Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Upper Skagit Bald Eagle Festival

On January 26 and 27 Nan Laney, Skagit and Northern Snohomish GBOP Coordinator, will staff a GBOP booth at the Upper Skagit Bald Eagle Festival in Concrete (Skagit County). This is the fourth year that GBOP has been in attendance at this wonderful and popular event. Additionally, on Sunday January 27th from 12:30-1:30, Nan will be presenting information about the North Cascades’ grizzly and black bears at the festival.

The Upper Skagit Bald Eagle Festival, in it’s 21st year, often draws crowds that exceed 4,000 attendees. This free 2-day event is one of the culminations of the eagle watching season in the Upper Skagit, and is an excellent opportunity to learn more about North Cascades raptors, salmon and other wildlife, geology, archeology and Native American culture. Each year, the entertainment on Saturday night features Native American storytelling, drumming and dancing. The emphasis on the Native American culture and it’s ties to wildlife and the North Cascades is always a highlight of the festival. Additionally, a big draw for attendees are the live raptors brought in by Sardis Raptor Center, with presentations including the live birds interspersed throughout the weekend.

For more information about the festival, including information on presentations and events, check out the festival’s website.

Teacher clock hours are available for attending the event.

Skagit River Interpretive Center

At 11:00 AM on Sunday February 17th, Nan will also be doing a presentation at the new Skagit River Interpretive Center in Rockport. Thanks to the hard work of many nonprofits and individuals in Skagit County, the Interpretive Center, formerly located in the old Rockport Fire Hall (which itself was renovated from an old school house), moved to it’s new home next to Howard Miller Steelhead Park. In association with the peak eagle viewing season, the Interpretive Center hosts presentations on Saturday and Sunday during the months of December, January and February each year.

Visit the Skagit River Interpretive Center website for more information, including speaker schedule.

Festival poster was created by Don Smith, Cascadian Farm senior designer, with help from Concrete High School students.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Thirty years of Biodiversity?

On December 4th, the Washington Biodiversity Council presented a thirty year plan to promote biodiversity within Washington State. Washington’s plan recognized six eco-regions which would be managed separately.

Biodiversity is the variation of life forms within a given ecosystem. Biodiversity is often used as a measure of the health of biological systems. The term "natural heritage" pre-dates "biodiversity", though it is a less scientific term and more easily comprehended in some ways by the wider audience interested in conservation. The most straightforward definition is "variation of life at all levels of biological organization". Another definition that is often used by ecologists is the "totality of genes, species, and ecosystems of a region.

Ecosystems benefit greatly when the level of biodiversity is high. There is a greater resistance to catastrophe. A wide range of crop varieties are available for human consumption. A variety of plant and animal species contribute to the search for new medicines and industrial materials. Intellectual value, leisure, cultural and aesthetic value increases. An ecosystem is able to react to changes in the local environment as the effects of global warming become apparent.

The WASHINGTON BIODIVERSITY PROJECT is an effort of the Washington Biodiversity Council to address one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time: How to conserve our state's native plants, animals, and ecosystems for current and future generations. After three years of work, the Washington Biodiversity Council has delivered the Washington Biodiversity Conservation Strategy: "Sustaining Our Natural Heritage For Future Generations". The strategy is designed to conserve Washington’s unique plant and animal communities. It was released in front of a large crowd attending the Biodiversity Conservation Conference in Seattle: "What Works, What’s Next".

The council, a diverse group representing landowners, environmentalists, government agencies, tribes, and others, has developed the strategy to lay out a path forward to enhance biodiversity in Washington. It also supports other priorities, such as the Puget Sound Partnership and efforts to address climate change. Three broad initiatives form the heart of the strategy—a new approach to defining priorities, fostering widespread landowner engagement, and measuring progress:
• Guiding investments on the land, through the use of a new tool which maps biodiversity value and threats at a landscape, regional scale;

• Improving incentives and advancing markets for landowners to provide tangible benefits for conservation on working lands and open spaces;
• Engaging citizens to work with scientists to inventory and monitor Washington’s biodiversity.

The Council sponsored two conservation pilot projects. The two projects, one on the east side of the state and one on the west side each received $20,000 from the Council, and ran for 18 months, January 2006 through June 2007. The general goals of the pilots were to demonstrate new models for promoting incentive-based biodiversity conservation tools, and to engage citizens in biodiversity conservation. The two projects have taken different approaches to these goals. The findings from the projects formed key components of the Washington Biodiversity Conservation Strategy. The pilot projects may also serve as models for other communities.

Citizen Stewardship of the Pierce County Biodiversity Network: Lower White River
The Council’s western Washington pilot project focused on the lower White River between Buckley and Sumner. This area retains significant functional riparian habitat that supports a variety of fish and wildlife species despite rapid urbanization. The lower White River corridor is a Biodiversity Management Area (BMA) in Pierce County. Landowners in Pierce County BMAs are eligible for reduced property taxes.

The Healthy Lands Initiative
The Healthy Lands Initiative worked to develop a shared community vision for how biodiversity conservation can be integrated with the economic and social needs of the North Central Washington region, including Okanogan, Douglas, and Chelan Counties, and the Colville Indian Reservation. This area is very rich in biodiversity and ecological function, and it provides a major migration corridor between Canada and the Columbia Plateau.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Wendy goes to Mexico and what a trip

I was fortunate to be able to attend the 18th International Association of Bear Research and Management (IBA) conference Nov 4-11 in Monterrey Mexico. The IBA is a non-profit organization open to professional biologists, wildlife managers and others dedicated to the conservation of all bear species. (www.bearbiology.com).

There were 268 people from 26 different countries at the conference making for a truly international experience. In all, 54 oral presentations were given along with 87 poster presentations. These ranged from bear research and conservation, bear nutrition, population estimates to human –bear interactions and conflicts. I attended all 54 talks, participated in a bear management workshop, attended two genetic workshops and the bear specialist group meeting. I also presented a poster on Bear Affair, a collaborative event with the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project and the Woodland Park Zoo.

All of the presentations were interesting but one that really impressed me was presented by Jon Swenson titled: “Pragmatic Management Can Conserve Low Productive High-Altitude Brown Bears in South Asia”. In 1993 the Deosai Plateau was declared a national park in order to try and protect the highly threatened brown bears in Pakistan whose numbers were declining. The local people rely on the natural resources in the park but legislation prohibited them from taking anything from the park which caused conflicts between the local people and park management. To help alleviate these conflicts a new approach was taken that involved the local people in park management and recognized their community rights. The number of bears in the park was monitored between 1993 and 2006 and in that time they saw an increase in the population of 5% each year (this was from reproduction and immigration). This is really impressive when you learn that the bears in Deosai have really low reproductive rates. The average age of first reproduction is 8.25 years, the reproduction interval is 5.8 years, litter size is 1.33 and the family stays together for 4.2 years (longest time recorded for brown bears). The survival rate of offspring is higher in Deosai as well (0.94 for cubs, 0.96 for yearlings). These results show that when communities and management work together they can make positive changes.

My poster was on Bear Affair, an annual event put on at the Woodland Park Zoo. The day starts off with a bear “un-safe” campsite being set up in the brown bear (Ursus arctos) exhibit. We put out a tent, sleeping bags, coolers, shoes, table and chairs, backpacks and a campfire pit. Food is placed either in or on all of these camping items. Dry food bags are hung up in a tree but are not put up high enough. All of this is done to show how not to set up a campsite in bear country. In the afternoon we give the bears bear resistant food containers (BRFC) and talk about why they are important to use when camping and /or hiking in bear country.

It was a very busy week filled with a lot of learning and sharing of
information with new and old friends. There were also the adventurous taxi and bus rides through the city, the likes I have not experienced before, but it made for many a laugh with the people I shared this experience with. What a wonderful way for a bear lover to spend a week!

“Pragmatic Management Can Conserve Low Productive High-Altitude Brown Bears In South Asia”. Muhammad Ali Nawaz (Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences); Jon Swenson (Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences); Vaqar Zakaria (Himalayan Wildlife Foundation, Islamabad, Pakistan).

Submitted by Wendy Gardner