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CONSERVATION NEWS



H. Dale Hall

Service Veteran H. Dale Hall Is FWS Director - H. Dale Hall, a 27 year career employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has been nominated by President Bush, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, to serve as the next Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hall has served in Albuquerque, New Mexico as the Southwest Regional Director since 2001. “Dale brings to the job a wealth of experience and a record of being part of the answer to complex problems,” said Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton. “As a qualified scientist, he has worked on everything from the Northwest Forest Plan to the California Bay/Delta water settlement, to the plan for restoring the Everglades. He has dealt with wetlands across the nation and water issues on the Middle Rio Grande and the Missouri Rivers. In every instance he has sought consensus and solutions. I am confident he will continue that record.” Hall said he was “humbled and honored” to be nominated by the President and to have the confidence of Secretary Norton. “I'm looking forward to this position and to using my experience to lead our outstanding employees in finding science based, cooperative solutions to the tough issues before the Service.” Hall has previously served as Deputy Director of the Southeast Region and a term as Assistant Regional Director for Ecological Services in Portland, Oregon. He started his career with the Service in 1978 when he did field work in wetlands ecology in Vicksburg, Mississippi. He holds a bachelor's degree in biology and chemistry from Cumberland College in Kentucky and a master's in fisheries science from Louisiana State University. Hall has been honored with the Department of the Interior's Meritorious Service Award. He and his wife, Sarah, have three children.

Woodcock Initiative Takes Flight - As the nation's forestlands mature, and as farmlands and wetlands are lost to development, American woodcock continue to decline. Conservationists understand that without focused attention, woodcock and other species with similar habitat requirements may become uncommon. Partners in Flight and the North American Bird Conservation Initiative have ranked woodcock as a highest (global) priority species in need of conservation action within several Bird Conservation Regions. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has named the American woodcock as one of a handful of national focus species. Numerous states have declared American woodcock to be a species of greatest conservation need within their respective Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. Habitats used by woodcock support other high priority species in need of conservation action. The Partners in Flight physiographic plan for New England, for example, lists seven other highest priority birds that require habitats similar to those used by woodcock. To address the issue of loss of habitats important for woodcock and other high priority species, the Wildlife Management Institute has assembled the largest public/private coalition ever created to address proactively habitat improvement for woodcock. Twenty two partners, ranging from private landowners to federal agencies, have signed on to an initiative designed to link improvements on public lands with widespread management gains on private lands. The initiative will provide technical assistance, labor and funding to: create demonstration areas on state and federal lands that exemplify best management practices (BMPs) for American woodcock; monitor woodcock populations and habitat use before, during and after implementation of BMPs; and use demonstration areas as case histories within coordinated outreach efforts to inform and motivate private landowners. The initiative also will make available to private landowners technical assistance, labor and machinery to improve American woodcock habitat on their land.

Refuge System Staggered By Hurricane Katrina - In the immediate aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) located and accounted for the safety of all of its employees and then used its personnel, equipment and undamaged facilities to aid in search and rescue operations, debris removal, volunteer housing and meal distribution for hurricane victims. Hurricane Katrina damaged refuges in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. Twenty five refuges were ravaged by strong winds, heavy rain and saltwater intrusion. Sixteen refuges were temporarily closed. Initial USFWS estimates of damage to refuges from Hurricane Katrina total in the millions. Estimates of damage from Hurricane Rita are just coming in and are expected to approach the level caused by Katrina. These estimates do not include the costs to the USFWS of providing personnel, equipment and undamaged facilities to aid in public recovery efforts by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Also, largely not taken into account by current estimates, are costs to reduce risk of wildfire along the urban wildland interfaces of refuges and costs of restoring refuge habitat for fish and wildlife.

Emergency Response Equipment Donated To Wildlife Agency - Members of the International Association of Marine Investigators (IAMI), along with manufacturers, marinas and private individuals, came together to help assist the men and women who were at the forefront of the massive recovery efforts from Hurricane Katrina. Jimmy Laird, past president of IAMI, was recently at the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) headquarters in Jackson to present a large amount of donated marine and disaster relief equipment to the MDWFP and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. “These agencies are members of our association, and we're just trying to give something back to them for all the hard work they have done in the recent disaster recovery efforts,” Laird said. The donated equipment, which will be evenly distributed among the agencies, includes submersible flashlights, handheld GPS systems and marine radios, life jackets, lip balm, latex gloves, cleanup suits and other items used in disaster recovery. The monetary value of the donation is estimated at around $30,000. “We are greatly appreciative of what our fellow members and supporters have done for us,” MDWFP Major Kenny Neely said. “Our resources were stretched pretty thin during the search and recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina, and this equipment will be a welcome addition to our resource pool.”

Forest Service Reports Damage To Forests - Scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service recently reported that Hurricane Katrina damaged or destroyed approximately 19 billion board feet of timber estimated at a value of $5 billion in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. “The Forest Service is working in concert with its state partners to accurately assess the extent of damaged and destroyed forestland from Hurricane Katrina,” said Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth. “While this early assessment suggests a potential significant loss of timber, the next step will be to determine what is salvageable. Recovering the usable timber will help to diminish the economic loss as well as to prevent damage from insects and disease and to reduce the risk of fires.” If removed quickly, storm damaged wood can be salvageable for various products. According to Forest Service researchers, down and damaged wood (trees with broken tops, uprooted or leaning trees and trees that are bent, broken or splintered) can be sufficient to produce 800,000 single family homes and 25 million tons of paper and paperboard. The initial assessment indicates that the damage to the timber is spread across 5 million acres of lightly to heavily damaged forestland both public and private in the three states. However, the majority of the forestland affected is under private ownership. Forest inventories indicate one third of the timber damaged is concentrated in eight counties of southern Mississippi. Nearly 90 percent of all forestland damaged is within 60 miles of the coast and predominantly in Mississippi. “The extraordinary scale of the hurricane's impacts will require solid coordination at federal, state and community levels to restore these forested lands,” said Southern Group of State Foresters Chair Leah MacSwords. Nearly 60 percent of the damage occurred to softwoods predominantly pines - with the remainder of the damage occurring to hardwoods. The damaged acres may require additional treatment to reduce the risk of fires posed by downed trees and limbs.

Lake Walthall Opening Delayed - The September reopening of Lake Walthall south of Tylertown was postponed until later as a result of the disaster from Hurricane Katrina. “We have decided to postpone the reopening of the lake until we feel confident that we can accommodate the public safely and effectively,” Assistant Chief of Fisheries Bubba Hubbard said.

Reporting Ivory-billed Woodpeckers - The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York is gathering historic and current information about possible ivory-billed woodpeckers. The reports will be pulled together and scrutinized by scientists. Cornell officials remind the public that the ivory-billed woodpecker is an extremely rare and elusive bird. Historically, it has been restricted to the mature forests of the South. At their website, the Laboratory of Ornithology offers information on how to identify the large woodpecker you may be seeing. For more information, visit www.birds.cornell.edu.

Buccaneer Park Closed - Buccaneer State Park in Waveland has been closed due to extensive damage from Hurricane Katrina. “The park received massive damages from both storm surge and wind,” State Parks Director Bill Pope said. “We are not sure when the park will reopen.” Officials say the damage and the cost of cleanup are yet to be determined. However, the park will reopen.