Daily Archives: February 20, 2015

Outdoors scholarship available for high school seniors

 

Applicants must plant to attend a Kansas college or university

 

The Emporia Community Foundation and staff at What’s In Outdoors understand that college can be expensive – that’s why they’re inviting high school seniors to apply for the What’s In Outdoors Scholarship.

The $1,000 scholarship is available to any graduating high school senior in the state of Kansas planning to attend a Kansas college or university. Applicants must plan to make a career in conservation in some capacity and take classes pertaining to wildlife, nature, photography, journalism, communications, or any other related fields.

Successful applicants will receive $500 per semester after showing proof of full-time enrollment (minimum of 12 credit hours). The second semester payment will be sent after grades from the first semester are received.

Applicants should include with their application: A letter of recommendation from a teacher, counselor, coach or employer; information on any involvement with wildlife- or other nature-based fields; and examples of work relating to photography or writing, if applicable.

For more information and to apply, visit www.emporiacf.org and click “Grants,” then “Scholarships.”

One in three deer hunters to receive E-mail survey

 

Effective deer management requires hunter participation in surveys

 

One third of the hunters who pursued deer during the 2014-2015 season will be randomly-selected to receive an e-mail survey from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) this month. Because biologists depend on the data gathered to make deer management recommendations, hunter participation in completing the survey in its entirety is crucial to ensure data is statistically-valid.

“Some people reply back and tell us they killed a doe or got a 10-point buck and think that is all we really need. That is not the case,” said KDWPT big game biologist, Lloyd Fox. Fox explained that KDWPT wants to know about multiple aspects of the hunt in order to gain a clearer picture of the men and women who hunt deer and the impact of hunting on the resource.

The survey, which is conducted every year, gathers a variety of information from deer hunters including: harvest success, dates and seasons hunted, days spent in the field, locations hunted, choice of equipment during the 2014-2015 seasons, opinions on current deer populations, and more.

Even if a hunter did not harvest a deer, they are still encouraged to complete the survey.

For more information on Kansas deer hunting, visit www.ksoutdoors.com and click “Hunting/Big Game Information/Deer.”

Light goose Conservation Order extends hunting season

 

Goose hunters pursuing snow, Ross’ geese may hunt through April 30

 

For some waterfowl hunters, seasons seem to come and go all too fast. It may feel like hunters and their canine companions have just warmed up when the regular seasons close. However, hunters looking to enjoy a few more weeks afield hunting geese can participate in the Light Goose Conservation Order from Feb. 16-April 30, 2015. During this special season set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, hunters may take an unlimited amount of snow and Ross’ geese.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established this special season in 1999 in an effort to increase the harvest of light geese, a population that has increased more than 300 percent since the mid-1970s. These historic numbers of geese have denuded portions of their fragile tundra breeding habitat in the arctic, which may take decades to recover. This impacts other bird species that nest there, including semi-palmated sandpipers and red-necked phalaropes.

To increase hunter success, the conservation order authorizes hunting methods not allowed during the regular seasons, including the use of electronic calls and unplugged shotguns. Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

For more information on this season, visit www.ksoutdoors.com and click on “Hunting/When to Hunt/Migratory Birds.”

Attack on WOTUS continues

 

By Ferd Hoefner

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

 

In the latest congressional attack on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulation of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS), the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a two-part joint hearing on the Impacts of the Proposed Waters of the United States Rule on State and Local Governments on February 4, 2015. This hearing comes three months after the closing of the EPAs twice-extended comment period on the WOTUS proposed rule, which garnered over 900,000 comments, and six months after the House attempted to stop the rule-making process all together.

The first part of the hearing lasted nearly four hours, and was clearly focused on demonstrating the perceived failures of the proposed rule by relentlessly asking about puddles, ditches, snow cover, and other waters that have dominated the WOTUS media discussion. Touting maps from different government agencies unrelated to the proposed rule, the hearing was more about photo opportunities and discrediting the EPA than a fair effort to work towards informed policy-making. Perhaps contrary to the intent, these efforts illustrated the importance of the rule’s attempts to address the ambiguities resulting from Supreme Court decisions regarding the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Chaired by Representative Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the hearing started off with opening statements emphasizing the negative impact WOTUS would have on small businesses while characterizing the rule as another illegal, overreaching regulation giving the EPA endless jurisdiction.

The first witnesses were EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy. Administrator McCarthy’s testimony laid out her goals for the hearing, namely responding to stakeholders, clarifying any misconceptions, and demonstrating the consistency of the scientific decision-making process.

EPA has repeatedly stated that the proposed rule retains existing exemptions for agriculture, and would reduce the overall extent of EPA’s jurisdiction. From Gina McCarthy’s testimony:

“The final rule will not change, in any way, existing CWA exemptions from permitting for discharges of dredged and/or fill material into waters of the U.S. associated with agriculture, ranching, and forestry activities, including the exemptions for:

Normal farming, silviculture, and ranching practices, which include plowing, seeding, cultivating, minor drainage, and harvesting for production of food, fiber, and forest products;

Upland soil and water conservation practices;

Agricultural stormwater discharges;

Return flows from irrigated agriculture;

Construction and maintenance of farm or stock ponds or irrigation ditches;

Maintenance of drainage ditches; and

Construction or maintenance of farm, forest, and temporary mining roads, where constructed and maintained in accordance with best management practices.

I want to emphasize that farmers, ranchers, and foresters who are conducting the activities covered by the exemptions (activities such as plowing, tilling, planting, harvesting, building and maintaining roads, ponds and ditches, and many other activities in waters on their lands), can continue these practices after the new rule without the need for approval from the Federal government. Additionally, we expect to clarify for the first time in regulation that groundwater, including groundwater in subsurface tile drains, is not subject to the CWA. The proposed rule reduces jurisdiction over ditches, and maintains the existing exclusions for prior converted cropland and waste treatment systems, including treatment ponds and lagoons.”

Despite this clarity presented within the first thirty minutes, the debate continued with Administrator McCarthy attempting to dispel myths for the next three hours. Some of the key issues raised are presented below, including EPA’s responses:

This rule exceeds authority Congress gave to the EPA through the CWA:

“We cannot expand jurisdiction of the CWA, we’re simply trying to provide a clarity of what that is with this rule making”

“This proposed rule speaks to what characteristics water bodies need to have in order to be jurisdictional. We are not expanding the jurisdiction of the CWA. We are not eliminating any exemptions or exclusions from the CWA in this proposal. We are in fact narrowing the jurisdiction of the CWA consistent with sound science and the law.”

Ditches are going to be under federal control:

“In this rule we actually reduce the CWA relative to ditches by making it clear that there are a variety of other ditches that should be excluded from jurisdiction. And, we do our best to explain those from erosional features.”

Isolated puddles, isolated ponds not connected to other waters, artificial irrigated areas, reflecting and summer pools, and water filled depressions from construction are going to be regulated:

“They continue to be exempt.”

The rule will expand jurisdiction for ill-defined ephemeral streams (brief, rain-caused streams) encompassing nearly all waters in any states that are not flat:

“Ephemeral streams are often found to be jurisdictional today and so the intent of this rule was to provide much more certainty on the basis of the science so that we could be clearer about what streams are important to protect and what weren’t.”

States were not consulted:

“I’ve been working very closely with the states for many years and it’s in fact the states as well as stakeholders that told us we need to go back and take a look at the science and make this on much more sure footing in terms on what the science today tells us about what waters are essential for protection.”

“I think one of the reasons to go to rule making which was a judgment this Administration made was to listen to the people that said that this was important enough and the transparency and the certainty of the rule of making process is what we need… We put a proposal out specifically to generate comments… to learn from that.” 

We are disappointed that Congress continues to attempt to derail the public rule-making process. NSAC submitted comments on the proposed rule asking for greater clarity regarding a variety of terms used in the rule, and also suggesting outreach programs to help farmers understand the rule’s jurisdiction, among other suggestions to improve the rule. EPA must consider these comments along with 900,000 in writing the final rule, which is expected in the spring.

Check out EPA’s WOTUS page for more information.

Celebrating the Stamp and the Migratory Bird Treaty –

 

From Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp

 

Next year marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty, or at least the initiation of the treaty. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the treaty with Great Britain (on behalf of Canada) for the protection of the “many species of birds which in their annual migration traverse certain parts of the United States and Canada.” After the passage of the Lacey Act of 1900, this treaty became the most important federal action taken to save birds in North America. Officially called the “Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds,” it was signed on August 16, 1916.

 

But there are actually three Migratory Bird Treaty centennials before us. And the initial signing of 1916 is just the first of these centennials.

 

The convention still had to be ratified by Congress. That occurred with passage in 1918 and the President’s signature on July 3, 1918. This is why the law itself is always called the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA). It expressly addressed both the protection of migratory birds and their habitats. It prohibited the over-harvest of waterfowl and established the basis for modern hunting seasons and bag limits. And, among other things, it clearly provided that “the taking of nests or eggs of migratory game or insectivorous or nongame birds shall be prohibited, except for scientific or propagating purposes…”

 

Then, there was a third crucial event, when the Act was challenged constitutionally and upheld on April 19, 1920, by the Supreme Court in the seminal Missouri v. Holland, in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. eloquently expressed the opinion of the majority (see excerpt below and to the right).

 

Of course, the coverage of the Treaty was later expanded to include Mexico, Japan, and the Soviet Union.

 

This amounted to the essential precondition for what we know today as the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp, with the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 serving as the functional bridge between the MBTA and the creation of the stamp in 1934.

 

The Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 authorized the acquisition of lands for the express purpose of conserving migratory birds, and it established a Migratory Bird Conservation Commission. The MBCC was virtually toothless, however, without a functioning funding mechanism for bird habitat acquisition, something finally provided in 1934 with the passage of the legislation creating the Federal Duck Stamp.

 

Today, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is preparing for the 2016 centennial. Some plans can already be seen on their webpage dedicated to the celebration.

 

Of course, there should be a role for the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp in this action. And the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp has just the activity to draw attention to the link between the triple centennials and the stamp of today.

 

The current art rules for the stamp’s artwork clearly stipulate that the eligible waterfowl species – with five species considered each year – be depicted as alive and as the “dominant feature in the design.” And that’s the way it should be! The three centennials, however, present the possibility of some added creativity, especially insofar as the MBTA covers all migratory birds.

 

Our suggestion is to include a “secondary” non-waterfowl migratory bird on the Duck Stamp, an effort to correspond with the Service’s recognition of the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty. Presented correctly, this could be a new and creative challenge for the regular and reoccurring artists. There is also the serious potential of attracting new and aspiring artists to the art competition. And it should also be an important way to appeal to a broader audience.  Remember: it’s not just ducks! With the increase in the price of the stamp to $25, it will be crucial to devise new ways to make the stamp more appealing, especially for those who are not required to buy one. In any case, it’s amazing how a slight adjustment in the stamp art could stress the vital message – the stamp proceeds go to essential habitats and benefit multiple species!

 

In our last Wingtips we included a number of ideas to increase stamp appreciation. Among these concepts were drawing attention to the art by further engaging the art community, collectors, and portions of the general public interested in wildlife and art, and also linking stamp promotion with a recognition of historical and conservation events. (These two general concepts were explained in arguments #3 and #4 in that last issue of Wingtips.)

 

The two suggestions can actually be combined through the inclusion of the secondary bird species to the artwork.

 

This could start with the contest to be held in the fall of 2016, the first centennial year. There is plenty of time to prepare – announcements, rules, artist preparation, and essential promotion.

 

Of course, the eligible waterfowl would be the prime and dominant feature in the artwork, but with this approach another non-waterfowl migratory bird in the image would be required. Any non-waterfowl species covered under the Migratory Bird Treaty and the related Act could be portrayed. It is assumed that that species should be appropriate, showing the right habitat (e.g., wetland, riparian, bottomland, or grassland), seasonal presence, and corresponding plumage.

 

For the 2016 art contest, we already know the eligible waterfowl species: Brant, Northern Shoveler, Canada Goose, Red-breasted Merganser, and Steller’s Eider.

 

Just consider some of the artistic possibilities showing a secondary species (e.g., shorebird, songbird, long-legged wader, or raptor) along with the dominant waterfowl:

Brant – Wintering Brant along the shore with non-breeding-plumaged Ruddy Turnstone (shorebird) in the background.

Northern Shoveler – An incubating female Northern Shoveler on a nest with a Yellow-headed Blackbird (songbird) on nearby reeds/cattails.

Canada Goose – A pair of these geese in a large pond with Great Egret (long-legged wader) on the far shoreline.

Red-breasted Merganser – Pair of Red-breasted Mergansers in a boreal pond, with Merlin (raptor) in the far-off bare trees.

Steller’s Eider – A pair of these eiders in tundra habitat, along with a male Pectoral Sandpiper (shorebird) displaying off to the side.

Moreover, almost any of the dominant species could be joined by a favorite raptor (e.g., Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, or Peregrine Falcon) or a familiar long-legged wader (e.g., Great Blue Heron or Green Heron) in the background. And how about another hunted migratory non-waterfowl (Sandhill Crane or Wilson’s Snipe)? Now, wouldn’t that be grand!

 

Any new art requirement would have to be clearly stipulated in the rules.

 

Special art requirements or restrictions have been established before. You may remember the Black Scoter in the 2001 contest (for the 2002-2003 stamp). That year’s contest was actually restricted to artwork showing Black Scoter, a waterfowl that had yet to be chosen for a stamp.

 

But why isn’t this proposed non-waterfowl bird in the art simply an option for the artist in the coming year or years? Actually, it already is! (The rules allow for stamp designs that include “habitat scenes” and “conservation.. uses of the stamp.”) However, the artists want to know, exactly, what the judges will be told, what their precise instructions for judging will be. An “option” does not do that!

 

If the artists know that all of them have to consider and display a secondary species covered under the Migratory Bird Treaty, only then is the art competition run on a level playing field.

 

Ideally, these rules would extend to the 2019-2020 stamp, that is, through three contests – 2016, 2017, and 2018. (Remember, the MBTA was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1920.) If stakeholders are displeased, the rule change could be dropped after the 2018 contest. If the concept is embraced during those years, it could even be continued.

 

The good news is that this suggested change for inclusion of a secondary species does not require any change whatsoever in the Federal Law, just minor changes in the Contest Rules. And this has been done before.

 

Readers of Wingtips can review our detailed proposal, with very simple rule changes we have placed on our website. We have already presented these ideas to the USFWS for their consideration. And we welcome your comments which we could post or circulate as the discussion grows.

 

Did You Know

 

1) Only once has an image of a dog appeared as part of the Federal Duck Stamp. But there are many occasions when dogs have appeared on state stamps, perhaps dozens of them, and from 22 states.

2) The last time that stamp sales topped two million was the 1980-1981 stamp, when 2,045,114 stamps were sold across the country.

3) Before the 1958 revisions of the law (effective 1 July 1960), land acquisition was only one of several programs financed at least in part with stamp dollars. Previously, about 20 percent of these funds were used to acquire refuge lands and approximately 50 percent had been used to develop and maintain migratory bird refuges after acquisition.

4)  The highest number of stamps sold in California was in the 1952-1952 year when there were 214,456 stamps sold in the Golden State.

5) The first national Jr. Duck Stamp contest began with 8 states participating in 1993: Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, South Dakota, and Vermont.

6) Bob Hines (1912-1994) created the original rules for a Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest and managed the competition for over three decades.

7)

Stamp funds not only go to refuges. Since 1958, the funds also go to acquire smaller wetland and grassland habitats (the Small Wetlands Acquisition Program – SWAP) within the Prairie Pothole Region of the upper Midwest and northern Great Plains. In this way, over 3.6 million acres of wetland and grassland habitat have been added to Refuge System.  These units are commonly referred to as Waterfowl Production Areas or WPAs.

 

From the Supreme Court – 1920

 

On April 19, 1920 the Supreme Court ruled, in an opinion by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., that the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1916 and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 were, indeed, constitutional. As constitutional doctrine, the importance of this case has rested on its broad reading of the treaty power as against the claim of a state. But this case of Missouri v. Holland, 252 U.S. 416 (1920), is also significant in conservation law, as can be seen in the following passage from the opinion by Holmes:

 

To put the claim of the State upon title is to lean against a slender reed. Wild birds are not in the possession of anyone; and possession is the beginning of ownership. The whole foundation of the states’ rights is the presence within their jurisdiction of birds that yesterday had not arrived, tomorrow may be in another state and in a week a thousand miles away.

 

Elsewhere in the decision, Justice Holmes added:

 

We see nothing in the Constitution that compels the Government to sit by while a food supply is cut off and the protectors of our forests and our crops are destroyed. It is not sufficient to rely upon the States. The reliance is vain, and were it otherwise, the question is whether the United States is forbidden to act. We are of the opinion that the treaty and the statute must be upheld.

 

Kansas NRCS Announces National Initiatives for 2015

Eric B. Banks, State Conservationist with U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announces five national initiatives being offered in Kansas through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative, National Water Quality Initiative, On-Farm Energy Initiative, Organic Initiative, and Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative. While NRCS accepts applications for EQIP on a continuous basis, NRCS has set a deadline of March 20, to apply for 2015 initiatives funding.

 

Initiatives Overview

 

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative: NRCS will assist producers in 36 counties to implement conservation practices specifically targeted to improve the lesser prairie-chicken (LPC) habitat while promoting the overall health of grazing lands and the long-term sustainability of Kansas ranching. Expired or expiring Conservation Reserve Program fields in permanent cover that may benefit LPC habitat may also be eligible for funding. This initiative will be offered in

Barber, Clark, Comanche, Edwards, Ellis, Finney, Ford, Gove, Graham, Grant, Gray, Greeley, Hamilton, Haskell, Hodgeman, Kearny, Kiowa, Lane, Logan, Meade, Morton, Ness, Pawnee, Pratt, Rush, Scott, Seward, Sheridan, Sherman, Stafford, Stanton, Stevens, Thomas, Trego, Wallace, and Wichita counties.

 

National Water Quality Initiative: NRCS will assist producers with addressing high-priority water resource concerns in three watersheds. These include:  Big Creek Watershed in Ellis county; Emma Creek Watershed in Harvey, Marion, and McPherson counties; and Grasshopper Creek Watershed in Atchison, Brown, and Jackson counties.

 

On-Farm Energy Initiative: Producers work with an NRCS-approved Technical Service Provider (TSP) to develop Agricultural Energy Management Plans or farm energy audits that assess energy consumption on an agricultural operation. NRCS may also provide assistance to implement various recommended improvements identified in the energy audit through the use of conservation practices offered through this initiative.

 

Organic Initiative: NRCS will assist producers with installation of conservation practices on agricultural operations related to organic production. Producers currently certified as organic, transitioning to organic, or producers who are exempt based on the National Organic Program will have access to a broad set of conservation practices to assist in treating their resource concerns while fulfilling many of the requirements in an organic system plan.

 

Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative: NRCS helps producers implement high tunnels that extend growing seasons for high value crops in an environmentally safe manner. High tunnel benefits include better plant and soil quality and fewer nutrients and pesticides in the environment.

 

Eligibility EQIP offers financial and technical assistance to eligible participants to install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land. Conservation practices must be implemented to NRCS standards and specifications. In Kansas, socially disadvantaged, limited resource, and beginning farmers and ranchers will receive a higher payment rate for eligible conservation practices applied.

 

Information Available For more information about EQIP, or other programs offered by NRCS, please contact your local USDA Service Center or go to the Web site www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov. For more on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/FarmBill. Follow us on Twitter @NRCS_Kansas. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.