Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cutoff Date Extended to April 18 for Forestry Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative

State Conservationist Eric B. Banks for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced the extension of the cutoff date to April 18, 2014, for the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI).  Even though CCPI is no longer a program under the 2014 Farm Bill, NRCS will honor existing CCPI agreements through fiscal year 2014.  The CCPI provides financial and technical assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to owners and operators of agricultural land and nonindustrial private forestlands.
            This year, the program is funded for shelterbelt renovation and forested riparian buffers.  "For farmers and ranchers that need to restore a shelterbelt or want to plant riparian forest buffers, CCPI can provide financial assistance to help with the project," said Banks.
            In Kansas, socially disadvantaged, limited resource, and beginning farmers and ranchers will receive a higher payment rate for conservation practices related to CCPI.
            For more information on CCPI projects and other natural resources conservation programs, please contact your local NRCS office or conservation district office. The office is located at your local USDA Service Center (listed in the telephone book under United States Government or on the internet at http://offices.usda.gov/). More information is also available on the Kansas Web site at www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov.  

Conservation Organizations Join Forces to Support Conservation in the Prairies

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
From The Outdoor Hub

A coalition of conservation organizations announced March 26th the launch of a coordinated, partner-driven “Prairies Conservation Campaign” to bring public attention to the dramatic conversion of grasslands and wetlands to cropland in one of America’s last intact grassland ecosystems – the prairie pothole region.
“More than 50 percent of North American migratory waterfowl depend upon the mix of wetlands and grasslands found in the prairie pothole region,” said Noreen Walsh, Regional Director for the Mountain-Prairie Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a partner in the campaign. “This area is called America’s ‘duck factory’ because it is the most productive area for nesting waterfowl on the continent, perhaps the world. These prairies and all the wildlife that they support are currently stressed by many factors acting together to threaten our natural heritage. By joining together as stewards, we can shed light on this problem and find solutions.”
Among other goals, the campaign will seek to create grassroots awareness in the region about landowner conservation programs and tools currently available to help prevent the loss of grassland. While this strategy will primarily focus on stakeholder cooperation in local communities, partner organizations invite the public to follow and participate in the conversation online using the #ConserveThePrairies hashtag.
Campaign partners are working together to find conservation solutions, additional resources, and win-win solutions for landowners. In order to do this, one of the campaign’s primary goals is to increase opportunities for voluntary incentive-based tools to keep livestock producers profitable. This will ensure that the region has healthy fish and wildlife populations, healthy soil and water resources, and an assurance that ranch families will always be an integral and profitable component of the region’s economy. More information is available at: www.fws.gov/prairiesconservation.
Partner organizations include: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited, World Wildlife Fund, Delta Waterfowl, North Dakota Game and Fish DepartmentSouth Dakota Game, Fish & Parks, Pheasants Forever, and North Dakota Natural Resources Trust.

Top Ways to Help Spring's Migrating Birds

Help During Migration and Breeding Periods Crucial to 200+ Declining Bird Species

From The Birding Wire

Despite persistent late-occurring snowstorms, average temperatures are starting to climb, soon to be followed by the most deadly period of the year for birds: springtime. Although spring means new life and hope to many people, billions of birds face the tribulations of a perilous migration followed shortly by breeding and the production of scores of newborn birds that will spend several highly vulnerable weeks as they grow and fledge.
According to Dr. George Fenwick, President of the American Bird Conservancy, "Spring is a deadly time for birds for three big reasons. Scientists estimate that 300 million to one billion birds die each year from collisions with buildings, many during arduous migrations in unfamiliar environments. Up to 50 million die from encounters with communication towers and up to six million may die each day from attacks by cats left outdoors. These deaths occur year-round, but many occur during spring and fall migration."
"Some studies suggest that perhaps as many as half of all migrating birds do not make it back home," he said, "succumbing to various threats on either end of the journey."
One in five Americans engage in bird watching, so after months of waiting for migrants to return, many people turn to emails, phone lines, and social media to ask ABC a dozen variations on the same question: "How can I help the birds?" Here is our answer to that question, just in time for spring.
TOP WAYS TO HELP BIRDS THIS SPRING
1. Keep your cat indoors. This is best for your cat as well as for the birds, as indoor cats live an average of three to seven times longer. Cats are responsible for an estimated 2.4 billion bird deaths each year. In the spring, young birds or nestlings often end up on the ground, attracting the fatal attention of a nearby cat. Ground nesting species that are especially vulnerable include Killdeer and Wood Thrush, but all baby birds-from ducks to warblers-will be on the ground for a critical period of time.
2. Prevent birds from hitting your windows. As many as one billion birds die each year after colliding with glass in buildings. You can reduce this problem at your home by applying a variety of window treatments. For example, ABC BirdTape is a proven solution that is inexpensive and long-lasting. Birds most prone to fatal collisions at home windows or glass doors include Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Wood Thrush.
3. Eliminate pesticides from your yard. Even those pesticides that are not directly toxic to birds can pollute waterways and reduce insects that birds rely on for food. For rodent control, seal cracks, remove food sources, and use snap and electric traps rather than rodenticides, which can poison raptors such as hawks and owls as well as young children. And be sure not to garden with neonicotinoid-coated seeds, or neonics, which are lethal to songbirds as well as to bees and other invertebrates.
4. Buy organic food and drink Smithsonian-certified Bird Friendly Coffee. Going organic helps to reduce pesticide use on farms and increases the market for produce grown without the use of pesticides, which can be toxic to birds and other animals, and will help to reduce the use of these hazardous chemicals in the U.S. and overseas. Shade coffee farms have been shown to provide far superior habitat for birds than coffee grown in open sun. Buying coffee that is certified Bird Friendly is one of the easiest ways to help migratory birds.
5. Create backyard habitat using native plants. When you garden with plants that evolved in your local habitat, you supply native insects and their larvae with food, which in turn are an irreplaceable food source provided by birds to their nestlings. Yards both large and small can benefit birds and other wildlife. Create a diverse landscape by planting native grasses, flowers, and shrubs that attract birds. You will be rewarded by their beauty and song, and will have fewer insect pests as a result.
6. Reduce your carbon footprint. While all forms of energy use impact birds, small individual actions can add up and make a difference. Use a hand-pushed or electric lawnmower, carpool, and use low-energy bulbs and Energy Star appliances. Less energy used means less habitat destroyed for energy production.
7. Donate old bird-watching equipment. Binoculars or spotting scopes will be appreciated by local bird watching groups-they can get them to schools or biologists in other countries who may not have the resources they need. More people studying birds means more voices for bird conservation!
8. Keep bird feeders and bird baths clean. If you feed the birds, make sure you aren't accidentally allowing the spread of disease. Disinfect feeders and bird baths, and change water regularly or use a drip system to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
9. Support bird-friendly legislation. U.S. policy makers frequently make decisions that affect birds. For example, decisions are now being made that will impact the survival of the imperiled Greater Sage-Grouse. By raising your voice, you can help to influence the outcome for birds on this and other important issues.
"Protecting and helping birds is not only the right thing to do," said Fenwick. "It is also good for the economy and the future of our environment. Birds are invaluable as controllers of insect pests, as pollinators of crops, and as dispersers of native plant seeds. They also generate tremendous economic revenues through the pastimes of bird feeding and bird watching."
A federal government study reports that about 20 percent of the U.S.population-47 million people-participates in bird watching. About 30 percent of all people over 55 enjoy this pursuit. About 40 percent of birders (18 million people) actually travel to see birds and spend about $41 billion annually in pursuit of their pastime. The top five birdwatching states by percentage of total population are:Vermont (39%), Wisconsin (33%), West Virginia (33%), Wyoming (31%), and Alaska(30%). The states with the greatest raw number of birders are: California (4.9 million),New York (3.3 million), Florida (3.0 million), Pennsylvania (2.7 million), and Texas(2.3 million).

Researchers Use GPS to Track Whooping Cranes

A study conducted by a partnership of researchers from multiple organizations is using lightweight GPS devices to track individual whooping cranes of the Aransas - Wood Buffalo population, the only naturally wild flock of whooping cranes in existence.
Efforts have focused on putting tracking devices on adult whooping cranes captured on Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, where the birds winter on the Texascoast, and on chicks at Wood Buffalo National Park, the birds' nesting grounds inCanada. To date, 68 birds have had tracking devices attached.
The GPS units are attached to a bird's upper leg and record four to five locations every 24 hours, information that is uploaded to a satellite every two and half days. These data reveal migration routes, habitat use, nesting locations, and much more. Biologists in the United States and Canada will use the results of this work to identify management and conservation priorities in both countries.
The research partnership is made up of governmental and non-profit partners working on the recovery of the whooping crane. Representatives include the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Canadian Wildlife Service, Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, Crane Trust, Parks Canada, Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, and International Crane Foundation.
Whooping cranes are an endangered species with more than 300 birds in the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population. All of the whooping cranes alive today, both wild and captive, are descendants of the last 15 cranes found wintering at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in 1941.
A video of the banding operation can be seen on YouTube athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtVt842trpo. Video is courtesy of Texas Parksand Wildlife Department.

Drone Use Barred in Boone and Crockett Records

Trophies scouted or taken with the assistance of drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are not eligible for entry in Boone and Crockett records, the Club announced today.
"These highly sophisticated, remote-controlled aircraft have no place in fair-chase hunting," said Richard Hale, chairman of the Club's Big Game Records Committee. "The Boone and Crockett Club stands with state wildlife agencies, the Pope and Young Club and hunter-conservationists everywhere who are discouraging the use of drones in hunting."
In the early 1960s, the Boone and Crockett Club barred trophies taken with use of aircraft. "Spotting or herding game from the air, followed by landing in its vicinity for the purpose of pursuit and shooting" was deemed unethical. The Club's policy spawned regulations in Alaska and elsewhere designed to protect the integrity of hunting and conserve game.
Hale said Boone and Crockett is always on alert for new technologies that could erode the time-honored traditions of fair chase.
Fair chase is defined by the Club as the ethical, sportsmanlike and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild, native North American big game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals.
North America's first hunting and conservation organization, the Boone and Crockett Club was founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887. Its mission is to promote the conservation and management of wildlife, especially big game and its habitat, to preserve and encourage hunting and to maintain the highest ethical standards of fair chase and sportsmanship. Join us at www.boone-crockett.org.

Obama places Lesser Prairie-chicken on threatened species list

 A male lesser prairie chicken

The decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service is a step below "endangered" status and allows for more flexibility in how protections for the bird will be carried out under the Endangered Species Act.
Dan Ashe, the agency's director, said he knows the decision will be unpopular with governors in the five affected states — TexasOklahomaKansasColorado and New Mexico — but said the agency was following the best science available.
"The lesser prairie-chicken is in dire straits," Ashe said in an interview. "The bird is in decline and has been in decline for more than a decade."
The prairie chicken, a type of grouse known for its colorful feathers and stout build, has lost more than 80 percent of its traditional habitat, mostly because of human activity such as oil and gas drilling, ranching and construction of power lines and wind turbines, Ashe said. The bird, which weighs from 1-1/2 to 2 pounds, has also been severely impacted by the region's ongoing drought.
Biologists say a major problem is that prairie chickens fear tall structures, where predators such as hawks can perch and spot them. Wind turbines, electricity transmission towers and drilling rigs are generally the tallest objects on the plains.
Last year, the prairie chicken's population across the five states declined to fewer than 18,000 birds — nearly 50 percent lower than 2012 population estimates.
A conservation plan adopted by the five states has a goal of increasing the population to 67,000 birds.
The listing decision, which will take effect around May 1, includes a special rule that Ashe said will allow officials and private landowners in the five affected states to manage conservation efforts. The rule, which Ashe called unprecedented, specifies that activities such as oil and gas drilling and utility line maintenance that are covered under a five-state conservation plan adopted last year will be allowed to continue.
The plan, developed by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, establishes that conservation practices carried out through usual agricultural and energy development are not subject to further regulation under the Endangered Species Act.
Governors of the five affected states — including four Republicans — opposed listing the bird under the Endangered Species Act. In a joint statement last year, Govs. Rick Perry of Texas, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Susana Martinez of New Mexico and John Hickenlooper of Colorado, said their states have all worked with a wide variety of affected groups to develop conservation plans to improve the bird's habitat while "taking into account economic development needs."
All but Hickenlooper are Republicans.
Oklahoma's attorney general filed a lawsuit this month over the Obama administration's decision to settle a lawsuit with an environmental group over the listing status of the lesser prairie chicken and other species.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt claims in the lawsuit that federal agencies are colluding with like-minded special interest groups and using "sue and settle" tactics that encourage lawsuits that can be settled on terms favorable to the groups that filed them.
Ashe denied collusion with any group and said the agency hopes to avoid litigation over the listing decision.
Oil and gas companies, ranchers and other landowners have pledged to devote more than 3 million acres in the five states toward conserving the bird's habitat. Most of the acreage was set aside in the aim to prevent the bird from being given federal protection as a threatened species, but Ashe said states and private landowners will play a significant role after the listing decision.
"The key thing is, states will remain in the driver's seat in management and conservation of this bird," he said.

Kansas Threatened and Endangered Species List under Review

Five-year review allows for petitioned species to be removed or added to state lists

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) is charged with conserving and protecting all Kansas wildlife, including those considered rare and in need of conservation. The Nongame and Endangered Species Act of 1975, requires KDWPT to review all current and proposed threatened and endangered species every five years.
A Threatened and Endangered Species Task Force comprised of members from state and federal agencies and nongovernmental organizations will review the currently-listed species and those species proposed for listing. During this review, species can be added, removed, or status changed based on petitions and documented scientific evidence. The task force then makes a recommendation for each species. As part of this review, which is currently underway, a total of five public informational meetings will be held statewide throughout the month of April. Meeting dates, times, and locations can be found below:
-April 11, 3:00 p.m. at Southeast Kansas Nature CenterSchermerhorn Park3511 S. Main St.Galena
-April 14, 3:00 p.m. at Johnson County Park and Recreation District Board Room, 7904 Renner Road,Shawnee Mission
-April 15, 3:00 p.m. at KDWPT Region 2 Office, 300 SW Wanamaker Rd.Topeka
-April 22, 3:00 p.m. at Lee Richardson Zoo, Finnup Center, Lecture Hall, 312 E Finnup Drive, Garden City
-April 23, 3:00 p.m. at Sternberg Museum3000 Sternberg Dr., Hays
According to state statute, threatened species are any form of wildlife that appears likely, within the foreseeable future, to become an endangered species. Endangered species are any species of wildlife whose continued existence as a viable component of the state’s wild fauna is determined to be in jeopardy. Out of the 60 species currently listed, 36 are defined as threatened and the remaining 24 are defined as endangered.
The following species are currently under review to be removed from the endangered list, except for the Northern Long-eared Bat (Myotis septentrionalis), which has been requested as an addition to the Threatened list:
-Eskimo curlew (Numenius borealis
-Black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla)
-Many-ribbed salamander (Eurycea multiplicata)
-Silverband shiner (Notropis shumardi)
-Chestnut lamprey (Ichthyomyzon castaneus)
-Spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)
-Longnose snake (Rhinocheilus lecontei)
-Redbelly snake (Storeria occipitomaculata)
-Smooth earth snake (Virginia valeriae)
The last review, held in 2009, was responsible for the change in listing of the bald eagle and peregrine falcon, both of which were removed from the endangered list. That same year, the delta hydrobe, shoal chub, and the plains minnow were added to the threatened list.
For more information on Kansas threatened and endangered species, visit www.ksoutdoors.com and click “Services/Threatened and Endangered Wildlife.”