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Daily Archives: August 1, 2016

Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams announces new Executive Director

 

The Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams, a non profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the natural heritage and resources of Kansas, is pleased to announce that Jessica Mounts of Cheney, KS has been named as its new Executive Director. Mounts will fill the vacancy left by Jeff Neel, who will continue his work with KAWS as Program Director of Applied Research, Restoration and Monitoring.

 

Mounts’ resume includes twelve years of experience in fisheries, water conservation and natural resources, as well as successful leadership building teams and programs. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology from Newman University, earned a miniMaster’s of Public Administration at Wichita State University, and is a graduate of the KU Emerging Leaders Academy.

 

“We are very pleased to announce this appointment,” says Brad Loveless, Board Chairman for KAWS. “Jessica’s experience involving the coordination of multiple partners, landowners, funding sources and volunteers to build and maintain successful projects will bring continued success to the mission of KAWS. I am confident that her energy, enthusiasm and skills will be an asset to KAWS as we move forward from our recent reorganization and continue to develop additional program areas.”

 

Most recently, Mounts was a key partner in working with the National Park Service to designate the Arkansas River as a National Water Trail, and campaigned for funding to build the first fish passage structure in Kansas on the Arkansas River in Wichita. Her diverse experience includes multiple conservation projects, public service and volunteering, serving on the Friends of the Great Plains Nature Center Board of Directors, and multiple publications, including “A Pocket Guide to the Stream Fishes of Kansas”.

Threatened birds recovering thanks to Endangered Species Act protection

 

But lack of resources puts Hawaiian birds at high risk

 

By Steve Holmer

American Bird Conservancy

 

A report released today by American Bird Conservancy contains some good news for U.S. mainland birds: 78 percent of the birds listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) have populations that are now stable, increasing, or have recovered enough to be delisted. The Endangered Species Act: A Record of Success analyzes population trends and recovery success for all U.S. listed birds, including those in the Hawaiian Islands and U.S. territories.

 

“Thanks to the Endangered Species Act, twice as many populations of listed birds are increasing as are decreasing,” said Steve Holmer, Senior Policy Advisor for American Bird Conservancy and the author of the report. “Meanwhile, species such as the Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, and Brown Pelican have rebounded sufficiently to be taken off the list of endangered species.”

 

“This is a strong signal that the ESA works,” Holmer said.

 

But the report also shows the continuing problems for listed Hawaiian birds, many of whom face severe threats. Nine listed Hawaiian bird species are currently in decline. Overall, the ESA recovery success rate* for Hawaiian birds is 52 percent, only two-thirds of the recovery rate for mainland birds.

 

“The dire situation for Hawaiian endangered birds is in part a result of inadequate recovery spending. Hawaiian birds account for more than 25 percent of all listed birds, but received only 6.7 percent of federal recovery spending for birds in 2014,” said George Wallace, American Bird Conservancy’s Vice President for Oceans and Islands. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been working diligently to increase its recovery efforts in Hawaii, and is now spending 18.4 percent of its bird recovery funds on Hawaiian birds, but the population trends indicate still more needs to be done to reverse current declines.”

 

The report also reveals that both mainland and Hawaiian bird populations can recover when adequate resources are made available. The recovery status of the Bald Eagle, Brown Pelican, Western Snowy Plover, San Clemente Bell’s Sparrow, Golden-cheeked Warbler, Black-capped Vireo, Interior Least Tern, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Steller’s Eider, Millerbird, Hawaiian Crow, Hawaii Creeper, and Nihoa Finch have all improved since 2006, when ABC produced a similar analysis of the ESA’s effectiveness.

 

ABC staff are engaged in recovery efforts for Hawaiian birds, including Palila, a rare native honeycreeper that was among the first species to be listed under the ESA. “To prevent the extinction of Palila, we are working with the State of Hawaii to protect and restore habitat from non-native sheep that damage and kill the native trees used by the birds for food and nesting,” said Chris Farmer, American Bird Conservancy’s Hawaii Program Director. “And for the Millerbird, a successful translocation from Nihoa to Laysan Island was completed in 2012, increasing this species’ chances for survival.”

 

Even though the Endangered Species Act is working, it is under attack by some members of Congress.  In recent years, individual species such as the Greater Sage-Grouse have been targeted for listing exemptions to prevent ESA protection.

 

“Instead of undermining this effective law, Congress needs to increase funding for species recovery,” said Holmer. “With so many listed bird species showing increased populations, there is hope that we will soon see more of these species no longer needing the emergency protections of the ESA.”

 

*The ESA recovery success rate is defined as the number of stable, increasing, and delisted species divided by the total of species extinct after listing, declining, stable, increasing, delisted, and unknown.

Aerial surveys document stable Lesser Prairie-chicken population trends

Biologists note annual population fluctuations, emphasize value of improved habitat

 

The latest lesser prairie-chicken survey shows bird population trends remain stable after five years of aerial survey data collection. The surveys indicated an estimated breeding population of 25,261 birds this year which scientists say is not significantly different from the 29,162 birds estimated in 2015 given the variability in the survey methodology. This spring’s breeding population remains significantly larger than the 17,616 birds that were estimated in 2013 following two years of severe drought.

 

Lesser-prairie chickens can be found in four ecoregions in five states: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Wildlife biologists note prairie chicken numbers regularly fluctuate up and down from year to year due to changes in habitat conditions mainly influenced by rainfall patterns. The surveys this year indicated apparent population increases in the shinnery oak ecoregion of eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle and the sand sagebrush ecoregion of southeast Colorado and southwest Kansas. The lesser prairie-chicken populations in these regions experienced the most decline as a result of the 2011-2012 drought. Population decreases were observed in the mixed-grass prairie ecoregion of the northeast Panhandle of Texas, northwest Oklahoma and south-central Kansas, and the short-grass prairie region of northwest Kansas.

 

“Just as with last year’s population increase, we shouldn’t read too much into short-term fluctuations over one or two years,” said Bill Van Pelt, WAFWA grassland coordinator. “The monitoring technique used for this survey is designed to track trends, and both the three and five-year trends still indicate a stable population. Lesser prairie-chickens inhabit a large geographic landscape with highly variable weather patterns, so we expect to see annual and regional population fluctuations. What these numbers show is the importance of maintaining good prairie habitat for long-term population stability. Populations have responded positively in recent years to increased and timely rainfall in portions of the bird’s range most affected by the 2011-2012 drought. Specifically, the population has significantly increased over the last three years in the sand sagebrush ecoregion. Voluntary conservation efforts like the range-wide plan help to ensure that suitable habitat is available so these population increases can occur when weather conditions are suitable.”

 

The Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Plan is a collaborative effort of WAFWA and state wildlife agencies of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. It was developed to ensure long-term viability of the lesser prairie-chicken through voluntary cooperation by landowners and industry. The plan allows industry to continue operations while reducing and mitigating impacts to the bird and its grassland habitat. Industry contributions support conservation actions implemented by participating private landowners. To date, industry partners have committed over $60 million in enrollment and mitigation fees to pay for conservation actions, and landowners across the range have agreed to conserve over 130,000 acres of habitat through 10-year and permanent conservation agreements.

 

“With continued improvement in nesting and brood-rearing habitat associated with good weather conditions and private landowner conservation actions, we are optimistic about the lesser prairie-chicken’s future,” said Alexa Sandoval, chairman of WAFWA’s Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative Council. “Habitat conservation and species recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. We appreciate the continued commitment of all of our partners in our ongoing conservation efforts.”

WAFWA news releases available at http://www.wafwa.org/news/

 

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan can be found HERE

 

Since 1922, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has advanced conservation in western North America. Representing 23 western states and Canadian provinces, WAFWA’s reach encompasses more than 40 percent of North America, including two-thirds of the United States. Drawing on the knowledge of scientists across the West, WAFWA is recognized as the expert source for information and analysis about western wildlife. WAFWA supports sound resource management and building partnerships at all levels to conserve native wildlife for the use and benefit of all citizens, now and in the future.