Thursday, May 31, 2012

What is Ecological Services?

Our blog has been live for a short while, and we've put up several posts as examples of the work we do with partners to meet our mission--to conserve the outdoors for the future. We've also launched our new website (read about it here), which has a lot of neat information about what we do. But check out the blog post below for a short and sweet introduction to how we work for both you and Mother Nature.  

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which falls within the President’s executive branch, is a mission-oriented organization. Our mission is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. Ecological Services, a division within the Service, resides over a chunk of those responsibilities.

Almost every one of our responsibilities connects with people, from the use of natural resources for recreation and livelihood to the balance of those needs with the conservation of protected wildlife. Human demands on the outdoors can leave animals and plants vulnerable. We work as partners to balance that scale.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Where land meets water: Research continues to reveal the value of our wetlands

Wood frog laying eggs in Kettle Pond vernal pool at
Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Thomas Tetzner
With American Wetlands Month, May, coming to a close, we’d like to take some time to recognize the importance of our Northeast wetlands and the work that our experts are doing to protect them. Wetlands act as the kidneys for our communities, cleansing water, filtering pollution and sediment, and regulating nature’s systems.

They are most simply defined as the vital links between land and water. Some of their characteristics, such as flooding and insects, earned wetlands a bad reputation in history, and people filled them for farming or building. Research revealed their true values—drinking water, flood control, buffers for extreme weather, different habitats and wildlife, and places for fishing and other recreation—and legislation, namely the Clean Water Act in 1977, marked our need to protect them.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Decoys lure birds to safety on Maryland's Poplar Island

The word "decoys" brings to mind images of turkey, waterfowl and other hunting. But on Poplar Island, decoys are used for a different purpose--to attract shorebirds to new places for nesting.

The last known nesting colony of common terns in Maryland is at Poplar Island's Paul S. Sarbanes Ecological Restoration Project. Common and least tern nesting sites have become rare in this part of the Chesapeake Bay because of changes in sea level, habitat availability and climate.
Placing decoys
Chris Guy positions the decoys, which are mounted
on rebar stakes to anchor them securely in the sand
on the habitat islands. Photo credit: Ann Tihansky
At the site, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service created sections of habitat where the tern eggs and chicks blend safely into the background. Unfortunately, the terns were also attracted to active construction zones, complete with large trucks, bulldozers and steam rollers that put them in harm’s way.

To solve the problem, biologists Pete McGowan and Chris Guy and biotechnician Robbie Callahan from the Service’s Chesapeake Bay Field Office, are using decoys and audio recordings of active tern colonies to lure the birds away from construction zones to nest on the specially-created habitat islands.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A rare rabbit needs our support

This Bunny Needs Brush to Survive

This time of year, gardeners in the Northeast are all too familiar with the rabbits that have chosen their beds for buffets. But there’s a less abundant rabbit that you probably don’t know about, and that you would be much less likely to find in your garden. That cottontail, the New England cottontail, is the only one native to our region. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Our new website: A tool for you!

Here at Ecological Services, we’ve decided to follow in Mother Nature’s footsteps. As summer dawns upon us, we’re launching our new website.

We hope this re-designed website will reinvigorate the online tools offered by ES. We’ve outgrown our foundational site and have been in need of a more colorful, more resourceful website. We want visitors to easily navigate our website, find the information they’re looking for, check out some of the interesting and educational elements, and most of all, visit us again.

So, what will you find in our new site, and how will you find it?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Happy Endangered Species Day!

Swamp pink, a beautiful member of the lily
family, has been listed under the ESA since
1988. It occurs in headwater streams
and mountain bogs from New Jersey to
Georgia. Credit: Gene Nieminen/USFWS

More than five years ago, the U.S. Senate decided that Mother Nature's less fortunate children deserved a holiday--an opportunity for us to remember the important roles that different and unique animals and plants play in the health and future of our nation. 

In the Northeast, more than 90 types of wildlife benefit from the protections under the Endangered Species Act, from the Appalachian monkeyface mussel and the roseate tern to the Maryland darter and the Chittenango ovate amber snail

Sure, no one's happy that almost one hundred of our plants and animals have faced or are threatened with extinction. But today we celebrate the existence of the Endangered Species Act, the landmark conservation law that we credit with the recovery of the bald eagle, brown pelican, American alligator and Maguire daisy. The ESA is a critical safety net for America's native, fish wildlife and plants, and we can only imagine the plight of wildlife without its protection.

Let's start the conversation: How does this government agency affect you?

The online conversation of conservation in the Northeast is rapidly expanding. It’s time we joined in! This blog will be a forum for Ecological Services to share what our program is doing to help fish and wildlife in the Northeast. You’ll hear from me--the head of our program--as well as our partners and our expert team across the 13 states we serve.

Image of Paul Phifer
Paul Phifer (me, on the right) standing with our partners at an
event celebrating the Eel River project in Massachusetts.
What is Ecological Services (ES), you may ask? While all programs in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (e.g., Fisheries, Migratory Birds, National Wildlife Refuges, and Budget and Administration) are dedicated to recovering and protecting trust species, ES is devoted specifically to the protection and restoration of imperiled species and their habitat.

Our biologists support partners and projects with their knowledge and skills in habitat restoration, species conservation, contaminant assessment and remediation, wetlands inventory, wind energy, fish passage and project planning. Programs within ES are devoted to each of these disciplines; and you’ll see periodic highlights of them in this blog.

We’re here to share our expertise and our devotion to the outdoors, and to give you a place to learn and share these experiences. This blog is also a chance to see what your federal government is up to – see what we’re working on and why. Learn which neighbors we’re partnering with. Understand the decisions we make. Comment on what we’re doing and how we can communicate better.

Nature needs us. Find out what we are doing to meet this need.

Submitted by Paul Phifer