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News

Headlines(click a headline to skip to the story)
April 28, 2017New Visitor Center Hours April 1, 2017National Park passes now for sale at Administrative Office only January 2, 2017South Side of Assabet River NWR Closed in January April 1, 20162016 Spring Refuge Projects Update October 25, 2015Assabet Pulling Together (APT) Completes Its Second Season August 1, 2015The 2015 - 2016 Duck Stamps Are Now on Sale March 27, 2015Rusty Blackbird Working Group Needs Birders' Help December 18, 2014Assabet River NWR Will Be Closing Puffer Pond to All Water Craft December 1, 2014Visitor Center Will Be Closed on Thursdays December 1, 2014Assabet River NWR Awarded Regional Small Visitor Services Grant May 30, 2014Working Together to Conserve Threatened Blanding's Turtles April 23, 2014Invasive Coltsfoot Found on Refuge April 23, 2014Friends Annual Meeting and Board Election April 23, 2014Fire Break Construction on the Refuge November 27, 2013Eagle Scout Project Installs Five Benches on the Refuge

Older Headlines ...


April 28, 2017: New Visitor Center Hours

(Sudbury MA) Starting May 1st 2017, the Visitor Center will be closed to the public on Fridays due to staffing limitations and low visitation. The new schedule is Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM.

April 1, 2017: National Park passes now for sale at Administrative Office only

(Sudbury MA) National Park passes are no longer sold at the Visitor Center. They can be purchased Mon-Fri 8 AM - 4 PM at the Refuge Administrative Offices at 73 Weir Hill Rd, Sudbury.

January 2, 2017: South Side of Assabet River NWR Closed in January

(Sudbury MA) Hiking trails on the South Side of Assabet River NWR will be CLOSED for the month of January and re-open on February 1st.

The Sudbury Valley Trustees are undertaking the Desert Natural Area Restoration immediately south of Refuge. The South Side of Assabet River NWR is part of the larger Desert Natural Area, a diminishing habitat type, along with the Sudbury Valley Trustees’ Memorial Forest where restoration logging will take place. Operations begin in December and will continue for six to eight weeks. For the safety of our visitors and for the workers all trails in the south side of the Assabet River NWR will be closed for the month of January while logging is underway. Trails re-open on February 1st.

The project will restore pitch pine/scrub oak barrens and increase abundance of rare and declining species associated with barrens habitat. It will also reduce fire hazards, maintain high quality vernal pools and cold water streams and protect overall habitat quality and diversity. The plans have been reviewed by Mass. Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program.

More details on the project can be found at www.svtweb.org.

October 25, 2015: Assabet Pulling Together (APT) Completes Its Second Season

(Sudbury MA) 2015 is the second season of the Assabet Pulling Together (APT) volunteer effort, “Make way for natives on the ARNWR by removing invasive plants”. APT, a sub-group of Friends of the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, has focused on the removal of Garlic Mustard, Glossy Buckthorn, Purple Loosestrife, Japanese Stiltgrass, Locust and other invasive species. Our strategy has been to prevent early detection species from gaining a foothold on the Refuge and to remove seed-producing invasives from sensitive areas, thereby providing opportunity for native species to prosper. We have also begun planting seedlings of native pollinator species.

Over 600 volunteer hours have been contributed through mid-October, thanks to APT’s dedicated and hardworking volunteers. Our weekly work sessions are 3 hours each with typically 6 to 10 volunteers attending. Additional volunteer participation would enable expansion of the removal process into areas where we are currently unable to be effective. A great opportunity to invest in the future of the ARNWR!

If you would like to get involved, please contact us at info@farnwr.org. Sign up now and we’ll let you know when we get back out into the field in the spring.

August 1, 2015: The 2015 - 2016 Duck Stamps Are Now on Sale

(Sudbury MA) The 2015-2016 Federal Duck Stamp features a pair of ruddy ducks painted by contest-winner Jennifer Miller of Olean, NY. The stamp cost $25 — a $10 increase from the $15 cost in effect since 1991. This is the most effective way you can help conserve our precious wetlands. In fact, 91 acres of our own Assabet River NWR were purchased with duck stamp money.

The Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, commonly known as “Duck Stamps,” are pictorial stamps produced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They are not valid for postage. Originally created in 1934 as federal licenses required for hunting migratory waterfowl, Federal Duck Stamps have a much larger purpose today. Federal Duck Stamps are vital tools for wetland conservation. Ninety-eight cents out of every dollar generated by the sale of Federal Duck Stamps goes directly to purchase or lease wetland habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System. Understandably, the Federal Duck Stamp has been called one of the most successful conservation programs ever initiated and is a highly effective way to conserve America’s natural resources. Besides serving as a hunting license and a conservation tool, a current Federal Duck Stamp also serves as an entrance pass for national wildlife refuges where admission is charged. Duck Stamps and products that bear stamp images are also popular collector items.

The new Duck Stamps are on sale now at the Nature Store for $25. Invest in conservation!

March 27, 2015: Rusty Blackbird Working Group Needs Birders' Help

Rusty Blackbirds, or “Rusties,” soon earned the unfortunate distinction of being one of the most steeply declining landbirds in North America, losing 85-95% of their population in just 40 years. Spurred by this alarming crash, scientists are striving to better understand Rusty Blackbirds to help conserve this vulnerable species.

Over the last two decades, scientists have made huge strides in understanding Rusty Blackbirds on their breeding and wintering grounds. However, we still know surprisingly little about their migration. In 2014, the International Rusty Blackbird Working Group launched a three-year citizen science monitoring project, the Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz, to learn more about their spring migration.

You can help the National Wildlife Refuge System learn more about how and when Rusties and other birds use refuges. Bird a refuge and report your sightings! Visit rustyblackbird.org to identify the Blitz target dates for your specific region.

For more information, see International Rusty Blackbird Working Group Flyer.

December 18, 2014: Assabet River NWR Will Be Closing Puffer Pond to All Water Craft

(Sudbury MA) As of January 1, 2015 the refuge will be closing Puffer Pond to all public water craft. This decision is in effort to protect the pristine habitat at the pond from the encroachment of invasive species. The introduction of non-native species has occurred at other locations from water crafts and we are making every effort to prevent this at the Assabet River NWR. In the future the refuge staff plan to procure canoes/kayaks for educational programs at the pond. Puffer Pond is a small area compared to nearby lakes and rivers surrounding the refuge and it does not offer a high quality paddling opportunity for general visitors. The staff have determined the risks for general access paddling outweigh the benefits. The refuge manager is aware this change will cause an inconvenience primarily to anglers, so upon completion of the 15 year Visitor Services Plan further fishing sites will be considered. For questions or concerns regarding this change please contact Kizette, Visitor Services Specialist at kizette_ortizvanger@fws.gov or 978-562-3527 x117.

December 1, 2014: Visitor Center Will Be Closed on Thursdays

(Sudbury MA) The Visitor Center at the Assabet River NWR will be closed on Thursdays as of January 1st, however it will remain open Friday-Sunday 10am-4pm and will be available for use by other organizations on closed days. The refuge manager has made the decision to close on Thursdays due to low visitation and due to increasing demands on staff. Closing one of the four open days will allow for staff to more effectively utilize their time working on priority projects and at other refuges within the Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex. For questions or concerns regarding this change please contact Kizette, Visitor Services Specialist at kizette_ortizvanger@fws.gov or 978-562-3527 x117.

December 1, 2014: Assabet River NWR Awarded Regional Small Visitor Services Grant

(Sudbury MA) The Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge has been awarded two grants: $8,800 to begin an Urban Youth Ambassador program and $12,800 for transportation costs for our Urban Environmental Education program. This is a Regional Small Visitor Services Grant, one of several awarded each year to refuges in Northeast Region and funded from a portion of the entrance fees collected at refuges throughout the region. This year the grant criteria prioritized those projects that emphasize work with urban or underserved audiences, demonstrate sustainability, include metrics for measuring success, incorporate technology in connecting people with nature, and rehabilitate existing infrastructure.

The Urban Youth Ambassador program is a new program, under the direction of Kizette Vanger-Ortiz, which will work with local partners to provide a 12 week naturalist training for local high school students. Our local partners include Organization for the Assabet, Sudbury, Concord Rivers (OARS), Mass Audubon Drumlin Farm, and Assabet Keeping Track, and others to be confirmed. High school students who have completed the naturalist training will then pick a nearby school or youth organization to introduce to the refuge. They will put their new naturalist skills to use while bringing these children to the refuge and going to visit them at their location, with a focus on encouraging their interest in nature.

Our goal for the program is to develop a relationship with the local school districts and organizations in order to connect with diverse youth in the towns neighboring the refuge. This grant will help us develop a sustainable youth ambassador program that reaches underserved audiences unfamiliar with the refuge. The program will support national initiatives for connecting children with nature and developing ambassadors of our environment.

The refuge will begin advertising for an intern early next year to help us develop this program. Until then the Friends of the Assabet River will be holding the funds and working with the refuge to manage the budget.

In addition, the $12,800 transportation grant will support the refuge’s longest running environmental education program, which is a group of about 17 dedicated volunteers have been working with two elementary schools from the City of Lowell. The grant will allow them to continue providing transportation to and from the refuge for at least 2 years. This Urban Environmental Education program provides hands-on curriculum based education to about 120 students annually. Staff and volunteers make contact with the same students six times throughout the school year, promoting a longer lasting impact than would be possible without the repeated contact.

May 30, 2014: Working Together to Conserve Threatened Blanding's Turtles

(Sudbury MA) On May 29th, excited high school students from Bristol County Agricultural School took to the water at the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge (ARNWR) to release head-started Blanding's Turtle hatchlings. The students had reared these turtles over the previous nine months and were eager to introduce their charges to their new home. The Bristol Aggie students have been part of this project since 2009 and have been releasing turtles since 2010. The students have released 461 Blanding's Turtles in total, mostly at the ARNWR, and over 125 other rare turtles at other sites. Ninety students have worked on the project during the five years the school has been involved. Their reward is knowing that the hatchlings raised through the winter have a much greater chance of surviving to become breeding turtles.

The students were accompanied by their teacher Brian Bastarache, the chair of the Department of Wildlife Biology at Bristol Aggie, and Brian Butler, President of Oxbow Associates; as well as parents and US Fish and Wildlife staff. Stephanie Koch, USFWS Biologist, and Jared Green, a Master’s Student at The University of Georgia, are spearheading the current research effort and coordinated the day’s events.

Journalists and a photographer from the MetroWest Daily News were on hand to record the event. They were invited to participate as part of a grant received by Friends of the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge (FARNWR) from the National Environmental Education Foundation and Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc.

More of this story ...

April 23, 2014: Invasive Coltsfoot Found on Refuge

(Sudbury MA) Vigilant Friends identified invasive coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) on Taylor Way at UTM 19T0297842, 4698498. Only a single plant was found so it is possible that it is first generation, but it could be in other locations as well. The blossoms were open and looked much like dandelion before removal. We attempted to remove all root fragments but will periodically monitor this site for signs of re-growth. We need to be on the lookout for this since it might dismissed as dandelion.

This plant is easiest to find now while it is blooming. More about this plant at Weed Identification » Coltsfoot. Please report sightings, with location indicated, to APT@truebenbach.com. Please do not pull any plants.

April 23, 2014: Friends Annual Meeting and Board Election

(Sudbury MA) The Friends held their annual meeting on April 23rd. Thank you to all who attended. There were presentations on the state of the Friends and of the Refuge from Betsy Griffin, Susan Russo, and Liz Truebenbach.

We are happy to welcome our newest board member, David Molzan. Along with electing David, the Friends re-elected board members Betsy Griffin, John Milhaven, Liz Truebenbach, and David Williams.

This was followed by a presentation of the work done by OARS to map the presence of invasive water chestnut on the Assabet, Sudbury and Concord rivers. Thank you to Suzanne Flint and Alison Field-Juma for an excellent presenation.

We had a bit of extra excitement as the visitor center lost electrical power in the wind storm shortly before the meeting began. But the meeting still started on time with a portable generator powering a portable projector. We always get by with a little help from our Friends!

April 23, 2014: Fire Break Construction on the Refuge

(Sudbury MA) The Assabett River NWR will be creating mechanical fuel breaks along portions of the southern most boundary and western flank of the south unit in an effort to reduce hazardous woody fuels accumulations and provide a fire break to aid in the control of wildfires. Service personnel will use a bobcat equipped with a mechanical mulching head to thin and remove undesired fuels that have increased over the years. The fuel break will average 100 feet in width, retaining large diameter mature trees while removing excessive smaller trees, brush, and dead and down woody fuels. The project is slated to last several days.

Mechanical equipment operations can create flying and falling hazards within 200 feet of the equipment, so we ask you to be mindful of your own safety and avoid these operations until completed.

Any questions, please contact Tom Eagle, Deputy Project Leader at Tom_Eagle@fws.gov or 978.443.4661 x12.

November 27, 2013: Eagle Scout Project Installs Five Benches on the Refuge

(Sudbury, MA) Eagle Scout candidate Austin Heisey installed five benches at Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge. Austin led a team of Scouts from Troop 61, parents, and friends to construct and install the benches at the Refuge for his Eagle Scout Project. He has enjoyed many Troop outdoor activities and volunteered a week on AMC Trail Crew last summer.

The benches are now installed on trails throughout the Refuge. Two benches are located on the Puffer Pond Pier, two along Winterberry Way, and the fifth bench is located on the Tri-Town Trail. Austin hopes that the benches will help people enjoy the Refuge.

The lumber and hardware were gracious donations from Sudbury Lumber and Home Depot, respectively. The seating material, on three of the benches, was made possible by donations from relatives. One of the benches is in memory of Kayla Ellen Flynn. Another bench is dedicated to Austin’s Grandparents. The Refuge is a place his grandmother would have love walking to enjoy the woods, wildflowers, and birds. His grandfather would have also loved the Refuge and would have enjoyed helping his Austin build the benches as well. Austin is a member of Troop 61, Sudbury. He also runs track and is in his first year at Lincoln Sudbury High School.

November 8, 2013: Naturalist Educator Training with Stephen DeFlorio: Last Session on Trees and Forests Marks the End of an Amazing Series

(Sudbury MA) November 2nd was the last session of Stephen DeFlorio’s Four Season Naturalist Educator Training Series. The topic was Trees and Forests. It was another great session and learning experience for all involved. Most of the group had signed up for all four sessions and a nice camaraderie had built up over the year. An impressive number of area organizations were represented, including Mass Audubon, Sudbury Valley Trustees, Carlisle Public Schools, Carlisle Conservation Foundation and many Friends members.

There was a rich display of material that Stephen had set up; two dozen books -- field guides, teaching manuals, children's story books all about trees. A big collection of twigs -- "twigology" displayed in charts and catalogues in a variety of ways to aid identification. There were many more charts and numerous posters illustrating many aspects of trees.

Our first activity was "beating leaves". More precisely "hammering leaves"! A very simple art project by putting colored leaves under a piece of fabric attached to board and pounding the leaves with a hammer, which made a beautiful pattern. Stephen suggested that these could be assembled into larger quilts or other compositions.

Next we went up the Hill Trail and did a variety of activities, including the "secret sort game" - picking up and identifying groups of similar shaped or colored leaves and organizing and categorizing them in a variety of ways. As adults, we were taught how to identify them into species, but children would categorize them by color, size, shape and in many creative ways. We learned how to do line transects to identify plants that grow in an area, an archeological dig to identify the layers of on the forest floor, and a game of what a maple seed needs to grow by role playing of things that aid and hinder it. For each of these activities Stephen had a rich variety of flash cards, laminated herbarium specimens and materials he has devised over the years. Some of the ring binders with leaf specimens had taken him over a 100 hours to assemble.

Pretending to be a tree was a fun game -- Jody was the trunk and Kizette got to be the tap root and Neela was the secondary roots and others were branches and leaves and Stephen was the wind that tried to knock the tree down!

Back inside the visitor center-- we had lunch and played a game of identifying parts of a tree, played in the style of musical chairs with funny song. Another about growth rings through "tree cookies" (cross sections of tree trunks). Stephen treated us to Autumn Olive jam and Autumn Olive fruit leather, which he had made with his students and which was delicious. We had more time outdoors learning how to teach children the use of simple dichotomous key and learning how to teach about bark.

All in all, we learned from Stephen and from each other and many of us had insights and information to offer. The key to the experience was that teaching is more about teaching some one how to learn for themselves and to learn with joy and pleasure.

Stephen complimented everyone by saying "Thank you all for one of the most fun workshops I have done. It has been a honor and privilege to meet all of you with the awesome sharing and exploring the refuge and beyond. Your awesome energy has inspired me, motivated and given me loads of new ways of doing things".

Steve Tobin of the Carlisle Conservation Foundation responded to Stephen " I want to thank YOU and my classmates for a fantastic four days of nature exploration! I already miss it. I am only beginning to go through all the cool materials that you (Stephen) sent."

Thanks to Friends members Neela de Zoysa who helped organize the series and Liz Truebenbach and Nancy Stubbs and FWS Refuge Staff member Kizette Ortiz-Vanger for assistance to make it such a big success. We look forward to sponsoring future programs with Stephen DeFlorio.

November 7, 2013: Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge Boosts Local Economy

(Sudbury MA) Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts generated nearly $2.1 million for Middlesex and Suffolk counties in Fiscal Year 2011, according to a new economic analysis. The benefit – which includes retail sales, taxes and job income – came from visitor spending tied to recreation activities on the refuge.

The refuge returned nearly $3.2 million in total economic effects, which is the total recreational expenditures plus net economic value. Economic value is the difference between the total value received from participating in a recreational activity and the total amount paid to participate in the activity.

The figures come from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service study, called Banking on Nature, which used 92 of the more than 550 national wildlife refuges for its economic sampling.

Wildlife refuges pumped $2.4 billion into the economy and supported more than 35,000 private-sector jobs in Fiscal Year 2011. Refuges contributed an average $4.87 in total economic output for every $1 appropriated and produced nearly $793 million in job income for local communities. The refuges are part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the Service.

“Our National Wildlife Refuge System is the world’s greatest network of lands dedicated to wildlife conservation but is also an important contributor to our economy, attracting more than 46 million visitors from around the world who support local restaurants, hotels, and other businesses,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “Every dollar we invest in our Refuge System and other public lands generates huge dividends for our country.”

Some recreation activities on Assabet River Refuge are hiking, wildlife photography and freshwater fishing.

Researchers examined visitor spending in four areas − food, lodging, transportation and other expenses (such as guide fees, land-use fees and equipment rental). Local economies were defined as those within 50 miles of each of the 92 refuges studied.

Learn more about the study here.

June 10, 2013: Scouts wage an epic battle against alien invaders at Assabet River NWR!

(Sudbury MA) On Saturday June 8th, a large group of 42 people - 22 Girl Scouts, Boy scouts, Cub scouts, Brownies and a few siblings and 20 adult leaders and parents participated in invasive plant training and removal at the Assabet River NWR. The scouts came from several communities in the surrounding area - Maynard, Stow, Marlborough, Hudson and Concord and dedicated 123 volunteer hours to removal of invasives and improving the Refuge habitats. The program was led by Bill Rand, Refuge Environmental Education Coordinator and funded by a National Environmental Education Foundation Grant to the Friends of the Refuge.

The program began with an introductory video on the impact of invasive species and the effects they have on our native habitats and wildlife. This helped the group identify several invasive species and a lively discussion followed about why we are at war with a number of invasive plants, animals, and other organisms. The discussion included a short history of how some of these species found their way to North America. Proper methods of removal and disposal were taught and how we can introduce native plants in to our back yard and gardens.

The group split in to two work parties -- one began at the visitor center and inspected Winterberry Way for invaders such as Garlic mustard, Black locust, and Japanese hops. Five very large trash bags were filled with a number of different species. The second group worked in the south side of the Refuge and removed Glossy buckthorn along the trails. A large amount of buckthorn - over a dozen large bags that filled a pick up truck was removed.

Each group worked steadily and helped reduce a significant amount of the most troublesome invaders. The work was hard yet productive. All parties thoroughly enjoyed the mission and enthusiastically agreed to participate in future projects.

The Boy Scout groups that participated were: Maynard Pack 130, Hudson Pack 4 and Marlborough Pack 42. The Girl Scout groups that particpated were: Hudson GSA Troop 72741, GSA Troop 72508, Stow Troop 72528, Concord GSA Troop 72688.

The Friends and FWS provided tools such as gloves, loppers and bags. Visitor Services Specialist Kizette Ortiz-Vanger helped to organize the event and DeAndre Brown assisted with the activities that day. Refuge Staff and Friends organized this program to introduce the Refuge and the Visior Center to local youth. Scout groups have provided a great way to begin such a program. We hope to have the scout groups return and hope to expand activities to public schools, private and home schooled groups in the future.

This program is sponsored by the Friends of the Assabet River NWR with funding from an Every Day Events Grants. These grants are sponsored by Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. Since 1999, Toyota has been the national corporate sponsor of the National Environmental Education Foundation's (NEEF) National Public Lands Day. In 2011, Toyota and NEEF expanded this partnership to launch the Public Lands Every Day Program - building capacity for friends organizations supporting public lands throughout the nation. Learn more about the partner organizations at publiclandsday.org

May 23, 2013: Saving the Blanding's Turtle: A common cause brings together the two Friends groups of Assabet River and Oxbow NWRs

(Sudbury MA) In April 2013, the two Friends groups of Assabet River NWR and Oxbow NWR collaborated to contribute $ 3,750 in much needed funding for the conservation of Blanding's Turtle, a State-listed Threatened species in Massachusetts, This is the first time that the two Friends groups have joined forces to provide funding for a common cause. The funding will support the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the work of Jared Green who has been researching the turtles for the past two years and will be continuing the work for a Masters project at the University of Georgia.

Since 2006, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has made an effort to establish a new population at the Assabet River NWR by translocating juveniles and hatchlings (newly hatched baby turtles) from Oxbow NWR. The latter has a healthy large population of over 400 individuals, and is the largest population of Blanding’s turtles in New England. Blanding’s turtle nests are protected from predators at Oxbow NWR by USFWS staff and half of all hatchlings are released at Assabet River NWR.

Stephanie Koch the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Biologist overseeing the research effort said “Jared is one of the best technicians we've ever had working with us. He'll be doing really important work as he pursues his degree in the next few years. These times are financially challenging for us. I can't tell you how much we appreciate your decision to support Jared's efforts.”

The Blanding's Turtle occurs in 15 U.S. states and 3 Canadian provinces, and has protected status in most of them. The population in New England is geographically isolated from the larger population stronghold in the Midwest and Great Lakes Region. Two of the three largest known populations in New England occur on federal land in Massachusetts; in Great Meadows NWR and the Oxbow NWR.

One half of the hatchlings released at the Assabet River NWR are directly released to the wetland, while the other half is head-started (raised in captivity) for 9 months to increase their rate of growth and presumably survival upon release. Without this stable population at Oxbow NWR, and the diligent efforts to protect nests and increase hatch success, the repatriation project occurring at the Assabet River NWR could not occur. Protection at Oxbow NWR allows for the relocation of individuals to Assabet NWR without harming the population.

Jared Green's work will focus on comparing the survival rates of directly-released Blanding’s turtle hatchlings vs. head-started hatchlings. These are reared by many schools in the area bringing in young children in to the effort. Jared's field work will focus mostly on trapping for head-started and directly-released individuals during the summers of 2013 and 2014 at Assabet River NWR. This research will help determine if head-starting is a viable conservation tool for establishing or supplementing Blanding’s turtle populations at additional sites, as well as other freshwater turtle species of conservation concern.

Bryan Windmiller, a herpetologist and researcher at Great Meadows NWR said “I am working on a analysis of similar work here at Great Meadows, and Jared's work will help strengthen our joint conclusions in evaluating the success of headstarts. It would be great if the Blanding's turtles in all 3 refuges in our area get some coordinated attention.”

This conservation effort cost the USFWS about $ 50 K annually through a combination of grants and funds. With the government sequester the USFWS does not have any funding this year and much of the valuable data gathered and research underway will need to abandoned if new sources of funds are not found. Since the Blanding's Turtle is a State listed species, it is not a priority for Federal sources and the State budget is strapped already. This makes the contribution from the Friends groups critical to this effort.

FARNWR board member Neela de Zoysa said “our board was unanimous in supporting this effort. It is a privilege that our two refuges are home to this important research and by providing funding for this effort we would not only have supported the initial experiment, we would have looked beyond the confines of our Refuge boundaries to save a threatened species.”

Rona Balco, President of the Friends of Oxbow NWR said they were happy about the collaboration. They had some concerns about depleting the population at the Refuge and are very keen to see the results of the project and hope for its success.

May 23, 2013: Hudson Students Release Blanding's Turtles

(Sudbury MA) The MetroWest Daily News covered Hudson students release of Blanding's turtles on the refuge.
Read the story here.

May 22, 2013: Friends Awarded National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) Every Day Event Grant

(Sudbury MA) Our nation’s public lands are places where we picnic, play ball, fish, fly kites, pull weeds and plant seeds. Our public lands should be safe places of natural beauty where everyone can go to lend a hand, observe nature and enjoy life. With generous support from Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc., NEEF has awarded the Friends an Every Day Event Grant to further our mission of engaging the community to learn about, use and enjoy the Refuge.

For the press announecment, see www.publiclandseveryday.org.

The Friends are extrenely grateful to NEEF and Toyota Motor Sales, USA for their support.

May 4, 2013: A Place to Rest and Enjoy the View — Eagle Scout Project Installs Benches on the Refuge

(Sudbury MA) With the warm weather finally here, it is great to see people enjoying the sun and sitting on the brand new bench in front of the visitor center. This bench and two others were constructed by Mark Tentarelli of Sudbury as his Eagle Scout project. Mark said “I decided to build benches so that people at the refuge would have a place to sit and enjoy nature.” Mark chose two designs; one based on a nature-friendly design by the conservationist Aldo Leopold with minimal use of materials to be put on refuge trails; the second a conventional bench to be placed in front of the visitor center. The design incorporated cement blocks used ingeniously as a theft deterrent. The two benches on the trails are at the end of Kingfisher Trail while the other bench is on Taylor Way. The Boy Scouts of Troop 63 Sudbury helped Mark construct the benches.

After a thorough reconnaissance in 2008, the Trails committee of the Friends of the Assabet River NWR led by Dave Lange and Frank Laak recommended 8 locations for placing benches and two locations for observation platforms. All these locations were chosen carefully for their views and and vistas and as great places for bird watching and viewing wildlife. This plan was approved by Fish and Wildlife Service in 2009. The funds for the benches were provided by Friends.

Mark Tentarelli has been a volunteer since 2010 with FWS and the Friends helping out with the Friends booth on the opening day of the Visitor Center, working at the greeter's desk over the summers and helping the Friends with membership mailings and at the Friends booth at local events. The Friends and Refuge staff are pleased that the Refuge provided an opportunity for a service project and hope this will be one of many such connections between the Refuge and youth in our local community.

Friends will dedicate two of the benches to Friends members who have made a difference -- “Hank Norwood (1930 - 2011) board member, for inspiring us all with his vision of what the Refuge could become” and to “Grove and Sally Wadman in appreciation of all that they did to get the Refuge cleaned up and safe for the public.”

April 30, 2013: Joseph Warren-Soley Lodge of Masons makes donation to FARNWR

(Sudbury MA) The Friends of the Assabet River NWR is pleased to announce a generous donation from the Joseph Warren-Soley Lodge of Masons in Lincoln, MA. Friends member and refuge volunteer Bill Flamburis told his lodge brothers about the recreational, educational and environmental activities at the Assabet River NWR and they responded by including FARNWR among the charities that they are supporting this year. The Warren-Soley Lodge has a proud history of supporting humanitarian programs in our area. We are pleased that they are branching into environment groups by supporting FARNWR. This donation will be used for a visitor services project to be announced.

April 20, 2013: Naturalist Educator Training on Vernal Pools — Big Success!

(Sudbury MA) We had another wonderful session of the spring Naturalist Educator Training with Stephen DeFlorio held on April 20th. This session covered vernal pools.

The session started off with an abundance of materials and ideas displayed by Stephen at the Visitor Center and a great Powerpoint lecture. The group then car-pooled to the north entrance of the refuge and did some really fun and instructive activities and games. The adults got a chance at being children again, sketching the vernal pool, measuring it, learning to mimic salamanders and frogs, playing tag to learn about water quality and the effect on pond creatures and creating a web with a ball of wool to show how interconnected everything is. The vernal pool was outside the north entrance along the rail trail — this was great because many participants were not familiar with that entrance and enjoyed seeing the area and the river.

The amount of work and thought which Stephen has put in to developing the activities over a couple of decades is phenomenal. Thanks Stephen for sharing your knowledge with all the folks and for allowing us the privilege if hosting your programs. Special thanks for the program to Stephen and Kizette.

The Training for Naturalist Educators with Stephen De Florio is a four part four season program designed to help teachers and adults to learn skills to teach children to appreciate nature. The next program will be on ethnobotany at Apple Valley on June 29th (session is currently fully booked). The last session for this year will be on November 2 covering Fall Sensory and Forest.

March 10, 2013: Standing Room Only When John Maguranis Talks About "Co-existing with Coyotes"

(Sudbury MA) The Friends of the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge were pleased to host John Maguranis, Massachusetts Representative for Project Coyote as our February speaker. His talk titled "Co-existing with Coyotes" covered natural history, behavior, diet and their ecological place as a much needed predator. John discussed the unfair press coverage about coyotes and provided useful information on human and pet safety and hazing techniques. The topic was clearly of great interest to the public and we had a record turn out of nearly 90 people at the Visitor Center for the US Fish and Wildlife Service at the Assabet River NWR in Sudbury.

John's presentation was very entertaining, full of good facts and information, lots of great photos and a very informative Q&A session afterward.

We hope John will be back for more programs and would love to have him take advantage of the meeting space and facilities at the Visitor Center for Project Coyote information sessions and training for Animal Control Officers.

See our archive page for more information about the talk and the availability of a video recording. Also see practicalethics.net/blog for more information about the talk.

March 1, 2013: Making Contributions to MA Endangered Wildlife Conservation when Filing Your MA Income Tax

(Sudbury MA) A critical part of the funding equation for the MA Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program are your voluntary contributions on your Massachusetts state income tax form. If you care about the future of our wildlife and wild places, please consider making a donation. Your contribution is tax deductible on the federal level, but not for state tax purposes.

The Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program (NHESP), part of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, is one of the programs forming the Natural Heritage network. NHESP is responsible for the conservation and protection of hundreds of species that are not hunted, fished, trapped, or commercially harvested in the state. The Program's highest priority is protecting the 72 vertebrates, 104 invertebrates and 256 species of native plants that are officially listed as Endangered, Threatened or of Special Concern in Massachusetts. This fund has helped restore and conserve in the Commonweatlh populations of the Bald Eagle, Hessel’s Hairsteak Butterfly, the Redbelly Turtle and the Plymouth Gentian.

For 10 years, except for Fiscal Years 2010 and 2012, no general tax funds in the state budget have been allocated to support the NHES Program. Most of the operational budget of this program comes from sporting license fees (Inland Fish & Game Fund), permitting, grants and federal aid. An important portion of the support for this program also comes from your tax check- off or direct donations. Alarmingly, contributions to NHESP are down. In 1992, 57,433 tax filers contributed $283,671. In 2010, 19,164 filers contributed $196,340, slightly down from 2009 when only 18,916 filers contributed $199,089. So, while participation increased 2010 over 2009, total contributions were down. In the past few years, the average donation through the check off is still hovering around $200,000.

Please help support the Commonwealth's Wildlife Conservation when filing your state income tax returns. You can donate when filing your state income tax by entering an amount on Line 32a: "Endangered Wildlife Conservation". Ask your tax preparer, if you use one, to do this for you.

To learn more about rare and endangered species conservation in Massachusetts, visit http://www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/nhesp/nhesp.htm. Scroll down to "Support us" for more information on the tax checkoff and making a contribution. Or, go directly to www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/nhesp/nhesp_support.htm.

February 27, 2013: A Belted Kingfisher chosen to represent the Assabet River NWR

(Sudbury MA) The Friends of the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge is thrilled to present a new logo to represent the Assabet River NWR. Friends' board members and US Fish and Wildlife staff worked with Nanri Tenney, a graphic designer based in Maynard, MA, to design the logo. The team considered many different images, wanting to choose one that would be uniquely recognizable among the area’s many environmental agencies and organizations. We are pleased that Nanri Tenney was so effective at capturing the spirit of the Refuge with a design using one of the Refuge’s most spirited wetlands residents.

Our choice of the Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) was prompted by its unique appearance and charming jauntiness, which make it so immediately identifiable. With its ragged-crest and top-heavy body, energetic flight, and piercing rattle, the Belted Kingfisher stands out on the waterways of the Refuge. Look for it perched on branches in the wetlands along Taylor Way and Otter Alley, diving into Puffer Pond and patrolling up and down the Assabet River. Kingfishers dig nesting burrows in river banks and feed almost entirely on aquatic prey. Seeing a kingfisher, perched on a branch, suddenly launch into a dive and resurface with a fish in its long bill, is always exciting. Belted Kingfishers are a powdery blue-gray; males have one blue band across the white breast, while females have a blue and a chestnut band.

On February 27, the logo was formerly presented to FARNWR members by Liz Truebenbach, FARNWR Treasurer, with comments from Libby Herland, Complex Manager for the FWS Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which includes the Assabet River NWR, and Nanri Tenney, designer of the logo. They all commented on the collaborative spirit of the design process and on how appropriate the Belted Kingfisher is as a symbol of the Refuge. Previously, the Assabet River NWR had no logo to represent it as an individual refuge within the larger National Wildlife Refuge System. With the opening of the Visitor Center for the Eastern MA Refuge Complex on the Refuge in 2010, visitors and public programs have greatly increased and the need for an individual Refuge logo has been apparent. Now our new logo will help increase awareness of our beautiful Refuge and will soon be available on shirts, hats and other items, which will be available at the Friends’ Nature Store in the visitor center. The Friends of the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge are proud to have coordinated and funded the design of the logo and appreciate board member Neela de Zoysa's role in initiating and spearheading the process.

July 2, 2012: Attention Hunters: Lottery Applications Now Available On-Line

(Sudbury MA) The application window for all hunting seasons typically opens by July 1st. Please visit www.easternmapermits.com to apply online during this time. All lottery applications (shotgun and muzzleloader deer) need to be submitted by July 31st.

The application fee is $5.00 and the fees for each permit range from $10.00 to $30.00. All active military, persons 62 years of age and older, and those with a permanent disability receive a 50% discount on all permit fees. All applicants must pay the $2 - $3 processing fees per each individual season. A non-refundable application fee must be included with your application. There are no fees for anyone age 17 years old or younger; youth hunters are also exempt from the lottery process, but still need to select each hunt he or she is applying for. If you are selected, you will be notified and at that time you will need to send in the appropriate amount of money for each permit. If money is not received within fourteen calendar days from the time of being notified, the lottery portion of your application will be withdrawn and we will go to the next applicant that was in the lottery. Checks or money orders must be made out to the Kinsail Corporation. Cash will not be accepted. Credit cards will be automatically charged if you are selected.

Applications that are missing any of the required information, including your application or processing fees, will be discarded, as well as multiple applications from the same hunter.

Applications which are illegible will also be discarded. The lottery is usually held by August 5th and notifications are made by August 12th. To apply online after July 1st, visit www.easternmapermits.com. All lottery applications close by July 31st, all others will open until each season is over. For more information, Susan_J_Russo@fws.gov or call 978-443-4661 x34

June 15, 2012: Action Against Effort to Gut the Endangered Species Act

(Sudbury MA) Elizabeth J. Cygan covered Jamie Eldridge's discussion with the Friends on June 13th at the Visitor Center. She kindly provided her article for the Town Crier for us to reproduce.

On June 13th an informational meeting was held with Senator Jamie Eldridge to discuss Priority Environmental Bills for the 2011-2012 Session. The event was sponsored by the Friends of the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge and held at the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Visitor Center at Assabet River NWR located on Hudson Road in Sudbury.

Eldridge is the State Senator for the Middlesex and Worcester Districts, including the towns of Acton, Ayer, Boxborough, Harvard, Hudson, Littleton, Marlborough, Maynard, Northborough (Pct.3), Shirley, Southborough, Stow, Sudbury Pct 2, 3, 5), Westborough. He is a vocal force in the Legislature to ensure that there is enough money to fund environmental protection and continue two decades of such policy.

At the meeting, Eldridge spoke to an audience of over 50 environmentalists and conservationists who were anxious to hear the latest information about environmental issues and the turn around of some Legislators by abandoning long standing protection of the environment by overturning environmental legislation in the form of bill SB1854 aimed at disempowering or “gutting “ the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. The Endangered Species Act has protected endangered birds, fish, animals, plants, trees and aquatic species, which are on the road to extinction.

SB1854 would remove the Department of Fish and Game’s authority to regulate rare species leaving them unprotected. According to the Senator, landowners in Massachusetts want to gut the Endangered Species Act because it interferes with building projects. Building projects create jobs and in this economy jobs are the priority issue. The legislature has a goal of creating jobs even at the expense of rare specie protection.

More of this story ...

April 8, 2012: Frogs, Salamanders and Turtles on the move! Drive with care

(Sudbury MA) Refuge staff has issued a reminder that all visitors should observe speed limit of 15mph when driving on Winterberry way. 15mph and no more!

Obey the 15mph speed limit on Winterberry Way

With the arrival of spring and warm weather, frogs, salamanders, and even turtles are on the move already! Refuge staff would like to remind everyone to please be extra careful driving on Refuge roads and slow down to give wildlife a break. Don't drive through puddles without first checking for critters that may be hiding in the water. Thank You!

The speed limit for motorized vehicles and bicycles on the trails which allow bicycling is 15 MPH or less. Law Enforcement vehicles are on the look out for vehicles that do not respect the speed limit.

March 30, 2012: Construction on Winterberry Way

(Sudbury MA) Hikers and bikers please take note. There is repair work underway on Winterberry Way for the construction of a spillway. Please be very careful or avoid trying to navigate this section of Winterberry way at all until repairs have been made.

The road at this point is very narrow and will likely experience some additional erosion as the water flows through the remaining culvert. Please be very careful or avoid trying to navigate this section of Winterberry way at all until repairs have been made.

March 15, 2012: Summer Youth Jobs on the Refuges

(Sudbury MA) The Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex is offering Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) positions for young people ages 15 to 18 during the summer months in 2012. This year’s YCC program will last 8 weeks, starting on June 25 and continuing until August 18. YCC recruits generally work 40 hours a week, 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. each day, and are paid minimum wage. They must be a permanent resident of the United States, it territories or possessions, and be able to provide their own transportation to work.

The Youth Conservation Corps offers students the chance to learn a variety of skills in the great outdoors, get plenty of exercise, engage in teamwork, meet new friends, accomplish goals, and learn about the natural world. YCC recruits will spend several paid hours each week participating in environmental education programs, getting to know the many different aspects of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Working trips to other refuges are also a possibility for the Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex YCC team. Recruits will be provided with all necessary safety and work equipment, and will be under constant supervision of a YCC Leader and other refuge staff.

Youths interested in the YCC program can obtain an application from Natural Resource Planner, Carl Melberg by calling 978-443-4661 x32, or email Carl_Melberg@fws.gov. Applications can also be picked up and dropped off at the Headquarters building on 73 Weir Hill Road, Sudbury, MA. Applications must be returned by April 20, 2012. YCC recruits will be randomly selected from applicants in early May. If more applications are received than positions available, students who did not get selected will become “alternates” in the event a selected applicant cannot work. After selections are made, there will be an evening orientation at the refuge prior to June 25.

Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex will also be recruiting a “YCC Group Leader” position for the duration of the program. The Leader position is perfect for outdoor-oriented educators who are looking for summer work. People interested in this position can also contact Carl Melberg at the above number.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship.

February 12, 2012: Reminder to use the Tax Check off for MassWildlife

(Sudbury MA) Please consider giving to MassWildlife's Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Fund or the Wildlands Fund through a check off on your Massachusetts state income tax forms. Your dollars are critically needed to support these programs.

The Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program (NHESP) is responsible for the conservation and protection of Massachusetts' biodiversity. There are approximately 176 species of vertebrate and invertebrate animals and 259 species of native plants and their habitats that are officially listed as Endangered, Threatened or of Special Concern under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act. For all but two years since 2004, the Natural Heritage Program has been absent from the state's operating budget. Since then, the Program has been funded by project-specific bond monies, fees, federal grants, and voluntary contributions.

A major source of funding for the protection of rare and endangered species in Massachusetts comes from voluntary donations on state income tax forms. All contributions go to the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Fund, which currently is the source for a significant portion of the annual operating budget of the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program. Over 20,000 tax filers support the program each year. If you have made a contribution in this manner, thank you for supporting the Program and its conservation efforts!

According to the Massachusetts Resident Income Tax Form 1 instructions, “this fund has helped restore and conserve in the Commonweatlh populations of the Bald Eagle, Hessel’s Hairsteak Butterfly, the Redbelly Turtle and the Plymouth Gentian.”

You can donate when filing your state income tax by entering an amount on Line 32a: "Endangered Wildlife Conservation". Ask your tax preparer, if you use one, to do this.

To learn more about rare and endangered species conservation in Massachusetts, visit www.mass.gov/masswildlife (click on Natural Heritage). Scroll down to "Support us" for more information on the tax checkoff and making a contribution. Or, go directly to www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/nhesp/nhesp_support.htm.

November 2, 2011: Assabet River NWR Visitor Center Wins Wins Award for Sustainable Design

(Washington DC) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s commitment to energy efficiency and sustainability shown brightly during the Federal Energy Management Program’s (FEMP) 2011 Federal Energy and Water Management Awards as David Guthrie, the energy coordinator for the Service, took home the prestigious Program Manager’s Award and three national wildlife refuges won team awards.

Guthrie, who also won an Exceptional Service honor, has helped make the Service a federal leader in energy management, and his work has helped the Service save millions of Btu of energy, millions of gallons of water and much taxpayer money.

Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge and San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex all built or renovated structures that showcased sustainability efforts.

The Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge in Sudbury, Massachusetts, was honored for the sustainable design of its 5,879 square-foot visitor center. The building features passive solar architecture, a cool roof, daylighting, low-e glazed windows and much more. The 19 megawatt-hours of renewable power generated offsets 13.1 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Low flow plumbing fixtures and waterless urinals conserve 3,000 gallons of water a year. Individual Service members honored were:

  • Libby Herland – Project Leader/Refuge Manager, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Tom Eagle – Deputy Project Leader, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Susan J. Russo – Visitor Services Manager, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Marsha Browning – Contracting Officer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Tony Leger – Regional Chief, National Wildlife Refuge System, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (retired)

See USFWS New Room for more info.

July 5, 2011: Refuge Staff Reminds Visitors to Obey the Speed Limit on the Refuge

(Sudbury MA) Refuge staff has issued a reminder that all visitors should observe speed limit of 15mph when driving on Winterberry way. 15mph and no more!

Obey the 15mph speed limit on Winterberry Way

Please remember you are on a National Wildlife Refuge and that wildlife take priority. The newly paved access road — Winterberry Way — which goes past the Visitor Center to the tear drop near Puffer Pond is conducive for fast driving. However, please observe the speed limit when driving and when biking. Recently, animals have been found killed by traffic on this road. The speed limit for motorized vehicles and bicycles on the trails which allow bicycling is 15 MPH or less.

Law Enforcement vehicles are on the look out for vehicles that do not respect the speed limit.

June 17, 2011: Friends board member honored with a River Steward Award

(Sudbury MA) Riverfest 2011 marked its tenth anniversary this year. The Friends are pleased that board member Neela de Zoysa was honored with a River Stewardship Award for all that she has done to promote Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge. The award represented the towns of Stow, Hudson, Maynard and Sudbury in which the Refuge is located.

RiverFest is a celebration of the Sudbury, Assabet and Concord Rivers It brings together more than 40 organizations sponsoring events in eleven communities from Framingham to Lowell. Twenty-nine miles of the Sudbury, Assabet and Concord Rivers have been federally designated as Wild and Scenic Rivers because of their “outstandingly remarkable resources including ecology, recreation, scenery, history and literature.”

Six years ago, the League of Woman Voters in partnership with the Wild and Scenic River Stewardship Council established the River Steward Awards. The Awards honors unspoken heroes within the river communities who are doing their part to promote, preserve and protect the Sudbury, Assabet and Concord Wild and Scenic Rivers today, and for future generations.

The Awards Ceremony held on June 10th, kicked off the Riverfest weekend. The ceremony was held at the Minute Man National Park and the awards presented by Lee Steppacher of the National Park Service, Betsy Sluder of the League of Women Voters of Concord and Susan Crane, Chair of the River Stewardship Council. This years honorees included Al Pierce of Acton, Andrew Colgan of Bedford, Dr. Peter Burn of Carlisle, Kris Scopinich of Lincoln, The Ponds and waterways Committee of Sudbury, Neela de Zoysa for Stow, Hudson, Maynard and Sudbury, the Trinitarian Congregational Church in Wayland and the Outstanding Award went to Sue Beede for her leadership in different capacities in the last 21 years.

Several members of the Friends of the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge have been recipients of River Steward Awards in the past. Last year's recipients were former board members Paul and Mary Ann Scheiner, and member Alan Bragg for his work at Great Meadows NWR. In previous years founding board members Karen and Ron Riggert, as well as Mike Meixell, Debbie Dineen and Grove Wadman were recognized for their extraordinary commitment. The US. Fish and Wildlife Service's staff have also received several awards - Libby Herland, the Complex Manager of the Eastern Massachusetts NWRs in 2009 and Peggy Hobbs and Susan Russo in 2010.

At the award ceremony this year, The Three River Chorus of Maynard gave a wonderful performance of choral works. The finale was an excerpt from President Obama's victory speech set to music which captured the spirit of the Riverfest.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves — if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made? This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can!.

May 26, 2011: Fifth year that Blanding's turtles have been released at Assabet River NWR

(Sudbury MA) This is the fifth year that Blanding's turtles have been released at Assabet River NWR in an effort to start a new population at this site. On May 26, 2011, conservation partners including Bristol County Agricultural High School, Oxbow Associates, Inc., the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, the Friends of Assabet River NWR, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joined together to release 51 young Blanding's turtles in prime wetland habitat.

This is the second year that the sophomore class at "Bristol Aggie" diligently cared for dozens of Blanding's turtle hatchlings for the entire school year. These "head-started" turtles are kept in a warm environment and fed a nutritious diet from the time they hatch in September, until the following spring. During this time, they grow to a much larger size than they would in the wild, giving them a survival advantage as their larger size makes them less susceptible to predation. The average hatchling weight is only 8 grams, but the average head-start this year was nearly 40 grams!

For more information, see the full story at: USFWS Journal Entry.

Photo Credit: Keith Shannon, USFWS
Bristol Aggie students, led by teacher Brian Bastarache, raised dozens of Blanding's turtle hatchlings from September 2010 - May 2011.
Photo Credit: Keith Shannon, USFWS

March 18, 2011: Local National Wildlife Refuge Biologist Receives National Science Leadership Award

(Sudbury MA) Stephanie L. Koch, lead wildlife biologist at the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) Complex, this week was awarded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s national Science Leadership Award.

Koch was recognized for her leadership in overseeing the scientific and biological program on eight national wildlife refuges in the greater Boston metropolitan area and on Cape Cod for the last decade. The award citation cites her “outstanding record of objectively evaluating scientific information and making recommendations that result in scientific-based solutions to fish and wildlife service issues.”

Koch’s area of expertise is the research and management of coastal waterbirds, however her work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has included waterfowl, Blanding’s turtles, New England cottontails and other animals and plants. The national wildlife refuges in eastern Massachusetts are inhabited by federally-listed threatened and endangered species and one of the largest colonies of common terns along the Atlantic seaboard.

According to Libby Herland, refuge manager, “We are thrilled that Stephanie's scientific achievements and leadership skills have been recognized at the national level. Her original research provides sound science for making complex refuge management decisions. We are so fortunate to have a scientist of Stephanie's caliber working for wildlife on behalf of the American people.”

More of this story ...

March 15, 2011: Appreciation of Hank Norwood

(Sudbury MA) The Friends announce with sadness the death of our board member Hank Norwood on March 1st after a brief illness. Hank was active in the movement to set aside the land for the Assabet River NWR in the late 90's and rejoined the board in 2009. He helped with strategic planning and shaping policy and outreach programs.

Hank's tenure on the board was marked by his remarkable clarity of vision and an uncanny ability to get to the essence of things. His enthusiasm was infectious and he was meticulous in gathering evidence and hard numbers to support any proposal he made. He gave his best and challenged others to give their best as well. Board members will remember his thoughtfulness and graciousness in all his dealings.

He greatly valued the role that the US Fish and Wildlife Service played in protecting large wilderness areas in the vicinity and he felt strongly about the Friends' role as well as other non-profits in the area whose duty was to serve our local communities and to bring these resources to the attention of the larger public. He saw "Citizen Science" as a way to support the institutions managing the land and keeping the public involved in a constructive manner. He himself paved the way with half a century of the Concord Christmas Bird Count and the Nighthawk Watch which he did so effectively. His commitment to nurturing young people was uppermost on his list of priorities and he had great hopes for the new visitor center and its role in offering excellent Environmental Education and getting the local public schools and communities involved.

We were fortunate to have the benefit of his vision in the short period and we will miss him very much. Our presentation on Refuge Plants for Refuge Wildlife by Frances Clark on Sunday, March 13 was dedicated to Hank and we took a moment to remember him with affection and respect.

A memorial service will be held at the Wayland First Parish Church, 11 AM Saturday, March 26th. In lieu of flowers, gifts in his memory may be made to Sudbury Valley Trustees, Parmenter Community Health or Williams College. For more information, please contact the John C. Bryant Funeral Home of Wayland.

February 25, 2011: Vision plan for the Refuge System made available for public comment

(Washington DC) U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a draft vision plan to guide the growth and management of the National Wildlife Refuge System over the next ten years.

Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation sets forth nearly 100 draft recommendations to protect and improve the U.S. system of public lands and water set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife and plants.

The public is strongly encouraged to comment on the document. To read it and comment on it, see: americaswildlife.org.

December 1, 2010: New Visitor's Center at the Assabet River NWR Opens

(Sudbury MA) On Sunday, October 17, about 1,200 people attended the day long activities and the formal ceremony marking the grand opening of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s new Visitor Center at the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge. The beautiful fall weather certainly helped and by mid-day a long line of cars were parked all the way down to Hudson Road. The Refuge staff and the Friends were thrilled to have such a large turnout.

The new Visitor Center on opening day. Photo courtesy of and copyright David Griffin.The Visitor Center located at 680 Hudson Road, Sudbury serves the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex - Great Meadows, Assabet River and Oxbow NWRs west and northwest of Boston, , Massasoit NWR in Plymouth, Monomoy NWR and Mashpee NWR on Cape Cod and Nantucket NWR and Nomans Land Island NWR in Nantucket Sound.

The building is completely energy efficient with many green features including geothermal energy for heating and cooling and solar panels for electricity. The exhibits are beautifully designed with many interactive features to keep children and adults engaged and well informed. The center also has a Nature Store with field guides and other nature related items.

Congresswoman Niki Tsongas presents an appreciation to the Refuge Staff. Photo courtesy of and copyright David Griffin. Susan Russo, the Visitor Services Manager, for the US Fish and Wildlife Service conducted the formal ceremony which was attended by about 200 people. The line up of speakers was impressive and included the US Fish and Wildlife Service personnel from Washington D.C., the NE Regional office in Hadley, MA, Congressional and State representatives, town officials, Native American representatives, local and national non-profits and residents of the area.

Libby Herland, the Project Manager of the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex in her welcome remarks said “this Visitor Center is for now and the future, to be relevant to a changing America. We want this center to promote Environmental Education and help the public connect with nature and the outdoors and understand what we at the Fish and Wildlife Service do”.

More of this story ...

October 17, 2010: Saving Rare Species, One Baby Turtle at a Time: Curtis Middle School Students Receive Congressional Recognition

(Sudbury MA) Curtis Middle School Students in Sudbury and their Seventh grade Science teacher Michal Mueller received a Congressional Recognition from Niki Tsongas on River Day September 12 for their involvement with saving the rare Blanding’s Turtle.

[You can read the full version of this article (with video) at the Sudbury Town Crier].

The certificate read “in recognition of your strong commitment to the environment of the 5th Congressional District. Thank you for caring for Blanding’s Turtle hatchlings.”

Congresswoman Niki Tsongas and the Curtis Middle School Students. Photo courtesy of David Griffin.The Annual River Day is an event hosted by Congresswoman Niki Tsongas to celebrate the waterways that connect the Fifth Congressional District. The awards were the highlight of the Congresswoman’s visit to the new US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Visitor Center at the Assabet River NWR which opened on October 17.

The Blanding’s Turtle is listed as a rare species in Massachusetts as well as in 14 other states and three Canadian provinces. The species does not reproduce until they are about 15 years old, and they lay eggs in upland habitat and therefore need to move between upland and wetland habitat. The lack of understanding of these factors and the fragmented habitat are real problem to overcome. The Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge located in Sudbury, Maynard, Stow and Hudson is a location where the turtles are being reintroduced by researchers.

Samm Katcher one of the students said in her presentation “the adult populations of the turtles can lay eggs until they are 70 years old and are doing well. The eggs they are laying are not. These eggs are often eaten even before they hatch and ones that do hatch often die on their way to water eaten by predators. Their shells are not quite hardened yet which makes them easy meal for birds, snakes and even chipmunks.”

The conservation efforts include protecting nests and “head-starting” turtles raised in captivity for their first year. The “head-started” hatchlings are less vulnerable to predation and more likely to survive their second year of life in the wild. Bryan Windmiller, a private researcher based in Concord, MA, who has taken the initiative with school participation, is a firm believer that projects such as raising the hatchlings empowers students to contribute to larger environmental challenges rather than feel helpless. Stephanie Koch, Refuge Biologist of the Fish and Wildlife Services who manages the Blanding’s conservation effort said releasing “head-starts” in to the wild and creating habitat conducive for nesting will need to be done for at least 10 to get a viable population going.  More of this story ...

September 12, 2010: Friends receive a Congressional Recognition from Congresswoman Niki Tsongas

Friends president Betsy Griffin received a Certificate of Special Recognition for the Friends work from Congresswoman Niki Tsongas at the Fourth Annual River Day on Sunday, September 12th. Photo courtesy of David Griffin.(Sudbury MA) The Friends received a Certificate of Special Recognition from Congresswoman Niki Tsongas at the Fourth Annual River Day on Sunday, September 12th in celebration of the rivers that connect the Fifth Congressional District.

The Fifth District encompasses a large network of tributaries of Sudbury, Assabet and Concord Rivers that ultimately flow into the Merrimack River in Lowell. The rivers in this area have sustained it since early settlement and supported the industrial revolution and inexorably linked to its history, culture and economy.

As part of the River Day activities the Congresswoman Tsongas stopped at the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s new Visitor Center for Easter Massachusetts located at the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, in Sudbury, MA.

It was a packed house at the Annual River Day on Sunday, September 12th. Photo courtesy of David Griffin.The Friends’ certificate was “in recognition of many years of environmental stewardship and volunteerism you have offered the fifth congressional district”. The Congresswoman said the Friends’ leadership role in supporting the refuge and the mission of the Fish and Wildlife Service was largely responsible in the decision to locate the Visitor Center at the Assabet River NWR.

Betsy Griffin, President of the Friends accepted the certificate on behalf of the Friends. She commented later that many volunteers and board members had worked hard to accomplish the work. In particular, the founding president Barbara Volkle’s leadership was exceptional.

American Recovery and Reinvestment funds of nearly one million dollars were used to complete the Visitor Center. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is thrilled that the center sets a national example of green technology and it is the only Visitor Center of its kind in the northeast. The Congresswoman played an important role in securing these funds for the purpose. The new building will be formally opened in a ceremony on Sunday, October, 17.

The Congresswoman was taken on a tour of the new building by Libby Herland, Complex Manager for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Eastern Massachusetts NWR eight refuges that the center will serve. The Congresswoman also provided commendations for several other groups including a students of Curtis Middle School in Sudbury who are involved with conservation of rare species

August 25, 2010: Visitor Center Open House a Hit!

(Sudbury MA) The US Fish and Wildlife Service hosted the long awaited "Open House" of its brand new Visitor Center at the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday, August 22, 2010. The event drew about 150 people - this included many members of the Friends who were pleased to see the completed facility and many curious neighbors and residents of the surrounding towns. The construction of this new facility began in April 2008 and everyone was pleased to see the attractive new building with it's environmentally friendly features and the superb exhibits. There were many questions about the information presented in the exhibits about the eight refuges featured by the Visitor Center that form the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex - Great Meadows and Assabet River, Oxbow in Harvard, Monomoy and Mashpee on Cape Cod, Massasoit in Plymouth, and Nantucket and Nomans Land Island in Nantucket Sound. The Service will continue to maintain it's current Offices at Weir Hill, Sudbury at Great Meadows as their administrative office and most public programs will be moved to the new facility after the October 17, Grand Opening.

Susan Russo, the Fish and Wildlife Service's Visitor Services Manager has been working for over two years coordinating a myriad details to make this opening a reality. For the Friends of the Refuge this was a truly exciting day. Assabet River NWR, the newest of the eight refuges was a former US Army property acquired by the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2000 and opened to the public in 2005, with the help of volunteers from the Friends. To see the crowded parking lot and the large number of visitors was a great satisfaction to many early volunteers who saw potential in this land as a wildlife refuge. The Friends will have an office space in the building and were pleased to open doors to their new Nature Store. The Nature Store carried educational material such as field guides of plants and animals and other items pertinent to the local area. Joy Viola and Arlene Witty who were at the counter commented that the the sales were brisk and that there were many suggestions for new items that visitors would like to purchase. The Refuge Staff and Friends are looking for volunteers to man the store and the front desk and will be providing the necessary training.

Many visitors stopped by at the information booths of the two Friends groups from Assabet River and Oxbow Refuges. Karen Riggert of the Friends of the Assabet River Refuge who manned the Friends information booth said there were many first time visitors who had a variety of questions about the Refuge. Jan Wright conducted the tours to the World War II bunker nearby and was kept busy with many requests. The bunker is one of 50 that were constructed in 1943 for storage of ammunition.

George Stubbs of Sudbury was impressed with the high quality of the building and with the environmentally friendly features of the building. He and his wife Nancy and son Jared live in the neighborhood of the Hop Brook Marsh and was familiar with the South Side of the Refuge but had never visited the main part north of Hudson Rd. They toured the bunker and George said he was surprised by the World War II history right here in town. He hoped that the Public Schools would make good use of the facility and the history which is part of the Refuge.

Lisa Cornaccia had been in the Refuge a few times and seen the Visitor Center under construction. She attended the Open House with her two teenage sons who attend LS High School and her daughter who attends the Sudbury Middle School. She thought it was a amazing opportunity for young people and the public in the area to learn about the native wildlife and nature and was also impressed by the high quality of the exhibits. She and her children were interested in opportunities to volunteer at the Refuge. Susan Russo mentioned that children as young as 10 years will find it rewarding to help out at the Refuge and the Visitor Center.

There are several events building up to the Grand Opening of the Center on Sunday, October 17. On Sunday, September 12, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas will make a visit to the Visitor Center part of her River Day activities; on Sunday September 26, there will be a tour of the Center as part of the Annual Bus Tour featuring of Refuge History. The Opening day will have a diverse activities and a mid day ceremony with dignitaries and a special focus on youth presenters. Libby Herland, the Head of the US Fish and Wildlife Office here at Weir Hill in Great Meadows NWR, Sudbury MA intends to make the Visitor Center a popular local desitination for families in the area and visitors from afar. She plans to house a top-notch Environmental Education Program and high quality interpretive activities for public and private school, home schoolers and for the general public.

For more on the opening, see the article in the Sudbury Town Crier.

July 7, 2010: Visitor Center at Assabet River NWR opens its doors this fall!

(Sudbury MA) Good news for those who have been waiting for the opening of the brand new Visitor Center at the Assabet River NWR. The US Fish and Wildlife Service will open the doors to this state of the art facility on Sunday, October 17. They will host an Open House on Sunday, August 22 and several tours of the facility over the summer.

The center will serve the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex, consisting of eight National Wildlife Refuges - Great Meadows, Assabet River and Oxbow outside of Boston to Monomoy and Mashpee on Cape Cod, Massasoit in Plymouth, and Nantucket and Nomans Land Island in Nantucket Sound.

In addition to the interpretive and interactive exhibits covering all eight refuges, the new center will include a large room for educational programs and community meetings, a Nature Store operated by the Friends and office space for refuge staff. The building has many "green" attributes - such as energy efficient geothermal energy for heating and cooling, equipped with solar panels for electricity and uses recycled materials within the building for insulation. The paving outside the building is porous allowing rain water absorption. The Fish and Wildlife Service hopes to promote the Visitor Center as a premiere environmental education resource in the area.

Friends are pleased that the Visitor Center will give much needed publicity to Assabet River NWR, the newest of the eight refuges. This was a former US Army property acquired by the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2000 and opened to the public in 2005, with the help of volunteers from the Friends. This area has been out-of-bounds for over 60 years and the Visitor Center and will mark a new phase in welcoming the public back to the area.

Sunday, August 22nd, 10am - 4pm - "Open House"

This open house will provide the public the opportunity to see the new Visitor Center along with its newly installed environmental education exhibits. The Friends of Assabet River and Oxbow will provide light refreshments and have the bookstore open. We will be offering public programs at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. These will likely include a bird walk, a historical tour including a visit to Bunker 303 and a children's activity.

Sunday, October 17th, 10 AM - 6 PM: GRAND OPENING!!

This day will include a number of interpretive programs from sunrise bird walks and bike ride to children's activities (such as scavenger hunts, wildlife contest, etc) and crafts. We plan to have a formal speaker procession at 1pm to include National dignitaries, Native Americans, Arthur Carbary (former resident) and a youth keynote speaker.

June 26, 2010: Friends cosponsor art exhibit and reception with the SVT for the second time

(Sudbury MA) The Sudbury Valley Trustees and the Friends of the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge cosponsored an art exhibit at SVT’s Wolbach Farm from June 26th – 30th. The watercolor paintings were on displayed at the farm's magnificent barn overlooking the Great Meadows NWR. This was the second collaborative art exhibition and was entitled "Season of Wonder and Renewal: Celebrating Spring through Nature Inspired Watercolors" and featured nearly 70 paintings by 25 artists from the Metrowest area. The previous exhibition held in late November was a big success.

This time too, the opening reception on Saturday, June 26 drew over a 100 artists and guests. Eighteen of the featured artists participated in the FARNWR sponsored art workshops at Weir Hill, Great Meadows NWR this spring under the instruction of Cecilia Sharma of Sudbury. The local artists range from beginners to professional artists or long time amateur watercolorists who enjoy the peace and quite and the wonderful setting at Weir Hill. The watercolors on display had spring scenes and wildlife observed by the artists and reproduced from photographs by well know local photographers and naturalists Dave Griffin, Marjike Holtrop and Jill Kern among others.

Nearly 50 participants have enjoyed the 6 week art programs in the past two years. They come from towns in the immediate vicinity such as Sudbury, Maynard, Hudson, Marlborough, Stow, Wayland and Concord to further a field to Framingham, Bedford, Littleton and Weston. Most of them have visited a National Wildlife Refuge for the first time and become familiar with the important work of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. At the opening reception, Betsy Griffin, President of Friends commented on the collaboration with Sudbury Valley Trustees as a great local partnership and informed the gathering along with Michael Sanders, Director of Membership for SVT about the important work done by Friends, FWS, SVT to protect open spaces to preserve the health of the environment in our towns. Cecilia Sharma congratulated all the artists for the wonderful work and the spirit of collaboration in which they have come together to paint, learn about nature and to build a community of friends.

The art program will continue to be offered by Cecilia Sharma under the sponsorship of FWS and Friends at the new Visitor Center at the Assabet River NWR on Hudson Road. This state of the art facility will be formally opened on Sunday, October 17 and will be open for a preview at an Open House on Sunday, August 22. The center will serve the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex, consisting of eight National Wildlife Refuges - Great Meadows, Assabet River and Oxbow outside of Boston to Monomoy and Mashpee on Cape Cod, Massasoit in Plymouth, and Nantucket and Nomans Land Island in Nantucket Sound.

Guests enjoying the show   A sampling of the art on display

Images courtesy of David Griffin.

June 25, 2010: The new 2010 - 2011 Duck Stamp went on Sale Friday, June 25

(Washington DC) The new 2010 - 2011 Duck Stamp went on sale Friday, June 25.

Those who have purchased stamps over the decades have contributed over $700 million and protected more than 3.5 million acres of habitat for wildlife and future generations of Americans. Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, commonly known as “Duck Stamps”, are pictorial stamps produced by the U.S. Postal Service for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Since 1934, a huge proportion of the funds used to acquire critical habitats in the National Wildlife Refuge System were provided through sales of these stamps.

The Stamp today costs only $15 and is easy to purchase at any Post Office or Refuge office. Even better, it is extremely cost-effective: fully 98 cents out of every dollar goes directly to acquire land for the Refuge System.

There are over 540 individual units within the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System. Each refuge is managed as a protected haven for birds and other wildlife. Since 1934, a huge proportion of the funds used to acquire these critical habitats were provided through sales of what is today known as Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps – commonly called “Duck Stamps.” Americans who enjoy wildlife and natural landscapes can thank those who have purchased stamps over the decades for this legacy of habitat conservation for wildlife and future generations of Americans. As we move into a time where adaptation to climate change requires flexibility and planning, contributing to this fund increases the capacity of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire and protect sensitive wetlands and grasslands.

Stamps have traditionally been purchased by waterfowl hunters and other recreational users of the refuge system. Additionally, funds derived from Stamp sales go far beyond serving the hunting community. For those who visit refuges, a stamp is a “free pass” for an entire year – for a vehicle full of people at all refuges that might charge for admission.

For more information on Duck Stamps, see Duck Stamps.

May 28, 2010: Students Give the Blanding's Turtle a Second Chance

(Sudbury MA) On the morning of May 21, 2010, 17 students, several teachers and parents from the Bristol County Agricultural High School celebrated the release of 47 State-threatened Blanding’s turtle hatchlings at Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge (refuge). The students have been raising (headstarting) these hatchlings over the winter as part of a larger project aimed towards establishing a population of Blanding’s turtles at this new site. Hatchlings collected from other nesting sites are raised in captivity over the winter and released the following spring at a much larger size than they would have attained if overwintering in the wild. In addition to their contribution to this project, the students have been true stewards of nature. The students’ efforts have increased the number of turtles that now have radio transmitters (which allow staff to track the turtle’s location post-release) and as Kurt Buhlmann of the Savannah River Ecology Lab – University of Georgia stated, ”(the students) are on the cutting edge of conservation research.“ As an added component to the release, a research associate from Assam, India was on-site to observe the release and hear about the student’s project. Through the efforts and support of the Bristol County Agricultural High School, Savannah River Ecology Lab of the University of Georgia, Oxbow Associates Inc., and Exo Terra, turtle conservation and awareness is growing each day. To learn more, please visit Bristol County Agricultural High School, Oxbow Associates, Kurt Buhlmann, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Exo-Terra and Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex.

Close-up of a Blanding's turtle hatchling that was larger enough to get a radio transmitter put on before its release. Image courtesy Susan J. Russo/USFWS Students receive 2010 Turtle Steward Award. Image courtesy Susan J. Russo/USFWS

The Friends provide funding and volunteer hours for the current Blanding's Turtle research effort by the Fish and Wildlife Service led by Stephanie Koch, Refuge Biologist. The Friends also provide public outreach by arranging speakers like Bryan Windmiller, our June presenter, who works on Blanding's conservation.

Contact: info@farnwr.org