Watermelon Hill: On July 19th, Inland Northwest National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Complex fire management staff responded to the Watermelon Hill fire southwest of Turnbulll NWR, near Cheney, WA. Fire staff assisted with initial attack operations on the incident which grew to approximately 11,000 acres. Photo credit: Joseph Aiello /USFWS
Hi there! My name is Molly Cox. I work for the USFWS Pacific Region Fire Management Program. When I first came on board a few years ago, I learned pretty fast that Fire folks speak a different language. They’re so accustomed to speaking in ‘fire short-hand’ while working on wildfires, they often forget that others don’t know what they’re talking about. Here are some definitions of fire terms used frequently by firefighters but commonly misunderstood by the public:
Geographic Area Coordination Center (GACC) - The physical location of an interagency, regional operation center for the effective coordination, mobilization and demobilization of emergency management resources.
Most of our Pacific Regional Refuges and Fish Hatcheries are located within the Northwest Area Coordination Center (NWCC) which includes the states of Oregon and Washington. Visit their website (http://www.nwccweb.us/index.aspx) to view a map of all current wildfires burning in the GACC.
Hotshot Crew (also known as Type 1 Crews) - Intensively trained 20-person fire crew used primarily in hand line construction and firing operations on wildland fire incidents.
Fire Management Officer (FMO) - within our region, we have nine fire management zones or districts, each with their own fire management officer or FMO (check out our Fire Management Zones map). The FMO is responsible for managing the overall fire program for his or her zone and provides support to the National Wildlife Refuges and Fish Hatcheries located there.
Fuelbreak- A natural or manmade change in fuel characteristics which affects fire behavior so that fires burning into them can be more readily controlled. Homeowners can better protect their homes from wildfire by mowing the grass around their properties, thereby lessening the fuels, or burnable vegetation, which limits fire growth.
Firefighters are shown here lighting the prescribed burn from a road. The road is used as a ‘fire break,’ preventing the fire from spreading out of the planned prescribed burn boundary. Photo credit: Ken Meinhart, USFWS
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Increíble de creer pero algunas veces, el fuego es la mejor medicina para el ecosistema.
En el refugio llamado Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex que está situado en el valle Willamette en el estado de Oregón se ha usado incendios para mantener saludables los ecosistemas del refugio.
En el pasado, el valle era una mezcla de hábitats silvestres. Los humedales del valle eran extensivos con corrientes serpentinas y pantanos inundados por temporadas. Los pastizales y las praderas húmedas eran mantenidos por los incendios forestales. Hoy en día, pequeño fuegos son ‘prescritos’ por biólogos para el beneficio de diferentes hábitats importantes para la vida silvestre.
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Por ejemplo en el refugio, Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge, los incendios prescriptos fueron usados en los campos como preparación para plantar hierbas y granos para las aves migratorias como los gansos canadienses. Esta especié de ganso o branta invernan exclusivamente en el valle Willamette. La pérdida de hábitat, la depredación y la cacería han contribuido a la disminución de la población de estas aves pero el refugio les provee un lugar seguro para que ellos invernen. El refugio también provee un lugar seguro para miles de gansos cascareadores, que son una versión más pequeña de los gansos canadienses.
Tryon Creek is one of the largest and most protected urban watersheds in Oregon. Tryon is located in Southwest Portland and we are teaming up with partners to restore habitat in the creek’s confluence for threatened salmon and steelhead populations.
Photo credit: City of Portland
The first in a series of behind-the-scenes stories on how fire affects people, places, and wildlife.
By: Amanda Smith/USFWS
Photo credit: Josh Homer/USFWS
Early last week, the ridge above Entiat National Fish Hatchery (NFH) in central Washington began to burn (above photo). While the flames in nearby Mills Canyon were only four miles from the facilities, hatchery manager Craig Chisam wasn’t overly concerned, “We are used to fires around here; this is fire country. The sheriff had only issued a level one warning at that point, meaning ‘be aware’ but stay put.”
A day and a half later, Chisam and his staff were more than aware as the fire was upgraded to a level three –evacuation – by noon on Thursday, July 10. “My first concern was for my staff, their families, and my own family who live on site. We had to make sure they had a safe place to go.” Chisam also had about half a million other things to worry about – the 435,000 Chinook salmon fingerlings in the raceways awaiting coded wire tagging.
Photo: A map of the vast Mills Canyon area impacted by the fire. Credit: InciWeb
“Most days of the year, growing healthy fish is our primary job. During a fire, protecting human health is our primary job,” Chisam said.
With more than 22,000 acres ablaze throughout the Mills Canyon area, safety is a big job.
Photo: A bird in the hand is worth…You can’t put a price on these banded plover chicks who are making a comeback thanks to dedicated conservation partners. Photo credit: K. Castelein/ORBIC
Whether you say plover with a long ‘o’ (rhymes with ‘over’) or plover with a short ‘o’ (rhymes with ‘lover’), you will certainly agree that success is the right word to use when describing the results of this year’s breeding window survey in Oregon. A record 243 Western snowy plovers were observed during the 2014 survey including a recovered pair found nesting in site that hasn’t seen plovers in more than ten years.
Photo: Bump on a log? Look closely and you can see the chick who, thanks to two tenacious parents, hatched from the Sutton nest, a success that hasn’t occurred since 2003. Credit: Adam Kotaich/ORBIC
Maggie Everett, whose dad Jeff is a biologist at our Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office, went along for the survey and gives a realistic account of the obstacles these threatened birds face:
Despite challenges presented by trash, dogs, and people, Maggie and our biologists remain optimistic about their future, especially with the new signs in place and no shortage of plover lovers in Oregon.
Photo: Maggie Everett reports from the field about plover habitat and shows off new signs designed to raise public awareness in fragile shorebird habitat.
By Dylan Knapp/USFWS
SAC Gary Young and his pal Dixie
One critical function of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) is the enforcement of the laws and regulations that protect vulnerable species and wild spaces. Without the watchful presence of the OLE agents of the Service, the conservation gains by our biologists would be imperiled by those who ignore wildlife laws. The geographic expanse and diverse landscapes of the Pacific Northwest provide a challenging backdrop to combat illegal activity. In addition, the sheer number of imperiled species and remote locations they reside in require an ambitious and creative law enforcement strategy. Finally, the region includes bustling international ports and border crossings, key hubs in the multi-billion-dollar international illegal animal trafficking trade.
Fortunately for the species and people of the Pacific Region, Gary Young, Pacific Region Special Agent in Charge (SAC), brings a long pedigree and deep experience to the fight. Young, originally a state Game Warden in Texas, has served in the FWS in positions throughout the United States, ranging from Texas and Utah to the vast expanses of Alaska, where he was stationed in Fairbanks as Resident Agent in Charge. Young was assigned to his current position as Special Agent in Charge in the Pacific Region in October of 2012.
You began your career as a Texas state Game Warden. What drew you to work in law enforcement?
I was drawn to the chance to work outdoors and be a game warden in one of the 254 counties in Texas. Texas game wardens have a long and well respected history in Texas and I wanted to be part of that. When you are assigned to a County, you are the wildlife enforcement for that area; a huge responsibility. Game Wardens are generally known and well-liked by landowners in the state and become very much a part of the community. But my college advisor discouraged me and suggested I choose another career. Back in the 70’s and 80’s the state would open up 20 spots and there would be over 3,000 applicants! I was lucky enough to get my foot in the door with Texas Parks and Wildlife as a boat operator on the Texas gulf coast. I operated the boats that game wardens used to patrol Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It was a great learning experience and gave me that extra edge to apply for and get accepted into the Texas game warden academy in 1984.
What was your first assignment with Fish and Wildlife Service?
After my initial training assignment in Wichita, Kansas, my first assignment was in Cedar City, Utah. I was the only agent in the area, and we didn’t even have an office, so I worked out of a hotel for the first few months. Because most of the issues the Service dealt with in southern Utah were endangered species issues, a great deal of my time was spent on outreach to the community to build trust relationships, which are very important to our mission. I spoke at real estate lunches, chamber of commerce meetings, building relationships with landowners and developers regarding endangered species.
The deserts of central Utah may seem arid and empty, but the species that dwell there can be delicate, and still need oversight and protection. Pictured: Heliotrope Mountain. Photo courtesy Daniela Roth/USFWS.
Soft corals and tropical fish at the summit of East Diamante volcano, nicknamed by scientists as the “Aquarium.” Image courtesy of NOAA Submarine Ring of Fire 2004
By Danielle Lampe, Americorps and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Intern
Only three people have been able risk it all to explore the deepest location on the planet, seven miles into the Challenger Deep, the deepest point in the Mariana Trench. The first voyage on January 23, 1960, by U.S. Navy Lt. Don Walsh and Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard with the bathyscaphe called the Trieste. In the 20 short minutes they had spent at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, they were able to confirm that life could in fact live in the greatest depths of the ocean.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the Mariana Trench as part of the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument. Located in the Mariana Archipelago east of the Philippines,the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument protects approximately 95,216 square miles of submerged lands and waters.
The Champagne vent, found at the NW Eifuku volcano, produces almost pure liquid carbon dioxide, one of only two known sites in the world. More than one mile below sea level, venting fluids were measured at 217°F (103°C); the surrounding water temperature was 36°F (2°C). Image courtesy of NOAA Submarine Ring of Fire 2004
It wasn’t until the most recent dive conducted by director/explorer James Cameron that would demonstrate the surprising diversity found in the Trench. Cameron worked with engineers to build his very own custom submersible made to withstand the extreme pressures of the Trench and partnered with the National Geographic Society and Rolex to fund the expedition.
The DeepSea Challenger submersible was being deployed for one of the dives prior to the Challenger Deep. Photo Credit: USFWS
Unlike the Trieste expedition, Cameron was able to spend several hours in the Trench, allowing for him to observe and capture on film the creatures that call the Mariana Trench home. Cameron’s story of ocean exploration will be debuted as the film, DeepSea Challenge.
Galatheid crabs and shrimp graze on bacterial filaments on the mussel shells. The black “scars: on the shells are former anchor points of mussels who have cut their threads and moved on. Image courtesy of NOAA Submarine Ring of Fire 2004
The Mariana Trench is the deepest place on Earth, deeper than the height of Mount Everest above sea level. It is five times longer than the Grand Canyon and includes some 50,532,102 acres that are virtually unknown to humans.
An arc of undersea mud volcanoes and thermal vents supports unusual life forms in some of the harshest conditions imaginable. Here species survive in the midst of hydrothermal vents that produce highly acidic and boiling water.
Unique reef habitats support marine biological communities dependent on basalt rock foundations, unlike those throughout the remainder of the Pacific. These reefs and waters are among the most biologically diverse in the Western Pacific and include the greatest diversity of seamount and hydrothermal vent life yet discovered. They also contain one of the most diverse collections of stony corals in the Western Pacific,more than 300 species, more than any other U.S. reef area.
A fear of slithery, slimy critters keeping you or your kids from venturing into nature? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Even Indiana Jones could have done without snakes. http://bit.ly/naturetips
You’re also not alone in overcoming this aversion. USFWS rangers share some of their favorite tips for getting kids (and grown-ups) more comfortable with the outdoors and its inhabitants: http://bit.ly/naturetips
Once you’ve summoned your courage, be sure to check out our new website, Experience Nature, and get ready for your next adventure! http://bit.ly/experiencenature
Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: USFWS
Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge overlays a 22,000 acre shallow marsh, full to busting with bulrush, cattails, and birds. Looming in the distance are the blue-grey Caribou Mountains, rounded at the tops and often dusted with snow even into the early summer.
After decades of dispute over who owns the lakebed at Grays Lake, the United States has now closed on the first acquisition of lakebed property. Working with landowners, the State of Idaho, the Shoshone-Bannock, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Justice has resulted in a concrete resolution to a complex real estate situation.
The agencies will continue to work with land owners who wish to sell their property along the lakebed. Already, BIA has accepted offers for an additional 2,200-acres.
White-faced ibis take flight on the refuge. Photo credit: robinsegg, Flickr
Home of the Grays Lake National Wildlife Refuge, this high elevation habitat is a healthy mix of marsh, open water, wet meadow and grasslands. This rich habitat is home to the world’s largest nesting population of Sandhill cranes and many other migratory birds – in addition to large mammals like moose and elk.
Land owner Demont Crystal talks with Pamela Benn while he overlooks the property he sold that will benefit the refuge’s wildlife. Photo credit: USFWS
In addition to benefiting wildlife, Grays Lake also stores and supplements water for the Fort Hall Irrigation Project. The marshy Grays Lake has been used as water storage for the project since the 1900s.
A Sandhill crane guards its clutch of eggs along the marsh. Photo credit: robinsegg, Flickr
“This is the first step in settling a long standing dispute and moving the refuge forward,” said Southeast Idaho National Wildlife Refuge Complex Project LeaderTracy Cassleman. “This is monumental.”