ON THE HORIZON - News from WAFWA: June 2020, Issue 23

Restoring burrowing owl habitat, similarities between COVID-19 and wild sheep disease pandemics, and the new Find out about the latest efforts to conserve the lands, waters, and wildlife in the West.


WAFWA has developed an innovative conservation program in partnership with Noble Energy, Inc., Noble Midstream Partners, and Quail Ranch LLC (an affiliate of Concho Resources Inc.), to restore upland grasslands and burrowing owl habitat in the Permian Basin region of West Texas.

The Western Burrowing Owl is currently protected across the US, Canada and Mexico and is designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be a Bird of Conservation Concern. "Noble's voluntary donations are intended to address potential development-related impacts to burrowing owls and other grassland birds by restoring grassland habitat," said Bill Van Pelt, WAFWA's Grassland Initiative Coordinator.

Quail Ranch LLC used the funds to restore 190 acres of grassland and install 40 burrowing owl nests in 2019. They plan to complete an additional 160 acres of restoration and 40 nests in 2020. Surveys are underway to confirm burrowing owl use of the nests, and monitoring continues through 2022. This conservation effort also improves habitat for other grassland bird species.

"Through our partnership with WAFWA, our investment in the Permian Basin goes beyond energy resources to benefit local communities, the landscape and wildlife," said Ethan Ditmanson, Environmental Health and Safety Regulations Senior Manager at Noble Energy.

The Western Native Trout Challenge (WNTC) is an effort of WAFWA?s Western Native Trout Initiative (WNTI) and invites anglers to catch native trout and char in their native ranges in 12 Western states. Registration is $25 per adult and is free for those 17 and under. Ninety two percent of registration fees and 100% of donations will be put toward on-the-ground conservation projects.
This year, the first conservation project was funded through WNTC registration fees and donations.  "The 444 anglers who have registered for the WNTC so far should be proud that their registration fee supports conservation of native trout and helps us create better angling opportunities for these species throughout the West," said WNTI Coordinator Therese Thompson.

The Cottonwood Creek Fish Passage Barrier Project for Native Fish Security will add a wooden drop structure fish barrier on Cottonwood Creek in Montana. This $7,500 project is a small piece of an important project in Montana to protect a critical genetically pure population of Westslope Cutthroat Trout in high value habitat. The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks uses this population of trout for broodstock to reintroduce Westslope Cutthroat Trout in other areas of the Upper Missouri Basin.

Learn more about the Cottonwood Creek project HERE. Learn more about WNTI's 2020 Funded Projects HERE.

Fire in rangelands can have devastating effects on habitat, wildlife, people, and the nation's economy.

Today, wildfire in sagebrush country is occurring much more frequently than it did historically. Public land agencies and private partners are working to address this challenge, which is why the Bureau of Land Management and Intermountain West Joint Venture (IWJV) created a five-minute film to call attention to the scale and gravity of fire and invasives. Titled Up in Smoke: Fire and Invasives on Western Rangelands, the film outlines four actions you can take to combat this challenge.

Click HERE to watch the film. 

By: Mike Cox, Wild Sheep Working Group Chair, WAFWA & Bighorn Sheep Staff Biologist, Nevada Department of Wildlife  

The COVID-19 Pandemic will continue to leave its mark on our lives and our world. But just maybe, it was a wakeup call to how we treat and coexist with wildlife and nature on our planet Earth. In Commiserating our life-altering isolation, I have been comparing and contrasting COVID-19 to the "polymicrobial" disease pandemic that wild sheep have dealt with for a few centuries. The wild sheep disease pandemic had its roots in Eurasia. Instead of humans on airplanes contributing to world-wide transmission, pathogens were harbored in domestic sheep throats on ships that sailed across the Atlantic. Currently there is no cure and no vaccine of wild sheeps' version of COVID-19 for either bighorn or domestic sheep. The best management approach to reduce its spread is "social distancing" from domestic sheep and from themselves.

Click here to read full story:

WAFWA's Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT) was re-designed to provide a clean look with easy navigation to all the data-driven solutions this west-wide assessment tool has to offer. We streamlined our message of delivering conservation through information exchange and working partnerships, and we dug deep to ensure the complexities of the data provided were easy to find and use.  Some new features include instant download of CHAT?s geospatial data and promotion of our partner?s CHAT-based success stories.  This upgrade was made possible by building upon a generous grant received from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to convert CHAT to ESRI?s ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Hub in 2018. This platform provides CHAT with cloud-based mapping capabilities that makes growth possible.  As ESRI?s products develop and new features become available, the CHAT team is looking for ways to incorporate them to improve the user?s experience.  One exciting new feature being planned is the ability to take a harder look at the crucial habitat ranking by accessing its source data.  Our "under the hood" planning tool is anticipated to be released this summer!


The 2020 WAFWA Summer Meeting will be held virtually this year due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and advisories. The dates of the conference will be July 8-10 and July 13-14.  The virtual platform will allow for committee meetings, a plenary session, opportunities for networking with other attendees and sponsors, and many other features of our normal Summer Meeting.   Please continue to check the WAFWA Summer Meeting page for updates and details.

Please continue to check the WAFWA Summer Meeting page for updates and details. 

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Photo Credits: Keith Kohl/Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, D. Kenney, Intermountain West Joint Venture, Steve Kline, WAFWA,
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Posted by WAFWA Admin at 6/2/2020 9:03:00 PM
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