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Daily Archives: September 14, 2017

Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and National Wildlife Federation join forces for conservation

 

During the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) Annual Banquet & Auction on September 13, CSF and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in order to enhance the organizations’ shared goals of advancing wildlife conservation across the country.

 

This partnership will combine CSF’s ties to conservation-minded federal and state legislators with NWF’s six million members and supporters to ensure healthy fish and wildlife habitats through science-based policies and management.

 

“The National Wildlife Federation has been committed to safeguarding and improving habitats for fish and wildlife for over 80 years,” said CSF President Jeff Crane. “CSF looks forward to strengthening our partnership and working closely with the Federation and its state affiliates to advance opportunities for conservation funding for fish and wildlife as well as ensuring public access to public and private lands.”

 

“The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s bold leadership in Congress, with Governors, and in state legislatures has proven that there is no issue with greater bipartisan support than conservation,” said Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation President. “The National Wildlife Federation and our affiliates are proud to join forces with CSF on the Hill and in states across the country to expand hunting and fishing opportunities, increase America’s wildlife populations, and promote proactive, collaborative conservation.”

 

About CSF

 

Since 1989, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has maintained a singleness of purpose that has guided the organization to become the most respected and trusted sportsmen’s organization in the political arena. CSF’s mission is to work with Congress, governors, and state legislatures to protect and advance hunting, angling, recreational shooting and trapping. The unique and collective force of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC), the Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus (GSC) and the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC), working closely with CSF, and with the support of major hunting, angling, recreational shooting and trapping organizations, serves as an unprecedented network of pro-sportsmen elected officials that advance the interests of America’s hunters and anglers.

 

About NWF

 

The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization, with over six million members and supporters and 51 state and territorial affiliates, working to unite all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly changing world. NWF and its affiliates are dedicated to increasing wildlife populations by protecting, restoring, and restoring land and water habitats, transforming wildlife conservation, and connecting all Americans with wildlife, especially children, through outdoor experiences, Ranger Rick magazines, and environmental education.

What happened to the tiny Key deer during Hurricane Irma?

 

By David Goodhue

Miami Herald

 

The federally protected Key deer were exposed to Hurricane Irma and authorities will assess their situation when it’s safe to return to the Keys.

 

Dan Clark superintendent of the National Key Deer Refuge, said his first priority as the massive storm approached was to evacuate National Wildlife Refuge personnel assigned to the area.

 

“After we receive information from Monroe County that it is safe to return and we can inhabit the Lower Keys, a post-storm assessment of our facilities and residences will be conducted to determine if we can operate,” Clark said.

 

The small deer, whose estimated numbers range from 800 to 1,000, live mostly on the Lower Keys islands of Big Pine Key and Little Torch Key.

 

It’s been a traumatic couple of years for the Keys treasures. First, after a nasty infection by the larvae of a parasitic fly called the screwworm began to infest the population in the fall of 2016. Not only did the screwworm take out a significant portion of the already-sensitive local deer population, it killed the animals slowly and painfully.

 

The infestation was finally eliminated after scientists released roughly 124 million sterile screwworm flies to mate with wild flies. The mating process results in eggs that never hatch. Five months after introducing the lab-made flies, the screwworm problem was over.

 

Then, earlier this summer, two young men - one from Miami-Dade County and the other from Broward - were arrested in Little Torch Key July 2 after a traffic stop by a Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputy revealed three live deer stowed in their car. Two does were in the back seat of the Hyundai Sonata, and a buck was in vehicle’s trunk.

 

The buck was badly injured in the ordeal and wildlife officials euthanized him. The men face federal poaching charges.

 

Now comes Irma, which has raked much of the Keys with its high winds, hard rain and damaging storm surges. The key deer habitat is only about 15 miles east of where Irma’s eye made landfall in the Keys Sunday morning.

What’s become of the key deer is not known. But, Clark said, not much could have been done to protect the wild animals from Mother Nature.

 

“Since the federal-trust resources on the Keys refuge are wild, we do not have specific plans to collect any deer,” Clark said. “We do not have the capacity to do so and husbandry following the hurricane would be extremely difficult.”

 

Like all other agencies planning to come back down to the Keys post-Irma, Clark said he and his staff have no idea what types of conditions to which they are returning so they can’t adequately plan their response when it comes to the deer.

 

“We will assess the status of all refuge resources when it is safe to do so and we have the ability to do so,” Clark said.

NWF taps Montana Governor’s top aide to lead Public Lands program

 

Tracy Stone-Manning, the former chief of staff for Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and a longtime conservationist, is the new associate vice president for public lands at the National Wildlife Federation.

 

Stone-Manning, who started work Monday, heads the national public lands team, whose staffers are based in the National Wildlife Federation’s Rocky Mountain Regional Center in Denver and in Washington, D.C.

 

The job was elevated to an associate vice president position to reflect the importance of protecting public lands to the organization’s mission and the broadening of the public lands work across the country, said Collin O’Mara, the National Wildlife Federation’s president and CEO.

 

“Tracy Stone-Manning is one the most effective conservation leaders in America and the National Wildlife Federation is fortunate to have her leading one of our most important conservation priorities - protecting and improving the management of America’s public lands,” O’Mara added. “Tracy’s extensive experience will be invaluable as the Federation and our state affiliates expand our public lands program nationwide and work with Congress and the administration to conserve and enhance our outdoor heritage.”

 

Before serving as Bullock’s chief of staff, Stone-Manning was his director of the Department of Environmental Quality. She was also a natural resources adviser and state director for Montana Sen. Jon Tester.  From 1999-2007, she was the director of the Clark Fork Coalition in Missoula, Mont., where she spearheaded the successful effort to remove a dam at the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers, as well as advocated successfully for a $120 million cleanup of the upper Clark Fork.

 

“I’m thrilled to be part of an organization that has such a deep commitment to our nation’s conservation heritage,” said Stone-Manning. “I look forward to growing support for our nation’s public lands, which are key to ensuring our ability to pass that legacy on to future generations.”

 

The National Wildlife Federation and its state and territorial affiliates have worked for years to prevent the sale and transfer of national public lands to the states or private owners, O’Mara said. The organization’s more than 6 million members and supporters are committed to seeing that our country’s public lands legacy, built over more than a century, remains intact and that we improve management to ensure that our fish and wildlife populations survive and thrive, he added.

 

“With her background and experience with Americans of all political stripes,” O’Mara said, “Tracy is the absolute right person to lead the National Wildlife Federation’s efforts to conserve public lands. Now more than ever, we must increase collaboration among Americans across the political spectrum to improve the management and ensure sufficient funding for the places where we hunt, fish, paddle, hike, and connect to the natural world.”

 

Stone-Manning has lived in Montana since 1988. She earned a bachelor’s degree in radio, television and film from the University of Maryland and a master’s of science in environmental studies from the University of Montana. She started her career as an intern with the National Wildlife Federation in Washington D.C. in 1987. She is a hunter and hiker and is married to the writer Richard Manning.

 

Visit the National Wildlife Federation Media Center at NWF.org/News.

Flint Hills Nature Trail opens with Rush the Rails celebration

Where locomotives once chugged across the eastern-Kansas prairie, hikers, joggers and bicyclists can trek the same route today along the 95-mile Flint Hills Nature Trail. On Saturday, October 7, the long-awaited pathway celebrates its grand opening with relay races, bike rides and trail-wide festivities during its Rush the Rails event.

 

From trailhead to trailhead - starting at Osawatomie in the east to Council Grove in the west - competitive runners and recreational bikers will pass through welcoming small towns and stunning scenery. Four- and eight-person relay teams set out at 7:30 a.m. from John Brown Park in Osawatomie and run the entire 96-mile route (a short detour adds an extra mile to the 95-mile trail). Bikers, on the other hand, can choose from three distances: the full 96 miles starting at Osawatomie (7a.m.), 54 miles from Pomona State Park (8:30 a.m.), or 25 from Admire (10:30 a.m.), with all running and cycling events ending in Council Grove (pre-registration required by September 23 for all events).

“There’s so much beauty to see along the trail - from the eastern woodlands and the Marais des Cygnes River and its rocky bluffs on the east to the stunning Flint Hills on the west,” says LeLan Dains, Rush the Rails organizer, about the prairie pathway.

 

Dains also serves as operations manager for Dirty Kanza Promotions, which is helping manage Rush the Rails and is renowned for its annual Dirty Kanza 200 endurance ride through the Flint Hills. “We’re so pleased that Dirty Kanza, producers of its famous gravel grind, is helping to launch our trail and grand-opening event,” says Linda Craghead, assistant secretary of Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

 

Rush the Rails passes by 10 towns, among the largest Osawatomie, Ottawa, Pomona, Osage City, Admire and Council Grove. Osawatomie kicks off Rush the Rails Friday night, October 6, with a bonfire, free hot-dog roast and live music by the Route 66 band at John Brown Park. On Saturday, a musket firing starts the bike ride beginning at 7 a.m. at the park. To the west, Ottawa gears up with a street dance, food trucks and beer garden Friday night and vendors and kids’ bike activities on Saturday morning, when the participants will pass through.

 

Farther west, Pomona State Park hosts food and craft vendors and offers free park entrance for the day at Saturday’s Fall Festival. Osage City joins in with food and crafts booths, inflatable games for kids and an ice-cream social at Santa Fe Park. Admire, where the 25-mile short-distance bike ride begins, plans to open its North Lyon County Historical Museum for the day and serve refreshments.

 

Finally, Council Grove wraps it up with its Rush the Rails Finish Line Celebration at the town’s landscaped Neosho Riverwalk, a paved walkway that connects with the Flint Hills Nature Trail along the Neosho River banks. Day-long Riverwalk entertainment includes food vendors, kids’ games and bike rodeo, an Antique and Unique Bike Show, live music, a beer garden and fireworks along the river.

 

Organizers point out that the events in trailside towns aren’t just for the racers and bikers. “We want everyone to come to the finish line or along the trail and cheer these people on,” says Council Grove organizer Ricci Ziegler.

 

Linda Craghead adds, “Even if you can’t make it to Rush the Rails that day, we encourage you to check out the family-friendly trail any time and discover the scenic sections and quaint towns all along the way.”

 

Flint Hills Nature Trail has been a 15-year undertaking by the volunteer organization Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism and the Kansas Department of Transportation. Today, the crushed limestone corridor replaces a railway abandoned in the 1980s, but the charm of old rail bridges and other railroad remnants remain.

 

Scott Allen, vice president of Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy, bikes the 95-mile route and marvels at the diversity. “What makes this unique is the varied terrain you pass through,” he says.

 

The tree-canopied section at the east end follows along the scenic Marais des Cygnes River and its bridges, with pretty falls in the background. Pomona and beyond leads past remains of old railroad towns, Hobo Rock, and Melvern and Pomona lakes. Remnants of coal mines are visible from the trail in the Osage City area. Just 3 1/2 miles outside of Council Grove in the heart of the Flint Hills, the route skirts the 158-acre Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park, owned by the Kaw Nation, and its monument to the Unknown Kaw Warrior and ruins.

 

“The section through the Flint Hills is literally breathtaking,” Scott says. “You’re awed by what the Flint Hills truly has to offer. I like to say it’s the most isolated you can get in the Flint Hills without permission!”

 

Ricci Ziegler agrees: “Sunsets on the trail heading toward Council Grove are absolutely gorgeous. I love riding anywhere along the trail because of the amount of wildlife you see every time, sometimes foxes and coyotes, or maybe turkey and deer.”

 

The biking is easy, too, for all ages and ability, Ricci adds. “You don’t have to worry about vehicle traffic on the trail because it’s all non-motorized, and there’s never more than a 3-percent grade since it’s an old rail bed.”

 

Towns strategically dotted the old rail line about every 10 miles, giving today’s trail users regular stop-offs to visit local cafes and attractions.

 

The final phase, yet to be completed, will stretch the Flint Hills Nature Trail west from Council Grove to Herington, for a total length of 117 miles. While Flint Hills Nature Trail ranks as the longest in Kansas, other established rail trails pass through scenic sections of the state as well. “We’re looking forward to the grand opening of our newest trail, but urge people to experience all the great trails in Kansas,” says Linda Craghead.

 

Among other rail trails to explore:

-Prairie Spirit Trail, 52 miles long from Ottawa, where it intersects with the Flint Hills Nature Trail, to Iola.

-Southwind Rail Trail, located at the south end of the Prairie Spirit Trail at Iola, running 6 ½ miles to Humboldt.

-Landon Trail, includes five developed miles within the city of Topeka and eight miles in Shawnee County, eventually covering 38 miles and connecting with the Flint Hills Nature Trail near Pomona.

-Blue River Trail, starts at Marysville and run 13 miles north along the Big Blue River, connecting with Nebraska’s 68-mile Chief Standing Bear Trail at the Nebraska line.

-Prairie Sunset Trail, 15 miles through farm country from Garden Plain to Wichita.