Daily Archives: May 10, 2013

Bradford Pear a Poor Choice for Birds, Wildlife

An oft-planted ornamental tree – Bradford pear – has become an invasive species that harms native plants or trees that support wildlife. Property owners and managers are urged to consider native alternatives, such as the downy serviceberry tree, as they plant new trees this spring.

Bradford pears are a common landscaping tree because they’re adaptable to soil and shade conditions, and in early spring they produce a profusion of white blooms. They were long considered safe for the environment because it was believed the hybrids could not produce viable seed.

However, various cultivars were used and some managed to cross pollinate and produce viable seed. Birds eat the fruit and distribute the seeds across the landscape. Bradford pears, sometimes called callery pears, also leaf out early and that helps them out compete native grasses, wildflowers, shrubs and young trees, said Wendy Sangster, an urban forester for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).

“It’s also not a good tree because they’re not strong,” Sangster said. “They don’t stand up well in storms and the limbs break easily.”

Serviceberry trees, a Missouri native, offer an excellent alternative. In late March or April, serviceberry produces heavy white blooms that signal spring. Their small red fruit is also edible for people and wildlife. Those who harvest serviceberries use them as food in ways comparable to blueberries. But they must be picked quickly when ripe because birds love them, too.

Wild plum is another good alternative tree, Sangster said. For spring blooms, the redbud tree is a showy and reliable native. Dogwood trees will also produce early spring blooms in the Kansas City region, although they require shade.

For more information about urban trees, go to on.mo.gov/h9E8Jl. Heartland Tree Alliance offers information atbridgingthegap.org/heartland-tree-alliance.

Using native plants and trees in landscape settings helps wildlife from butterflies to birds and avoids invasive species. For more information, go online to www.grownative.org/  

KDWPT Law Enforcement Division holds K-9 Recertification Training

Four K-9 law enforcement teams recently took part in recertification training, an annual requirement of the unit

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) Law Enforcement Division recently held its 11th annual K-9 recertification training, April 22-25 at Milford Reservoir, despite wintery conditions. This four-day training period is conducted each year to ensure that every dog and handler meets or exceeds current agency standards. For nearly 30 hours, each team partook in a variety exercises designed to mirror real-world scenarios and environments.

In order to successfully pass recertification training, each team must prove proficient in the following three areas:


K9s and handlers must be able to continually track for a required distance, picking up on multiple scent articles along the trail. In order to create a realistic setting, each team had to combat a variety of challenges including dead ends, surface changes, multiple turns, and cross tracks.


In order to qualify in detection, each team is required to quickly and efficiently locate hidden wildlife both indoors and outdoors. Wildlife used in this training included deer, turkey, pheasant, quail, dove, and various waterfowl. These animals were hidden in and around buildings, boats, vehicles, coolers and other various locations.

Area Searches

To certify in area searches, each team is required to conduct an area search of a field, picking up a variety of hidden objects along the way. Hidden items included guns, shell casings, spotlights, wallets, cell phones, knives, back packs, and other items containing a human scent.

Those in attendance were LT. Jason Sawyers and the following K-9 teams:

–K-9 “Meg” and handler Lance Hockett

–K-9 “Lucy” and handler Jeff Goeckler

–K-9 “Cocoa” and handler Jake Brooke

–K-9 “Libby” and handler Ben Womelsdorf

For more information on the KDWPT K-9 unit, visit www.ksoutdoors.com and click “Services/Law Enforcement/K-9 Unit.”

Farm Bill Work Begins Again

from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

In late April, Agriculture Committee leaders announced plans for starting the 2013 Farm Bill process. Because a new Congress started this year, Congress cannot pick up where it left off with the farm bill last year and must start the process over again. Currently, USDA is operating under an awful 9-month farm bill extension that Congress passed in January as part of the fiscal cliff deal. The extension ends September 30.

            Senate Plans

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Stabenow (D-MI) announced that she plans to hold Committee mark up of the 2013 Farm Bill during the first, or possibly second, week in May. She has indicated that the starting point for the debate in Committee will be the Senate-passed bill from last year. She has also said that the bill will achieve the $23 billion in savings that last year’s bill achieved, and that the cuts to achieve the savings will be distributed as they were in last year’s bill – i.e., approximately $6 billion from conservation, $4 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and $16 billion from the commodity and crop insurance titles, with the balance above $23 billion targeted to renew programs that do not have automatic funding baselines.

Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) also announced this week that he hopes to have the full Senate debate the farm bill before the chamber debates immigration reform in June. This means that the farm bill could possibly be debated in the full Senate before Memorial Day or at the beginning of June.

            House Plans

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Lucas (R-OK) announced that he plans to hold the House Agriculture Committee farm bill mark up on May 15. He has indicated that he expects a shorter mark up with fewer amendments than last year’s full day mark up. In sharp contrast to the Senate’s plans, Lucas intends to change the framework of his bill to achieve $38 billion in savings (instead of the $35 billion achieved from the House Committee-passed bill last year).  According to several published accounts, he also intends to take a much bigger chunk of cuts than last year from SNAP and from conservation, including especially from the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Conservation Reserve Program, and significantly less from commodity subsidies.

            What does this mean?

This is the third time that Congress has started the process of writing a new farm bill in the past two years. It is not clear whether Lucas and Stabenow have an end-game for the 2013 Farm Bill in mind, but they are moving forward with the process nonetheless. Without an overarching budget agreement that would start each house off on the task of writing a bill with the same budget assumptions, getting a bill to the finish line becomes much harder. It becomes harder still with the increasingly partisan battle being waged over SNAP.

While Congress has faced many obstacles in passing a farm bill, each version has been informed by the previous version, which makes it critical to defend and build upon the wins for sustainable agriculture from last year in this year’s process. And who knows, maybe, despite mounting obstacles, the third time’s the charm.