While cold January weather sharpens and clarifies Oregon’s landscapes, Conservation Strategy news heats up—a heartening number of groups are using the Strategy as a planning tool. This growing acceptance is important. To protect Oregon’s wildlife in the coming years, a wide range of partners will have to work together toward a common vision. This month, we feature stories from a variety of partners at work to conserve Oregon’s fish and wildlife.
Connecting children to nature
There is a growing awareness that today’s children are disconnected from the natural world, missing benefits that concern psychologists and conservationists alike—a lack of awareness of the natural world results in a lack of appreciation. With children’s access to nature limited, there are many who believe Oregon needs school curriculum that gets kids outdoors in a meaningful way. To help, Northwest Habitat Institute has developed A Guide to Oregon and Washington Wetlands targeting grade levels six and above. The guide provides information on wetland habitats and the wildlife that depend on them.
“We want to get the new guides into as many classrooms as we can, with the goal of getting as many children outdoors as we can,” said Amber Johnson, Northwest Habitat Institute Education and Information specialist. “The guides are free-of-charge to schools in Oregon and Washington.”
The guide is directly linked to the Oregon and Washington Conservation Strategies in several ways: habitat types align with priority habitats; state focal species are included in the guide; and a resource section points students to online versions of the Strategies.
The printing and distribution of the book is supported by The Fred Meyer Foundation, Oregon and Washington Fish and Wildlife Departments and Oregon and Washington Chapters of The Wildlife Society. School districts interested in obtaining free copies of this book can download an order form from the Northwest Habitat Institute’s website or e-mail Amber Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org
CITIZEN SCIENCE CHARTS BIRD POPULATIONS
On the cold, early mornings of late December and early January, hundreds of Oregonians across the state pulled on boots, packed up binoculars and checklists and, following a century-old tradition, headed to the field to count birds. They participated in the largest citizen science event in the world, the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count.
This year, participants worked under a new reality—the recently released Audubon Society/ American Bird Conservancy WatchList Identifies 11% of the birds found in Oregon as critically imperiled or at risk of becoming critically imperiled. Another Audubon report released in 2007, Common Birds in Decline, shows that many of our backyard bird species are also experiencing significant declines.
“What’s really disturbing about the new reports is that it is not only the likely suspects—spotted owls, marbled murrelets and snowy plovers—that are on the imperiled list, but also many species that we still take for granted such as the rufous hummingbird, barn swallow, killdeer and evening grosbeak; they are all heading in the wrong direction,” said Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director for the Audubon Society of Portland.
“Christmas Bird Count volunteers contribute critical data through citizen science,” said Peg Boulay, ODFW Oregon Conservation Strategy coordinator and a Christmas Bird Count volunteer. “Such information is used to develop Audubon’s WatchList, which provides a big-picture early warning system. While some species on the national list such as the varied thrush, mountain quail and sooty grouse are doing well in much of Oregon, we have reason to be concerned about many of our species.”
Solutions to the problem won’t come easily, but there are things Oregonians can do now to help prevent further declines. “It’s not too late,” said Sallinger. “But, it’s getting there.”
One thing bird and nature lovers can do is to learn about the Conservation Strategy. “The strategy gives us a vision for comprehensive protection of our landscapes from oceans to mountains to deserts,” said Sallinger. “Citizen science is one way that Audubon connects with the strategy. The information we collect at Christmas bird counts each year is used by scientists to study long-term trends across North America which help inform Oregon’s conservation priorities.”
Other actions to help birds in decline include responsible pet ownership, habitat restoration and invasive species removal. Check both the Audubon Society of Portland’s website and the Conservation Strategy website to see what needs to be done in your area.
ODFW’S DIRECTOR TO DISCUSS URBAN CONSERVATION ISSUES
Roy Elicker, ODFW director, will provide the opening keynote address at the Urban Ecology and Conservation Symposium in Portland on Monday, Feb. 4. He will discuss the Conservation Strategy in relation to the challenges and opportunities inherent in urban ecosystems.
The full-day symposium includes presentations, a poster session, speakers, raffles and plenty of time to network. It will be held at Portland State University in the Smith Center Ballroom. The cost is $30; there is a student rate of $15. Register at the
Urban Ecosystem Research Consortium of Portland/Vancouver website.
Defenders of wildlife: use strategy for land use, transportation planning
Two comprehensive reports produced by Defenders of Wildlife link Conservation Strategies (Wildlife Action Plans) to planning activities. The first, “Linking Conservation and Land Use Planning: Using the State Wildlife Action Plans To Protect Wildlife from Urbanization,”addresses land use planning. While planners already have a variety of regulatory and incentive-based tools that have the potential to protect wildlife habitat, the report finds that current approaches are often fragmented. Research suggests state Conservation Strategies can provide the basis for a targeted strategy for integrating wildlife conservation and land use planning and encourages their use.
“Linking Conservation and Transportation: Using the State Wildlife Action Plans to Protect Wildlife from Road Impacts” reviews state strategies and concludes that between the strategies and the requirements of Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA-LU) organizations have the tools to make progress in reducing transportation threats to wildlife.
“The reports underscore the value of the state strategies in the wildlife conservation planning process,” said Sara Vickerman, director of the Northwest office of Defenders of Wildlife. “Barriers to wildlife movement is clearly an issue in Oregon and is called out in the strategy as a statewide issue of concern. If agencies and groups involved in land use and transportation planning use the strategy as a resource, Oregon’s wildlife will benefit.”
For more information, Barriers to Fish and Wildlife Movement, Defenders of Wildlife
HELP FOR THREATENED NATIVE FISH
Unique is the only word to describe the Warner sucker, a native fish found in the Warner Basin in southeastern Oregon and northwestern Nevada.
“This is the only place in the world this fish exists,” said Paul Scheerer, ODFW Native Fish biologist. ”It is a survivor in a harsh desert environment, much like the people who have settled the region.”
Since being federally listed as threatened in 1985 due to habitat degradation, irrigation diversion practices and competition from non-native fish, the Warner sucker has been getting help from agencies and private landowners, and Scheerer is hopeful the species can rebound to a sustainable level.
To monitor current populations and explore some new ways of helping the species, Scheerer and his ODFW team were awarded a Conservation Strategy Implementation Grant that they will put to work on the ground this spring.
“We will be obtaining population estimates of suckers and other fishes in the Warner lakes and running a screw trap to tag fish to assess seasonal movements,” said Scheerer. “We plan to move some radio-tagged fish above the diversion dams to determine where they would naturally spawn if they could get above the dams.”
Ongoing work in the area by a number of partners includes fencing of streams to restore riparian areas, screening irrigation diversions, and alteration of grazing and forest management practices.
“Over the past two years, we have spent a lot of time holding public meetings and knocking on doors to explain our goals to help recover the species and elicit help,” said Scheerer. “A number of landowners are taking advantage of fish screening programs and upgrading dams to allow fish passage. We will ultimately need more people on board to have the desired impact.”
Scheerer, himself, has had a positive impact on Oregon’s native fish. In 2006, he was the recipient of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Recovery Champion Award for the Pacific Region.Read about his work with Oregon’s native fish.
For information on Native Fish Conservation, visit the ODFW website.
For a fact sheet on Warner suckers, visit the US Fish and Wildlife Service website.
N.A. Wild Sheep Chapter Implements Strategy
When funding for State Wildlife Grants was at risk of being cut, George Houston, The Foundation for North American Wild Sheep Oregon Chapter president, wrote his legislator to support the program that “has built the framework that is supporting the implementation of the Conservation Strategy by ODFW and its conservation partners.”
“The benefit of the Conservation Strategy to our organization is that it focuses on habitat and allows us to work with our non-consumptive partners in a win-win situation,” said Houston< “Whether you are putting a guzzler in the high desert or eradicating invasive weeds in northeast Oregon, you are benefiting all wildlife.”
“We take a big picture look at the state and are really trying to make a difference,” said Houston. “Whether it means lobbing legislators or getting our members out on the ground to remove invasive thistles, we’ll do what it takes
For more information, visit The Foundation for North American Wild Sheep website. E-mail George.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski, after reviewing the Bureau of Land Management’s Western Oregon Plan Revision for Oregon’s forests, asked the agency to ensure the plan complies with the Endangered Species Act, clean water standards and the Oregon Conservation Strategy. Read more about it in the Eugene Register Guard.
<2008 is shaping up to be the Year of the Invasive Species. Conservationists of all ilk, journalists and individuals are on the attack against one of the most serious threats to Oregon’s native fish and wildlife. Invasive species is identified in the Conservation Strategy as one of six key conservation issues that affect species and habitats statewide.
The Silent Invasion
OPB Producer Ed Jahn says invasive species is a topic that found him. “Every outdoor story we worked on, whether is was a science story or a recreation story, involved some issue with invasive species. We gradually became aware of how big a problem it is in Oregon.”
Jahn, a producer for Oregon Field Guide, an Oregon Public Broadcasting television program, is involved in a year-long campaign to inform Oregonians about the environmental damage caused by invasive species. It culminates on April 22 with the airing of the documentary “The Silent Invasion.”
Did Jahn learn anything during his work with invasives that he didn’t know in the beginning?
“I learned two, seemingly contradictory things,” he said. “First, I had no idea how many invasive species there are in Oregon in plain sight and how much damage they do. Second, I see how much better off Oregon is than so many other states who have lost so much. We still have a great potential to win some of these battles.”
See a preview of OPB’s Silent Invasion.
Tackle Invasive Plants
SOLV, a non-profit organization that works to enhance the livability of Oregon, is collaborating with OPB and The Nature Conservancy to schedule volunteer invasive plant removal projects on May 17, 2008.
Sara Ryan, SOLV program coordinator, is spearheading the effort as part of SOLV’s “Down by the Riverside” annual event. “To bring awareness to the problem, we are asking Oregonians to lead or get involved in an invasive plant removal project in their area,” she said. “We can provide promotion, supplies and support for your efforts.”
Visit the SOLV website to sign up for e-mail updates, or contact Sara at email@example.com or 800-333-SOLV.
Closing the Door on Quaggas and Zebras
Near the top of the Oregon Invasive Species Council’s hit list are quagga and zebra mussels. According to Jim Gores, ODFW Invasive Species coordinator, they are a priority for a reason. If they do infest Oregon’s lakes and rivers, it will cost businesses and taxpayers millions of dollars each year to control them—once established, it is virtually impossible to eliminate them.
“Despite the fact quagga mussels made the leap to the West last year, Oregon is still holding the line,” said Gores. “But it will take a statewide effort to ultimately close the door against them.”
“If invasive mussels come to Oregon, it will be by boat,” said Randy Henry, Oregon Marine Board, who has partnered with ODFW to train OSP officers and border personnel on how to inspect boats and trailers. “We need the ability to inspect boats if we want to avoid the economic and environmental damage the mid-western states deal with every day.”
To that end, the Oregon Invasive Species Council is considering a number of concepts including boat inspection stations at the eastern and southern borders and increased enforcement authority—strategies that will need funding and legislative support.
“These are things we have to do,” said Dr. Mark Sytsma, Associate Professor of Environmental Science at Portland State University, Invasive Species Council chair, and coordinator of the state’s aquatic invasive species management plan. “We have to have inspection stations and increased enforcement. Any state struggling under the costs of controlling invasive mussels, would love to have the opportunity Oregon has to protect our waters.”
Currently, PSU staff is surveying and monitoring freshwater bodies for the presence of mussels, although much more needs to be done. “What we are doing in eastern Oregon is insufficient,” said Sytsma. “We need to do more monitoring and have a rapid response plan in place in the event we do find invasive mussels.”
For more information, e-mail Dr. Mark Sytsma, Jim Gores, Randy Henry
PSU zebra mussel monitoring
ODFW Fact sheet
Invasive Species of Oregon in the News
The Statesman Journal newspaper is midway through a series on Invasive Species; visit their website for past articles, Web links, photos and ideas of what you can do to help. Aquatic invertebrates will be featured in February.
OWEB has dedicated $1 million in Oregon Lottery funds for on-the-ground projects to aid in the conservation of our natural symbols—the American beaver, Western meadowlark, chinook salmon and Oregon swallowtail. Projects will be selected by ODFW with agreement from OWEB. Funding will be administered by OWEB. Proposed projects must focus on habitat-based actions that address conservation of the four target species under priorities identified in the Oregon Conservation Strategy. The deadline is February 25. Grant application materials are available on the ODFW website.
TAX CHECKOFF FOR OREGON'S WILDLIFE
Support the amazing diversity of Oregon’s wildlife with a checkmark on your 2007 state tax return. Money received from the Nongame Wildlife Fund helps support the needs of the state’s 600 or more nongame species—native freshwater fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals—that are not hunted, fished, or trapped.
You can contribute by checking the box on your Oregon Individual Income Tax form. Your contribution has the potential to be matched three to one by federal grants and funds, so your dollars readily increase. If you are not getting a tax refund, or want to make a business or corporate contribution, you can send a check to: Nongame Wildlife Fund, ODFW, 3406 Cherry Avenue N.E., Salem, OR 97303-4924. For more information.
ABOUT THE OREGON CONSERVATION STRATEGY
The Oregon Conservation Strategy offers a blueprint for the long-term conservation of Oregon’s native fish and wildlife and their habitats through a non-regulatory, statewide approach to conservation. It was developed by ODFW with the help of a diverse coalition of Oregonians including scientists, conservation groups, landowners, extension services, anglers, hunters, and representatives from agriculture, forestry and rangelands. See past issues of the Strategy newsletter on the ODFW website.
For strategy information
Peg Boulay, Conservation Strategy and State Wildlife Grants coordinator
For a copy of the Strategy
Contact Karen Buell at ODFW.
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