Monthly Archives: September 2014

Five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus)

Five-lined Skink  photo by John MacGregor

Five-lined Skink photo by John MacGregor

 

The following text from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plestiodon_fasciatus. Young five-lined skinks are dark brown to black with five distinctive white to yellowish stripes running along the body and a bright blue tail. The blue color fades to light blue with age, and the stripes also may slowly disappear. The dark brown color fades, too, and older individuals are often uniformly brownish.

Five-lined skinks are ground-dwelling animals. They prefer moist, partially wooded habitat that provides ample cover or inside walls of buildings as well as sites to bask in the sun. They can also be found in broken, rocky areas at the northern edge of their habitat.

Fertilization in five-lined skinks is internal, with eggs laid by the female between the middle of May and July, at least one month after mating.

Females lay fifteen to eighteen eggs in a small cavity cleared beneath a rotting log, stump, board, loose bark, a rock, or an abandoned rodent burrow. Females prefer secluded nest sites in large, moderately decayed logs. Soil moisture is also an important factor in nest selection.

In evasion of various predators including snakes, crows, hawks, shrews, moles, opossums, skunks, raccoons, and domestic cats, skinks may disconnect their entire tail or a small segment. Skinks run to shelter to escape their distracted predators as the disconnected tail continues to twitch. Skinks may also utilize biting as a defensive strategy.

Flower Seeds for the Goldfinch

Goldfinch eating Bee balm seeds.

Goldfinch eating Bee balm seeds.

Goldfinches on Purple coneflower seed heads.

Goldfinches on Purple coneflower seed heads.

Particularly during late August or most of September in Kansas, certain flower seed heads should be left alone after the blooms have been spent to allow birds to feed on the seeds. This practice particularly benefits American goldfinches that love the seeds of bee balm, Purple coneflowers, and all varieties of sunflowers. It’s often tempting to cut off the seedpods to make the flower garden look neat but it deprives these birds of a vital food source. When I watch them pecking seeds from my helianthus, they will often complete their meal by selecting one yellow flower petal that they gulp down almost as quickly as the seeds. The slender stems of bee balm are still sturdy enough to support Gold finches standing on the seed head while they extract the seeds one at a time. Many seeds often remain behind even after purple coneflower seed heads have turned dark brown or black. Usually Gold finches will be seen in groups dining on the seeds of all these flowers whose seeds become available in September when the birds are moving through the area. Gold finches may be permanent residents in other parts of Kansas but where I live in northeast Kansas, they are just pausing for a few weeks on their way further south. If you have bee balm, purple coneflowers and sunflowers in your yard, expect to see many visits from the American goldfinch this fall. – Ted Beringer

2014 Kansas upland bird hunting forecast now available

2014 Upland bird forecast shows improvements in pheasant, quail, prairie-chicken populations

2014 Upland bird forecast shows improvements in pheasant, quail, prairie-chicken populations

A copy of the 2014 Kansas Upland Bird Forecast is now available and from the looks of things, upland bird hunters will see improved populations this fall. Although below-average harvests are expected this year, hunters should see more birds and have more opportunities than the 2013 season. To view the entire forecast, visit www.ksoutdoors.com and click “Hunting,” then “Upland Birds.”

PHEASANT

After three consecutive years of statewide declines, spring breeding populations for pheasant stabilized in 2014. The only region showing a significant decrease was the Northern High Plains. Summer brood counts show an increase of 70 percent when compared to 2013. This increase should offer improved hunting opportunities, and the best hunting this year will likely be in the Smoky Hills region. Kansas still contains one of the best pheasant populations among states and the fall harvest will again be among the best in the country; however, Kansas will again have a below-average pheasant harvest this fall.

Regular Season: Nov. 8, 2014 – January 31, 2015; Youth Season: November 1-2, 2014. Daily Bag Limit: 4 cocks in regular season, 2 cocks in youth season.

QUAIL

Roadside surveys for quail showed a statewide increase of 50 percent compared to 2013. However, statewide populations are still below historic averages, and Kansas will likely have a below-average quail harvest this fall. Populations in much of the central and western portions of the state have not fully recovered from the drought. While opportunities will be better throughout most of the state this year, the best opportunities will likely remain in the eastern third of the state, particularly in the Flint Hills region.

Regular Season: November 8, 2014 – January 31, 2015; Youth Season: November 1-2, 2014. Daily Bag Limit: 8 in regular season, 4 in youth season.

PRAIRIE-CHICKEN

Prairie-chicken populations are generally up where the appropriate habitat exists. Hunting opportunities should be improved throughout the greater prairie-chicken hunting unit; however, the best opportunities this fall will be in the Smoky Hills Region.

Early Season (Greater Prairie-Chicken Unit): Sept. 15 – Oct. 15, 2014; Regular Season (Greater Prairie-Chicken Unit): Nov. 15, 2014 – Jan. 31, 2015. Daily Bag Limit: 2. Southwest Unit closed to all prairie-chicken hunting.

To view the complete forecast, including detailed regional information, visit www.ksoutdoors.com and click “Hunting/Upland Birds.”

Application deadline for Special Hunts Sept. 29

Hunters have until 9 a.m., Sept. 29 to apply for fall and winter special hunts

 

Outstanding hunting grounds exist throughout the state, but for the average hunter, gaining access to private land areas may be difficult. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism designed the Special Hunts Program to ensure hunters have quality outdoor experiences. Special hunts provide hunters with temporary access to lands not normally open to unrestricted hunting. Hunters interested in experiencing a special hunt for this fall or winter can apply online at ksoutdoors.com by clicking “Hunting/Special Hunts Information.” The deadline for Nov.-Jan special hunts is Sept. 29 at 9 a.m.

Approximately 650 hunts are currently available for the fall and winter months, and a random computer drawing will be conducted within one week of the application deadline to determine who will be awarded special hunts. Lucky hunters can draw hunts that provide access to specific areas for just a day or up to the entire season.

During the application process, hunters will select what species they want to hunt as well as what type of hunt they prefer, be that an open hunt, a youth hunt, or a mentored hunt. Open hunts are available to all successful applicants, regardless of age or hunting experience. Youth hunts require parties to include at least one youth 18 or younger, accompanied by an adult 21 or older who will not hunt. And mentored hunts are open to both youth and novice hunters supervised by a mentor 21 or older who may also hunt.

Hunters are reminded that special hunt permits only provide access to the properties and do not include any licenses or permits.

For more information on the Special Hunts Program, visit www.ksoutdoors.com and click “Hunting/Special Hunts Information,” or contact KDWPT public land supervisor Mike Nyhoff at (785) 628-8614 or by email at [email protected].

Spots available for Angler Instructor course

Get certified to teach basic fishing skills in Kansas

 

If you’re passionate about fishing, and have a desire to share that passion with others, you can still enroll in aKansas angler education certification course. Fishing’s Future and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism will sponsor a fishing instructor course for 40 volunteers who want to learn about teaching fishing techniques in Kansas. The instructor course will be held Oct. 4 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the National Guard Training Center, 2930 Scanlan Ave, Salina.

During the certification course, anglers will learn about working with children, sample curriculums, fishing regulations, species identification, ethics, knot-tying and more.

To learn more about the fishing instructor certification program and to register for the Salina course, go towww.fishingsfuture.org, click on “Upcoming Events”, then “Kansas Angler Education Training Program.”

Questions may be directed to either Kevin Reich of Fishing’s Future at [email protected], or Sgt. James Merriman at (785) 826 3761.

2014 Dove Hunting in Kansas

Kansas hunting license and HIP permit required to hunt doves

 

Dove season is almost here and with more than 45 locations across the state with public dove hunting sites available, there’s no shortage of opportunities for hunters. From Sept. 1 – Oct. 31 and Nov. 1-9, hunters can hunt mourning, white-winged, Eurasian-collared, and ringed turtle doves with a valid hunting license and Kansas HIP permit.

This year, 39 wildlife areas will have fields managed for public dove hunting. Dove fields are often planted with sunflowers or other dove-attracting crop and can be teeming with doves on opening day. Locations include the following:

Region 1

Brzon, Cedar Bluff, Glen Elder, Jamestown, Norton, Webster, and Wilson.

Region 2

Kansas River Wildlife Area, Perry, Clinton, Milford, Clay/Dickinson County WIHA, Hillsdale, Rutlader, Elwood, Benedictine Bottoms, Oak Mills, Bolton, Jeffrey Energy Center, and Tuttle Creek.

Region 3

Concannon, Cheyenne Bottoms, SandsageBisonRange and Wildlife Area, and TexasLake.

Region 4

Byron Walker, Cheney, Kaw, Marion, McPhersonValley Wetlands, El Dorado, and Council Grove.

Region 5

Berentz-Dick (Buffalo Ranch), Fall River, Hollister, Mined Land, Toronto, ElkCity, Melvern, and Woodson.

Special rules may apply to the aforementioned properties. For more detailed information on each location, visitwww.ksoutdoors.com and click “Hunting/Migratory Birds/Doves.”

Wildlife areas and dove fields designated as “non-toxic shot only” require the use of non-toxic shot, such as steel. For a complete list of non-toxic shot only sites, consult the 2014 Kansas Hunting and Furharvesting Regulations Summary.

The daily bag limit is 15 and applies to mourning and white-winged doves, single species or in combination. There is no limit on Eurasian collared and ringed turtle dove, but any taken in addition to a limit of mourning and white-winged doves must have a fully-feathered wing attached during transport for identification purposes. Possession limit is 45.

Electronic Daily Hunt Permits Required at Some Wildlife Areas

Free hunt permits help managers optimize opportunities

 

Beginning Sept. 1, 2014, hunters using select Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism-managed wildlife areas will be able to get their free daily hunt permits electronically. Kansas hunters are accustomed to obtaining free daily hunting permits at some public wildlife areas around the state. The cards, which were available at parking lot kiosks, provided area managers with valuable information about hunting pressure, harvests and hunter preference. The information helps managers maximize hunting opportunities on our limited public lands. However, filling out the top portion of the card in the dark before an early-morning hunt and remembering to fill out and return the bottom portion after the hunt wasn’t always convenient for hunters.

The new electronic daily hunt permit system, hosted by iSportsman, will be in use at the following wildlife areas beginning Sept. 1: Jamestown, Lovewell, Clinton, Elwood, Kansas River, Milford, Cheyenne Bottoms, TexasLake, Isabel, McPherson Wetlands, Slate Creek Wetlands, Neosho, Melvern and Lyon. A similar system is already in use at FortRiley.

The Kansas iSportsman system is open now, and hunters planning to hunt any of these areas can register for an account at any time by logging on to https://kdwpt.isportsman.net. Upon completing the registration, hunters will obtain their General Access Permit. Once a hunter has registered and obtained a General Access Permit, he or she can log on or call in before they plan to hunt to “check in.” After they’ve finished hunting, the hunter logs on or calls in to report harvest and “check out.” Hunters can check in and out from any computer, smart phone, cell phone or landline.

This new system will be more convenient for hunters and provide harvest information in a much more efficient manner. Information gathered will continue to be used by managers to provide high-quality opportunities for hunters and manage public lands responsibly. For more information call (620) 672-5911 or visit https://kdwpt.isportsman.net.

Crawford State Park to host country music jamboree Sept. 27

Live music begins at 3:30 p.m. and will continue through the night

 

Camping, chili, and country music – what more could you ask for? Thanks to the Friends of Crawford State Park, all this and more will be part of a one-night event, Sept. 27 at CrawfordState Park’s Oak Point Campground. CrawfordState Park is located just nine miles north of Girard on K-7. The first event of the day will be a chili cook-off beginning at 12 p.m. with a cook’s meeting, followed by cooking from 12:30 to 4 p.m., judging at 4 p.m., tasting session at 4:30 p.m., and awards at 5:30 p.m. There is a $20 entry fee for anyone wanting to enter the chili contest.

Following the cook-off, an “end of the season” campers’ pot luck will take place at 6:30 in the back of the campground amphitheater. Those interested in staying are asked to bring a covered side dish as spaghetti red (chili) will be provided.

Apart from good eats, park goers can also enjoy the park’s Country Music Jamboree beginning at 3:30 p.m. and running through the night. A host of local musical acts including The Duling Band, Jeff Simpson, Kinley Rice, and Jason Richison will perform.

The Duling’s are a local legend and part of a musical family that have entertained for over 50 years. The variety they bring to the stage is sure to please young and old.

Jeff Simpson, a resident of Cherokee, has been performing blues and jazz harmonica for the past 17 years. He is a regular with several area country, bluegrass, and classic rock bands.

Kinley Rice, a 15-year-old country singer from FortScott, is currently a regular on TV’s “Kelly’s Kountry Junction.” Her musical influences are Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Hank Williams, and many other country legends.

Jason Richison, another FortScott resident, will perform classic country music with energy and an edgy guitar. He is also a member of the Fort Scott Jubilee Hot Band and lead guitarist for Kelly’s Kountry Junction television program.

Campsites will be available and can be reserved by visiting ReserveAmerica.com.

For more information on the chili cook-off, contact Kevin Smith at (620) 362-3237, or by e-mail at[email protected].

To reach the CrawfordState Park office, call (620) 362-3671.

House votes to halt Clean Water Act rulemaking process

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

 

On its second day back in session after a five-week August recess, the House of Representatives voted 262-152 on Tuesday, September 9 to pass H.R. 5078, a bill that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) from finalizing and implementing the proposed Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.

After an hour of debate, the House passed the “Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act” largely—though not entirely—along party lines. Just one Republican voted against the bill while 35 Democrats voted for passage.  See the full vote count here.

Representative Steve Southerland (R-FL) introduced the bill, which would require EPA and the Corps to cease work on the current proposed rule, and instead consult with local and state governments to develop a regulatory framework defining waters of the US. In essence, the bill, if it were to become law, would lock in place the current regulatory uncertainty and continue the long, costly, and painful process of policy making via litigation. There are no current plans for Senate consideration of the House-passed bill, however.

The Rule

The 88-page WOTUS rule has been a source of controversy since the EPA and Corps issued it in April of this year to clarify the murky, and subsequently litigated, definition of “waters of the US” in the Clean Water Act (CWA). Under the CWA, waters of the US are defined as traditional navigable waters; interstate waters; and all other waters that could affect interstate or foreign commerce, impoundments of waters of the US, tributaries, the territorial seas, and adjacent wetlands.

This final category created confusion, particularly when applied to wetlands. In light of Supreme Court cases in 2001 (Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 531 U.S. 159) and 2006 (Rapanos v. United States, 547 U.S. 715), EPA proposed the WOTUS rule to provide clarity regarding the waters under its jurisdiction. Along with the proposed rule, EPA and Corps issued an Interpretive Rule that applies specifically to CWA Section 404 permitting for discharge of dredge and fill material into waters (including wetlands).

Reactions to both rules have been mixed, to say the least. While some groups applaud the proposed rule for its attempt to provide consistency to CWA implementation, others have outright opposed the entire rulemaking process.

NSAC has been involved from the beginning, submitting comments on the Interpretive Rule in July. Public comments on the WOTUS proposed rule are due October 20.

The Vote

H.R. 5078 calls for the EPA and Corps to scrap both the WOTUS rule and Interpretive Rule. It directs EPA and the Corps to develop a new regulatory proposal in collaboration with state and local officials. The first report on this proposal would be due 12 months from the bill’s enactment and would require a minimum of 180 days for public comment.

Debate on the bill was largely a back and forth between House Republicans claiming the rule is a federal “power grab” and House Democrats defending the rule’s necessity. In one of the more dramatic moments, Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) called the legislation a “Death Bill” and displayed a jar of algae-filled water from Lake Erie, referring to the Toledo water crisis that left half a million people in Kaptur’s district without drinking water for three days this summer. On the other side of the debate, Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN) argued that the bill was essential, as the EPA did not “understand the real world effects these regulations will have on farmers across the country.”

The EPA has continually stated the WOTUS rule is not intended to expand jurisdiction or bring agriculture under heavier regulation, even launching a “Ditch the Myth” campaign to counter the Farm Bureau’s “ditch the rule” campaign.  Ahead of the House vote, the agency released a Question and Answer document attempting to respond to the major concerns raised by the public and the farming community regarding the scope of the rule.  The new Q&A document is quite an improvement over previous attempts to explain the rule’s impact on agriculture.

Still, confusion and hyperbole reign — Representative Tim Bishop (D-NY) proposed two amendments, one of which was intended to provide clarification that the EPA would not regulate “puddles, water on driveways, birdbaths, or playgrounds.” The House did not pass any amendments to the bill.

The Veto?

The bill is unlikely to go far in the Democrat-controlled Senate, let alone be considered in the few, remaining daysbefore they break in October. Should it make it to the President’s desk, the Obama Administration has already threatened to veto it. In a Statement of Administration Policy published September 8, the office criticized the legislation, writing:

“H.R. 5078 would derail current efforts to clarify the scope of the CWA, hamstring future regulatory efforts, and create significant ambiguity regarding existing regulations and guidance.  It would deny businesses and communities the regulatory certainty needed to invest in projects that rely on clean water. In addition to vitiating the specified draft regulations and already withdrawn guidance, the bill would call into question ‘any successor document’ or ‘substantially similar’ proposed rule or guidance, even if all stakeholders reached consensus. If enacted, H.R. 5078 could also incite further litigation that would only magnify confusion and uncertainty among affected stakeholders.”

Clearly, H.R. 5078 is more symbolic than it is substantive. NSAC has already expressed its disapproval at Congress’ attempts to disrupt the public rulemaking process. We are continuing to work with our members and intend to submit comments for the WOTUS rule this fall.

Kansas NRCS receives $3.8 million to protect and enhance agricultural and wetland easements

Eric B. Banks, Kansas State Conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced that $3.8 million in conservation funding has been allocated in Kansas to help landowners protect and restore key farmlands, grasslands, and wetlands.  This announcement follows Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s statement that $328 million is being invested nationally for this USDA initiative.

“Through conservation easements, farmers will be better able to protect valuable agricultural lands from development, restore lands best suited for grazing, and return wetlands to their natural conditions,” said Banks.  “Conservation easements are making a dramatic and positive impact for food supply, rural communities, and species habitat.”

The 2014 Farm Bill created the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, or ACEP, to protect critical wetlands and keep lands in farming and ranching for the future.  According to Banks, approximately 18 projects statewide were selected to protect and restore 4,800 acres of prime farmland, grassland, and wetlands.

Through ACEP, private or tribal landowners and eligible conservation partners working with landowners can request assistance from USDA to protect and enhance agricultural land through an agricultural or wetland easement.

These easements deliver many benefits over the long-term, for example, this year’s projects will:

♦ Improve water quality.

♦ Provide and protect habitat for threatened, endangered, and at-risk species including the lesser prairie-chicken and whooping crane.

♦ Protect prime agricultural lands that are being fragmented and under high risk of development to non-agricultural uses to help secure the nation’s food supply and jobs in the agricultural sector.

ACEP consolidates three former NRCS easement programs—Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, Grassland Reserve Program and Wetlands Reserve Program—into two components—one that protects farmlands and grasslands and another that protects and restores agricultural wetlands.

“The 2014 Farm Bill streamlined USDA’s major easement programs into one, putting the important benefits of protecting farmlands, grasslands and wetlands all under one roof to make it as easy as possible for landowners to participate,” Banks said.  Find more information on ACEP here.  To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or local USDA service center.