Do you love to spend time at the beach? Do you want to craft your own volunteer experience? Then become a WSU Snohomish County Extension Beach Watcher. Receive in-depth training and help protect Puget Sound’s waters, wildlife and landscape through education, research and stewardship.
Receive 80 hours of intensive core training by local experts in classrooms and in field locations and 20 hours of experiential training. Then, continue learning while volunteering at least 100 hours over two years on education, research or restoration projects that you select. Projects range from doing low-tide education at beaches to fish egg sampling to newsletter article writing. You can join a team or work on your own. You are also welcome to bring your own ideas!
The core training will be offered every Friday between April 3 – May 16 AND September 11 – October 16 from 9 AM – 3:30 PM. The training is based out of McCollum Park, 600 128th St. SE, Everett and there is a $35 materials fee (waivers available). Applications are due on March 13, however we will begin reviewing them as they are received, so don’t wait to get your applications in!
A long-negotiated series of agreements to manage water in the Klamath Basin in Southern Oregon and Northern California received Senate committee passage Thursday.
“This legislation is the result of a historic collaboration of efforts,” said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden during the committee meeting.
Wyden was one of the four Oregon and California co-sponsors the Senate bill. It gives federal authorization for local efforts to ensure enough water for fish and wildlife, while providing predictable irrigation supplies for farmers and ranchers.
The Klamath agreements were signed by local stakeholders in 2010. They establish a hierarchy of water rights and present the possibility of removing dams owned by PacifiCorp. Congressional approval is needed to enact certain provisions.
The legislation gained broad bi-partisan approval in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski supported the bill after the committee approved an amendment decreasing the role of the federal government in making dam-removal decisions.
“What we do… is ensure that the states of California and Oregon are empowered to decide,” Murkowski said.
Now the legislation faces the possibility of a full Senate vote in the coming weeks.
As more oil trains travel along the Columbia River and Puget Sound, conservation groups worry that cleanup plans could harm sensitive wildlife, like endangered salmon and shorebirds.
That concern is prompting legal action. The Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Columbia Gorge Thursday filed a 60-day notice to sue the U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency. The conservation groups say the oil spill response plan needs to be updated to account for endangered species.
Jared Margolis, an attorney for the center, said the response plan hasn’t been updated in 10 years. That means the plan doesn’t include new wildlife habitat and new species on the Endangered Species List, like smelt, also known as eulachon.
“If those spill response plans aren’t up-to-date, they could boom the oil right into critical habitat for endangered species, which can really impact the salmon and sturgeon.” Margolis said.
Margolis said the Gulf Coast’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill taught conservation groups that cleanup efforts, like burning oil and mixing oil with the dispersants, could harm endangered species.
An EPA spokeswoman said she could not comment on pending litigation. She said cleanup plans in the Northwest include monitoring for endangered species.
Yellowstone bison were released at the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana in 2013. Native American tribes have created a host of programs to aid unique Western species. Credit Jonathan Proctor/Defenders of Wildlife
By NATE SCHWEBER
FORT BELKNAP AGENCY, Mont. — In the employee directory of the Fort Belknap Reservation, Bronc Speak Thunder’s title is buffalo wrangler.
In 2012, Mr. Speak Thunder drove a livestock trailer in a convoy from Yellowstone National Park that returned genetically pure bison to tribal land in northeastern Montana for the first time in 140 years. Mr. Speak Thunder, 32, is one of a growing number of younger Native Americans who are helping to restore native animals to tribal lands across the Northern Great Plains, in the Dakotas, Montana and parts of Nebraska.
They include people like Robert Goodman, an Oglala Lakota Sioux, who moved away from his reservation in the early 2000s and earned a degree in wildlife management. When he graduated in 2005, he could not find work in that field, so he took a job in construction in Rapid City, S.D.
Then he learned of work that would bring him home. The parks and recreation department of the Pine Ridge Reservation, where he grew up, needed someone to help restore rare native wildlife — including the swift fox, a small, tan wild dog revered for its cleverness. In 2009, Mr. Goodman held a six-pound transplant by its scruff and showed it by firelight to a circle of tribal elders, members of a reconvened warrior society that had disbanded when the foxes disappeared.
“I have never been that traditional,” said Mr. Goodman, 33, who released that fox and others into the wild after the ceremony. “But that was spiritual to me.”
For a native wildlife reintroduction to work, native habitat is needed, biologists say. On the Northern Great Plains, that habitat is the original grass, never sliced by a farmer’s plow.
Unplowed temperate grassland is the least protected large ecosystem on earth, according to the American Prairie Reserve, a nonprofit organization dedicated to grassland preservation. Tribes on America’s Northern Plains, however, have left their grasslands largely intact.
More than 70 percent of tribal land in the Northern Plains is unplowed, compared with around 60 percent of private land, the World Wildlife Fund said. Around 90 million acres of unplowed grasses remain on the Northern Plains. Tribes on 14 reservations here saved about 10 percent of that 90 million — an area bigger than New Jersey and Massachusetts combined.
“Tribes are to be applauded for saving so much habitat,” said Dean E. Biggins, a wildlife biologist for the United States Geological Survey.
Wildlife stewardship on the Northern Plains’ prairies, bluffs and badlands is spread fairly evenly among private, public and tribal lands, conservationists say. But for a few of the rarest native animals, tribal land has been more welcoming.
The swift fox, for example, was once considered for listing as an endangered species after it was killed in droves by agricultural poison and coyotes that proliferated after the elimination of wolves. Now it has been reintroduced in six habitats, four on tribal lands.
“I felt a sense of pride trying to get these little guys to survive,” said Les Bighorn, 54, a tribe member and game warden at Montana’s Fort Peck Reservation who in 2005 led a reintroduction of swift foxes.
Mr. Speak Thunder, who took part in the bison convoy, agreed. “A lot of younger folks are searching, seeking out interesting experiences,” he said. “I have a lot of friends who just want to ride with me some days and help out.”
Over the last four years in Montana, the tribes at Fort Peck and Fort Belknap, along with the tycoon and philanthropist Ted Turner, saved dozens of bison that had migrated from Yellowstone. Once the food staple of Native Americans on the Great Plains, bison were virtually exterminated in the late 19th century; the Yellowstone bison are genetic descendants of the only ones that escaped in the wild.
This spring, by contrast, Yellowstone officials captured about 300 bison and sent them to slaughterhouses. Al Nash, a park spokesman, said they were culled after state and federal agencies “worked together to address bison management issues.” The cattle industry opposes wild bison for fear the animals might compete with domestic cows for grass, damage fences or spread disease.
Emily Boyd-Valandra, 29, a wildlife biologist at the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, is emblematic of new tribal wildlife managers working around the Northern Plains. She went to college and studied ecology. (Nationwide, the rate of indigenous people in America attending college has doubled since 1970, according to the American Indian College Fund.)
Diploma in hand, Ms. Boyd-Valandra moved home, took a job with her tribe’s department of game, fish and parks, and found a place for what she called “education to bridge the gap between traditional culture and science.”
Blending her college lessons with the reverence for native animals she absorbed from her elders, she helped safeguard black-footed ferrets on her reservation from threats like disease and habitat fragmentation. The animal was twice declared extinct after its primary prey, the prairie dog, was wiped out across 97 percent of its historic range; since 2000, ferrets have been reintroduced in 13 American habitats, five of them on tribal land.
“Now that we’re getting our own people back here,” Ms. Boyd-Valandra said, “you get the work and also the passion and the connection.” One of her mentors is Shaun Grassel, 42, a biologist for the Lower Brule Indian Reservation in South Dakota. “What’s happening gives me a lot of hope,” he said.
Though each reservation is sovereign, wildlife restoration has been guided to a degree by grants from the federal government. Since 2002, the Fish and Wildlife Service has given $60 million to 170 tribes for 300 projects that aided unique Western species, including gray wolves, bighorn sheep, Lahontan cutthroat trout and bison.
“Tribal land in the U.S. is about equal to all our national wildlife refuges,” said D. J. Monette of the wildlife agency. “So tribes really have an equal opportunity to protect critters.”
Nonprofit conservation organizations have also helped. But tribe leaders say that what drives their efforts is a cultural memory that was passed down from ancestors who knew the land before European settlement — when it teemed with wildlife.
“Part of our connection with the land is to put animals back,” said Mark Azure, 54, the president of the Fort Belknap tribe. “And as Indian people, we can use Indian country.”
In late 2013, during the painful federal sequestration that forced layoffs on reservations, Mr. Azure authorized the reintroduction of 32 bison from Yellowstone and 32 black-footed ferrets. That helped secure several thousand dollars from the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife and kept some tribe members at work on the reintroduction projects, providing employment through an economic dip and advancing the tribe’s long-term vision of native ecosystem restoration. The next project is an aviary for eagles.
One night last fall, Kristy Bly, 42, a biologist from the World Wildlife Fund, visited the reservation to check on the transplanted black-footed ferrets. Mena Limpy-Goings, 39, a tribe member, asked to ride along because she had never seen one.
They drove around a bison pasture under the Northern Lights for hours, until the spotlight mounted on Ms. Bly’s pickup reflected off the eyes of a ferret dancing atop a prairie dog burrow.
“Yee-hoo!” Ms. Bly cheered. “You’re looking at one of only 500 alive in the wild.”
Ms. Limpy-Goings hugged herself.
“It is,” she said, “more beautiful than I ever imagined.”
Bear bridges aren’t just beautiful — they work! That’s what you learn when, instead of sunning yourself and running through the sprinkler, you spend three summers working on your collection of bear fur:
For three years, researchers from Montana State University spent their summers collecting bear hair. The samples, collected on both sides of the 50 mile stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway that cuts through Banff National Park, prove what the researchers had suspected: wildlife underpasses and bridges were helping enough bears move back and forth across the highway to keep the populations healthy.
Not only does this mean the researchers can make a slew of bear-fur scarves, hats, and finger puppets, but that animals are using the paths specifically created to enable their boneage. About 10 percent of the bear population would need to cross the highway in order for its size not to dwindle; the three-year study showed nearly 20 percent of area grizzlies and black bears were using special crossings. Woohoo! Since drivers hit a million vertebrates every day, it’s vital that bears and other animals have an alternative to dodging cars:
Underpasses provide the cover cougars and many small mammals need, while the bridges and overpasses let moose and elk traverse in their preferred open-sky habitats. Cameras at each of the passageways have recorded hundreds of thousands of crossings for many different species, including bears, wolves, lynx, deer, elk and moose.
Like a bridge over troubled traffic, this will ease bears’ minds.
In its deliberations over the Keystone XL pipeline, the State Department is taking flak not just from picket-sign-wielding environmentalists, but also from within the ranks of the Obama administration. This spring the EPA slammed an environmental review as “insufficient” and called for major revisions. And Monday, ThinkProgress uncovered a letter [PDF] from the Interior Department, dated from April, that outlines the many and varied ways in which the pipeline could wreak havoc on plants and animals (not to mention dinosaurs) along its proposed route.
The letter calls particular attention to a line in the State Department’s most recent environmental impact assessment [PDF] that claims “the majority of the potential effects to wildlife resources are indirect, short term or negligible, limited in geographic extent, and associated with the construction phase of the proposed Project only.”
“This statement is inaccurate and should be revised,” states the letter, which is signed by Interior’s Director of Environmental Policy and Compliance, Willie Taylor. “Given that the project includes not only constructing a pipeline but also related infrastructure … impacts to wildlife are not just related to project construction. Impacts to wildlife from this infrastructure will occur throughout the life of the project.”
Which wildlife? The letter raises concerns that potential oil spills, drained water supplies, and bustling construction workers could cause a general disturbance, but identifies the critters below, some of which are endangered, for special attention:
The Ross’ goose depends on Nebraska’s Rainwater Basin, which the pipeline would pass through, as a key migratory stopover. A spill in the basin could “severely impact critical habitat,” the letter says.
Although the letter praises State Department plans to protect these endangered ferrets, it nonetheless raises concerns about the potential for infectious diseases from domestic pets at construction camps and worksites in Montana and South Dakota to spread to this population of 1,000 or less left in the wild.
Like the Ross’ goose, the Sandhill crane depends on Nebraska’s Rainwater Basin, which, according to the letter, could be severely impacted by an oil spill.
Already endangered, least terns depend for nesting on a plot of protected federal land just 40 miles downstream from where the pipeline will cross Nebraska’s Niobrara River. Nests could fail, the letter warns, if construction activities cause fluctuations in the river’s water level.
Also endangered, the piping plover depends on the same nesting site as the least tern and faces the same threats.
In 2010 the Fish & Wildlife Service found the tiny Sprague’s pipit qualified for endangered status, but hasn’t yet been able to officially list it because of higher-priority species. But the pipit breeds in Montana’s North Valley Grassland, which the pipeline would pass through, raising concerns about impact from a spill.
While not exactly the cutest on this list, pallid sturgeons are also endangered; the letter raises concern that as water is withdrawn from the Platte River during the construction process, the fish and their eggs could suffocate. An assertion by the State Department that no plan is needed to mitigate damage to sturgeons, the letter says, “seems unsupported and requires further documentation.”
Nearly a quarter of a century after the Exxon Valdez crashed and spewed 11 million gallons of crude into Prince William Sound, one species of seabird still has not recovered from the disaster. To help it recover, the federal government is proposing to get rid of lots of American minks. Allow us to explain.
Thousands of pigeon guillemots were killed by the Valdez disaster — some coated with oil, others poisoned by it for a decade afterward. The guillemots are the only marine bird still listed as “not recovering” from the accident; the local population is less than half what it was before the spill.
The birds used to flourish on the Naked Island group in the middle of the sound, but fewer than 100 remain there now. To boost that number back up to the pre-spill level of 1,000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to trap most of the islands’ American minks — aquatic ferret-like creatures that feast on the birds’ chicks and eggs. If trapping doesn’t work, shooting the minks is the backup plan.
The minks are native to the region, but nobody knows for sure whether they are native to the islands in question. What scientists do know is that the islands’ mink populations skyrocketed in the immediate aftermath of the 1989 spill. “[T]he increase in mink caused pigeon guillemots and other bird species (whose nests are susceptible to mink predation) to decline significantly,” the FWS wrote in a draft environmental assessment detailing its proposal.
Figuring out how many mink to remove is “the hard part,” [FWS seabird coordinator David] Irons said, as the exact number inhabiting the cluster of islands is unknown, although their numbers are estimated to range roughly from 200-300.
By removing the mink, several other species of birds that nest on the islands would benefit as well, Iron said. Parakeet auklets, tufted puffins and horned puffins have also been on the decline in the past decades, but those birds are not on the [Exxon Valdez oil spill] Trustee Council’s list of affected animals.
“Right now Naked Island is a desert of birds — it used to be a hot spot,” Irons said, adding that the Prince William Sound used to be home to 700 parakeet auklets, whereas now only around 40 remain.
It’s hard to imagine how an oil spill would cause a mink population to explode. But Irons points out that that’s not the main concern — what’s important to the Exxon Valdez oil spill Trustee Council is that the birds “were affected by the oil spill” and it is therefore the council’s responsibility to do what it can to help them out, drawing on $900 million in civil penalties paid by Exxon.
This map shows the Naked Island group. The Exxon Valdez ran aground bear Bligh Island.
TAHOLAH, WA (6/17/13)— An independent report delivered to the Intertribal Timber Council last week concluded that federal funding levels are lower today than in 1993, leading to reduced tribal staffing levels and disregarding the principles of federal law, according to Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation and Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.
The report, the third made since 1993 by the Indian Forest Management Assessment Team (IFMAT), was delivered to the annual ITC symposium hosted by the Menoninee Tribe and Stockbridge Munsee Community in Wisconsin last Tuesday. The report concluded that federal funding and, consequently, tribal forest staffing levels are far below those of comparable public and private programs. Achieving equitable funding for tribal programs was a primary purpose for the establishment of the Indian Forest Management Assessment Team and the passage of its enabling legislation, the National Indian Forest Resources Management Act (NIFRMA) in 1990. Still, tribes nationwide have assumed greater leadership roles through self-determination and self-governance.
“The accomplishments of Indian tribes in improving management of our forests, fish, wildlife, and water have truly been impressive. Tribes have some of the best scientists and natural resource management programs in the country. We have proven that tribal forests can be managed to provide Indian and non-Indian jobs, support tribal and overall economic development, and sustain our fish, wildlife, water, foods, medicines, and cultures. Healthy forests mean healthy waters, air, animals and people. On the Quinault Reservation, we manage for sustainability of the environment, the economy, and our cultures. As stewards of the land, we take our responsibilities seriously, knowing that today’s decisions will affect our people for seven generations,” said Sharp.
The IFMAT Report does, however, show that our forest resources and forestry programs are suffering from the lack of equitable federal funding. The potential for tribal management to serve as models for sustainable forestry cannot be fulfilled unless the enormous funding disparity between tribal and non-tribal programs is corrected, according to Sharp.
“We build the best teams and the best programs because we know we must care for the land and natural resources to honor Mother Earth. We have always been here and will always be here. We invest in our natural resource programs for the long run—not just for ourselves, but for our children, and the generations to come, tribal and non-tribal alike. We are appalled that the federal government continues to fail to provide the resources needed to fulfill its fiduciary trust responsibilities for management of Indian forests. The independent, blue ribbon panel of experts of IFMAT concluded that an additional $100 million and 800 staff positions are needed nationwide to meet even minimum requirements. The federal government promised to help us protect these lands in nation-to-nation treaties. In the 1970’s, the Quinault people were forced to sue the United States for mismanagement of our forests. We know the country faces serious fiscal challenges, but that’s not an acceptable excuse. We are only asking the United States to keep its word and fulfill its treaty and trust obligations,” said Sharp
When NIFRMA passed in 1990, it called for IFMAT reports every 10 years to be delivered to Congress and the Administration. The law declared (1) that the United States has a trust responsibility toward Indian forest lands and (2) that federal investment in Indian forest management is significantly below the level of investment in Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management or private forest land management (25 USC Sec. 3111).
The IFMAT reports are national in scope and focus on: Management practices and funding levels for Indian forest land compared with federal and private forest lands; the health and productivity of Indian forest lands; staffing patterns of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal forestry organizations; timber sale administration procedures, including accountability for proceeds; the potential for reducing BIA rules and regulations consistent with federal trust responsibility; the adequacy of Indian forest land management plans, including their ability to meet tribal needs and priorities; the feasibility of establishing minimum standards for measuring the adequacy of BIA forestry programs in fulfilling trust responsibility and recommendations of reforms and increased funding levels.
In the 49 states outside of Alaska, there are 18 million acres of Indian forests and woodlands on 294 separate Indian reservations. Of this land, nearly 10 million acres are considered commercial woodlands or timberlands. The states of Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, California, Minnesota and Wisconsin have the greatest concentration of tribal forests. IFMAT visited the Quinault, Makah, Tulalip, Yakama, Colville, and Spokane tribes as part of the third assessment of the status of Indian forests and forestry.
They’re cute, they’re furry and they love to eat – your landscape that is. If you are battling with rabbits, deer, groundhogs or other wildlife, don’t give up. And if you are lucky enough to be wildlife-free at the moment, be vigilant and prepared to prevent damage before these beautiful creatures move into your landscape to dine.
Anyone who has battled wildlife knows the frustration and difficulty involved in controlling them. Your best defense is a fence. A four foot high fence anchored tightly to the ground will keep out rabbits. Five foot high fences around small garden areas will usually keep out deer. They seem to avoid these small confined spaces. The larger the area the more likely deer will enter. Woodchucks are more difficult. They will dig under or climb over the fence. You must place the fence at least 12″ below the soil surface with 4 to 5 feet above the ground. Make sure gates are also secured from animals.
Some communities allow electric fences that provide a slight shock to help keep deer out of the landscape. Another option is the wireless deer fence. The system uses plastic posts with wire tips charged by AA batteries. The plastic tip is filled with a deer attractant. When the deer nuzzles the tip it gets a light shock, encouraging it to move on to other feeding grounds.
Scare tactics have been used for many years. Motion sensitive sprinklers, blow up owls, clanging pans and rubber snakes strategically placed around a garden may help scare away unwanted critters. Unfortunately urban animals are used to noise and may not be alarmed. Move and alternate the various scare tactics for more effective control. The animals won’t be afraid of an owl that hasn’t moved in two weeks.
Homemade and commercial repellents can also be used. Make sure they are safe to use on food crops if treating fruits and vegetables. You’ll have the best results if applied before the animals start feeding. It is easier to prevent damage than break old feeding patterns. Look for natural products like those found in Messina Wildlife’s Animal Stopper line. They are made of herbs and smell good, so they repel animals without repelling you and your guests.
Live trapping can be inhumane and should be a last option. Babies can be separated from their parents, animals can be released in unfamiliar territory, and trapped animals can suffer from heat and a lack of food and water. Plus, once you catch the animal, you need to find a place to release it. The nearby parks, farms and forests already have too many of their own animals and therefore they don’t want yours.
The key to success is variety, persistence, and adaptability. Watch for animal tracks, droppings and other signs that indicate wildlife have moved into your area. Apply repellents and install scare tactics and fencing before the animals begin feeding. Try a combination of tactics, continually monitor for damage and make changes as needed. And when you feel discouraged, remember that gardeners have been battling animals in the garden long before us.
Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening. She hosts the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV and radio segments and is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, features gardening videos, gardening tips, podcasts, and more.
A former sewage lagoon site and wetlands is planned as a 40-acre refuge for more than 140 species of birds.
By Alejandro Dominquez, The Herald
SNOHOMISH — People are invited to learn the latest details about a proposed wildlife sanctuary at Wednesday’s Parks Board meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Snohomish Boys & Girls Club, 402 Second St.
The board is expected to make a recommendation to the City Council on the sanctuary steering committee’s plan or ask for changes. The public can also make recommendations, project manager Ann Stanton said.
The wildlife viewing area also has a proposed name: Snohomish Riverview Sanctuary.
The sanctuary would be about 40 acres, including a former sewage lagoon and privately owned wetlands located next to the current sewage treatment plant, along the Snohomish River west of Highway 9.
More than 140 bird species have been seen nesting there or using the wetlands for habitat, including great blue herons, red-tailed hawks, swallows and ducks.
The master plan also proposes adding sidewalk and viewpoint areas on the south side of Riverview Road, Stanton said.
The park would also ban dogs because of the likelihood of harming viewing opportunities and habitat quality, Stanton said.
“The majority of the public comments are against dogs (in the park)” Stanton said.
The Snohomish City Council is scheduled to vote on the plan at a July meeting.
The council is also set to accept a $30,000 donation from a local Audubon Society member in early June. The donation is intended to purchase more land for the sanctuary.
People who want to know more about the park and are unable to attend the meeting can contact Stanton at 360-282-3195 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.