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Monthly Archives: May 2015

NRCS announces $235 million available for innovative new conservation partnerships

 

Local Partners Can Now Apply for Second Round of Funding to Improve Soil Health, Preserve Clean Water, Combat Drought, and Protect Wildlife Habitat

 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced an investment of up to $235 million to improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat, and protect agricultural viability. The funding is being made available through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), the newest conservation tool of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS is now accepting pre-proposals for the second round of funding for RCPP. The deadline is July 8, 2015.

Through RCPP, partners propose conservation projects to improve natural resources on private lands. For proposals in Kansas, resource priorities include fish and wildlife habitat, plant condition, soil health, water quantity, and water quality.

RCPP, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, empowers local leaders to work with multiple partners—such as private companies, local and tribal governments, universities, non-profit groups and other non-government partners—along with farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to design solutions that work best for their region. Local partners and the federal government both invest funding and manpower into projects to maximize their impact. The RCPP program helps USDA build on an already record enrollment in conservation programs, with over 500,000 producers participating to protect land and water on over 400 million acres nationwide.

“This is a new, innovative approach to conservation,” said Kansas NRCS State Conservationist Eric B. Banks. “RCPP allows local partners the opportunity to design and invest in conservation projects specifically tailored for the resource concerns here in Kansas. These partnership efforts keep our land and water clean, and promote tremendous economic growth in agriculture, construction, tourism, and other industries. We encourage partners to visit NRCS about any questions they may have regarding RCPP.”

For more information on applying, visit the RCPP website. To learn about technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or local USDA service center. For more on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/FarmBill.

The sage-grouse front

 

By Garett Reppenhagen

From The Hill

 

I had to wrack my brain to be sure, but I am:  In all my time in the military, including as a sniper inIraq, I can’t recall a sage-grouse being a part of my unit, or any unit.  And I certainly cannot recall any sage-grouse being dishonorably discharged or selling military secrets to our enemies.

The only reason I went back to make sure of that is because, somehow, language aimed at ending protection of the bird and its habitat has been submitted as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which funds our military, and takes care of the men and women in it.

While there are a lot of people working on conservation of the bird, and obviously some opposed, that’s not the issue. The issue is using an inappropriate venue to advance a political agenda of some western legislators on the backs of men and women in uniform.

Understanding that a stand-alone bill is likely dead, the sage-grouse amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), seems bent on shoe-horning in his political will on the rest of the nation, while doing nothing to advance the cause of better funding for ground forces, better pay for active duty personnel or restoring housing allowance cuts that put our military forces close to the poverty line. That is what the focus of the NDAA should be—not sage-grouse.

Regardless of all of that, the military has successfully been working to protect vital habitat for sensitive species for decades, anyway. Endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers have co-existed at Camp Lejeune with Marines since 1970 – even longer than the Endangered Species Act has been in existence. Despite the rhetoric from the amendment’s sponsor, the military can, has, and will continue to coexist with the indigenous animal population around its training grounds.  It simply isn’t a very big deal.

In fact, Joshua Brandon, Project Cohort Program Manager, former Army Infantry Officer, and three-time Iraq veteran, recently spoke to the sage-grouse directly: “In the four years I trained for combat operations at the Yakima Training Center in Washington as an infantry company commander and battalion operations officer, the sage-grouse never once negatively impacted our unit training and combat readiness. Even during times of increased operational tempo, with multiple units constantly using the training center, we worked with local land managers to alter the execution of our training to account for the sage-grouse restrictions.

Combining operational adaptability with a bit of imagination, we were able to conduct major live fire operations on alternate sites, and when the sage-grouse restricted areas were in required training areas, we altered the scenario to regard these zones as sensitive cultural sites, minefields, or severely restrictive terrain that actually enhanced our younger leader’s operational training experience.”

When you consider the facts, it is clear that the sage-grouse is one of the many issues tacked onto the NDAA that are not relevant to America’s security needs. As a result, one of the most important bills in Washington is at risk of being packed with favors for special interests. Americans, and our men and women in uniform, know this bill is too important to be meddled with. It should be focused on our military’s need – not the needs of special interest groups.

It’s a sad commentary on a sad time in Washington that hot meals for our troops have to take a back seat to one legislator’s campaign against a western bird.  Just when you think Congress’ approval ratings can’t get any lower, they go and try to pull a stunt like this.

If we must address the issue of the sage-grouse, now, then the best possible option is for all stakeholders – federal agencies (like the Bureau of Land Management, the Dept. of Agriculture, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), state agencies, local governments, sportsmen, ranchers, businesspeople, and private landowners – work together to create viable management plans to protect sage grouse habitat and bolster sage-grouse populations.

At the first sign of the sage-grouse’s interest in joining al Qaeda, or even if it just leaves its post without permission from a superior, we can talk about ending protections for the bird as a part of the military funding bill.  Heck, if a sage-grouse forgets to bring extra socks and won’t shut up about its feet, I might even write a whole op-ed about how we should end protection for it.

Until that time, the best option for our military is for leaders like Rep. Bishop to set aside special interest politics when setting our most important priorities.

Reppenhagen served as a U.S. Army cavalry scout sniper in the 1st Infantry Division in Kosovo and Iraq and currently works as the Rocky Mountain director of Vet Voice Foundation.

Which species is this?

Do you know the name of this sneaky little songbird? Photo by Linda Petersen via Birdshare

 

Despite this small brown bird’s unassuming looks, this is one of the most notorious songbirds in North America. That oddly sharp, thick, black bill is one distinctive feature.

 

You’ll also get a clue from seeing its eggs—although you won’t learn anything by looking for its nest.

 

Do you know which species this is? Check your guess and learn more from the NestWatch project.

The reason sea levels are rising faster

Scientists say carbon emissions must fall quickly to avoid ‘worst-case scenario’ sea-level rise

By Emily J. Gertz

TakePart

 

Sea-level rise has sped up over the past decade and continues to accelerate at a rate of about 12 percent a year.

For the first time, scientists have been able to show that the reality of sea-level rise aligns closely with projections made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said Christopher S. Watson, a climate scientist at the University of Tasmania in Australia and coauthor of the new research, published Monday in the journal Nature.

The IPCC is the United Nations’ scientific group for assessing the advance and impacts of climate change.

For coastal nations, accelerating sea-level rise could mean more deaths and injuries—as well as greater damages—from storm surges and flooding in the next several decades.

“In Australia, there’s about $226 billion worth of infrastructure in the way of that sea-level rise, and that’s before you take into account the ecosystems,” Watson said. Looking to the northern hemisphere, “Hurricane Sandy is a good example [that] the previously once-in-a-lifetime floods are going to become a lot more frequent.”

Two hundred thirty-three people died in the U.S., Canada, and Caribbean nations during 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, which caused almost $1 trillion in direct damages—including more than $68 billion in the New York metropolitan area alone.

With the New York area’s sea level already a foot higher than it was a century ago, experts have estimated that powerfully destructive storms on the order of Sandy will occur up to four times more often by the time a baby born today is 85.

Last year, the think tank Global Climate Forum estimated that globally the dollar costs of sea-level-related disasters could rise from $25 billion per year (on average) to upwards of $100,000 billion per year by 2100. Countries must increase their spending on flood and storm protections by tens of billions of dollars, the group recommended, to cut the deaths, injuries, and economic costs of such climate change–driven disasters.

But barring a major reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the next few decades, Watson said, the world is on track to hit the IPCC’s “worst-case scenario” of a three-foot global sea-level rise by 2100.

The earlier projections, which suggested that sea-level rise was slowing down, did not factor in that larger geological forces cause land in many places to sink or rise, Watson said. “To achieve the accuracy that we want for sea-level studies, you have to take into account those very small motions,” he said, even if it’s only a few tenths of an inch per year.

To get an accurate picture of sea-level rise, Watson and his colleagues combined measurements from tide gauges around the world—the traditional method for tracking sea levels—with global positioning system measurements of land height since 1993. The combined data reduced the figures for mean sea-level rise by 15 percent, from 0.13 inches a year to between 0.09 and 0.11 inches. But by taking into account land motion, the scientists demonstrated that total sea-level rise is accelerating by 0.002 inches a year.

International negotiations are already under way to reach a binding global treaty on controlling greenhouse gas emissions. They will come to a head late in 2015 at a Paris conference. Observers already fear that whatever comes out of these talks will be too weak to hold off the worst impacts of climate change.

Rising temperatures, caused by burning fossil fuels, are raising sea levels in two primary ways. Oceans, which cover 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, are absorbing about 90 percent of the increased heat, causing seawater to expand and take up more room in the ocean basins.

The higher temperatures have also increased the melt rate of the world’s two largest ice sheets, on Greenland and West Antarctica, as well as mountain glaciers worldwide. Eventually, water from these land-based stores flows into the ocean, raising the sea level further.

“It’s like turning on another tap in the bathtub,” said Watson.

The next step in the research is to look more closely at regional rates of sea-level rise, which can vary considerably owing to local geology, ocean currents, and other factors, he said, so that nations and cities can plan effectively for an even hotter, wetter future.

“I think that our agencies, regionally, need to consider the impact of rising sea level and plan accordingly,” Watson said. “The community has the right to consistent info on these things. I think there are parts of the world where that information has been inconsistent.”

“Adaption is going to happen,” he added. “Sea level is rising, full stop. We need to be able to adapt, and the community needs better information to be able to do so.”

This land is YOUR land: Tell Congress to stop attacking it

From The Wilderness Society

 

America’s shared public lands are under unprecedented assault from anti-conservationists in Congress. In the past few months, we have witnessed near-weekly attacks fueled by special interest lobbyists, bent on gaining access to our wildest lands in order to turn them over to the highest bidder.

Even as you read this, a vocal group in Congress—led by Representative Rob Bishop and Senator Lisa Murkowski—is working to give away our public lands so they can be logged, drilled, mined and otherwise developed. Rep. Bishop has even founded a lawmaker working group with the specific goal of taking over federal wildlands.

 

Today, we remind you that This Land is Your Land—and you can help defend it.

 

The months ahead will be a battleground for conservation as more of their measures surface for consideration in Congress. With your help, we will not be outnumbered.

If America’s lands are handed over to special interests, they’re lost forever. Your voice matters because these are your lands. Without your help, our national forests, wildlife refuges and other wildlands could be mined, drilled, clear-cut and sold off.

Tell your members of Congress to push back on the assault against wildlands—remind them that This Land is Your Land!

New film released: Co2ld Waters

We wanted to share with you the release of a new film by Conservation Hawks, a group of hunters and anglers working to defend America’s sporting heritage - - Co2ld Waters, a 10-minute film shot on a spectacular southwestern Montana spring creek, celebrates the joy and passion of fly fishing while discussing threats to the sport, including those of climate change.

 

About the film: In October 2014, five respected fly fishermen – Craig Mathews of Blue Ribbon Flies, Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, Steve Hemkens of Orvis, Tim Romano of Angling Trade, and Todd Tanner of Conservation Hawks – came together to fish for wild trout and share their thoughts on angling and climate change. Cold Waters, which is a collaboration between Conservation Hawks and the cinematic team at Conservation Media, focuses on our responsibility to protect cold, clean waters and healthy landscapes, and to stand up for future generations of Americans. The movie has been touring the U.S. as part of the 2015 Fly Fishing Film Tour.

 

Cold Waters was made with unprecedented support from the fly fishing industry. The film’s sponsors included iconic brands, businesses and organizations like Patagonia, Orvis, Scientific Anglers, Costa, Winston, Sage, RIO, Redington, Abel, AFFTA, National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited, TroutHunter, Linehan Outfitting Co., Sweetwater Travel Co., WorldCast Anglers, Emerald Water Anglers, Hatch Magazine, The Lodge at Palisades Creek, Angling Trade Magazine and Blue Ribbon Flies.

 

You can watch the film on Vimeo: vimeo.com/124560152 or YouTube: youtu.be/9NSkPWfhdsg.

 

Contact KWF at info@kswildlife.org if you are interested in educational opportunities surrounding the film’s release.

17-year cicadas to provide feast for insect-eating birds

 

From The Birding Wire

 

For 17 years, a particular brood of cicada nymphs tunneled through the soil, sucked sap from roots, and grew from ant-like specks into bumblebee-sized nymphs. They will emerge by the thousands this spring in western Missouri and transform into winged adult insects, with male cicadas raising a raspy racket as they serenade females.

Periodical cicadas pose no threat to people and minimal threats to trees. But early summer will be abuzz with sound where 17-year cicadas emerge, said Rob Lawrence, forest entomologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).

“In some places they make a pretty loud noise,” Lawrence said.

 

Periodic cicadas have distinctive red eyes, black bodies,

and are slightly smaller than the annual cicadas that

appear each year in late summer

 

The cicadas will begin emerging from the soil in early to mid-May, depending on how quickly weather conditions warm soil temperature. Current conditions could prompt the emergence to begin May 10 to May 12 in the Kansas City and St. Joseph areas, he said, though warm temperatures could hasten emergence.

Cicada nymphs will open half-inch holes in the soil surface as they emerge. Some may build three- to five-inch tall mud chimneys above their holes. Wingless nymphs will climb up on trees and other objects, shed their exoskeletons, and become adults with wings. That leaves brownish paper shells that resemble shed skins attached to trees, porches and posts.

Adults will climb or fly into trees. Males will join together to form choruses to attract females. Or consider it a jam session with instruments. Male cicadas rapidly flex two drum-like structures in their abdomens called tymbals. The flexing produces a click, and the clicks come so fast it produces a raspy hum. They sing during the day with the loudest drone rising during the hottest part of the day.

Annual cicadas appear each year and their drone ebbs and flows in the tree tops. But annual cicadas appear later in the summer than the periodical variety, Lawrence said. Periodical cicadas will be prevalent in late May and June; annual cicadas appear in July and August.

Periodical cicadas are so named because the broods emerge in 13-year or 17-year cycles. This 17-year brood emergence is occurring in an area that extends from Iowa to Texas and includes western Missouri and eastern Kansas. A 13-year emergence is also occurring in southeast Missouri and portions of other states. But the two broods are not expected to overlap.

Striking red eyes and blackish bodies distinguish periodical cicadas. Annual cicadas have greenish bodies, dark eyes and are about two inches long. Periodical cicadas are slightly smaller. Both types of cicadas include various species.

Periodical cicadas will not appear in all locations within the brood emergence area, Lawrence said. A field or yard that did not have trees 17 years ago, or perhaps even 34 years ago, would not have provided a place for females to lay eggs and for the nymphs to hatch and drop to the soil. Also, soil condition changes such as severe drought or construction disturbance could reduce the number of nymphs.

However, in some areas with favorable conditions, periodical cicadas could appear by the hundreds or even thousands. Such large, periodic emergences provide a feast for creatures that feed on insects. Wild turkeys will eat nymphs, so will fish where cicadas drop into the water. The large emergences are an evolutionary adaptation that lets the species survive by overwhelming predators with sheer numbers and a lengthy emergence cycle, Lawrence said.

Cicadas can affect trees. Females cut narrow slits in small branches and lay eggs in the slits. This can cause stress for limbs. Large, mature trees are generally not greatly affected. Although homeowners may notice some browned and broken branch tips, which is called flagging. Young trees can be harmed, and fruit trees can be stressed, because they have small branches favored by females for egg laying.

MDC foresters do not recommend using insecticides for cicadas. Small or newly-planted trees and shrubs can be covered with mesh and tied at the trunk. To reduce stress issues, homeowners should water young trees well during summer’s hot and dry months, Lawrence said.

Back in 1998, when the parents of this 17-year cicada brood were mating, an adjacent 13-year brood also emerged. But that overlap only occurs once every 221 years, Lawrence said.

This emergence will not be as large but will still be noisy. Adults emerging from the nymph shells will be soft at first. But within hours their wings and exoskeleton will dry and harden. They will then begin making the next generation that will sing in 2032.

“Once they get out, they’ll be singing in the trees for a while and make the racket,” Lawrence said.

For more information on periodical cicadas, visit mdc.mo.gov/node/12097 or magicicada.org. Video from a 2011 periodic cicada emergence in central Missouri is available at youtube.com/watch?v=Ve3NvNy17yk

130 organizations deliver letter opposing cuts to conservation

From National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

 

On Tuesday, May 5, more than 130 organizations from around the country urged the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees to oppose cuts to farm bill conservation funding in fiscal year (FY) 2016 appropriations legislation. The letter was sent by a broad range of groups, including the American Seed Trade Association, National Farmers Union, American Society of Agronomy, Alabama Association of Conservation Districts, National Wildlife Federation, Kansas Rural Center, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and many others in addition to NSAC.

Congressional appropriators are currently drafting their FY 2016 agriculture appropriations bills, which we expect to see sometime in late May or early June. In previous years, appropriators have used a back-door budget gimmick called “Changes in Mandatory Program Spending (CHIMPS)” to cut farm bill direct spending, which is under the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Committees, not the Appropriations Committees. The FY 2015 Appropriations Act, for instance, cut the 2014 Farm Bill’s funding for conservation by nearly $600 million; and the FY 2016 proposal from President Obama would use CHIMPS to cut it even further, by $860 million. These cuts have direct impacts on farmers, ranchers, and foresters across the country. They mean more water pollution, less wildlife habitat, and more expensive environmental mitigation in the future.

“The undersigned organizations oppose re-opening the farm bill and thus urge you to protect farm bill conservation program mandatory funding as you consider agriculture appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2016,” the letter states. “The President’s proposal is shortsighted and would severely limit the capacity of farmers, ranchers, and foresters to conserve water, maintain their soil, and produce abundant food and fiber.”

Even without any additional CHIMPS, mandatory spending for farm bill conservation programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, Regional Conservation Partnership Program, and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program will be automatically cut by upwards of $250 million through sequestration.

As the Subcommittees develop FY 2016 appropriations bills, NSAC and partners will continue to fight against conservation CHIMPS.

$58 million approved to protect waterfowl and other bird species

 

From the Outdoor News Daily

 

The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission today approved $58 million in funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners to purchase, lease or otherwise conserve more than 200,000 acres of wetland and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds across North America.

“Wetlands provide vital habitat for wildlife, purify groundwater and protect communities from storms,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Michael Bean. “With so many millions of acres of wetlands lost over the years, it is impossible to overstate the importance of North American Wetlands Conservation Act and Duck Stamp funding in setting aside and conserving them. We all benefit from healthier ecosystems and more abundant fish and wildlife.”

Of the total funds approved by the commission, $25 million will be provided through North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants to conserve more than 85,000 acres of wetlands and adjoining areas in 16 states. NAWCA is the only federal grant program dedicated to the conservation of wetland habitats for migratory birds. To date, funds have advanced conservation of nearly 8 million acres of wetland habitats and their wildlife in all 50 states, engaging more than 3,300 partners in nearly 1,000 projects. NAWCA grants are funded through federal appropriations, as well as fines, penalties and forfeitures collected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; from federal fuel excise taxes on small gasoline engines, as directed by the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act; and from interest accrued on Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act funds.

Examples of projects include:

Texas Gulf Coast: This project will restore and enhance an additional 2,800 acres of wetland habitat on private and public lands, providing important migration, wintering and breeding habitat for more than 304 bird species.

North Dakota Great Plains: This project is phase eight of a multi-year effort to establish, enhance and protect valuable wetland and associated upland habitat. This phase will conserve more than 13,000 acres of habitat for northern pintail, long-billed curlew, mallard and many other species.

Virginia/North Carolina: The ACC Wetlands Conservation Initiative will conserve 2,745 acres of diverse habitat, including bottomland cypress-gum swamp, emergent wetlands and pine forest. Habitat for 10 priority or high priority waterfowl species will be protected, including canvasback, black duck and greater scaup.

Grants made through this program require matching investments; the projects approved today will leverage an additional $58 million in non-federal matching funds.

Many bird species spend parts of their life cycles outside the United States, meaning effective conservation must address the needs of these species beyond our national boundaries. This is why projects funded through NAWCA occur throughout North America, to ensure a comprehensive approach to the protection of migratory birds and their habitats. This year, the commission approved a total of $21.6 million for 12 projects in Canada and $2.7 million for 12 projects in Mexico.

The commission also approved expenditures of $8.8 million from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to conserve 16,044 acres for nine national wildlife refuges, through fee-title land acquisitions and lease renewals. These funds were raised largely through the sale of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, commonly known as “Duck Stamps.” For every dollar spent on Federal Duck Stamps, 98 cents go directly to acquire or lease habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The Duck Stamp program has been in place since 1934 and has raised more than $800 million to acquire more than 6 million acres for the National Wildlife Refuge System. The 2015-2016 Duck Stamp will go on sale June 26.

The commission also welcomed new members: Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM) is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, an avid sportsman, and a member of the Congressional Sportsman’s Caucus. He was appointed to the commission in January. Rep. Mike Thompson (CA) was appointed to the commission in March, replacing Rep. John Dingell (MI), who served on the commission from 1969 until his retirement in 2014. Thompson was a co-author of NAWCA and was recently inducted into the California Waterfowler Hall of Fame.