Baltimore Oriole in Footbridge Marsh by Taylor Way.Baltimore Oriole in Footbridge Marsh by Taylor Way© 2015 Gary Freedman Recent News News From 2013-2016 News Before 2013

News From 2013-2017

September 25, 2017: Refuge Manager Retires

(Sudbury MA) We said a fond farewell at the end of September to Libby Herland, who had been Refuge Complex Manager for all of the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex since 2003. Libby presided over the public opening of the Assabet River NWR and our visitor center and worked closely with our Friends group to make the refuge what it is today. We will miss Libby and wish her all the best in her new home in western Massachusetts.

September 25, 2017: FARNWR Has a New President

(Sudbury MA) Liz Truebenbach takes over as FARNWR's fourth president. Liz writes I am honored to represent all our members and will work to support our precious refuge and our U.S. Fish and Wildlife partners. I hope to apply all the good things I've learned from my predecessors. I look forward to working with our new Refuge Manager, once that person in named. I hope to see you at our monthly speaker series and I hope you are enjoying the lovely weather at the refuge - always a good place to get outside.

September 19, 2017: White Pond Road Construction Complete, North Gate Re-opened

(Sudbury MA) The section of White Pond Road that leads to the parking lot at he "North Gate" is now open again as the construction is complete. The signage in the area still needs to be updated, but feel free to use the North Gate once again.

August 18, 2017: Fort Assabet Continues to Grow!

Fort Assabet at PlayFort Assabet at Play (Sudbury MA) Summer is almost over but don’t let that stop you from coming out to visit. Come help build and create a very special place, set on our Refuge, for all our kids to connect with nature, forever! Besides the widely known educational and health benefits of “unstructured” nature play, including how kids will expand science, engineering and math skills, they also gain leadership and communications skills to boot! The more kids that come out, and the more they return, the more all of these benefits to them will increase. They have the ownership in what they build, because they built it themselves, therefore they will want to protect it, and all of the nature surrounding them as well.

Please join the Fort Assabet facebook group site: You will be able to post photos/videos of your fort building, plants, animals, weather, etc., and also post articles you find on the benefits of outdoor nature play. Also post the creative ideas that you and your kids will naturally come up with to share with others, like what tools are needed. Please be sure to create your own “events” for others to join with you as well.

The entire refuge system is watching to see how we do and what works. Fort Assabet will help create the future generation of refuge wildlife and land stewards. Most importantly our kids will show us how nature provides them the additional education and leadership skills they will need to succeed in life!

July 18, 2017: Watch Invasive Removal, Read About Local Teens Removing Invasives on the Refuge

(Maynard MA) New England Aquarium's Live Blue Ambassadors program spent time in July with Dave Lange and the APT (Assabet Pulling Together) on the refuge removing invasive plants. Their efforts were covered by the local press. Read about invasive removals and watch a video of it at Hudson Wicked Local.

July 7, 2017: White Pond Road Construction and North Gate Closures

(Sudbury MA) Starting on July 24, 2017 the US Fish and Wildlife will begin rehabilitating (regrading and paving) it’s North Entrance which is part of White Pond Road in Stow. In an effort to preserve extensive survey work, grading and resurfacing throughout the duration of this project the entrance to the refuge at this location will be closed to all traffic for up to 60 days (up to September 21st). The portion of the White Pond Road that will be closed will be just south of the Assabet River Rail Trail up to the refuge gate. The road will be gated and inaccessible to vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists for up to 60 days. This will also cut off access to the refuge’s North Parking Lot. See link for more details.

July 7, 2017: New Addition to the Refuge Property

(Sudbury MA) The transfer of the Air Force Tower property within the Refuge has gone through and USFWS has begun demolition of the buildings (the Radome tower has already come down and 75% of the structure has been removed from the Refuge). The USFWS Regional Office has committed up to $100,000 toward removal of asbestos from the buildings and bids for the job will go out later this summer.

June 7, 2017: New Building Next to the Refuge Entrance

(Sudbury MA) If you've visited the Refuge lately, you've probably noticed the new fenced-in building next to the refuge entrance. This new structure and the land it is on belongs to the Department of Fire Services. The building is used to train fire department trainees working in burning houses. The Department of Fire Services has promised to plant native shrubs around the property to minimize the visual impact.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service has no involvement with this property or its use or appearance.

Additional questions or comments about this maybe directed to at the Department of Fire Services.

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 an d 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

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 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

2015-2016 Federal Duck Stamp, Copyright NFWS2015-2016 Federal Duck StampCopyright NFWS(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 costs $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 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.

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.

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.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service began this project to introduce the Blanding's Turtle to the Assabet River NWR in 2006. The species is a semi-aquatic, freshwater turtle that is listed as a Threatened Species in Massachusetts and was absent from the Assabet River NWR, though appropriate wetland habitat existed. Juveniles and hatchlings from a healthy but isolated population at the Oxbow NWR are moved to establish a new population at the Assabet River NWR. Half the hatchlings are released directly into their new home, while the other half is raised in captivity for nine months prior to being released. This “head-starting” increases their rate of growth over the winter and increases the likelihood of their survival upon release the following spring.

Many of the turtles are fitted with transmitters, which allow the researchers to gather information on movement and habitat preferences, and make it easier to recapture the turtles to re-measure them. Each summer, field researchers are able to capture between 25% to 50% of the previously released head-started turtles, which indicates that these turtles are surviving in quantities well beyond the expected rate of a 7% change of surviving to 5 years old.

Blanding’s turtles need 14 to 20 years to reach reproductive age, and it is hoped that the older juveniles released in 2006 will soon begin breeding. With that in mind, the Service has created a new nesting site on the refuge. The nesting site will be monitored to determine if the site is acceptable to the nesting females.

While the project’s main goal is to establish a new local population of Blanding’s turtles, it is hoped that the date collected on the benefits of head-starting turtles will benefit restoration projects in other areas and with other species.

Friends of the Assabet River NWR have played a critical role in the efforts to conserve this turtle species. Since the Blanding’s Turtle is a State-listed species, federal funds have not been readily available. In 2009, FARNWR provided counterpart funds of $ 2,500 to support a USFWS grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Since 2011, FARNWR has provided an additional $4,750. In 2013, FARNWR collaborated with the Friends of Oxbow NWR to contribute funds to support the field research of Jared Green.

Since 2013, FARNWR has run an awareness campaign and have so far raised $3825 from FARNWR members and the general public. In total, FARNWR has helped contribute $12,000 in the past 5 years. This conservation effort has been a very successful model of USFWS research being supported through both private and public partnerships and is an excellent way to train and inspire a new generation of young conservationists and biologists. Release day is always an exciting and inspiring day and the Friends of the Assabet River NWR, with the help of their donors, are making this possible.

April 23, 2014: Invasive Coltsfoot Found on Refuge

Invasive Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) found on the refugeInvasive Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) found on the 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 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

Southern boundary of the refugeSouthern boundary of 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 or 978.443.4661 x12.

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

Scout Austin Heisey with bench off Winterberry WayScout Austin Heisey with bench off Winterberry Way (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. One of two new benches on the PierOne of two new benches on the Pier 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.

Naturalist Educator Training with Stephen DeFlorioNaturalist Educator Training with Stephen DeFlorioNext 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.

A scout with his assistant removing invasivesA scout with his assistant removing invasives

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

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.

The Friends are extremely 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.

Eagle Scout Mark Tentarelli shows off the bench he built in front of the Visitor CenterEagle Scout Mark Tentarelli shows off the bench he built in front of the Visitor Center 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.

Eagle Scout Mark Tentarelli tries out the bench he built on Taylor WayEagle Scout Mark Tentarelli tries out the bench he built on Taylor Way

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

William Flamburis with Neela de Zoysa, Liz Truebenbach, Susan RussoWilliam Flamburis with Neela de Zoysa, Liz Truebenbach, Susan Russo (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.

Naturalist Educator Training an Vernal PondsNaturalist Educator Training an Vernal Ponds

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.

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 Commonwealth 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.

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.

New Refuge LogoNew Refuge LogoOur 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.