Sarah Bauer is an employee at the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in the Fish Health department. She is shown here giving a demonstration to a group at the 2010Youth Outdoor Festival.
Who is that guy in the background anyway?
Federal officials trying to prevent invasive Asian carp from infiltrating the Great Lakes are using many of the same techniques used to fight the sea lamprey, a parasite that was once as feared as Asian carp but has been largely brought under control.
Welcome to the new Friends of the Upper Mississippi (FUMFS) website. Enjoy your stay here. We are always up for comments and suggestions about what kind of things you would like on our site.
By Craig Moorhead for the Houston County News
The event, hosted by the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge and Mississippi River Wild, a friends of the refuge group, showcases one of the greatest bird migration corridors on the North American continent. Besides swans, many varieties of waterfowl — including ducks, geese, coots and even raptors — sail down the waterway.
Busloads of bird watchers arrived at the Brownsville overlook Saturday morning. One of those groups, from Winona, had as tour guides Dave Palmquist, naturalist of Whitewater State Park, and Edward Lagace, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Winona District park ranger.
“This is my 27th annual swan watch field trip,” Palmquist said. “Considering the weather, this is a pretty darn good turnout.”
The swan watch has followed the birds over the years, he explained, with tours beginning in Weaver and then Alma, Wis. Now the favored spot is Brownsville, due to extensive habitat work done there in recent years.
“This is my third tour,” Lagace said. “We brought 50 people today, but I had to turn about 20 more away when they called in after the deadline to sign up. We may need to bring two buses next year. People just love coming, just absolutely enjoy this.”
Umbrellas sprouted and rain drops glistened on spotting scopes. River Wild volunteers served bowls of chili, along with other warm victuals. Sue Fletcher, naturalist/educator with the Fish and Wildlife Service, held a big jar of broadleaf arrowhead tubers. Attached to the roots of the plant, they’re the reason the swans are here.
“One swan can eat about six pounds of these per day,” she said. “That’s about two of these containers.
“They do a count every week, and the latest one showed 5,000 to 7,000 tundra swans,” Fletcher added. “That was early last week, so there may well be more here now. In addition, there are about 150,000 canvasback ducks on the refuge, which takes in 260 miles of the Mississippi (River) from Wabasha to Rock Island, Ill.”
That’s a large portion of the total population of the big diving ducks. Fletcher told birders that if they scanned the river, they’d also see other species, including Canada geese, mallards, wood ducks, green wing teal, coots, mergansers, ring neck ducks, golden eyes and bald eagles.
Palmquist said that 12,000 to 15,000 tundra swans can sometimes be seen in the area. In fact, 20 percent to 25 percent of the total eastern population of tundra swans rest and feed in this region in November and December, leaving only when the waters freeze. Then they’ll continue south and east, wintering along the Atlantic seaboard, mostly from Maryland to the Carolinas. The eastern population breeds on a vast swath of arctic tundra from Alaska to Hudson Bay.
Mississippi River Wild President Ken Visger said that in spite of the weather, more than 300 people attended Saturday’s event. For those who missed the boat, there’s more birding to be had. Two observation decks are located along Minnesota Highway 26 south of Brownsville. Both the upper (northern) deck, where Saturday’s festivities were held, and the lower deck, closer to Reno, sport permanently mounted spotting scopes.
“The volunteers are great,” Lagace said. “It’s important to note that Saturdays and Sundays throughout November, there will be staff here with scopes for people to use, and people to talk to (including MRW members) and ask questions regarding the swans.”
“Without the friends group and other volunteers, we’d be sunk,” Palmquist said. “We wouldn’t have the manpower to run these programs.”
A busload of college students from Decorah, Iowa, loaded up to leave. The second bus from the Winona area began to load up as well. The drizzle continued, but cars trickled in and visitors stared out at the big white birds with their long, graceful necks.
Winona resident Farmer Parsi showed his daughter, Ryka, what wild swans look like, birds that have flown straight from a place that most humans will never see. Speaking for the people who were braving the cold, he summed the sight up in two words: “It’s gorgeous.”
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, is an international treaty signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971. The convention provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation of wetlands around the world.
In January 2010, the Upper Mississippi River Floodplain Wetlands became one of more than 1,800 Ramsar sites worldwide. Over 302,300 acres of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin are included in the Ramsar designation.
In making the announcement, Secretary Salazar said, “The ecological, social, and economic values of the Upper Mississippi River make it one of the crown jewels of this nation’s wetlands. This marks the 27th U.S. wetland designated under the Convention on Wetlands. The U.S. became a party to the convention in 1987, which now includes 150 countries. It’s certainly fitting that this area has now officially received international recognition.”
The designation includes just over 300,000 acres of federal and state lands and waters of the Upper Mississippi River floodplain from near Wabasha, Minn. to north of Rock Island, Ill. The designation includes all of the 240,000-acre Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge headquartered in Winona, Minn. and the adjacent 6,226-acre Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.
Other designated sites in the U.S. include such wetland icons as Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia and Florida, Everglades National Park in Florida, and Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin.
The site consists primarily of flowing main and side channel habitats, backwater marshes, and floodplain forests.
Facts about the Upper Mississippi River Floodplain Wetlands of International Importance:
10/10/10 for 10!
Celebrate Working Wetlands
At Brownsville Overlook
On the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge
Join us on Sunday, October 10, 2010 (10]10]10 for 10!) at 10:00 AM to celebrate
wetlands for at least 10 minutes
The “official” event will last 10 minutes and 10 seconds.
10 am A flock of people will meet at Brownsville Overlook on Highway 26 near Brownsville,
We will write down 10 reasons why we love wetlands.
10:10 am We will chant “We Love Celebrating Wetlands!” a photograph of us will be taken
with our list in hand.
10:10:10 am the Official Event Over!
Stay and enjoy the migrating waterfowl and meet the Mississippi River Wild members.
Spotting scopes will be placed and binoculars available to enjoy the view.
Contact for more information: Paula Ogden_Muse @ 608 783 8403 or email Paula_Ogden
Events Listed at:
http://coord.info/GC2BQB1 10/10/10 for 10! Brownsville Overlook, Minnesota
Upper Mississippi River Basin Protection Act to Reduce Sedimentation, Improve Water Quality
Washington, DC –U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) today reintroduced his Upper Mississippi River Basin Protection Act, legislation calling for the development of a coordinated, public-private approach to studying and reducing nutrient and sediment runoff in the Upper Mississippi River Basin. The bill also establishes a water-quality monitoring system and a computer modeling program to analyze data.
“The river plays a vital role in our economy and our quality of life in western Wisconsin,” said Rep. Kind, founder and Co-chair of the Upper Mississippi River Basin Congressional Task Force. “Increased sediment and nutrient flow into the upper basin poses a very serious threat to the long-term health of the entire Mississippi River system. This bill will lay the scientific foundation necessary to ensure the future quality and beauty of the Mississippi for generations to come.”
The accumulation of excess sediment from increased soil erosion and nutrients, such as fertilizers and animal waste, in the Upper Mississippi River Basin degrades aquatic and wetland habitat and imperils a wide variety of fish and waterfowl. The increased soil erosion causes applied fertilizer from area farms to wash into the river, resulting not only in dangerously high nitrogen and phosphorous levels, but also a reduction in the long-term sustainability and income of family farms, and the plaguing of farmers annually with $300 million in unnecessary costs. In addition, sediment accumulation fills the main shipping channel of the river and valuable wetlands throughout the basin, reducing the value to wildlife and their capacity as nutrient filters and costing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers more than $100 million annually in dredging costs.
The Upper Mississippi River Basin Protection Act aims to produce the data needed to better understand sediment and nutrient flow from its source in the landscape to its destination in rivers and lakes and drive the innovation needed to solve the excess sediment and nutrient problem in the Mississippi River System. The legislation establishes a sedimentation and nutrient reduction monitoring network and an integrated computer modeling program that, when combined, will provide the baseline data needed to make scientifically sound and cost-effective decisions to improve the Upper Mississippi River’s ecosystem.
“While there is no easy solution to stopping the runoff of sediment and nutrients into the Upper Mississippi River Basin, this legislation will make significant strides toward reducing this flow of harmful pollutants into the river. I have worked closely with farmers, industry, sporting groups, conservation organizations, and government agencies to develop this effective, basin-wide, and non-regulatory approach, and am confident it will find support in both the House and the Senate.”
The reintroduction of the Upper Mississippi River Basin Protection Act is particularly timely considering the Mississippi River Basin Initiative introduced by Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack late last week. The USDA initiative aims to improve the overall health of the entire Mississippi River, as opposed to the current regional approaches, and provides $320 million for improvement projects in states bordering the river. Together, the two efforts will take important steps to maintain and improve the overall health of one of America’s most central water resources.
The Upper Mississippi River system, with tributaries and a basin encompassing much of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri, is widely recognized as one of our nation’s great multi-use natural resources. The Mississippi River and its tributaries provide drinking water to approximately 22 million Americans and the system’s 1,300 navigable miles transport millions of tons of commercial cargo via barges. In addition, 40 percent of North America’s waterfowl use the wetlands and backwaters of the main stem as a migratory flyway, illustrating the environmental significance of the system as well as recreation capabilities.
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