August of 2017 saw the start of a long term project releasing Higgins’ eye mussels into the Chippewa River. Isn’t this just more of the same in mussel releases you ask? Hardly, because Higgins’ eye have been extirpated from this river for decades. The Chippewa is a great place to start a new population of Higgins’ eye mussels because it’s at a relatively low risk of invasion by zebra mussels and is occupied by other rare mussel species including the sheepnose and recently reintroduced winged mapleleaf. What does a mussel release look like? A bit like the crowd gathered around an invisible finish line. A grid 10 meters long and one meter tall was laid on the river bottom and used to keep the mussels at a steady abundance. Ten people, biologists, managers and volunteers wearing masks and snorkels, each placed four mussels in their square before flipping the grid over and over and over until all of the mussels were released. Every mussel was tagged with a small piece of plastic with a specific color and number in the weeks before so when they are found again they can be identified; 100 had passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags attached to their shells. Each of these tags will help us look at the success of starting the mussel population here. Looking forward from 2017, many more Higgins’ eye mussels will need to be released into the Chippewa River system in order to create a population there that can survive without regular addition of more mussels. To this end a team of biologists from Genoa Fish Hatchery, Region 3 Ecological Services Office, the Wisconsin Depart-ment of Natural Resources and the Midwest Fish-eries Center spent a day in the Chippewa looking for more sites with many different mussel species, young mussels and good numbers of species that use the same hosts as Higgins’ eye and were very successful. Four additional places were found and plans are already in the works for a 2018 release at the site closest to this year’s release. By Megan Bradley
Innovation, expertise and decades of effort on behalf of imperiled species highlight the accomplishments of two Midwest biologists named by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as 2016 Endangered Species Recovery Champions. The Midwest champions are among 31 individuals and teams across the United States named by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their work with endangered and threatened species.
Dr. Robert Dana, a biologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, was honored for his more than 40 years of work and vast knowledge of butterflies, especially the threatened Dakota skipper and the endangered Poweshiek skipperling, two prairie butterflies.
“Dr. Dana has played a critical role in the effort to conserve these two butterfly species,” said Tom Melius, the Service’s Midwest Regional Director. “His expertise with prairie habitat and uncommon ability to identify species in the field, together with his insight on their life history and willingness to share his hard-earned knowledge, have been critical in finding a path to recovery for the Dakota skipper and the Poweshiek skipperling.”
Dana is currently working with the Service, the Minnesota Zoo and The Nature Conservancy to reintroduce Dakota skippers in southwestern Minnesota. He is also working to prevent extinction of the Poweshiek skipperling, a highly imperiled species which may already be gone from Minnesota.Dana has played an integral role in establishing captive rearing programs for both species.
The Service also recognized Angela Dagendesh, assistant project leader at Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin, for her work to recover the Hine’s emerald dragonfly. These dragonflies overwinter in crayfish burrows during their life cycle; Dagendesh designed a system to rear Hine’s emerald dragonflies at the hatchery that mimics the living conditions found in the wild. “Angela’s work is moving the needle toward recovery for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly,” Melius said. “Thanks in great part to her efforts, we have been able to improve our program and shorten the time it takes to produce adult dragonflies. This is very exciting for recovery of this species.” Dagendesh was noted for working closely with partners, including the Chicago Field Museum and the University of South Dakota, to share resources and technology and to reach out to the public about the Hine’s emerald dragonfly.
The Recovery Champion awards began in 2002 as a one-time recognition for Service staff members for their achievements in conserving listed species. However, in 2007, the program was expanded to honor Service partners as well, recognizing their essential role in the recovery of threatened and endangered species.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Partnership coordinator and La Crosse FWCO biologist Heidi Keuler is widely recognized as “Outstanding in her Field!
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
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: