Monthly Archives: August 2014

Remembering the Civilian Conservation Corps on Labor Day

ccc

As we enjoy the many natural wonders provided by our county, state & national parks across the country during this long Labor Day weekend, it may not be apparent that the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) contributed immensely to our experiences today. During the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed legislation creating the CCC. It was a tremendously popular program that put 3 million unemployed young men to work on public lands all over the nation. It included constructing 28,000 miles of trails, planting 3 billion trees, fighting soil erosion and building the infrastructure of the National Park service as well as 63,000 buildings. Many of their achievements are still visible and still used today because they were so well done. The program existed for nine years after its creation in 1933 and was discontinued after the economy improved. In Kansas, there were CCC projects conducted in 32 counties.

The CCC built this low-water bridge across Rock Creek in the late 30s. Boyle Park, Pulaski County, Little Rock, Arkansas

The CCC built this low-water bridge across Rock Creek in the late 30s. Boyle Park, Pulaski County, Little Rock, Arkansas. Photo by Eric Hunt.

Watchin’ Hawks Makes For A Perfect Fall Day— And Here’s Where To See Them

Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Every fall, millions of birds fly south to spend the winter in sunny places with mild climates and plentiful food.

Most smaller birds migrate under the cover of darkness, stopping to fuel up on insects or seeds by day and using the stars to guide them at night.

Hawks, by contrast, are diurnal migrants; they depend on currents of rising warm air to lift them to high altitudes where they glide on their broad wings without flapping, thereby conserving energy.

During these flights, hawks use their keen eyesight to recognize landmarks, follow landforms that provide rising thermals, and steer a course to their ancestral wintering grounds. In some places these migrating hawks gather in huge numbers, and people gather to watch them with binoculars and data sheets in the phenomenon known as the hawkwatch.

Counting hawks during migration is more than a competitive pursuit for list-oriented birders. The data collected at hawkwatches helps experts monitor the health of various ecosystems. Because hawks are top predators—that is, they occupy the top of the food chain—they’re very sensitive to changes that affect prey species. Comparing hawk numbers from year to year reveals trends that offer insight into the well-being of the environment in both the breeding and wintering areas.

But more than simply counting hawks, there’s the spectacle of it all. Standing atop a ridge on a crisp autumn day while hundreds of hawks circle and stream past is an unforgettable experience, which helps explain why people return to these sites day after day and hawkwatch programs across the country attract volunteers by the dozens.

Visit any hawkwatch site, and you’ll find people who came one day out of curiosity and soon became regulars.

Click on the link for a guide to some of the top hawkwatch sites in North America:http://enature.com/outdoors/hawkwatch/

Here’s link to Hawkwatch International’s homepage if you’d like to learn more or get involved:http://www.hawkwatch.org/

Monarch Butterflies Migrating Now Aren’t the Ones You Saw Last Spring

 

Monarch Butterfly by Derek Ramsey, CCL

Monarch Butterfly by Derek Ramsey, CCL

By eNature

Common Milkweed by Kevin Adams

Common Milkweed by Kevin Adams

Fall is just around the corner throughout most of North America.

You’ve probably noticed that your local birds are preparing for it — and so are many of our butterflies.

Monarch butterflies are famous for their annual migrations. Some of these insects travel thousands of miles each fall — an astonishing distance for such fragile creatures.

Yet few people realize that the Monarchs we see in the spring are not necessarily the same ones that fluttered past in the fall.

Beginning in late September, the skies along the Gulf Coast of Texas slowly become filled with meandering groups of Monarchs. Their flight, while not hurried, is purposeful, moving southwest toward a small forest in the highlands of Central Mexico. These butterflies travel from southern Canada and the northern United States at a rate of approximately 50 miles per day. They’ll spend the winter in a few small groves of evergreen trees, with each grove containing as many as 20 million butterflies. Sheltered from the wind and snow, the butterflies conserve energy, for they still have a lot of work ahead of them.

The Monarchs become active again in February. Mating begins, and the air fills with swirling masses of copulating pairs. The first warm days of late March trigger their northward flight. A close look at these butterflies, now eight months old, reveals that their wings are faded and tattered. Still, the Monarchs fan out across the southern United States, looking for Milkweed plants on which to deposit their eggs.

Four days later, the eggs hatch, producing small caterpillars that immediately begin to feed on the Milkweed leaves. Ten to fifteen days later, each caterpillar stops feeding and forms its chrysalis — a beautiful soft green jewel flecked with gold. In another ten to fifteen days the chrysalis splits open, and a new Monarch emerges.

This generation of butterflies mates, lays eggs, and dies within the span of a few weeks. During this time it moves north, following the progress of spring and the emergence of Milkweed.

By the end of summer, two more of these short-lived generations will have repeated the process, ultimately coming to inhabit the Milkweed patches in the far north latitudes.

Thus the Monarchs born in the Northeast and Canada in September are the great great grandchildren of the last Monarchs to inhabit the area. These are the ones that will head to Mexico. They’re significantly larger than the three generations that preceded them and still sexually immature. Rather than mate and lay eggs, they seek out nectar-producing flowers. The nectar serves two purposes: some of it fuels the southward migration and some of it is converted to fat reserves that sustain the butterflies through the winter.

This incredible annual cycle applies to all Monarchs east of the Rockies. The populations in the West follow a similar pattern, though their migratory path is westward, from the Great Basin to overwintering sites along thePacificCoast.

Since 1992 MonarchWatch has been carefully tracking Monarch Butterflies as they migrate.  Much of their data comes from the work of volunteers who tag and track the butterflies. They can always use more helpers…..

Are you seeing butterflies in your neighborhood?

University of Kansas Ornithological Collection

John Gould Ornithological Collection!

John Gould Ornithological Collection!

To all bird lovers: Here is a magnificent online image collection that combines artistic beauty and scientific detail. Visit the John Gould Ornithological Collection in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas. Browse through the collection and download your favorites. Click here.

Land & Water Conservation Fund: A Program We Can All Agree On

By Randy Newberg

In today’s political world, rare is the program over 75% of Americans can agree on. To have that support, it must be a Red White and Blue idea.

Well, one such idea exists. It’s existed since 1965; the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Fifty years ago, back when people actually solved problems, the oil and gas industry, along with hunters and anglers, agreed on a program to mitigate the known impacts of offshore oil and gas exploration.

It was decided, and supported by all, that some of the offshore royalties would be earmarked to this new account, the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The purpose – Use those funds to restore habitat and enhance public access. Imagine that. A good idea supported by all sides, even Congress. There was a time in this country when good ideas were not the enemy of politics.

Roll forward fifty years. The LWCF has invested $13 billion dollars into public access for hunters and anglers, in the process, helping all outdoor recreation. Millions of acres of public access has been acquired or improved. Thousands of boat ramps, fishing piers, and fishing access sites have been funded.

Yeah, Congress has managed to pilfer $17 billion dollars from the fund for other uses, but I guess we’ve come to expect that. Congress can make amends for past sins by reauthorizing this popular program in 2015. Hopefully, placing the funds in a trust account, reducing the temptation of diversion.

A 2013 survey of Americans showed that LWCF enjoys a popularity quite the opposite of Congress. Over 85% of those asked want to see LWCF continue; marking 93% approval among Democrats and 78% among Republicans. The support in 2013 has grown from 81% support in the 2009 survey.

Congress could do something that almost all Americans support; reauthorize LWCF. I suspect the oil and gas industry prefers that a small fraction of their royalty payments stay earmarked for something beneficial, such as LWCF, versus tossed to the dark abyss of Congress.

Hunters are the greatest beneficiary of LWCF. Especially seeing the NSSF survey shows that losing “places to hunt” is the top reason people are hunting less. LWCF has provided more places to hunt than any program, ever. LWCF is the quiet program that provides matching funds to states, conservation groups, and local agencies to fund hunting and fishing access.
In my back yard of BozemanMontana, the GallatinNational Forest has had over 200,000 acres of access acquired or improved by LWCF. All who hunt and fish can probably find a similar LWCF story in their back yard. Maybe your favorite spot.

In the coming year, Congress will face reauthorization for LWCF. Hunter, anglers, and the groups who represent us need to pressure Congress to reauthorize our most important access program, LWCF. In 1965, our legacy of hunting and fishing was handed a gift in the form of LWCF. Now is the time to make sure we can do the same for those who come after us.

Editor’s note: Randy Newberg is the host and producer of Federal Premium’s Fresh Tracks with Randy Newberg, making him the voice of self-guided public land hunters in America; where he shows the common hunter uncommon experiences available on our western public lands. You can catch his show on Thursday nights, on Sportsman Channel and you can get more details about his hunts on his forum www.HuntTalk.com

50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, September 3rd, 2014

wilderness_net

After more than sixty drafts created over an eight year period, the Wilderness Act of 1964 was signed into law by then President Lyndon B. Johnson. After signing it he was quoted to have said: “If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.”

Written principally by Howard Zahniser of the Wilderness Society who steered it through many congressional hearings, it defined wilderness as: “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

This document is as significant as any written that attempts to prevent irreversible and everlasting damage to our nation’s natural heritage. Even Lewis & Clark recognized that the country would change forever after their expedition across the Louisiana Territory.

In spite of overwhelming popular support across the country to add approximately 30 candidate areas for designation as Wilderness, the United States Congress remains stagnant and indifferent.

To learn more about the Wilderness Act visit http://wilderness.org/article/wilderness-act

To learn more about what people are doing to celebrate the Wilderness Act visit http://www.wilderness50th.org/media.php

Study Shows 100-Foot Wide Forest Keeps Streams Healthy

MEDIA ALERT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 17, 2014

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Beverly M. Payton, Communications Director
(w) 610-268-2153 x 305 (m) 215-512-7739
[email protected]

Research Scientist Emeritus Denis Newbold, Ph.D. (left) and Director and Senior Research Scientist, Bern Sweeney, Ph.D.; Photo by Kay Nixon

Research Scientist Emeritus Denis Newbold, Ph.D. (left) and Director and Senior Research Scientist, Bern Sweeney, Ph.D.; Photo by Kay Nixon

 

Study: 100-Foot Wide Forest Keeps Streams Healthy

Stroud Water Research Center scientists found that a wide forest bordering a stream protects water quality and maintains the natural structure and habitat of important stream communities.

AVONDALE, Pa. – Streamside forest buffers, long considered a best management practice, should be at least 100 feet wide on each side to adequately protect freshwater ecosystems from human activities according to an extensive scientific literature review published in the June issue of Journal of American Water Resources Association.

“That’s a lot. We know it’s a lot. But this is what the science is saying, and the reward for a wide forest buffer is huge,” said study author Bernard W. Sweeney, Ph.D., director of the Stroud Water Research Center.

While the environmental benefits of streamside forest buffers have been known for decades, there was no consensus about how wide an effective forest buffer should be, until now.

The ecosystem benefits of wider forest buffers for streams include nitrogen pollution removal, soil sediment trapping, bank erosion prevention, improved temperature control, increased quantity of large woody debris, stream channel widening, improved channel meandering, and healthier habitat for macroinvertebrates and fish. Meadows and grass buffers do not provide as many benefits.

“Most pollutants enter river systems in small streams, narrow enough to jump across. So it’s vitally important that we protect their function,” said study co-author J. Denis Newbold, Ph.D., a specialist in ecosystem processes at Stroud Water Research Center. Newbold explained that since small freshwater systems constitute 85 percent or more of the total stream miles in the world, they are more commonly in direct contact with human sources of pollution than are larger freshwater streams, such as large creeks and rivers.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported, in 2013 that more than half of the river and stream miles in the United States are in poor condition and no longer able to support natural aquatic life or designated use by humans.

Sweeney and Newbold concluded that their review underscores the important role streamside forests play in protecting and enhancing water quality of downstream rivers and estuaries by providing important services, such as: sequestering carbon, metabolizing organic matter and degrading and processing pollutants.

Current standards for a minimum forest buffer width vary from state to state and even from program to program, generally ranging from 35 feet to 100 feet.

Replanting forests in previously cleared land is a key component of Stroud Water Research Center’s Watershed Restoration Team which helps farmers and landowner’s access state and federal incentives that offset the costs of making improvements and keeping the land in its natural state.

Matt Ehrhart, director of watershed restoration at Stroud Water Research Center, said: “While not every farmer and landowner we work with will be able to accommodate a 100-foot wide forest buffer, citing this study enables us convey the importance of forest buffers and perhaps persuade landowners to establish wider forest buffers than they might previously have considered.”

When should I take my hummingbird feeder down?

If you think you may have left your hummingbird feeder up too long in the fall, you can rest assured.  The hummingbirds know when it is time to migrate.  The directions on the feeder and prepared food box may state to leave up until September. That may hold true for Wyoming or North Dakota, but I doubt if it has any merit in Southern California.  Jerry Horak, a former Threatened/Endangered specialist for Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, stationed in the Emporia Research Office, gave me some sage advice many years ago.

Leave your feeders up for one week after you see your last hummer.

Hummingbirds in migration will be looking for those little snack stations for added boosts of energy during their southward journey.

Phil Taunton,

KVOE What’s in Outdoors

Southeast Kansas Regional Director of Kansas Wildlife Federation

Positions Open at Cornell Lab of Ornithology

                                                Attention iOS and Android Developers :35899812-4a1a-4266-ba31-c9049a38eafa

Join eBird & the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

We have two new positions at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, one for an iOS developer and another for an Android developer to work on eBird and Merlin. Upcoming projects will focus on improving the ability to enter checklists from the field and extending the Merlin app to add image-recognition functionality for identifying birds in the field with photos that were “just taken”. Both positions will work closely with the eBird and Merlin project leaders, UI designers, application developers, database administrators, computer scientists in a collaborative development environment. For more information, visit this eBird and scroll down.

Outdoor Wildlife Learning Sites (OWLS)

Over 206 OWLS are living testimonials for establishing wildlife habitat on school sites that provide hands-on environmental awareness experiences for children of all ages. OWLS sites provide fantastic opportunities for learning more about nature through such activities as planting trees, establishing butterfly and hummingbird gardens, and creating wetlands for tadpoles.

Any school or youth organization can apply for the initial $2,000 OWLS grant for the development of an out-of-doors learning site. The first step is to obtain a copy of the guidelines and organize an OWLS committee to assist in the planning stage of your site. Most OWLS involve local sponsors, such as county extension agents, Natural Resource Conservation Service personnel and a district biologist from the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. Chances are excellent that your site will be funded, allowing you to experience the magic of these miraculous out-of-door learning sites. For a copy of the OWLS guidelines or additional information call (620) 672 – 0751. For a multitude of additional online information including OWLS Guidelines, resources, curriculum connections & more click here.