Stand Up For National Wildlife Refuges
by Ken Wills, member of BAS Conservation Committee
Over the last few months you have probably been hearing about the budget battles in Washington. While the nation must get its deficit in order, conservation/ environmental programs are proposed to be disproportionately cut for the huge deficits created by larger programs. The drastic budget cuts are often proposed by those anti-conservation forces, which would like to see conservation regulations and lands eliminated. Several bird- related programs face potential budget crisis, but I would like to focus on the threats to our National Wildlife Refuge system, which protects the critical habitats for waterfowl and other migrant birds as well as most endangered species. According to the National Wildlife Refuge Association, Interior Department budget cuts proposed in the House of Representatives could close or eliminate major programs at 128 national wildlife refuges (possibly including refuges in Alabama) as well as eliminate almost 300 wildlife management, ranger and law enforcement jobs in a system which is already understaffed especially in the law enforcement area. The opponents of wildlife refuges have even introduced legislation to prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from administratively creating any more wildlife refuges. Budgetary and other refuge related battles will be ongoing in the near future. Your U.S. Representatives and Senators need to hear from you regarding the importance of funding National Wildlife Refuges so that these extreme budget cuts and other anti refuge measures will not pass. Let you legislators know that the National Wildlife Refuges in Alabama and the rest of the nation are important not only for conservation but recreation and tourism as well. Let them know the National Wildlife Refuge system should not have to suffer disproportionate budget cuts for deficits created by other programs. If you would like to receive alerts which link you to your legislators regarding these issues visit the National Wildlife Refuge Association website at http://refugenet.e-actionmax.com/default.asp
Volunteer Opportunities Abound in Alabama
ALABAMA- The tragic fallout from the BP Gulf Oil Disaster has affected us all in many ways. While we all may find our individual methods of coping with it, one way that has proved to help some is to get involved with Audubon's volunteer based programs going on throughout the entire state. If any silver linings can be found around the black clouds in the Gulf, it's that we've established some brand new projects that are directly related to environmental recovery from the disaster. We are actively looking for participants, so please contact us should you find the Citizen Science program that's a good fit for you!
The Coastal Bird Survey is an opportunity to take part in one of the largest shorebird data gathering projects in Audubon history. Teams, led by a birding mentor, patrol a one mile stretch along the Alabama Coast and document the general weather conditions, habitat conditions, the species and count of coastal birds, the physical and behavioral condition of the birds, as well as any presence of oil or other man-made substances. The data collected from this study is entered and processed through our eBird website, www.ebird.com , and a working partnership with Cornell University. This ongoing study will be vital to the long term recovery of wildlife affected by the spill. We'll continue to monitor the status, assess the damages and hopefully identify future trends and impacts on wildlife and their habitats.
Break for the Birds is Audubon's Alternative Spring Break project. Over this year's college Spring Break, environmentally- minded students will forego the traditional week of wanton revelry to take action in the oil spill recovery process. We are teaming up with Weeks Bay Reserve to offer students the opportunity to participate in projects such as invasive species removal, habitat restoration and environmental surveying in our Important Bird Areas. To date, we only have 20 spots still available for this unique experience.
Wheeler Refuge Waterbird Watch Program is about to take flight again this spring. It's no secret that the because of the gulf oil catastrophe much of the Gulf Coast environment, and especially bird habitats, has been significantly compromised. We have teamed with U.S. Fish and Wildlife to launch a refuge monitoring program to help document the condition of the birds and their habitats as they pass through the Wheeler, AL Refuge. The findings will be posted on the E-Bird site and will provide scientists a better opportunity to analyze this valuable data.
Dauphin Island Habitat Restoration is a project that began this winter and will resume this spring. Through a TogetherGreen Innovation Grant, we are working with the Weeks Bay Foundation and Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuaries (DIBS) to remove several aggressively invasive species that are threatening the bird population on Dauphin Island. The target species include: Cogon Grass, Chinese Privet and Chinese Tallow. Initial treatment has proved to be working, but there is still much more work to be done!
How can you get involved? As some of this work will entail some project specific details, we will be hosting informational training seminars in the near future. We will collect registrations and select volunteers based on experience, location and availability. For more details on these and other Alabama based volunteer opportunities, please contact the National Audubon Volunteer Coordinator for Alabama, Kelsey Blum, at , or visit www.audubonaction.org.
Also, as we all recognize, you, the individuals who make up the chapters across the United States, are the backbone of the organization. We strongly encourage that you connect with our local chapter. By getting involved with other local projects, attending chapter meetings and presentations and encouraging others to join you, we will continue to build upon the bedrock that has been laid and create a stronger, greener future
Learn more about the National Audubon Society’s conservation efforts by clicking here.