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National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant to benefit Lesser Prairie-chickens

 

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has awarded a grant to the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) to restore lesser prairie-chicken habitat. The $197,309.25 grant is funded through NFWF’s ConocoPhillips SPIRIT of Conservation and Innovation Program.

 

“We appreciate our partnership with NFWF and ConocoPhillips and look forward to applying these funds as we continue to implement the Lesser Prairie-chicken Rangewide Plan,” said Alexa Sandoval, Director of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and Chairman of the Lesser Prairie-chicken Initiative Council. “Restoration work is key to the long-term survival of the bird and this grant will contribute to the combined efforts to keep the bird off the endangered species list.”

 

The bird was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2014, but was de-listed in 2016 after a federal judge ruled on a lawsuit and vacated the listing. The judge ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not thoroughly consider active conservation efforts in making the listing decision, namely the activities associated with WAFWA’s Lesser Prairie-chicken Rangewide Plan. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently reviewing the status of the lesser prairie-chicken across its five-state range to determine whether it should be listed again.

 

The NFWF grant will fund restoration work on up to 1,000 acres of private land that will connect larger fragmented pieces of prairie-chicken habitat. Good habitat must be contiguous to benefit lesser prairie-chickens.

 

“The rangewide plan calls for us to focus our efforts as strategically as possible,” said Bill Van Pelt, WAFWA Grassland Coordinator. “By connecting good bird habitat, more acreage will be available for the birds to thrive.”

 

The rangewide plan is a collaborative effort of WAFWA and the state wildlife agencies of Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. It was developed to ensure conservation of the lesser prairie-chicken by providing a mechanism for voluntary cooperation by landowners and industry, and improving coordination between state and federal conservation agencies. Funding for WAFWA’s conservation efforts comes from voluntary mitigation payments by industry partners that are enrolled in the plan, along with grants from partners like NFWF. The plan allows agriculture producers and industry to continue operations while reducing impacts to the bird and its grassland habitat.

 

For more info on NFWF’s ConocoPhillips SPIRIT of Conservation and Innovation Program, visit www.nfwf.org/spirit/Pages/home.aspx

Light Goose Conservation Order open now

 

Waterfowl hunting addicts may be having withdrawals since the duck seasons closed on Jan. 29 and regular goose seasons closed Feb. 12. But they will find temporary relief in the Light Goose Conservation Order, which is open Feb. 13-April 30, 2017. In an effort to reduce the population of snow and Ross’ geese, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) authorized this special hunting season for light geese.

 

To increase hunter success, the conservation order authorizes hunting methods not allowed during the regular seasons, including the use of electronic calls and unplugged shotguns. Extended shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. And there is no daily bag or possession limits.

 

The conservation order was first established in 1999 when it was determined that the population of light geese had increased more than 300 percent since the mid-1970s. Extraordinary numbers of geese have denuded portions of their fragile tundra breeding habitat in the arctic, which may take decades to recover. And the damage is impacting other bird species that nest there, including semi-palmated sandpipers and red-necked phalaropes.

 

For more information on this season, visit www.ksoutdoors.com and click on “Hunting/When to Hunt/Migratory Birds.”

Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism gets new licensing system

 

In late February, the computer license sales and reservation system the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) has used for many years will be no more. A new and improved system, provided by Active Network, will go into full operation. Active Network has provided the software and point-of-sale hardware for 11 years that allowed KDWPT to accept campsite and cabin reservations and sell licenses online, maintaining all license records electronically. That contract expired and a new contract, with some changes, is now in place.

 

License buyers and campers won’t notice a big difference; however, the current license sales system will shut down at 9:45 p.m. on Feb. 18, and the new system will be online at 8 a.m. on Feb. 22. No license or permit sales will be available through the system for roughly three days. The campsite and cabin reservation system will shut down at 12:01 a.m., Feb. 20 and go back online at 6 p.m., Feb. 21.

 

While it may be inconvenient for anyone who tries to buy a license or make a reservation during the downtime, this time is important to allow data to be transferred, configurations to be completed and to ensure everything is working properly before going live. The new system will retain the KDWPT numbers of everyone who purchased a hunting or fishing license in the old system, and there will be no changes in pricing.

 

The new system will provide some advantages to users, including allowing customers to purchase hunting and fishing licenses at the same time they make camping or cabin reservations. It will allow customers to reprint licenses within 48 hours if they were unable to print during the transaction. Other features include allowing customers to browse available licenses and permits before they make a purchase, buy licenses or permits for multiple years when available (such as buying a 2017 hunting license and a 2016 HIP stamp) and logging in with an email address to edit personal information on record such as address and phone number.

 

One significant change with the new system involves permits that have carcass tags attached, such as deer, turkey, elk, and antelope, which could have been purchased from home and printed out on a desktop printer under the old system. This caused many issues for Law Enforcement since there was no way to prohibit someone from printing multiple carcass tags with one permit. In the new system, permits with carcass tags will have to be purchased and issued through a license agent or over the phone, in which case the permit/carcass tag will be mailed to the customer.

Tuttle Creek State Park selected for BlueCHIP award

 

Tuttle Creek State Park near Manhattan was recently chosen to receive a $2,500 BlueCHIP Award by BlueCross BlueShield of Kansas (BCBSKS) and the Kansas Recreation and Parks Association (KRPA). BlueCHIP Awards are issued through a community health improvement program created seven years ago by KRPA and BCBSKS to recognize and reward Kansas communities that encourage and support healthy lifestyles through programs, initiatives, policies and/or community-wide events.

 

In addition to Tuttle Creek State Park, communities recognized this year include Baldwin City, Derby, City of Lindsborg, Shawnee County – Topeka, and Wellington. Each received $2,500 to assist with continued efforts to improve the health of their communities. The awards were presented at the 2017 KRPA Annual Conference and Trade Show in Manhattan.

 

According to Tuttle Creek State Park manager Todd Lovin, the BlueChip award will be used to purchase additional canoes, kayaks and paddling equipment. The state park sponsors several floats on the Kansas River each year, and boats and equipment are made available to those who don’t have their own.

 

Tuttle Creek State Park includes four units (River Pond, Fancy Creek, Cedar Ridge and Randolph) around Tuttle Creek Reservoir. In addition to a swimming beach, boat ramps, courtesy docks and dump stations, the park offers 159 water/electric campsites, eight electric/water/sewer campsites, 24 electric-only campsites, 500 primitive campsites and 11 rental cabins. Activities offered include hiking, biking and equestrian trails; disc golf; volleyball; horseshoes; a state-of-the-art shooting range; and archery range. Learn more about Tuttle Creek State Park at www.ksoutdoors.com or call the park office at 785-539-7941.

Apply now for spring turkey special hunts

 

It’s still early to think about scouting turkeys for the spring season because the big birds are still in their winter flocks. However, it’s not too early to be thinking about finding a place to hunt. One way to find a great hunting spot is through the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s (KDWPT) Special Hunts Program.

 

There are 84 spring turkey hunts offered this year with a total of 165 Special Hunt permits available. Twenty-five are Mentor Hunts, 29 are Open Hunts and 30 are Youth Hunts. Hunters must apply online by March 6, 2017 to be drawn for a hunt. There’s no fee to apply, and the draw is open to residents and nonresidents. Apply at http://ksoutdoors.com/Hunting/Special-Hunts-Information.

 

Special hunts are part of KDWPT’s recruitment and retention program, Pass It On. These hunts are conducted on department lands, including state parks, wildlife areas, and refuges. The hunts also occur on Walk-in Hunting Areas; national wildlife refuges; city and county properties; and other locations where access may be limited. The hunts limit the number of participants to ensure high-quality experiences.

 

Open Hunts are open to all persons with no age or experience restrictions. Youth Hunts are open to youth16 and younger, who must be accompanied by adult mentors 18 or older (adults may not hunt). Mentor Hunts are open to youth and/or inexperienced (novice) hunters who are each supervised by a licensed adult mentor. Both the novice and mentor may hunt. Several hunts allow for additional hunters to accompany a permit holder.

 

Successful applicants will be notified by email shortly after the computer-generated drawing has occurred. Special Hunt permits only provide access, so hunters must purchase all necessary licenses, permits and have hunter education certification, unless exempt.

 

The 2017 Spring Turkey Season opens April 1-11, 2017 for youth and hunters with disabilities; April 3-11, 2017 for archery only; and April 12-May 31, 2017 for the regular season. Permits and game tags are available over the counter for all turkey management units except Unit 4. Hunters who have purchased a spring turkey permit may also purchase a second turkey game tag valid in units 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6. For information on permits, regulations and other spring turkey hunting opportunities, visit ksoutdoors.com and click “Hunting,” then “Turkey Information.”

Kansas Bowhunters to meet in Hutchinson

 

The Kansas Bowhunters Association invites you to join them for their 44th Annual State Convention and Banquet in Hutchinson Feb. 24-26. If you have a passion for bowhunting, bowfishing, archery, outdoor gear, photography, paintings, arts and crafts, custom made knives, bows, antlers, wildlife or taxidermy, make plans to attend this fun-filled weekend. The Atrium Hotel and Conference Center, 1400 North Lorraine, will host the event. Rooms can be reserved at a discounted rate by calling 620-669-9311 by Feb. 17.

 

Friday evening will feature an informal gathering with Colorado-based bowhunter and writer Lou Phillipe, who has 45 years experience bowhunting big game. Saturday morning events include exhibitor displays, as well as a ladies’ get-together.  Saturday afternoon and evening include an informal question and answer period with staff from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, an awards ceremony and banquet with guest speaker presentation, fundraising auction, raffle drawings and kids pizza party. Sunday morning events include a worship service and guest speaker presentation.       

 

For more information and to purchase admission tickets, contact Barry at 316-299-8845 or e-mail kbasec@gmail.com.

KANSAS! Magazine asks readers to pick favorite local eateries in Kansas

 

KANSAS! magazine, the state’s premier travel magazine, invites readers to nominate their favorite local eateries in Kansas for the magazine’s third annual readers’ choice issue. Only local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, bakeries, and other eateries will be will be considered. Nominations opened Wednesday, February 1st, and will be collected through March 14.

 

Submissions may be entered at www.kansasmag.com, or mailed to 1020 S Kansas Ave Ste 200, Topeka, KS 66612-1389 or emailed to ksmagazine@sunflowerpub.com. Social media users can participate through Instagram and Twitter using #BestLocalEatsKS or #NoPlaceLikeKS in their post. From March 15 through May 31, readers will have a final opportunity to vote from a list of semi-finalist with the highest nominations. The winners will be announced in November.

 

Last year, KANSAS! readers voted for their favorite small town in Kansas. After thousands of votes were tallied, the five winning small towns were Atwood, Council Grove, Lecompton, Marysville, and Norton. For more about these small towns you can pick up the winter issue currently available on newsstands.

 

“The ‘Favorite Small Town in Kansas’ was very successful, and many fans and readers participated. We had votes from not only Kansas but all over the U.S.,” explained Andrea Etzel, editor of KANSAS! magazine. “It was also wonderful to see so many engaged and the communities’ involvement.”

 

For more information and a complete list of guidelines visit, www.kansasmag.com.

Angler Education Instructor Certification Course Feb. 25

 

Most of us have had a mentor at some point in our lives who inspired us, taught us, and delighted in our successes. Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky, especially when it comes to having an outdoor mentor. But you can help by becoming a volunteer certified angler instructor through the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s Angler Education program. You’ll have an avenue for sharing your passion for angling with others, and you could become someone’s mentor. To get you started, a certification course will be held from 8:30 a.m. to noon at Throckmorton Hall, Room 1014, 1712 Claflin Rd. at Kansas State University in Manhattan.

 

Attendees will be given valuable information regarding working with children, sample curriculums, and tips for preparing a class or clinic, as well as obtain their certification. Participants must be 18 years of age or older and pass a background check prior to certification.

 

Youth ages 14-18 may also attend and obtain Junior Assistant Angling Volunteer status with a signed parental form. Junior Assistant Angling Volunteers must work with a certified instructor when hosting an aquatic education activity, clinic, derby or outreach.

 

To sign up, visit FishingsFuture.org. From the Welcome page, click either the “Enter” or “Come on In” button and then click on the “Events” link to find the Manhattan course. For all other inquiries, contact Bill Horvath at billh@fishingsfuture.org.

Join the 20th Great Backyard Bird Count

 

Bird watchers around the world take part, February 17-20

 

The Cornell Lab

 

A lot has changed since the first Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) was held in 1998. Each year brings unwavering enthusiasm from the growing number of participants in this now-global event. The 20th annual GBBC is taking place February 17-20 in backyards, parks, nature centers, on hiking trails, school grounds, balconies, and beaches—anywhere you find birds.

 

Bird watchers count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, then enter their checklists at birdcount.org. All the data contribute to a snapshot of bird distribution and help scientists see changes over the past 20 years.

 

“The very first GBBC was an experiment,” says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Marshall Iliff, a leader of the eBird program. “We wanted to see if people would use the Internet to send us their bird sightings. Clearly the experiment was a success!” eBird collects bird observations globally every day of the year and is the online platform used by the GBBC.

 

That first year, bird watchers submitted about 13,500 checklists from the United States and Canada. Fast-forward to the most recent event in 2016. Over the four days of the count, an estimated 163,763 bird watchers from more than 100 countries submitted 162,052 bird checklists reporting 5,689 species–more than half the known bird species in the world.

 

“The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way to introduce people to participation in citizen science,” says Audubon vice president and chief scientist Gary Langham. “No other program allows volunteers to take an instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations that can contribute to our understanding of how a changing climate is affecting birds.”

 

Varying weather conditions so far this winter are producing a few trends that GBBC participants can watch for during the count. eBird reports show many more waterfowl and kingfishers remaining further north than usual because they are finding open water. If that changes, these birds could move southward.

 

Also noted are higher than usual numbers of Bohemian Waxwings in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rocky Mountains. And while some winter finches have been spotted in the East, such as Red Crossbills, Common Redpolls, Evening Grosbeaks, and a few Pine Grosbeaks, there seem to be no big irruptions so far. A few eye-catching Snowy Owls have been reported in the northern half of the United States.

 

Jon McCracken, Bird Studies Canada’s National Program Director, reminds participants in Canada and the U.S. to keep watch for snowies. He says, “The GBBC has done a terrific job of tracking irruptions of Snowy Owls southward over the past several years. We can’t predict what winter 2017 will bring, because Snowy Owl populations are so closely tied to unpredictable ‘cycles’ of lemmings in the Arctic. These cycles occur at intervals between two and six years.  Nevertheless, there are already reports of Snowy Owls as far south as Virginia.”

 

In addition to counting birds, the GBBC photo contest has also been a hit with participants since it was introduced in 2006. Since then, tens of thousands of stunning images have been submitted. For the 20th anniversary of the GBBC, the public is invited to vote for their favorite top photo from each of the past 11 years in a special album they will find on the GBBC website home page. Voting takes place during the four days of the GBBC.

 

Learn more about how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count at birdcount.org where downloadable instructions and an explanatory PowerPoint are available. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada and is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.

KDWPT biologists discuss bobwhites In new TV series

 

“Bobwhites on the Brink,” a five-part film series by the syndicated television conservation news magazine, This American Land, examines the reasons for the nationwide decline of the bobwhite quail and the efforts being made to reverse the trend on the American landscape. In the fourth segment (#604) of the series, viewers are brought to Kansas in large part due to the success of the state’s Conservation Reserve Program in providing species habitat. The segment explores how agricultural operations in the U.S. have morphed from small field/multi-farm set-ups, to giant corporate expanses of row crop acreage, and how Kansas is leading the country in demonstrating how bobwhite habitat can be successfully integrated on working lands.

 

Some Kansans may have viewed the series on Smoky Hills Public Television and on the Kansas Topeka Washburn University PBS stations late last year, but for those who missed it, there’s still time to tune in. “Bobwhites on the Brink” will air on KTWU Channel 11, Topeka, Sundays at 3:30 p.m., beginning January 15. However, the last two shows of the series (#604 and #605) will air at 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. on February 5 in a 1-hour block. The series will also be available online on the This American Land website, www.thisamericanland.org/Episodes/season-six; on NBCI’s YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/user/BringBackBobwhites; and on the KDWPT website, ksoutdoors.com/Hunting/Upland-Birds/Bobwhite-Quail.

 

The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative (NBCI), in partnership with select states, worked over a period of several months to help develop the story. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism worked directly with NBCI to demonstrate how the expansion of mechanized clean-farming techniques in row crop agriculture have effected bobwhite quail, among other grassland birds and wildlife species.

 

In addition to Kansas, film crews visited South Carolina, Texas, and Kentucky to document how a decline in active forest management and the conversion of livestock grazing operations from native grasses to exotic fescue across millions of acres, combined with changes in row-crop agriculture, have decimated habitat range-wide for bobwhites and related wildlife over time.