Daily Archives: November 20, 2014

USA Today’s Readers’ Choice 10 Best Birdwatching locations

Describing it as an intense battle, USA Today wrapped up voting on November 10, and announced the long-awaited Readers’ Choice 10 Best Birdwatching locations.

See the results at: http://www.10best.com/awards/travel/best-birdwatching/

With diversity, natural beauty, conservation importance and convenience used as selection criteria, it is not surprising that four of the locations making the top 10 list are in the Service’s Southwest Region.

These locations include Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in New Mexico, Aransas NWR and the LowerRio GrandeValley in Texas, and Southeastern Arizona.

Birdwatching is becoming more popular around the world, with birdwatchers claiming that — while intellectually stimulating — it is also an effective stress-reliever. The best part is there is no learning curve. People of all physical abilities and ages can enjoy birdwatching.

Additionally, this nature tourism is an increasingly important source of economic growth to local communities.

The benefits don’t stop there. By spending some time studying behavior, migration patterns, and avian abundance, birdwatchers can take on the role of a scientist and help track changes to habitats.

This can make a significant contribution to protecting and preserving our natural environment. So unplug and get outside to visit your favorite National Wildlife Refuge and enjoy some stress-reducing birdwatching while helping the environment.

Western sportsmen see Greater Sage-grouse conservation as important

A new poll shows that sportsmen and women in the heart of Greater Sage-grouse country want to protect the bird and the sagebrush landscape that supports it, other wildlife and the Western way of life.

The results released November 19 by the National Wildlife Federation show that a majority of sportsmen surveyed in 11 Western states back restrictions in important habitat to save the Greater Sage-grouse and avoid its placement on the federal Endangered Species List. A listing likely would lead to more stringent, long-term constraints that would affect such activities as hunting, fishing, recreation and grazing, said John Gale, NWF’s national sportsmen’s campaign manager.

“First and foremost, it’s critical that we save this iconic Western wildlife species,” Gale said. “We can do that with strong conservation plans that protect key Greater Sage-grouse habitat while allowing responsible energy development, grazing and other activities on other public lands.”

The plight of the Gunnison Sage-grouse underlines how important it is to act decisively, using sound science, to conserve a species before more drastic measures are necessary, Gale added.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week that it is classifying the Gunnison Sage-grouse as threatened to keep it from going extinct. The Gunnison Sage-grouse, smaller than the Greater Sage-grouse, is found in portions of Colorado and southeastern Utah on just 7 percent of its historic range.

While Greater Sage-grouse numbers have been declining for years, the chicken-sized bird with the spiky tail feathers and extravagant mating dance still occupies about 56 percent of its historic range. Its habitat has been carved up and diminished by, among other things, urban growth, oil and gas drilling, invasive species and drought.

Under a court-ordered agreement, Fish and Wildlife will decide by next year whether to list the Greater Sage-grouse.

“If we are to prevent the listing of the sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act, we must engage in collaborative implementation strategies that will lead to population increases throughout the bird’s range,” said Ed Arnett, director of the TheodoreRooseveltConservationPartnershipCenter for Responsible Energy Development. “More than 350 species of plants and animals rely on healthy sagebrush habitat. The Greater Sage-grouse is the canary in this particular coal mine, and how we deal with it will affect an entire ecosystem.”

The poll conducted by Southwick Associates for NWF shows a majority of sportsmen and women in 11 Western states agree. Among the results from the survey of 1,335 hunters between Sept. 23 and Oct. 3 are:

  • Nine out of ten hunters believe it is important to take action to protect sage-grouse habitat within their state. Moreover, 84 percent of hunters support steps by the BLM to protect critical sage-grouse habitat even if it means limiting energy development, grazing rights or access for motorized recreation on those lands.
  • Hunters generally link protection of sage-grouse habitat with maintaining healthy populations of other wildlife species. About 81 percent of hunters are at least somewhat convinced that steps taken to protect the sage-grouse, such as maintaining large tracts of undisturbed lands or limiting resource extraction activities, also benefits other game species that share the same habitat (e.g., elk, mule deer, pronghorn) and preserves hunting traditions long associated with the American West.
  • Nearly 79 percent of the respondents had fished or hunted on public land in their state in the past year.

Land Tawney, executive director of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, said because the majority of Greater Sage-grouse habitat is on public lands, the Bureau of Land Management and states where the bird is found must step up now.

“It’s not just about the bird; it’s about the herds of mule deer and pronghorns, the hunting and other recreation made possible by healthy habitat,” Tawney added.

And it’s about the continued health of the countryside enjoyed by people from all backgrounds, said Nevada Wildlife Federation Vice President Kevin Cabble.

“The Greater Sage-grouse’s future is tied to the landscapes where we camp, hike, hunt and fish. The bird’s fate will be a barometer of fate of our public lands heritage and outdoor legacy,” Cabble added.

The survey of Western hunters comes on the heels of a recent report showing minimal overlap between important Greater Sage-grouse habitat and existing energy leases and rights of way and that 73 percent to 81 percent of areas with medium to high potential for energy development are outside the bird’s habitat. A recent analysis found that recreation on BLM-managed sagebrush lands generated more than $1 billion in economic benefits in 2013.

“The sage-grouse is an iconic species of the west and a treasured game bird to America’s upland hunting heritage. Hunters know that a successful recipe for the bird’s recovery must include strong partnerships with ranchers, natural resource management agencies, and thoughtful collaborations like the Sage-Grouse Initiative,” said Howard Vincent, President and CEO of Pheasants Forever, Inc.

Southwick surveyed the 1,335 randomly selected sportsmen and women in the following states: Montana, Colorado, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, Northern California and Idaho. The poll’s margin of error is 2.7 percent.

Read the executive summary and results:

http://www.ourpubliclands.org/new-poll-finds-sportsmen-and-women-support-sage-grouse-conservation

The National Wildlife Federation is America’s conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.

Youth, female archery participation skyrockets in 2014

On the eve of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I” premiere, USA Archery has released membership statistics proving that archery interest has continued to increase dramatically since the premiere of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” in 2013, especially among women and teens.

USA Archery, the sport’s National Governing Body, has seen youth memberships increase 121% since November 2013. This is up from the previous two-year period, in which youth memberships had increased 104% between 2011 and 2013.

Female participation in archery has also seen very strong growth. Memberships purchased by women are up 105% in the last twelve months alone. Overall, individual memberships have increased 84% since November 2013, with over 15,800 members today.

“We’re very excited to see the tremendous growth of our sport,” said Denise Parker, USA Archery CEO and Olympic bronze medalist. “People are connecting with archery more than ever before, and we see that reflected in our membership numbers and event participation.

“Thanks to movies like ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘The Avengers,’ people have tried archery and found it to be a fun sport that they can enjoy throughout their lives. In the past twelve months especially, we’ve seen huge increases in female and youth participation, and we’re excited to see that trend continue.”

The organization has also seen a boost in event participation. The U.S. National Indoor Championships and Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) National Indoor Championships experienced a 20% increase in participation from 2013 to 2014. Registrations for the “Outdoor Nationals,” comprised of the U.S. National Target Championships and Easton JOAD Nationals, grew 28% in the past year.

Overall, the archery industry has seen steady growth and people are participating in all facets of the sport. The first-ever nationwide archery survey, conducted by the Archery Trade Association, showed that 18.9 million Americans participate in archery, and that 5.8 million of all archery participants were women.

In response to the growth of the sport, the Archery Trade Association, together with industry manufacturers and organizations like USA Archery, recently conducted the first-ever Archery Showdown featuring an archery video competition between YouTube stars Dude Perfect and Brittany Louise Taylor. Together, the videos have had over 12 million views in one week.

For those looking to try archery, the USA Archery website connects people with local archery programming, coaching and the chance to try competitions. For more information, visit http://www.usarchery.org and click “Find It.”

With two additional “Mockingjay” films planned, “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” set to debut in 2015, and the advent of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, it’s clear that the bow and arrow sport will remain in the spotlight.

 

2014 Kansas State Eco-Meet hosts 103 competitors

Twenty-three schools participated in the annual competition

 

The 16th Annual State Finals ECO-Meet competition, which was held at the Rock Springs 4H Center on Nov. 6, proved to be an exciting and hard-fought contest. A total of 27 teams consisting of 103 students from 23 schools across the state participated at the competition, with an additional seven students qualifying as individuals in the two test events. Results from the 2014 state finals are as follows:

Overall Team WINNERS

1st place: BlueValleyCenter for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) – Michelle Fan, Meagan Fortin, Justin Patterson, Devanshi Singh and team coach Eric Kessler. Each student competitor received a $300 scholarship.

2nd place: Shawnee Mission South High School Team B – Ellie Bartlett, Miah Gray, Rob Michels and team coach P.J. Born. Each student competitor received a $200 scholarship.

3rd place: St. Mary’s-Colgan High School Team A – Rachell Krall, Hannah Maus, Abby Normand, Sicily Stahl, and team coach Donna Maus. Each student competitor received a $100 scholarship.

Individual Event WINNERS

Mammalogy

1st place: Joe Petty, ShawneeMissionSouthHigh School – $200 scholarship

2nd place: Justin Patterson, Blue Valley CAPS – $100 scholarship

Wetlands/Aquatic Ecosystem

1st place: Joe Petty, ShawneeMissionSouthHigh School – $200 scholarship

2nd place tie: Sarah Tomtschik, GoddardHigh School – $100 scholarship

2nd place tie: Aaron Dlabal, WilsonHigh School – $100 scholarship

ECO-Meets are a series of quiz bowl-type competitions based on knowledge of Kansas plants and animals. Four events make up the competition, including a test on ecosystems in the state; a test on specific groups of animals; a scavenger hunt, where student teams look for plants found in the area and prove their identification skills; and an interpretive event, where the teams put together an informative and entertaining skit to relay their knowledge of animal/plant species to a team of judges and their peers.

Schools represented in the 2014 competition included: Blue Valley Center CAPS, Clay Center, Galena, Goddard, Goodland, Inman, Lakewood, Maize, Mission Valley, Palco, Pratt, Pike Valley, Salina South, Satanta, Shawnee Mission East, Shawnee Mission South, St. Mary’s-Colgan of Pittsburg, St. John’s of Beloit, St. Xavier of Junction City, Tescott, Tonganoxie, Wakefield, and Wilson high schools, as well as Salina Middle School and Wilson Junior High School..

For more information on the Kansas ECO-Meet program, or to view results from past events, visit www.kansasecomeet.org, or contact Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism wildlife education coordinator Mike Rader at [email protected] or (620) 672-0708.

 

Angler Education Instructor course Dec. 6

Become certified to teach fishing techniques in Kansas during one-day course

 

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) will host an Angler Certification Course Dec. 6 for anglers wishing to teach fishing techniques in Kansas. The class will be held from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Greenbush Camp and RetreatCenter, 947 W 47 Hwy, Girard, KS66743. There is no cost to attend, however the class will be limited to the first 40 registrants. Lunch will be provided.

The program has certified 230 instructors, including nearly 100 Kansas school teachers, in its first year and a half alone. This year, angler education instructors and KDWPT employees held 135 events ranging from fishing derbies and casting events, to community outreach and aquatic education in the schools programs. Certified instructors have donated 1,100 hours of their time to this successful program which has reached nearly 60,000 participants and counting. These volunteer hours translate not only to a public awareness and appreciation of natural resources, but to money reimbursed back to Kansas for aquatic education supplies (fishing poles, lures, fish trading cards, etc.) and towards enhancing the state’s fisheries’ resources.

Apart from becoming a certified angler education instructor, attendees will also be given valuable information regarding working with children, sample curriculums, and tips for preparing a class or clinic. Other subjects covered in the four-hour class include current fishing regulations, species identification, fishing ethics, equipment, knot-tying, casting, fish habitat, aquatic nuisance species, and conservation practices.

Kansas offers some of the best public fishing opportunities in the nation, and this is just one more way for anglers to pass on their passion for fishing to those who may have yet to experience Kansas fishing.

Anglers interested in registering for the December 6 class are encouraged to sign up by visiting www.fishingsfuture.org and clicking “upcoming events,” then “Kansas Angler Education Training Program.”

For more information, contact Fishing’s Future coordinator Kevin Reich at [email protected] or by phone at (785) 577-6921.

NRCS Seeks Public Comments on Conservation Stewardship Program Interim Rule

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Kansas is seeking public comments on changes to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) interim final rule.

USDA published the interim final rule, which contains the statutory changes to CSP in the Federal Register https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/11/05/2014-26295/conservation-stewardship-program-csp-interim-rule. The rule will be open for public comments through January 5, 2015.

Interested individuals can submit public comments on the interim final rule on regulations.com http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NRCS-2014-0008-0001.  Public comments will be used to finalize the interim final rule.  A final rule will be published afterwards.

“As conservation leaders, farmers and ranchers in Kansas will be pleased by the program changes,” said NRCS State Conservationist Eric B. Banks. “These changes will increase the level of stewardship needed to address critical resource concerns on working agricultural lands and enable them to deliver more conservation benefits.”

The interim final rule is used to implement CSP. This program helps agricultural producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems and adopt additional conservation activities to address priority resources concerns. Participants earn CSP payments for conservation performance—the higher the performance, the higher the payment.

Congress changed CSP in the 2014 Farm Bill and NRCS, the agency that administers CSP, incorporated those changes into this interim rule. These changes are designed to improve the competitive nature of the program, including raising the bar for the quality of projects enrolled and increasing the number of priority resource concerns to be addressed during the term of the CSP contract.

The interim final rule also expands the CSP’s reach to include veteran farmers and ranchers under special funding pools for beginning and socially disadvantaged producers, updates requirements for contract renewal, uses science-based stewardship thresholds to determine program eligibility and success, and expands program enrollment to include lands protected under the new Agricultural Conservation Easements Program and that are in the last year of the Conservation Reserve Program.

NRCS has also increased flexibility for producers to make minor adjustments to their agricultural operations that will result in the same or better stewardship of the land, and removed extraneous provisions that did not relate to program participants rights and responsibilities.

For more information about CSP in Kansas, visit www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/financial/csp/ or your local USDAServiceCenter. Follow us on Twitter @NRCS_Kansas. For information about CSP nationally, please visit http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/csp/.