Kalamazoo Trailer on site

Trying to operate and maintain a full blown culture system from an eight hour drive is a daunting task, but every year at about this time Genoa National Fish Hatchery (NFH) begins packing the 8 foot by 24 foot work trailer that will be home to upwards of 1,500 young lake sturgeon for the summer. If all  goes well, and the egg collection efforts are successful, around 3,000 eggs from Michigan’s Allegan Dam spawning site on the Kalamazoo River will be disinfected and enter the trailer unit. In preparation for this, every year we have a training program. Originally the training was for our streamside trailer staff, but it has recently become training for other conservation partners that are beginning their own streamside rearing trailer efforts.  This year staff from the Toledo Zoo and our Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) in Michigan came out to learn more on lake sturgeon egg and larval fry care. The next day staff joined us from the Ashland FWCO in Wisconsin to learn about trailer systems operation, which involves heating and cooling culture water, filtering river water of impurities and ultraviolet disinfection of the incoming water supply. This ensures a healthy trailer sturgeon population that imprints on their natal or birth river water supply. When the fish are old enough to reproduce, they will come back to their birth river to increase their river specific population. This should ensure that they are the most suitable fish for the Kalamazoo River, and able to adapt and thrive to their home waters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside one of the streamside rearing units that Genoa NFH ?maintenance staff designed and constructed. Credit: USFWS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Fingerling lake sturgeon. Credit: USFWS

Due to wet conditions on the site, the trailer is waiting on the Michigan Department of Natural Resource’s maintenance site near the river, and will just have to wait for the day when it will be full of baby sturgeon later this spring. Many thanks to our tribal partners, the Gun Lake Tribe, for helping us set up the trailer and leading egg collection efforts.  In  April, we hope for the trailer’s full deployment at the trailer site, thereby fulfilling its role in Lake Michigan’s lake sturgeon restoration efforts.

 

 

 

A Bit of Local History is Unearthed at Genoa

One of the great things about being located in a small community (where everyone knows your name), is that good people are always interested in the programs and activities of the local community, including our station. One of the big interests currently is the Great River Road Interpretive Center that is being constructed this winter at the Genoa hatchery. Even though the project seems to be taking a long time to complete, many people still mention that they are very anxious to see the completed project. Others, hearing that there will be a local history exhibit in the building, have also volunteered sources and other historical items of local interest to be included in the project. Historians and local authors have also reached out to share their wealth of knowledge in order to interpret the breadth of history that we are blessed with in the local area. One such historian, William Burke, stopped in to check on how the building was coming along. He also passed along a very interesting piece of history that we were unaware of. In 1910, a paddle wheel steamboat that was used as a touring/excursion boat caught fire and sank just out-side the hatchery exterior dikes.

    J.S steamboat before engulfed in flames

The steamboat J.S. was returning from La Crosse to its destination of Lansing Iowa on June 25th,1910 with over 1000 passengers. The ship departed at 6 p.m. from La Crosse, and was almost directly adjacent to Bad Axe Island when fire broke out. This location is just south of the hatchery exterior dikes. After some quick thinking by the captain and crew, the boat made shore on Bad Axe Island to offload its passengers. Most made it off by the gangplank; however about 2-300 passengers had to jump in the river from the upper deck as the first deck was totally engulfed in flames. The evacuation resulted in at least one tragic death, a young married woman that was pregnant with the couple’s first child. The only other casualty was a male passenger that purportedly was under arrest for drunkenness in the hold, and may have allegedly been responsible for starting the blaze by careless smoking. Once the passengers disembarked, the captain and a skeleton crew directed the burning ship back into the channel to get it away from the passengers on the island and it floated directly downstream and sunk burning to the waterline.

                                                         Aftermath of the devastating fire

Passengers spent the better part of the night marooned on Bad Axe Island, being rescued by local boats that wrapped up the rescue mission by 3:30 a.m. that morning. We are looking forward to telling this story as part of local history very soon when the Interpretive Center makes its grand opening. By Doug Aloisi

 

 

 

 

                        Salvage crew working on the sunken J.S steamboat

 

Update on Great Lakes Programs at Genoa NFH

Staff from the Jordan River and Iron River National Fish Hatcheries (NFH) and Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) were out on Lake Huron, near the Les Cheneaux Islands collecting cisco (Coregonusartedi) eggs for current restoration initiatives taking place within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

After trawling, eggs are collected from ripe females

The eggs arrived on station in mid November and were incubated until hatching began in early January. The hatching of this species at Genoa NFH marks a historical event at the station as it is the first time these fish are being raised here, and the first time that they have been raised at a federal facility since the early 1900’s.

                                            Eyed up’ cisco eggs almost ready to hatch

As the eggs began to hatch an equal number of eggs from each pair of spawned adults were separated into distinct lots of fish that will makeup future broodstock to be used in helping to restore this species. The importance of this fish species lies primarily in its role as a native prey species for the Great Lakes systems. Restoring the numbers of native ciscos helps to balance the native food web structure and function.

Newly hatched cisco fry at Genoa   

 

 

 

 

 

Native prey species such as ciscos were hindered by the introduction of invasive species, habitat degradation, and commercial harvest. Once passing a series of three fish health certifications they will be transferred to Jordan River NFH in Michigan, once there they will serve as a captive broodstock for recovery efforts. In a continuing effort to reestablish native prey species in the Great Lakes system Genoa NFH will be partnering again with Jordan River NFH, Iron River NFH, Alpena FWCO,and the Green Bay FWCO to collect bloater chubs. Bloater chubs (Coregonus hoyi) are a member of the whitefish family and are also an important part of the prey fish community in the Great Lakes and serve an important role in many predator prey relationships.  Bloater chubs have experienced a decline in the Great Lakes due to commercial fishing, habitat degradation and an invasion of non native species such as invasive plankton, alewife, and zebra and quagga mussels. Because of these invasive species many of the native aquatic species in the Great Lakes are negatively affected.  These species like all invasive species tend to quickly establish themselves andsoon become a fierce competitor for food and niche space for native species. A top priority with Great Lakes managers has been to recover native species to provide a better balance in food web structure and function. The new quarantine systems at Genoa NFH will serve an extremely important role in developing future captive broodstocks for both of these native species. The station needs a safely contained area to develop these key species as well as provide opportunities to research and learn about these fish. The knowledge gained from the captive care of these fish will help the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service better manage and reach its goals of developing and maintaining Great Lakes fisheries from the bottom up. Keep watch for more updates on how the programs are progressing. By Aaron Von Eschen

 

 

 

2016 Regional Director’s Awards Ceremony Fisheries Staff Recognized for Excellence

BY KARLA BARTELT, REGIONAL OFFICE-FISHERIES

Showing appreciation for an employee’s hard work and dedication is one of the easiest ways to improve the morale of any work group, and the Fisheries program received a big boost during the 2016 Regional Director’s Excellence Awards ceremony. Of the ten awards presented across eight categories, six were presented to Fisheries employees, engendering a great deal of comradery and program pride.


Outreach Excellence Award winner, Heidi Keuler, working in the field. Credit: USFWS
The Outreach Excellence Award was presented to Heidi Keuler from the La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office. Heidi’s nomination commends her passion and dedication for outdoor youth education, as well as her interpersonal and partnership skills. She has developed and led numerous outreach activities, the impacts of which would be impossible to capture within this paragraph. Thousands of children have had an opportunity to learn about various outdoor activities due to Heidi’s exemplary vision and hard work, and we commend her outreach efforts.

 

Emy Monroe, Ph.D., of the Whitney Genetics Laboratory received the Science Excellence Award. Credit: USFWS

The Science Excellence Award was presented to Emy Monroe, Ph.D. of the Whitney Genetics Laboratory. Emy Monroe personifies science excellence through her scientific rigor and work ethic, her original genetics research, and for leading validation efforts for the genetic technology now used to routinely monitor for Bighead and Silver Carp. Her exemplary research will continue to keep the Whitney Genetics Lab on the cutting edge of genetic technology for many years..

There were over 70 nominations for this year’s Regional Excellence Awards, and the managers and coworkers that took the time to recognize those who went above and beyond should also be applauded. These individuals recognized significant achievements and took the time to write and submit detailed and heartfelt nominations.

Appreciation is a powerful motivator that increases employee happiness and strengthens the bond between employees and the mission. We commend all of those that received awards and those that were nominated. Employee recognition is not a “One Day Event,” rather it is a catalyst to be utilized every day to inspire and engage employees to continue to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats throughout the year.

Heidi Keuler Recognized for Outstanding Work with Fishers and Farmers Partnership

 

heidi
BY SCOTT YESS, LA CROSSE FWCO
The following letter was presented to La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office Biologist Heidi Keuler, in recognition of her fantastic work as Fishers and Farmers Coordinator. The letter was presented by Steve Sodeman and Jack Lauer Co-Chairs of the Partnership.

On behalf of the Steering Committee of the Fishers & Farmers Fish Habitat Partnership (FFP), we present you this letter in recognition and appreciation of your services as coordinator for FFP. Your leadership and professionalism have been an invaluable asset to the development, function and motivation of a rather unique partnership. FFP was created to address the needs of both farmers and fishes across the Upper Mississippi River Basin— farmers because of the significance of agriculture in shaping our landscape and our communities, and fishes because of their importance as both a natural resource and an indicator of the ecological health of the Basin. To make the Partnership relevant and representative we include a diversity of stakeholders representing state natural resource agencies, nongovernmental organizations working on behalf of environmental issues, and—perhaps most importantly—agricultural landowners and organizations that work and speak on their behalf. Agricultural representation in FFP is so important because nearly all our projects are on private lands, requiring landowner cooperation and engagement as a prerequisite for success. It is these characteristics of the Partnership and the Basin that present an organizational challenge and need for a skilled coordinator. Our successes to date as a Partnership are in no small part attributable to your guidance as coordinator. Simply put, we couldn’t do it without you. The accomplishments you have achieved as coordinator are many and varied. To list but a few, you have:
Exhibited an attention to detail, organization, and timely guidance to ensure the successful funding and implementation of farmer-led projects

Expanded the reach and representation of FFP with your efforts to bring in new members, secured multi-state grant funds to support stakeholder engagement training in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin
Engaged other partnerships and Fish Habitat Partnership staff at the national level, and in doing so have helped to attain a high profile for FFP

Earned the respect of all interests on the Steering Committee with your cooperative spirit and skill at bringing
together partners from diverse backgrounds and helping them to work together on common goals

Heidi, we have been pleased and rewarded with your leadership in FFP. You play an invaluable role in keeping us on task and in making the most out of what each of us can contribute to FFP. Thank you for your service as FFP coordinator. We look forward to continuing to work with you to further build upon the successes FFP has achieved with your leadership, service, and professional support.

Heidi in field

Partnership coordinator and La Crosse FWCO biologist Heidi Keuler is widely recognized as “Outstanding in her Field!

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat Restoration Programs Create Jobs, Pump Millions into Local Economies

PartnersForFishWildlifePartners for Fish and Wildlife staff meets with private landowners in Michigan to review habitat restoration project. (Photo by USFWS)

 

A peer-reviewed analysis finds that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s habitat restoration programs are extraordinary engines for the U.S. economy.

The report, Restoration Returns: The Contribution of Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program and Coastal Program Projects to Local U.S. Economies, finds that by working with partners Service programs created more than 3,900 jobs in Fiscal Year 2011 and generated a total economic stimulus of $327.6 million.

Each year, the Service completes more than 3,500 public-private partnership habitat restoration projects under the two programs, which leverage government dollars to generate private sector investment that is channeled into local communities.

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife program works with willing landowners to improve wildlife habitat. Landowners agree to maintain the projects for at least 10 years, but otherwise retain full control of their land. In Fiscal Year 2011:

• $18.6 million was invested nationwide through the program, leveraging more than $142 million in private sector contributions, totaling $161 million in restoration spending.
• When cycled through the economy, the projects generated more than $292 million for local economies, a return of $15.70 for every federal dollar spent.
• More than 3,500 jobs were created.

The Service’s Coastal Program works with communities and partners to undertake projects that protect and restore vital wildlife habitat. Projects include removing invasive species, replanting salt marsh and sea grasses, and installing living shorelines to prevent erosion. In Fiscal Year 2011:

• $2.8 million was spent on projects, leveraging more than $16 million from project partners, totaling 19.2 million in project funds.
• After cycling through the economy, these project funds provided $35.6 million in local economic stimulus, a return of $12.78 for every federal dollar spent.
• More than 470 jobs were created.

To see the entire report at: www.fws.gov/home/restoration_returns.html

Sportfishing and Conservation Groups Hail Introduction of National Fish Habitat Conservation Act in Senate

March 6, 2014 – Washington, D.C. – Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced S. 2080 the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act (NFHCA) on March 5, 2014. The bipartisan legislation authorizes the National Fish Habitat Action Plan (NFHAP) – an unprecedented national partnership effort aimed squarely at protecting, restoring and enhancing the nation’s aquatic resources and fish habitat.

Both Senators Cardin and Crapo sit on the Environment and Public Works Committee – Senator Cardin is the Chair of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee. Previous versions of NFHCA have enjoyed broad bipartisan support in Congress, including bipartisan approval by the Environment and Public Works Committee in two different Congresses. The language in the bill introduced today includes modifications to language in earlier versions of NFHCA that were made in consultation with several Senators and their staffs from both sides of the aisle.

“Choosing to protect our natural resources is good for our environment and our economy. Right now we need deliberate and targeted action to stem the loss of our precious aquatic habitats,” said Senator Cardin. “Our bill takes a comprehensive approach to stopping the single greatest cause of declining fish populations, by stemming the decline of healthy aquatic ecosystems that are critical to all fish species. We need to encourage healthier habitats for waterfowl and other wildlife as well as safer recreational waters for Americans to swim, boat and fish.”

“The legislation we’ve introduced stems from Senator Cardin’s and my shared goals of protecting, maintaining and improving our fish habitats,” said Senator Crapo. “Instead of creating new regulations and mandates, our bill fosters partnerships between federal, regional and local stakeholders to work together to promote healthy and sustainable fish populations for our communities.”

A wide range of sportsmen’s and conservation groups has endorsed this legislation over the years. It is the hope of these groups and others supporting this historic piece of legislation that it be adopted as an amendment to the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 (S. 1996) – a package of legislation introduced by Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

“We truly appreciate the leadership of Senators Cardin and Crapo in the introduction of this Act,” said Gordon Robertson, Vice President of the American Sportfishing Association. “The National Fish Habitat Conservation Act would be a great addition to the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 as it does not have a fishery habitat conservation piece of any kind and we believe the Fish Habitat Act would not only round out the package of bills but solidify the benefits for the sportsmen and women’s communities. The Fish Habitat Conservation Act will be a great compliment to the existing and long standing Sport Fish Restoration Act.”

“The National Fish Habitat Conservation Act is a critical piece of locally driven, common-sense legislation that will benefit local communities, and fish and fish habitat,” said Jen Mock Schaeffer, Government Affairs Director for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “Designed to replicate the continent’s preeminent and successful plan for conserving waterfowl, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act can provide the same kind of conservation benefits for fish and fish habitat across the country.

“The Nature Conservancy joins our partner organizations in supporting the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act introduced by Senators Cardin and Crapo,” said Kameran Onley, Director of U.S. Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy. “After many months of negotiations, we are pleased with this version of the legislation which reinforces the importance of the role of states and better addresses concerns raised by ranching and agriculture communities. This legislation is a model for the way conservation should occur – through voluntary, community-based, and from the-ground-up efforts.”

“The National Fish Habitat Action Plan is already working on the ground to make sport fishing better, from helping farmers manage livestock to protecting brook trout streams in West Virginia, to enhancing growth of native vegetation, improving water quality on Lake Conroe, Texas, to improving stream flows for coho salmon through a partnership with vintners on the Russian River, California” said Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited. “The new bill will ensure that farmers, ranchers and other landowners have a seat at the decision-making table and will ensure the long term sustainability of the program.”

In 2013 alone, National Fish Habitat Partnership projects opened nearly 200 miles of waterways to fish passage. Efforts like this implemented by grassroots-led habitat partnerships are one of only a few ways the National Fish Habitat Partnership is making a difference in conserving fish habitats across the country.

About the National Fish Habitat Partnership:
Since 2006, The National Fish Habitat Partnership has been a partner in 417 projects in 46 states benefiting fish habitat. The National Fish Habitat Partnership works to conserve fish habitat nationwide, leveraging federal, state, and private funding sources to achieve the greatest impact on fish populations through priority conservation projects. The national partnership implements the National Fish Habitat Action Plan and supports 18 regional grassroots partner organizations. For more information visit:

http://fishhabitat.org/
http://www.facebook.com/NFHAP
https://twitter.com/FishHabitat
http://www.scoop.it/t/fish-habitat

Study Finds Steep Decline In Amphibians

A new U.S. Geological Survey study, using data collected at national wildlife refuges and other sites, found a steep drop in the numbers of frogs, toads and salamanders across the country. The study shows widespread species declines even in protected areas such as refuges.

On average, amphibian populations studied vanished from habitats at a rate of 3.7 percent each year. At that rate, these species would disappear from half of their current habitats in about 20 years. More threatened species disappeared from their studied habitats at a rate of 11.6 percent each year. At that rate, these species would disappear from half of their current habitats in about six years.

Scientists with the USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative analyzed nine years of data from 34 sites ? including 10 national wildlife refuges – and covering 48 species. The refuges were: Buenos Aires, AZ; Coldwater River, MS; Great Bay, WI; Neal Smith, IA; Rachel Carson, ME; Upper Mississippi River, MN, WI, IL, IA; William L. Finley, OR; Eastern Massachusetts; Canaan Valley, WV; and Klamath Marsh, OR.

“Amphibians have been a constant presence in our planet’s ponds, streams, lakes and rivers for 350 million years or so, surviving countless changes that caused many other groups of animals to go extinct,” said USGS Director Suzette Kimball. “This is why the findings of this study are so noteworthy; they demonstrate that the pressures amphibians now face exceed the ability of many of these survivors to cope.”

The study found declines even in species presumed to be relatively stable and widespread. Declines were documented nationwide, from the swamps in Louisiana and Florida to the high mountains of the Sierras and the Rockies.

“Even though these declines seem small on the surface, they are not,” said USGS ecologist Michael Adams, the lead author of the study. “Small numbers build up to dramatic declines with time. We knew there was a big problem with amphibians, but these numbers are both surprising and of significant concern.”

The study did not evaluate causes of decline, but researchers speculated disease and climate warming were among contributing factors. The decline in amphibian numbers affects humans because amphibians control pests, provide medicines, feed other animals and help make ecosystems work.

FrogStudySpringPeeperFrog

This spring peeper frog is sitting on a leaf at West Virginia’s Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, one of 10 refuges involved in the study. (Ken Sturm/USFWS)

It Pays to Conserve

 

Outdoor recreation—including skiing at Waubay National Wildlife Refuge, SD—generates $88 billion in federal and state tax revenue.Laura Hubers

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contributed about $4.2 billion in economic activity and supported more than 32,000 private sector jobs as a result of national wildlife refuges and other public lands managed by the Service, according to a recent report commissioned by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The report also shows that the total value of ecosystem services provided by habitat in the Refuge System is worth more than $32 billion each year. Ecosystem services include all the functions performed by nature that benefit people, such as climate regulation, waste treatment, water supply, and carbon sequestration, among others.

Produced by Southwick Associates, the 2011 report includes data on the economic value of natural resource conservation, outdoor recreation and historic preservation. All together, the economic impact in the United States – including from the Refuge System —  is $1.06 trillion dollars – more than the gross domestic product of Australia.

Key findings:

  • Outdoor recreation– generates $88 billion in federal and state tax revenue. The study measured recreation not widely offered on national wildlife refuges, like camping and skiing, as well as recreation often found on refuges, including hunting, fishing and wildlife observation.
  • The property value of homes near parks and protected areas is typically about 20 percent higher than similar homes elsewhere.
  • About $2 billion was spent on construction and maintenance activities related to recreation and conservation, supporting about 41,000 jobs.
  • $222 million spent by the Department of the Interior on land acquisition contributed about $427 million in economic activity and supported about 3,000 jobs.

The full report is available online at  http://bit.ly/uYlico.