Monthly Archives: July 2013

Support for Big Hill Lake and Governor’s Fishing Classic

State and regional elected officials turned out in support of the 17th Annual Governor’s Fishing Classic held last Saturday, June 29 at Big Hill Lake in Labette County, Kansas. From left to right, Labette County Tourism Director, Jim Zaleski; Kansas Governor, Sam Brownback; B.A.S.S. Elite Series 2012 Angler of the Year, Brent Chapman; Kansas State Senate Vice President, Jeff King; Kansas 7th District Representative, Rich Proehl; Kansas Attorney General, Derrick Schmidt; and co-hosting the event on the far right, Kansas Wildscape Foundation Executive Director, Charlie Black.

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

Coalition Warns that Slashing Funds Will Be Rude Awakening for Americans

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

Quotes from CARE’s member organizations are available at

Successful Youth Shotgun Trap Shoot

New trap shooters are mentored by members of local 4-H Shotgun Shooting Sports members and the watchful eyes of Abner Redeker (far left), Lyon County 4-H Shotgun Shooting Sports coach. Photo by Chris Franklin.

Forty area youth took part in the National Wild Turkey Federation Flint Hills Gobblers Chapter’s free youth trap shoot at the Madison Gun Club on Saturday, June 29th. With over an estimated 60 parents, grandparents, guardians, and friends attending to cheer on the youth, aged 17 and younger, the Madison Gun Club was a very busy place from 9 am. to 1 pm. All supplies for the trap shoot were provided free of charge including clay targets, shells, hearing protection, and eye protection. The youth could bring their own gun or use one provided. Youth shooters also received a 1 year NWTF JAKES membership which includes a 1 year subscription to JAKES Country magazine, JAKES membership card, JAKES decal, and a chance to win a hunt of a lifetime.

            4-H Shotgun Shooting Sports members from Greenwood and Lyon counties were present and demonstrated their shooting skills and also assisted new shooters one-on-one. Lyon County 4-H Shotgun Shooting Sports coach Abner Redeker also instructed shooters and gave shooting tips as well as encouragement to all youth shooters. Madison Gun Club representative Kane Haas was very pleased with the turnout and is looking forward to the next scheduled free youth trap shoot at the Madison Gun Club.

NWTF Flint Hills Gobblers JAKES Coordinator Gib Rhodes was also pleased with the turnout. Rhodes said, “We put a lot of smiles on kid’s faces! For several youth, this was the first time they had shot trap or shot a shotgun at a fast moving target. With the assistance of a team of experienced trap shooting instructors and youth 4-H Shotgun Shooting Sports mentors, the kids were able to see improved trap shooting skills in a short period of time.”

            Local sponsors for the event included the Madison Telephone Company, the Schankie family, Wagner’s Automotive General Service, and the NWTF Flint Hills Gobblers Chapter.

            The next free youth trap shoot at the Madison Gun Club will be Saturday, July 20th from 9 am. to 1 pm. To participate and reserve a spot, contact event organizer Gib Rhodes at 620-437-2012.

EPA Says More Than Half of Rivers, Streams in Poor Condition

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the results of the first comprehensive survey looking at the health of thousands of stream and river miles across the country, finding that more than half – 55 percent – are in poor condition for aquatic life.

“The health of our Nation’s rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters depends on the vast network of streams where they begin, and this new science shows that America‘s streams and rivers are under significant pressure,” said Office of Water Acting Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner. “We must continue to invest in protecting and restoring our nation’s streams and rivers as they are vital sources of our drinking water, provide many recreational opportunities, and play a critical role in the economy.”

The 2008-2009 National Rivers and Stream Assessment reflects the most recent data available, and is part of EPA’s expanded effort to monitor waterways in the U.S. and gather scientific data on the condition of the Nation’s water resources.

EPA partners, including states and tribes, collected data from approximately 2,000 sites across the country. EPA, state and university scientists analyzed the data to determine the extent to which rivers and streams support aquatic life, how major stressors may be affecting them and how conditions are changing over time.

Findings of the assessment include:

▪ Nitrogen and phosphorus are at excessive levels. Twenty-seven percent of the nation’s rivers and streams have excessive levels of nitrogen, and 40 percent have high levels of phosphorus. Too much nitrogen and phosphorus in the water-known as nutrient pollution-causes significant increases in algae, which harms water quality, food resources and habitats, and decreases the oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need to survive. Nutrient pollution has impacted many streams, rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters for the past several decades, resulting in serious environmental and human health issues, and impacting the economy.

▪ Streams and rivers are at an increased risk due to decreased vegetation cover and increased human disturbance. These conditions can cause streams and rivers to be more vulnerable to flooding, erosion, and pollution. Vegetation along rivers and streams slows the flow of rainwater so it does not erode stream banks, removes pollutants carried by rainwater and helps maintain water temperatures that support healthy streams for aquatic life. Approximately 24 percent of the rivers and streams monitored were rated poor due to the loss of healthy vegetative cover.

▪ Increased bacteria levels. High bacteria levels were found in nine percent of stream and river miles making those waters potentially unsafe for swimming and other recreation.

▪ Increased mercury levels. More than 13,000 miles of rivers have fish with mercury levels that may be unsafe for human consumption. For most people, the health risk from mercury by eating fish and shellfish is not a health concern, but some fish and shellfish contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child’s developing nervous system.

EPA plans to use this new data to inform decision making about addressing critical needs around the country for rivers, streams, and other waterbodies. This comprehensive survey will also help develop improvements to monitoring these rivers and streams across jurisdictional boundaries and enhance the ability of states and tribes to assess and manage water quality to help protect our water, aquatic life, and human health. Results are available for a dozen geographic and ecological regions of the country.

More information:

Connect the Flint Hills Nature Trail to the Katy Trail


Kansas City Star

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback raised an intriguing prospect recently when he spoke at a breakfast sponsored by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. An item on his wish list, Brownback said, is to connect the Katy Trail inMissouri with the Flint Hills Nature Trail in his state.


Facebook foxes capture hearts of employees

Furry critters raise a family on the company campus and become unofficial mascots; of course, they get their own FB page

by Pete Thomas

Here’s a story animal lovers who use Facebook are sure to “like.”

It’s about a couple of gray foxes that moved onto Facebook headquarters in Menlo ParkCalifornia, and raised a family in the sprawling campus Zen garden.

The three growing pups and their shenanigans have livened up an already stimulating work atmosphere, and added a cuteness factor that simply does not exist at most other businesses.

            While the family has grown to the point where it has dispersed from the garden, the foxes still regard the Facebook campus as home and sightings remain frequent as the animals scurry up trees, stroll on sidewalks, rest on furniture, and climb onto awnings to cat nap above the bustle of human traffic.

The animals are so beloved that the company has set up a Facebook page so employees can share photos and clips of the fuzzy animals.

(We’ve pulled a short sampling to illustrate this story, and tried to include appropriate credits.)

            A photo posted Thursday showed Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg using his phone to capture an image of a small fox outside the window of his office (posted above). The photo, under the title “FB Fox crashes Zuck’s meeting,” on Friday morning had been liked by more than 3,600 people.

Employees have adopted such a respectful attitude toward the foxes—no chasing or feeding—that the National Wildlife Federation recently presented Facebook with a “Certified Wildlife Habitat” plaque, which is proudly displayed in the Zen garden.

Said NWF naturalist David Mizewski in a blog post about the foxes’ presence on the campus:

            “The Facebook foxes are a perfect symbol of the fact that the natural world isn’t just in faraway, exotic places. It’s all around us, sometimes literally right outside our doors. Good stewardship of wildlife habitat in our cities and towns means that all it takes to have amazing animal encounters is to simply get outdoors.”

The NWF’s Beth Pratt, who wrote the post, stated that Facebook called in a fox expert to give a presentation to the staff, so it could coexist with the animals in a manner that allows them to remain wild “and that this experience didn’t deteriorate into a petting zoo or the foxes receiving handouts from the ice cream stand.”

Alexis Smith, who started the FB Fox page, told Pratt: “I loved how the foxes brought everyone together—that people cared that the animals made their home on our campus and that they merited respect from everyone.”

The FB Fox page is growing a huge audience, having increased from 17,000 likes a week ago to more than 57,000.

It is hoped, and expected, that the adult foxes will return to the Zen garden next year, to raise another family.

To be sure, among animal lovers, there’s nothing to “dislike” about this story.