Monthly Archives: February 2015

Boaters urged to support new legislation to “fix” Renewable Fuel Standard

New bipartisan legislation introduced today would help ensure recreational boaters don’t put unsafe fuel in their boats, according to Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS). Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), with 30 co-sponsors introduced the Renewable Fuel Standard Reform Act of 2015. BoatUS is urging all boaters to contact their US Representative to support the bill. “The new bill would recognize the failure of the current Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and its out of date ethanol-mandate, and make the necessary changes so there is a safe fuel for all gasoline powered engines,” said BoatUS Government Affairs Program Manager Nicole Palya Wood.

According to Wood, BoatUS supports the bill because, “The RFS Reform Act acknowledges the reality of America’s declining fuel consumption, allows for the investment in other more compatible biofuels, and erases the twisted math that forces more ethanol onto a marketplace that neither demands it, nor can physically absorb it at safe levels.”

Currently, there are no marine engines in the US warrantied to run on any gasoline blend greater than 10% ethanol (E10). According to AAA, only about 12 million out of the more than 240 million light-duty vehicles on the roads today are approved to use E15 gasoline, based on a survey conducted by AAA of auto manufacturers. Any damage from the use of higher ethanol fuels (E15 or greater) in cars and trucks will void many manufacturers’ warranties.

When the RFS was written in 2005, it assumed that Americans’ gasoline use would continue to rise and mandated escalating amounts of biofuels to be blended with our fuel. However, since 2005, gasoline usage has actually dropped steadily. The unintended affect is now the law that forces more ethanol into the nation’s gasoline supply, and to maintain adherence with the RFS rules, in 2010 the EPA permitted fuel containing up to 15% ethanol (E15) into the marketplace – a fuel many gasoline engines cannot use.

It is illegal to use E15 in boat engines, snowmobiles, motorcycles, small engines such as lawnmowers and leaf blowers as well as any vehicle made before 2001. However, this fuel can now be found at over 100 gas stations in 16 states at the same pumps as E10 and ethanol-free gasoline.

The potential for misfueling is significant. In the US, nine out of every ten boaters own a trailerable boat that is most often filled up at a roadside gas station. Additionally, these higher blend ethanol fuels are often the cheapest fuels at the pump.

The new bill would cap the ethanol requirements at E10 (10 percent ethanol), would effectively prohibit the use of corn-based ethanol in the RFS, require more advanced biofuels and take into account actual, real-world production of biofuels when setting requirements.

Boaters can ask their Congressman to support and co-sponsor the bill by going to:


From The Outdoor Wire


Can A Groundhog Really Predict The End Of Winter?


February 2 was Groundhog Day and groundhogs are receiving A LOT of media attention. And Punxsutawney Phil delivered that morning — seeing his shadow and predicting six more weeks of winter

We’ve received a number of inquiries about this furry, kind-of-cute rodent from readers.

Groundhogs clearly aren’t related to pigs or hogs—so what exactly are they?

The groundhog (also known as a woodchuck or Eastern Marmot) is actually a large, ground-dwelling rodent and is part of family of ground squirrels known as marmots.

Groundhogs are lowland creatures and are common in the northeastern and central United States, found as far north as eastern Alaska and south as the northern half of Alabama. (see range map to right).

If you live in the western U.S., particularly in rocky and mountainous areas, you’re probably familiar with the groundhog’s cousins such as the yellow-bellied and hoary marmots.

Can They Really Chuck Wood?

The name that many use for the animal, “woodchuck”, is derived from the Native American Algonquian tribe’s name for the animal, “wuchak”.

So despite the tongue-twister we’ve all heard (as well as that GEICO ad a year or two back!), it’s name has nothing to do with throwing around pieces of wood, even though it’s a great image….

Digging Life

These busy rodents are great diggers and hikers can often find their dens by looking for disturbed earth.  Their short, powerful limbs and curved, thick claws are ideally suited for digging the extensive excavations they are known to create.

Groundhogs have two coats of fur—a dense grey undercoat that is then covered by a longer coat of banded guard hairs, which provide its distinctive “frosted” appearance.

They are good swimmers and excellent tree climbers and can do both while escaping predators. When threatened, groundhogs generally retreat to their burrows but the animal can tenaciously defend itself or its burrow using its two large incisors and front claws. That said, groundhogs are pretty easy prey for predators such as coyotes, foxes, bears and even large raptors. Young groundhogs are also preyed upon by snakes.

What Do Groundhogs Eat?

Groundhogs are mostly herbivorous, consuming wild grasses and other vegetation such as berries and agricultural crops.  On occasion, they’ll also eat grubs, insects, snails and similar small animals. Groundhogs don’t need open water to drink and can hydrate themselves by consuming leafy vegetation.

Individuals often “stand alert” in an erect posture on their hind legs when not actively feeding. This is a commonly seen behavior and easily observed.

So How Can They Predict The End Of Winter?

Unlike many rodents, groundhogs are true hibernators and are rarely, if ever, active or seen during the winter. They often build a separate “winter burrow”, which extends below the frost line and stays at a steady temperature year round, allowing the animal to avoid freezing during the winter’s cold months.

It’s this trait of sleeping through the winter that led to the folklore that a groundhog’s behavior can predict when winter will end.

Since a groundhog sleeps through the entire winter, the reasoning is that the winter must be ending if he’s willing to stay out and about once he or she has been awakened on February 2nd.

It’s a pretty shaky premise and the poor creature is probably so dazed from being rudely awakened that he has no idea what the temperature is.

How Accurate Are A Groundhog’s Predictions?

Groundhogs are among our longest hibernators, often settling down as early as October and remaining in their burrow until March or April.

So no matter what our furry prognosticators may appear to tell us on Groundhog Day, it’s a pretty safe bet that just want to go back to sleep, regardless of the weather!


By eNature


How can a Hummingbird’s heart be larger than a Blue Whale’s?

By eNature


Think those heart-shaped boxes of Valentine’s chocolates are impressive? Compared to the size of a human heart perhaps. But a whale’s heart dwarfs even those samplers that require weightlifters to hoist them.


Picture a heart the size of a car. That’s what a Blue Whale possesses – a heart that deserves its own parking space.


And how does a heart like that pump? Very slowly. In fact, a Blue Whale’s heart beats just five or six times per minute when the whale is at the surface and even slower when the animal dives. A human heart, by contrast, typically beats seventy times per minute at rest. And a hummingbird’s heart, for even greater contrast, beats five hundred times per minute at rest and more than a thousand times per minute when the bird flies.


But don’t underestimate the little hummingbird. Its heart is the largest proportionally of any animal. Whereas the average mammal’s heart comprises less than 1 percent of its total body weight, a hummingbird’s heart can be more than twice that figure. For a Blue Whale, that’s the equivalent of a two-car garage.


Click here to learn more about the Blue Whale »


Click here to learn more about the Ruby-throated hummingbird »


Valentine’s Day: It’s not just for humans


There’s a lot going on in the wild too!


By eNature


Some folks love it, others dread it. But no matter what your feelings about Valentine’s Day, there’s no avoiding it.


And it’s not just humans— animals in the wild are succumbing to Cupid’s arrows as well.


Take a walk through your backyard or a backcountry hike and you’ll likely be confronted by a courtship ritual of some sort. For the animals engaged in such displays, the whole month of February, not just Valentine’s Day, is meant for romance.


Mammals Looking For Love

Despite the chill that remains in much of North America, Raccoons, Minks, river otters, Gray and Red Foxes, Coyotes, and skunks all take time off from their mid-winter hunting to prowl for partners. Groundhogs start to look around longingly soon after they emerge from their long winter’s sleep, and many of their rodent kin, from California Kangaroo Rats to Black-tailed Prairie Dogs, also consider February just the right time for rubbing noses.


And Many Bird Species Are Too

Birds, too, at least a few of them, hit their romantic stride during the second month of the year. Great Horned Owls start hooting it up in December but mostly wait till now to take care of their romantic business. Male Red-winged Blackbirds return to much of the continent in February and start right in displaying and singing for prospective females, while American Woodcocks stage their delightfully bizarre courtship performances in the February twilight. And in the swamps of southern Florida, ungainly looking Wood Storks make hay in the February sunshine.


Even Butterflies Are Seeking Partners

Also out under bright sunny southern skies are myriad butterflies looking for love. There are large Pipevine Swallowtails and diminutive Western Pygmy-Blues in Texas, gorgeous Zebra Heliconians and Gulf Fritillaries in Florida, Spring Azures and Long-tailed Skippers in the other Gulf States, and dainty Desert Marbles and Desert Orangetips in the Southwest. Wherever and whenever you see butterflies flying, even in February, you can rest assured that half of them are males on the lookout for lepidopteran love.


As Are Toad, Frogs And Salamanders

As for amphibians, their amorous inspiration comes in the form of a nice February rain. And when the rain falls, the amphibians emerge from their hibernation and march straight to breeding pools. Pond frogs, treefrogs, toads, and salamanders of all kinds take to the mating trail in February in the southern parts of the United States. The male frogs are at their vociferous best in their choruses to attract mates, while male salamanders vie for partners, too, though without the audible fanfare.


And Love Can Even Be Found Underwater

Even fish feel frisky these days, especially the Rainbow Trout in the Smokies and the Largemouth Bass in Texas. The same is true for animals in saltier waters: Humpback Whales, Northern Right Whales, Gray Seals, and Northern Elephant Seals have love on their marine-mammal minds, while far to the north in the pitch-black darkness of the Arctic winter Walruses have a gleam in their eyes.


The 50-Year Vision for the Future of Water in Kansas


Regional Goal Setting


A guiding principle of the Vision is that locally driven solutions have the highest opportunity for long-term success. With that in mind, the Vision outlines a process for water supply goals to be established by regions by stakeholders as a means for measuring success and implementing the Vision. A Regional Goal Leadership Team consisting of 9 to 11 individuals per region has been identified by the Kansas Water Authority to represent 14 planning areas (Map).

The role of each team is to participate in a public scoping process in their region, develop draft goals for their region based on public input and available resource condition information and present the draft goals to the Kansas Water Authority. A list of each individual serving on a Regional Goal Leadership Team is listed here.


Regional Goal Leadership Team Orientation Meetings


Cimarron: February 6, 2015 at the Stevens County Library (500 S. Monroe, Hugoton, KS) at 9 a.m.


Equus-Walnut: February 13, 2015 at the Pine Street Health Services Office in Newton (215 S. Pine, 2nd Floor Conference Room) at 10 a.m.


Great Bend Prairie: February 9, 2015 at the America State Bank & Trust (320 Broadway, Larned, KS) at 1 p.m.


Kansas: February 10, 2015 at the Lawrence City Hall Commission Room (6th and Massachusetts) in Lawrence at 10 a.m.


Marais des Cygnes: February 11, 2015 at the Rural Water District No. 2 Office (25290 Harmony Road, Paola, KS) at 10 a.m.


Missouri: February 10, 2015 at the 409 District Office (626 Commercial Street) in Atchison at 2 p.m.


Neosho: February 10, 2015 at the John Redmond Reservoir Project Office (1565 Embankment Road SW, Burlington, KS) at 10 a.m.


Red Hills: February 17, 2015 at The Peoples Bank-Sunflower Room (121 S. Main) in Medicine Lodge at 1p.m.


Smoky Hill-Saline: February 9, 2015 at the Hays Welcome Center (2700 Vine) in Hays at 11 a.m.


Solomon-Republican: February 10, 2015 at the Chamber Office (606 Washington Street) in Concordia at 1 p.m.


Upper Arkansas: February 12, 2015 at the SW GMD #3 Office (2009 E Spruce Street) in Garden City at 1 p.m.


Upper Smoky Hill: February 12, 2015 at the Kansas Livestock Association Environmental Services office in Scott City (1303 Yucca Street; for directions: at 10 a.m.


Upper Republican: February 9, 2015 at the Northwest Kansas GMD 4 Office (1290 W. 4th) in Colby at 1 p.m.


Verdigris: February 11, 2015 at the Memorial Hall-Veterans room in Independence (410 N. Penn) at 11 a.m

Start someone bird watching


By Paul Baicich

Birding Community E-bulletin


February is a perfect time to introduce new people to birds. Some folks think that spring migration – say, May – is the ideal time, but this is probably a mistake. Indeed, birds in migration are wonderful – in full color and song – but the experience can be too overwhelming, a veritable bird overload. Too much in the way of birds – or of any new experience – can actually discourage people, creating the perception that there is simply too much to learn!

This month is ideal for a modest and digestible introduction to birds. Winter birds are stable, relatively limited, and often wonderfully accessible. Take wintering waterfowl, or a popular staked-out (but non-harassed) Snowy Owl. It’s the right time to bring along a neighbor or friend – who may already be curious because of a backyard feeder – for a short and simple birding trip.

This opportunity also conveniently overlaps with the 18th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), 13-16 February. This effort is sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Tens of thousands of volunteers – of all ages and birding skill levels – will count birds in backyards, local parks, refuges, and wherever they happen to be. This free, family-friendly, and neighbor-friendly activity is an ideal introductory “citizen-science” effort involving bird discovery. Visit the GBBC website to explore the opportunities:

This year, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is incorporating Pledge to Fledge, originally launched by the Global Birding Initiative, into the GBBC:

All these opportunities combine to make February the time to invite some new people – family, friends, co-workers, or acquaintances – to join in a bird search and introduce them to the joy of watching and studying wild birds.


One hundred Special Hunts offered for spring turkey


Interested hunters have until Feb. 23 to apply


If you’re looking to make some memories this spring turkey season but are unsure where to go for a quality hunt, explore the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s Special Hunts Program. Special Hunts provide access to public and private lands that are not open to unrestricted public access. One hundred special hunts for spring turkey will be offered this year and applications are being accepted now through 9 a.m. on Feb. 23. To obtain detailed information on all available hunts, and to download an application, visit:

Out of the 100 hunts available, 33 are open hunts (open to all), 39 are mentor hunts (both beginner and mentor may hunt), and 28 are youth hunts (youth hunt only). These hunts will occur on a variety of private lands, wildlife areas, city and county properties, and one national wildlife refuge. There is no fee to participate and application is open to residents and non-residents.

Successful applicants will be notified shortly after the random drawing has occurred. Hunters must still purchase all licenses and permits required by law.

For information on other spring turkey hunting opportunities, visit and click “Hunting” and “Turkey Information.”

Trapping and predator calling class at Tuttle Creek State Park


Learn ins and outs of hunting furbearers during free class


Tuttle Creek State Park staff invite you to join them February 21 for an afternoon class on basic trapping and predator calling. The class will be held from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the state park office, 5800 A River Pond Rd, Manhattan. All ages and skill levels are welcome and there is no cost or preregistration required to attend. For more information on this class, contact park manager Todd Lovin at (785) 539-7941.

“Our hope is to get new folks interested and involved in this type of activity,” said Lovin. “And for those who are experienced, we hope this class will serve as a way to refine their skills and perhaps share techniques.”

Kansas is home to 14 furbearer species that may be hunted and trapped during the furbearer season, including badger, bobcat, gray fox, least weasel, long-tailed weasel, mink, muskrat, opossum, raccoon, red fox, striped skunk and swift fox. Beaver and otter may also be trapped. Although coyotes are not classified as furbearers, they may be hunted and trapped year-round.

This class will not certify participants for a furharvester education certificate, but information provided will be beneficial for those interested in completing a furharvester education class in the future. The Kansas Furharvester Education course can be completed online at


USDA Accepting Applications for the Conservation Stewardship Program


The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will make available $100 million this year through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and although applications are accepted all year, farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners should submit applications by February 27, 2015, to ensure they are considered for this year’s funding.

“CSP is a way of encouraging farmers, ranchers, and private forest managers who maintain a high level of conservation on their land and agree to adopt higher levels of stewardship,” said Eric B. Banks, NRCS State Conservationist in Kansas. “By focusing on multiple resource concerns, landowners are able to achieve a sustainable landscape and maintain or increase the productivity of their operations.”

Through CSP, participants take additional conservation steps to improve the resource conditions on their land, including soil, air and habitat quality, water quality and quantity, and energy conservation.

The 2014 Farm Bill brought changes to CSP including an expanded conservation activity list that will offer participants greater options to meet their conservation needs and protect the natural resources on their land. These conservation activities, called enhancements, include cover crops, intensive rotational grazing, and wildlife-friendly fencing.

CSP will also help broaden the impacts of NRCS Landscape Conservation Initiatives through a new pilot effort, which accelerates private lands conservation activities to address particular goals, such as creating habitat for at-risk species and conserving water. In Kansas, they include the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative and the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative.

Applications should be submitted to local NRCS offices. As part of the CSP application process, applicants will work with NRCS field personnel to complete a resource inventory of their land, which will help determine the conservation performance for existing and new conservation activities. To be eligible for this year’s enrollment, eligible landowners and operators in Kansas must have their applications submitted to NRCS by the February 27, 2015, closing date.

A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, stewardship threshold requirements, stewardship threshold requirements, and payment types.

For the checklist and additional information, visit the CSP Web site or visit your local USDA NRCS office.

Highlighting the Overland Park Kansas Stream Team

Topeka Shiner, female, from Overland Park Kansas Stream Team.

Topeka Shiner, female, from Overland Park Kansas Stream Team.

It’s not too soon to think about Kansas streams for 2015. They will be running again soon as the ice gives way to warmer temperatures. Time to recommit to learn more or to help Kansas Streams.

Check out the Watershed Institute for valuable ideas and opportunities for you and your middle schoolers.