Tuesday, July 28, 2009

America's Wildlife Heritage Act needs support of outdoor-sport enthusiasts NOW

Speak up for America's Wildlife Heritage Act‏
From: Julia Marden, National Wildlife Federation (alerts@nwf.org)
Sent: Tue 7/28/09 12:37 PM

Dear Aubrey,
We shouldn't make the mule deer wait.
The mule deer (whose large ears can actually wiggle independently of each other), is iconic to the Rocky Mountain West. And unfortunately, it is facing threats of global warming and habitat loss much like every other wildlife species.
But ironically--despite the threats they face--mule deer populations are still too strong to be monitored and protected like endangered species are.
Ask your representative to support a law that safeguards wildlife species and their habitats before they become critically endangered.
Right now, Congress is considering legislation called America's Wildlife Heritage Act. This bill will help federal land management agencies safeguard species like the mule deer and require scientific objectives and monitoring to make sure wildlife populations remain at healthy levels.
Current federal law doesn't do much to protect America's wildlife, until it's almost too late. Instead, oil, gas and other interests have received priority on public lands over wildlife and the health of their habitats.
Here's a big chance to put wildlife conservation back on the agenda.
Just one bill could make all the difference.
Encourage your representative to be a leader in wildlife conservation by supporting America's Wildlife Heritage Act today.
Julia Marden
Online Grassroots Coordinator
National Wildlife Federation

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Times' July 15 headline two weeks premature; it may be accurate if published on July 22, 2009

Please click on image to ENLARGE view of a couple from West Palm Beach, Florida, at the Fayetteville National Cemetery on July 14, 2009. They were on a self-guided tour of Civil War battlefields and National Cemeteries and such. Many people choose to vacation in cities that have significant historic sites.

The July 15 headline below may be accurate if published again on July 22.
"Rezoning of sale barn property postponed
BY ROBIN MERO Northwest Arkansas Times
Posted on Wednesday, July 15, 2009
URL: http://www.nwanews.com/nwat/News/78148/
"Consideration of a rezoning request for the Washington County Livestock Auction property will wait until the Aug. 4 meeting of the Fayetteville City Council.
"Developer Campus Crest LLC wants two more weeks to develop a bill of assurance for the request, which will be presented to the council with the aim of making the zoning request more palatable.
"The developer is asking that nine acres be rezoned to downtown general from heavy commercial/light industrial and seeks to build apartments for University of Arkansas students."

The headline and the two graphs above were written after an agenda-setting meeting of the Fayetteville City Council. It may turn out to be accurate if the council tables the issue during the July 21 meeting. No action is taken at agenda sessions beyond setting the agenda for the official council meeting. If the developers actually do ask that it be tabled at the July 21 meeting, then the a member of the council could make a motion to table and, if that were seconded, then they could vote to table or not. If the council approves tabling, then it might not be further discussed.
If the tabling fails, then a motion could be made to vote on the issue of rezoning, which would require allowing developers to present and the public to speak. So there is no guarantee that the issue will not come to a vote at this meeting, but it does appear likely that it will be delayed until the first August meeting.
It would be an embarrassment to the city if apartments were allowed next to the national cemetery. This isn't about property rights. The lack of need for apartments for university students at this time has been well-documented. The obvious need in Fayetteville is for affordable housing such as the single-family homes in the neighborhood nearest the former sale barn and the National Cemetery.

Please click on image to ENLARGE view of representatives of the VA and contractors on July 14, 2009, discussing plans to prepare property to be added to the Fayetteville National Cemetery.

On Tuesday, federal officials and engineers and others with experience in cemetery design walked the cemetery and some adjacent land to the west that already has been bought by the Regional National Cemetery Improvement Corporation and donated to the VA for cemetery expansion. That land will be prepared after careful study of that land to become part of the burial ground. But it will not meet the projected need for more space for much more than a decade.
The sale-barn ground also would require careful planning and much work if it is added later. But the people on hand yesterday are well-trained and able to do it properly. It will be needed and is in the natural spot to be added to the existing cemetery that was created in 1867, soon after the civil war ended.
Maybe some people would not see the inappropriateness of putting apartments there unless it were allowed and then they actually experienced what it would be like.
Just imagine.

Quoting the NWAT article further: "The council by law is to consider only whether the zoning requested is compatible with the neighborhood.
"Alderman Sarah Lewis asked how the developer can present information about the project when the council is not to consider a specific project.
" 'I don't understand; we're not allowed to talk about the project, but they're allowed to bring a bill of assurance," Lewis said.
"City Attorney Kit Williams said a bill of assurance doesn't describe a project, only limits the range of a zoning.
A bill of assurance places voluntary restrictions on a developer."
"Copyright © 2001-2009 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved. Contact: webmaster@nwanews.com"

Regardless of the outcome of the effort to stop this rezoning, the Regional National Cemetery Improvement Corporation will continue its fund-raising effort. There is no guarantee at this point that federal money will be provided to help expand the cemetery even though Senator Blanche Lincoln told me in person that she will work toward that end and even though Congressman John Boozeman told me and several other people recently that he will work to earmark a bill in the House of Representatives to provide money through the Department of Veterans Affairs to purchase the sale-barn property to add to protect the future cemetery and the thousands of veterans are eligible for burial there already.
Please make donations payable to the Regional National Cemetery Improvement Corporation and mail to P.O. Box 4221, Fayetteville, AR 72702.
For more information, please go to the RNCIC's Web site at http://regncic.tripod.com
Regional National Cemetery Improvement Corporation's Web site

Monday, July 13, 2009

US FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE ARTICLE ON prairie wildflower restoratioin

Prairie flowers – Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Shawn May

Nearly 99% of the native tallgrass prairie has been lost to the plow and to development in the Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District, and this loss of habitat directly impacts many species of wildlife. Grasslands provide shelter for birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects. Species like greater prairie chickens, marbled godwits, short-eared owls, bobolinks and other song birds require large tracts of grasslands to make their homes. All species of ground nesting birds like waterfowl, pheasants, and songbirds need grasslands in which to build and conceal their nests.

The native grass species found in the Northern Tallgrass Prairie vary in height, from side-oats grama (that is about 1 foot tall), to prairie cordgrass and big bluestem (which can reach 7 feet tall). These plants develop root systems that are sometimes twice as long as the plants are tall. Because of this dense root system, these plants form sod that has a tremendous capacity to absorb run-off and rain water. The plants can take up chemicals and nutrients that are carried into the grassland by run-off thus filtering the water that flows through a tract of grassland.

Grassland Restoration and Management

When a new tract of land is acquired, it has usually been farmed, and a majority of the wetlands frequently have been drained. Due to the high density of wetlands in many areas of the District, the uplands are seeded to native grasses and forbs (wildflowers) first and allowed to establish before the wetlands are restored. The District harvests most of the needed seed from local native prairies which are diverse and of local origin. We also purchase some local origin grass and forb seeds to diversify our seed mix.

Seeding is done in the early spring, when the snow is melting and the sun's rays are getting warmer. The prairie mix of seed is generally broadcast into soybean stubble, however grass stubble and burned grass (ash) is also sometimes used as a seedbed.

Snow seeding – Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Les Peterson

A diverse seed mixture is important because the wildflowers provide food for many species of insects. Grassland birds and many other species of wildlife feed on the insects found in these prairies. Plant species diversity also provides variability in the grassland structure. Some wildlife species need dense grasses overhead and passageways near the ground; others like shorter, open areas in a grassland. Increased plant diversity provides better cover, nesting habitat and food for a larger variety of wildlife species.

Many prairie seedings would turn into a beautiful stand of grasses and wildflowers if given enough time, and the proper management to allow this to occur. Management actions often prescribed when a grassland is establishing, such as repeated weed clipping or spraying grasslands with chemical, can eliminate the diversity from a prairie seeding for the future. In the first couple years of growth, native plants grow downward as much, if not more, than they grow upwards. Having a deep root system allows prairie adapted plants to withstand severe droughts. Because native plants put so much energy into root growth when a grass stand is establishing, thistle will sometimes take advantage of the lack of competition for daylight. During this important time for the new seeding, weed control such as repeated clipping or chemical application can be detrimental to the long-term diversity of the grass stand and may actually perpetuate the problem. Management of weeds on the District focuses on the long-term control of invasive weed species in order to control the spread of noxious weed seed across the countryside. If properly managed, a diverse native plant community that has laid its roots deep, will out-compete many weed species for the long term. After a seeding has been established, it is difficult for many weeds to invade these dense native grass stands with their robust root systems.

Rarely do weeds invade native prairies or established native grass seedings; however, this can happen with some species of particularly invasive weeds (eg. crown vetch). Weed species can also invade grass seedings when soils are disturbed or seeded plants are sparse. When necessary, the District uses an integrated approach to control invasive plants in the short-term, with the goal of long term control being provided culturally through the establishment of a diversified grassland plant community.

Utilizing cultural, mechanical, chemical, and biological control techniques in combination is often more effective than using a single control technique. The District has used new technologies, such as a wetblade© mower that combine mechanical and chemical control into a single operation. An example of an effective biological control is the use of flea beetles for leafy spurge control. These insect species are native to Eurasia, where they naturally controlled spurge populations. Flea beetle larvae feed on the roots of the spurge plants, which keeps them from growing and may eliminate them completely from a grassland when conditions are ideal. Using its' natural insect predator, biological control can be a cost effective and species specific method of weed control. Research continues on biological controls for other problem weed species such as spotted knapweed and Canada thistle.

Wetblade mower – Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Kent Jensen

Fire is typically not used on a new seeding until the fifth to seventh year after seeding in order to allow the new plants time to establish themselves. After that initial period, a fire rotation of 3 to 5 years is used in order to stimulate the production of seed.

When fire has been absent from a tract of grassland for many years, trees and brush can invade. The Northern Tallgrass Prairie on average receives enough rain to support trees, but historically trees did not survive here unless they were near rivers or lakes. Oak savannas are another habitat type found in the District where invading trees are altering the landscape. Frequent disturbance from fire, bison grazing, and drought allowed these prairie communities to dominate the landscape. With the elimination of these periodic disturbances over the past 100 years, tallgrass prairies and hilltops once covered with scattered oaks and prairie grasses have gradually grown up in green ash, Siberian elm, and cottonwoods. In the portions of our District that were historically prairie or oak savannas, we are actively eliminating invading or previously planted trees using mechanical cutting and prescribed fire.

Last updated: July 9, 2008

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Joe Neal's new book now for sale

Please click on images to ENLARGE

Northwest Arkansas Audubon Society has published a new book, BIRDS in northwestern Arkansas, an ecological perspective. This venture is part of the ongoing re-launch of NWAAS. It narrates and summarizes a mass of
bird data from 9 counties in the NW corner of the state -- Breeding Bird Surveys, Christmas Bird Counts, records in Arkansas Audubon Society bird records database by many observers, Forest Service landbird point counts, field research by graduate students, etc. The book is $12.95 and is available at Nightbird Books in Fayetteville (205 W. Dickson). It is also available by mail by contacting our immediate past president, Joan Reynolds (joanreynolds@gmail.com)-- cost, 12.95 plus 3.00 postage. The book will also be available while they last (small press run) at society
functions, including the upcoming July 12 field trip to Chesney Prairie Natural Area -- bring the correct amount (if by check, make it out to NWAAS). Finally, if we sell 5 or more copies in one transaction, the price is $10 each (so get together & save more; this price would not include
postage, if the books are to be mailed). This is a not-for-profit venture. Hopefully, this will widen understanding of bird occurrences in this part of Arkansas and stimulate more birding!