proposed expansion also contains plans to modify existing refuge-specific guidelines and regulations in more than 75 other refuges and water management districts.

“Sportsmen and women were a major driving force behind the creation and expansion of the National Wildlife Refuge System more than a century ago and continue to be some of its strongest supporters, especially through their volunteer work and financial contributions,” Jewell said in a statement Tuesday. “Keeping our hunting and angling heritage strong by providing more opportunities on our refuges will not only help raise up a new generation of conservationists, but also support local businesses and create jobs in local communities.”

Encompassing over 150 million acres of land and water, the National Wildlife Refuge System is divided into 560 refuges, 38 wetland management districts, and a number of other protected areas. In all, the Refuge System provides a habitat for over 220 species of mammals, 700 species of birds, 250 species of amphibians and reptiles, and over 1,000 species of fish. It also protects over 380 threatened or endangered plants and animals.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 and the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, can allow hunting and fishing as well as wildlife observation and photography and environmental education and interpretation in refuges when the activity is compatible with the purposes for which the particular refuge was established.

Hunting is currently allowed in designated areas within 329 refuges. Fishing is currently permitted in 271 wildlife refuges. Hunting and fishing programs are managed to ensure the maintenance and sustainability of wildlife populations.

The National Wildlife Refuge System website addresses the apparent contradiction between the idea of refuges as wildlife sanctuaries and allowing hunting and fishing within these areas. According to the website, certain healthy wildlife populations produce surpluses that are harvestable and renewable if managed properly. In fact, the website points out that in some cases, as with deer populations, hunting, trapping, and fishing are actually a necessity.

While fostering conservation, The National Wildlife Refuge System generates jobs and income for local economies. The National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, reported that in 2011 nearly 41 percent of the U.S. population age 16 and older—close to 90 million Americans—pursued some form of wildlife recreation. The Survey also reported that more than 72 million people observed wildlife, 33 million fished, and over 13 million hunted in the same year. Over $144 billion was spent on these activities.

“Hunting and fishing are healthy, traditional outdoor pastimes deeply rooted in America’s heritage and have long been enjoyed on hundreds of national wildlife refuges under the supervision of our biologists and wildlife managers,” said Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “After careful consideration and review from the Service, this proposal represents one of the largest expansions of hunting and fishing opportunities on wildlife refuges in recent years.”

A PDF version of the proposed rule is available here.

The general public is invited to submit comments until October 24, 2013 at the Federal eRulemaking Portal.

A full list of the affected refuges and water management districts that will be affected by the proposed rule is available at regulations.gov.

A Long-sought Land Purchase Allows Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge to Grow

September 5, 2013

The spectacularly green peninsula jutting into horseshoe-shaped Nestucca Bay on Oregon’s north coast has been privately owned, behind a locked gate and generally off-limits to the public for 75 years, but not any more. Thursday afternoon it became public land.

Eventually, hikers, birdwatchers, photographers and others will be able to explore the Sitka spruce and hemlock forests, where bald eagles nest, deer prance and bobcats prowl. They’ll have views to the confluence of the Nestucca and Little Nestucca rivers and north to Haystack Rock, off Pacific City.

Katy Muldoon, of the Oregonian, who wrote the piece, quoted Roy Lowe, project leader for the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge, as saying, “”I’m nearly speechless that this stunning piece of coastal landscape will be protected in perpetuity for the public.”

We are ecstatic too Roy! Congratulations on the purchase! You can read the full article here.

Fifth International Partners in Flight (PIF) Meeting

August 20, 2013

Contact: Robert Johns, 202-234-7181 ext.210, bjohns@abcbirds.org

Who:  Hundreds of scientists, conservationists and conservation practitioners engaged in bird

conservation will be attending. Participants constitute a veritable Who’s Who of bird conservation, including representatives of federal agencies, universities, state governments, and a host of foreign and domestic non-governmental organizations. Participants come from more than 100 different organizations and from 16 countries in North, Central and South America. The meeting is being held by Partners in Flight and hosted by American Bird Conservancy.

When:  August 25 – 28, 2013

Where:  Snowbird, Utah (40 minutes outside Salt Lake City, Utah).

Why:  Over the last 40 years, we have seen troubling declines in bird populations, a warning signal of the failing health of the nation’s ecosystems. Nearly a third of our country’s 800 bird species are endangered, threatened or in significant decline. We have experienced a 40% decline in grassland birds over the past 40 years, a 30% decline in birds of arid-lands, and are concerned about threats to many coastal shorebirds. Furthermore, 39% of species dependent on U.S. oceans have declined. While some bird species are holding their own, many once common species are declining sharply in population. In addition to habitat loss and conversion, birds also face many other man-made threats such as pesticides, predation by non-native predators, such as feral cats, and collisions with windows, towers, and buildings.

Background: This groundbreaking meeting will employ a collaborative effort to develop a set of “conservation business plans” designed to identify and prioritize actions needed to improve migratory bird habitats and the status of their species in the many nations of the Americas. To that end, collaborative teams have been formed for eight ecological regions, geographically linking north and south to cover wintering, breeding, and transit areas of migratory bird species. These teams will develop specific sets of programs and projects to address the most pressing threats for these regions and their migratory birds. The result: a conservation blueprint for our most imperiled migratory species that will deliver a better future for those declining migrants.

Partners in Flight is a collaborative partnership formed in 1990 involving 400 organizations  concerned with bird conservation that seeks to combine and coordinate public and private resources to achieve success in conserving bird population in the western hemisphere

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.

Contact: Bob Johns, American Bird Conservancy, 202-234-7182, or bjohns@abcbirds.org or go to www.PIFV.org for program and meeting details. Feel free to ask about opportunities to either cover the meeting itself or to participate in field trips.

Secretary Jewell to Participate in Outdoor Nation Signature Summit in Seattle


Will Discuss Youth Engagement in Conservation and Outdoor Recreation

Contact: Jessica Kershaw (DOI), 202-208-6416

SEATTLE, WA  — On Saturday, July 20, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will join 150 young people at Outdoor Nation’s Signature Summit held at the University of Washington. This will be Jewell’s first official trip to Washington State as Secretary of the Interior.

Outdoor Nation is a national initiative to empower youth to champion the outdoors on campuses and in communities across the United States. The two-day summit in Seattle will bring together young people to help find solutions to the challenges that keep youth from connecting with the outdoors. Jewell will offer remarks to the group and participate in breakout sessions.

“There is a growing divide between young people and the great outdoors,” said Jewell. “It’s a problem that has far-reaching consequences, but it’s one that we can do something about. I’m looking forward to hearing from these bright leaders as we discuss breaking down barriers that can keep young people from connecting to nature, getting outside, and getting active – including on our nation’s public lands.”

“The Department of the Interior has a major role to play when it comes to engaging, educating and employing young people,” added Jewell. “Strengthening public-private partnerships, like the one we have with Outdoor Nation, is going to continue to be one of my top priorities in my role as Secretary.”

The Seattle visit builds on Jewell’s commitment to youth programs in her first 100 days as Secretary. In May, Jewell announced more than $4 million in grants to support employment and mentoring opportunities for more than 600 young people on public lands across the country. She also traveled to New York City to launch the “National Parks of New York Harbor Conservation and Resiliency Corps,” a partnership with the city and the Student Conservation Association that will provide approximately 200 jobs for young people to participate in Hurricane Sandy recovery and clean-up efforts this year.

And in April she convened a meeting with stakeholders at Prince William Forest Park in Virginia to explore ways to leverage public-private partnerships at national parks to better connect youth and families to nature and outdoor recreation.

Soldiers, Cowboys, and Pilots: Report Finds that National Wildlife Refuges Deliver Surprising Benefits to People

June 27, 2013
Contact: Desiree Sorenson-Groves, 202-290-5593 or dgroves@refugeassociation.org

Coalition Warns that Slashing Funds Will Be Rude Awakening for Americans

Washington, DC – As Congress wrestles with next year’s budget, the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) warns that proposed funding cuts to the nation’s federal conservation lands will have big impacts for more than just wildlife.

While the National Wildlife Refuge System is charged with conserving wildlife and providing recreational opportunities to the public, a report released by CARE today describes some of the unlikely benefits that the nation’s 561 wildlife refuges add to the health, safety, and economic well-being of the American people. The broad coalition is urging Congress to provide the Refuge System with sufficient funds to allow these benefits to continue.

Among the most surprising benefits described in America’s Wildlife Refuges 2013: Delivering the Unexpected:

  • Eighty percent of the nation’s 561 wildlife refuges provide natural buffers against urbanization and other development pressures, thereby preserving undeveloped lands and airspace that enable military units to execute their vital training missions.
  • Conservation easements on nearly 3.5 million acres of refuge lands allow many private landowners to keep their ranches and farms in production.
  • Henderson Airfield on the remote Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, one of only a handful of emergency landing sites available for transpacific flights, has been estimated to save commercial airlines at least $28 million annually and, in 2012 alone, was used by nearly 50 private and military flights for emergency or refueling purposes.
  • Wildlife refuges generate more than $32.3 billion each year in natural goods and services, such as buffering coastal communities from storm surges, filtering pollutants from municipal water supplies, and pollinating food crops.
  • Refuge employees often double as first responders to natural disasters and other emergencies in their local communities.
  • The more than 47 million hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers, and other recreationists who visit wildlife refuges generate between $2.1 and $4.2 billion in sales to local communities each year.

According to the report, the National Wildlife Refuge System needs at least $900 million annually to carry out its conservation mission, but at its highest funding level in FY 2010, it received only $503 million. Since then, Congress has not only failed to provide the $8 million annual increase needed to cover rising costs, but has steadily cut the Refuge System’s budget. With Congress poised to slash federal spending, the System could see its funding drop to $389 million in FY 2014 – a 23% cut from FY 2010 that would leave an average of only $2.59 to manage each of its 150 million acres. “The National Wildlife Refuge System continues to remind us that conserving nature is essential to our own well-being,” said David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and chair of the CARE coalition. “If we ignore those reminders and fail to invest in our national wildlife refuges, everyone loses.

”The report calls on Congress to provide at least $499 million for the System’s operations and maintenance accounts to prevent wildlife refuges from reaching a tipping point that would not only eliminate many of the benefits they provide to the public, but also prevent them from carrying out even the most basic functions central to their conservation mission. CARE is also urging lawmakers to pass legislation authorizing the U.S. Postal Service to issue a special “semipostal” stamp, which would offer the public a voluntary way to support national wildlife refuges. Offered at a slightly higher rate than first-class stamps, proceeds from the semipostal stamp would be used to complete refuge projects that have been backlogged due to chronic funding shortfalls.

For CARE’s full report and additional information, please visit www.FundRefuges.org. Quotes from CARE’s member organizations are available at www.FundRefuges.org/care/2013-CARE-Member-Quotes.pdf.

The Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) is a national coalition of 22 wildlife, sporting, conservation, and scientific organizations representing a constituency numbering more than 16 million Americans. CARE has been working since 1995 to educate Congress, the Administration, and the public about America’s magnificent National Wildlife Refuge

Nature Conservancy Magazine: Birding is Booming

June 2013

“More than 48 million Americans are birders, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which tracks wildlife recreation. In 2001 birding was 232 percent more popular than in 1983, and it has gained steadily since. One reason for the surge, ornithologists suggest, is ease of entry: Anybody can become a birder. Although some devotees spend thousands on binoculars and exotic travel, birding requires little exertion or equipment to start.”

“According to USFWS, bird-watchers contributed $36 billion to the U.S. economy in 2006 (the most recent year for such data) and created 671,000 American jobs while generating $10 billion in state and federal tax revenues. Well-situated spots like Cape May, New Jersey, which sits right in the path of several migration routes, have profited by developing ecotourism; people from all over flock to the state’s southernmost tip to observe its bird populations.”

Read the full article here: The Birding Effect


International Recognition of San Francisco Bay Celebrated in North Bay


Rep. Huffman, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Audubon and Others Celebrate Designation of S.F. Bay as “Ramsar” Wetland of International Importance

Contact:Doug Cordell (510) 774-4080, doug_cordell@fws.gov


FREMONT, CA – At a ceremony this afternoon in Tiburon, Calif., U.S. Representative Jared Huffman joined Rowan Gould, Deputy Director of Operations for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mike Sutton, Vice President for the Pacific Flyway, National Audubon Society, and others to celebrate the 2013 designation of the San Francisco Bay as a “Ramsar” Wetland of International Importance, in accordance with the 1971 global convention on wetlands adopted in Ramsar, Iran.

“San Francisco Bay is a natural wonder and a critical ecological resource, but it faces a number of threats, including development, pollution, climate change and invasive species,” said Gould in the afternoon ceremony at the Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary in Tiburon. “The Ramsar recognition of the bay as a globally significant wetland is a dramatic statement in favor of protecting this vital estuary for generations to come.”

The designation of the San Francisco Bay as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance was made on World Wetlands Day, Feb. 2, 2013. There are currently six Ramsar sites in California, and thirty-five in the United States. To qualify as a Ramsar site, a wetland must exhibit superlative biodiversity and the presence of rare or unique wetland types. Ramsar sites benefit from increased conservation status and recognition, and can be eligible for greater conservation funding. They also typically benefit from increased tourism, fishing, recreation and public support. Countries that are signatories to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance nominate sites within their borders for Ramsar designation.

The San Francisco Bay is the largest estuary on the Pacific Coast of the United States, covering 1,600 square miles. Despite losing one third of its size and about 85 percent of its wetlands to development, the bay remains critical ecologically, accounting for 77 percent of California’s perennial estuarine wetlands. It provides key habitat for a broad range of flora and fauna, and offers flood protection, improved water quality, and carbon sequestration. It also provides an array of economic and social benefits related to ports and industry, agriculture, fisheries, archaeological and cultural sites, recreation and research.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit http://www.fws.gov/cno. Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel, and download photos from our Flickr page.

Sally Jewell Gets to Work as Secretary of the Interior


Sally Jewell spends first day on the job greeting career employees, holding in-depth briefings

Contact: Jessica Kershaw (DOI), 202-208-6416

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Assuming her responsibilities as the 51st Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell is spending her first full day in the office meeting some of the Department’s more than 70,000 employees. She also began to hold meetings on important issues before the Department, including energy development, conservation, Indian Affairs and youth engagement.

During brief remarks to employees who greeted Secretary Jewell as she entered the main Interior building in Washington, D.C., Jewell underscored her commitment to public service.

“There is no higher calling than public service, and I am honored and humbled to be serving as your Secretary of the Interior,” Jewell said. “At Interior, we have vast responsibilities to the American people, from making smart decisions about the natural resources with which we have been blessed, to honoring our word to American Indians and Alaska Natives.”

“Our public lands are huge economic engines for the nation,” added Jewell. “From energy development to tourism and outdoor recreation, our lands and waters power our economy and create jobs. I look forward to working with you all to ensure that we are managing our public lands wisely and sustainably so that their multiple uses are available for the generations to come.”

Jewell was officially sworn in on Friday, April 12 at the Supreme Court of the United States. Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor administered the oath of office. O’Connor and Jewell worked together on the National Parks Second Century Commission, an independent commission charged with developing a twenty-first century vision for the National Park Service.

As Secretary of the Interior, Jewell leads an agency with more than 70,000 employees. Interior serves as steward for approximately 20 percent of the nation’s lands, including national parks, national wildlife refuges, and other public lands; oversees the responsible development of conventional and renewable energy supplies on public lands and waters; is the largest supplier and manager of water in the 17 Western states; and upholds trust responsibilities to the 566 federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Natives.

Prior to her confirmation, Jewell served in the private sector, most recently as President and Chief Executive Officer of Recreation Equipment, Inc. (REI). Jewell joined REI as Chief Operating Officer in 2000 and was named CEO in 2005. During her tenure, REI nearly tripled in business to $2 billion and was consistently ranked one of the 100 best companies to work for by Fortune Magazine.

Before joining to REI, Jewell spent 19 years as a commercial banker, first as an energy and natural resources expert and later working with a diverse array of businesses that drive our nation’s economy.

Trained as a petroleum engineer, Jewell started her career with Mobil Oil Corp. in the oil and gas fields of Oklahoma and the exploration and production office in Denver, Colo. where she was exposed to the remarkable diversity of our nation’s oil and gas resources.

An avid outdoorswoman, Jewell finds time to explore her backyard in the Pacific Northwest where she enjoys skiing, kayaking, hiking and other activities. She has scaled Mount Rainier on seven occasions, and recently climbed Vinson Massif, the highest mountain in Antarctica.

Over her career, Jewell has worked to ensure that public lands are accessible and relevant to all people from all backgrounds.

“We have a generation of children growing up without any connection to nature,” said Jewell. “From our urban parks to the vast lands of the BLM, the Department of the Interior is well positioned to build a deep and enduring connection between the great outdoors and a new generation of Americans and visitors.”

Jewell is a graduate of the University of Washington. She and her husband, Warren, have two adult children, Peter and Anne.

To see photographs of Secretary Jewell’s official swearing in ceremony, click here.

To see photographs of Secretary Jewell’s arrival at the Stuart Lee Udall Building in Washington, DC, click here.
You can welcome Secretary Jewell to the Department of the Interior by following her at www.twitter.com/SecretaryJewell.

How a Fall in Duck Hunting Is Shooting a Financial Hole Into Conservation Efforts

Feb. 7, 2013 — The annual duck hunting season in the United States is traditionally big business, but while bird numbers are rising faster than they have for decades, the number of hunters continues to fall. Far from being good news for ducks a new study in the Wildlife Society Bulletin shows how the loss of revenue from ‘duck stamps’ could result in millions of lost dollars for vital conservation work.

“The last 15 years have brought hunting opportunities not seen since the turn of the last century,” said Dr Mark Vrtiska from Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “The waterfowl population has passed 40 million six times since 1995, something only seen nine times since records began. These should be the glory days for duck hunting.”

However, in stark contrast, the annual sales of the ‘duck stamp’, the Federal licence needed to hunt, are declining. While over 2,100,000 stamps were sold annually in the 1970’s, between 2004 and 2008 this declined to 1,300,000. This fall is continuing with an annual decline of 36% in duck stamp sales.

“You may think the fall in hunters would be good news for ducks, but ironically it is leading to less money for the conservation of their habitat,” said Vrtiska. “Federal funding for conservation is dependent on the revenue raised by selling the duck stamps, a unique dynamic for wildlife managers in the United States. Up to 98% of money raised by the duck stamps is used to purchase or lease habitat within the National Wildlife Refuge system.”

Historically the number of duck hunters has risen and fallen in relation to the number of ducks; however, over the 1990’s the two became independent. To determine the impact the team estimated the amount of duck stamps which would have been sold had the relationship remained connected, both to determine the revenue loss and to estimate how much habitat could have been made available to conservationists.

“If hunter levels had kept consistent with historical trends then 600,000 more duck stamps would have been expected to have been sold between 1995 and 2008 than actually occurred,” said Vrtiska. “That equates to an annual loss of $9,000,000, or $126 million across the whole period. For conservation the results are dramatic as this money could have resulted in 42,495 ha of wetlands.”

Looking to the future, the team predict that hunter numbers will continue to decline due to various social, cultural and economic factors. By using three different scenarios to explore the economic impact, the team estimate that up to $14.3 million could be lost annually.

“Duck hunting has been a tradition for rural America for centuries, yet a cultural shift and changing attitudes has seen a slow decline in hunter numbers,” concluded Dr Vrtiska. “The resulting fall in funding is impacting all those involved in habitat conservation which is only made more important by the dramatic rise in duck numbers.”

Journel Reference: Mark P. Vrtiska, James H. Gammonley, Luke W. Naylor, Andrew H. Raedeke. Economic and conservation ramifications from the decline of waterfowl hunters. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/wsb.245