Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today presented the Department’s 2013 “Partners in Conservation” awards at a ceremony in Washington, DC. The Secretary honored 20 partnership projects that have demonstrated exemplary natural resource conservation efforts through public-private cooperation. Four partnerships nominated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service involving nearly sixty individuals and organizations located in California, Oregon, Kansas and Texas received awards.
“Partnerships are vital to wildlife conservation efforts nationwide as they allow us to combine the strengths of our stakeholders with the resources and abilities of our staff,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “Almost anything is possible when you leverage the skills, talents, dedication and abilities of diverse groups of stakeholders that share a common conservation agenda.”
The Service’s partnerships receiving the 2013 Partners in Conservation award are:
The Great Plains Nature Center, Wichita, Kansas
A wild oasis in an urban setting, each year the Great Plains Nature Center provides outdoor recreation and educational opportunities to hundreds of thousands of visitors. The facility is a “one-of-a-kind” partnership that began in 1988. It serves as an outdoor education center for the City of Wichita, a regional office for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism, and an administrative site for the Service. The Friends of the Great Plains Nature Center help visitors learn about the plants and animals of the Great Plains through live animal exhibits, dioramas depicting native flora and fauna, and nature trails leading to abundant wildlife viewing opportunities. Its education programs operate throughout the year, and a highlight of the Center is a massive 2,200-gallon aquarium offering close-up views of native fish.
Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program, south Texas
On the edge of the Texas Hill Country lies the Edwards Aquifer, one of the most biologically diverse aquifers in the world, home to species found nowhere else in the world, including eight threatened and endangered species. It also meets the water demands for more than 2 million area residents, and its history is marked with controversy as it has struggled to meet competing demands for its waters.
Eight years ago, the Service, along with the Department’s U.S. Geological Survey, approached stakeholders in an effort to balance human needs and species recovery. This resulted in development of the Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program’s (EARIP) Habitat Conservation Plan supported by a diverse group of more than 40 groups and individuals and approved by the Service in early 2013. Five stakeholder groups, the Edwards Aquifer Authority; the cities of New Braunfels, San Marcos and San Antonito through the San Antonio Water System; and Texas State University, agreed to jointly lead implementation. Water will continue to serve human needs, and despite the potential of future droughts, wildlife, such as the fountain darter and Texas blind salamander, will get the water they need to survive.
Klamath Tribal Leadership Development for Integrative Science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge Program, northern California and southern Oregon
Tribal youth in northern California and southern Oregon are getting a unique opportunity to combine their tribal ancestral cultural knowledge about the local ecology and resources with the high-tech capabilities of NASA and federal natural resource agencies. In the summer of 2013, a pilot group of tribal students worked with agencies and tribes to link physical river conditions, native salmon populations and cultural values using traditional ecological knowledge to advance resource management.
The partnership is combines tribal cultural knowledge with today’s technology. Students gather traditional knowledge from discussions with tribal elders and apply it to programs that advance the restoration and management of native fish populations in the Klamath Basin. In 2014, students will expand the information base for decision-making to explore the use of remotely gathered data and models to evaluate river conditions.
Partners include the Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Geological Survey, NASA, U.S. Forest Service, local tribes and other partners. The tribes associated with this program include Quartz Valley Indian Reservation, Resighini Rancheria, Klamath tribes, Karuk Tribe, Yurok Tribe and Hoopla Valley Tribe.
Center for Land-Based Learning Partnership, Sacramento, California
Youth in the Central Valley of California are getting down and dirty, literally, for conservation. The partnership includes the Center for Land-Based Learning’s Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship program, which gives high-school students the opportunity to take part in a yearlong habitat restoration experience combining hands-on conservation with classroom learning. Students participate in restoration projects such as planting native trees, shrubs and grasses, installing irrigation and wildlife habitat structures, and monitoring plant and wildlife populations. Teambuilding, leadership and science activities are also built into each field day. Students have improved more than 250 acres of habitat in nearby national wildlife refuges and private lands and the partnership has reached more than 2,500 students. Teachers also receive training through this partnership and, in turn, enhance learning experiences for students.
A total of 14 partnerships were submitted nationwide by Service staff for consideration as part of this year’s awards. Additional information on the selected programs and full listings of entities involved are available here: http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2014/2013-pic-awards.html.