News & Notes: Conservation Issues


Maine Audubon Deeply Concerned by Nomination of Scott Pruitt to Head EPA

Posted on: Friday, December 9th, 2016

The nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is a deeply concerning signal of the incoming Trump administration’s approach to environmental issues that have critical implications for Maine wildlife and habitat.

Mr. Pruitt denies the scientific consensus around the existence of climate change and its connection to the actions of mankind. As Attorney General of Oklahoma, he joined in a lawsuit against EPA’s Clean Power Plan. He has actively opposed protections for endangered species and the health of public lands.

As a science-based organization, Maine Audubon supports public policies at the local, state, and federal level that use science to inform strong, responsible standards around issues like clean air, clean water, and protections for threatened and endangered species. A weakening of these standards and the progress the nation has made to date will pose a significant threat to wildlife in Maine and around the nation.

The very real phenomenon of climate change presents one of the biggest threats to wildlife and habitat in Maine. Increasingly, warmer and shorter winters affect many of our iconic species, such as moose, lynx, and our state bird, the Black-capped Chickadee. Warmer stream temperatures threaten Maine’s native brook trout and endangered Atlantic salmon, and sea level rise will erode our state’s coastal habitats, affecting endangered birds like the Piping Plover and Least Tern.

These risks also threaten the state’s economic success, which is inextricably tied to our environment. Many of our top industries — from tourism to fishing to forestry — rely on the state’s robust, diverse ecological systems. Water quality affects human health as well as property values. Stream fishing is an important mainstay in many rural economies, generating $100 million in wages, $200 million in retail sales, and $20 million in tax revenues annually. Coastal flooding poses a distinct economic threat to Maine businesses; in York County alone, flooding threatens over 260 businesses representing $42 million in wages.

Maine has a rich history of leading the nation toward stronger environmental protections. Sen. Edmund Muskie played a central role in the development and passage of landmark environmental legislation, including the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Clean Water Act of 1972. It is our hope that Maine’s congressional delegation will honor and protect that legacy, and will apply careful scrutiny to Mr. Pruitt’s record on environmental issues when considering his nomination. Maine’s wildlife — and the many jobs tied to the health and resiliency of our ecosystems — depend on it.

What will be the big conservation issues of 2017?

Posted on: Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Greetings:

What will be the big wildlife and conservation issues of 2017? While no one can say for sure what the future holds, it’s sure to be a busy year for those of us focused on encouraging sound and responsible decisions for wildlife and habitat. More than likely we will see continued discussions about the value of protecting endangered species, the role of humans in altering our climate, and the priorities of our education system.

Recently the Maine Sunday Telegram did a neat series of interviews with Maine environmental leaders on key issues for the future. This is an important moment to take stock and think about the future.

Photo: Doug Hitchcox

Photo: Doug Hitchcox

Our planet’s climate is changing. The impact of climate change is apparent in everyday events if you know where to look. According to our staff naturalist Doug Hitchcox, one of the best examples is the increased abundance of Red-bellied Woodpeckers in Maine. A decade ago, these birds were rare in southern Maine. Now it’s not at all uncommon to see them in our backyards. Plus, the average body mass of Red-bellied Woodpeckers in their historical range south of us is lower than it used to be. A higher body mass makes it easier for a bird to keep warm and to store energy; lower body mass is another sign that the region has warmed up.

Another topic we are likely to see active discussion about in 2017 is the role of science in public policy, in our schools, and in public health. Skepticism of science has been a theme throughout human history, and debates on the merits of science are still with us today (as evidenced this week by the deeply concerning nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA — read our statement). Consider the 75,000-square foot Creationist Museum near Cincinnati, Ohio. It features high-end interactive displays on “creation science” and sophisticated presentations of non-science approaches to answering fundamental questions about our natural world. It’s a significant tourist attraction with a national impact. The museum is bringing what were once considered fringe ideas into the mainstream.

As a science-based conservation organization, Maine Audubon will be increasingly challenged to compete in the marketplace of ideas on issues such as climate change with facilities and visitor experiences like the Creationist Museum. Yet it is more critical than ever that the public understand the importance and value of science and fact-based decision making in ensuring a sustainable future.

If you are sensing a call to action, you’re right! Maine Audubon has always sought to advance evidence-based and well-reasoned public policy on issues ranging from protecting loons to educating our children about the natural world. We work with all parties; we don’t yell; we trade in data and facts; we make steady progress. I hope you value the role that Maine Audubon plays in the landscape of Maine as a science-based advocate for responsible engagement with our natural world, and that you will support our efforts with an end-of-year donation.

Thank you for reading, and for supporting our work to build a state where we are all informed stewards of the precious natural wildlife and habitat of Maine.

-Ole

ole-squareOle Amundsen is Executive Director of Maine Audubon. He has more than 25 years of experience in conservation leadership, with a focus on landscape scale conservation, environmental education and finance. Amundsen most recently served as program manager for the national land trust, The Conservation Fund.

Help Maine Audubon this #GivingTuesday

Posted on: Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

I hope you enjoyed a peaceful Thanksgiving! This year, I was especially thankful for the beautiful, wild places that make Maine such a great place to live, work, and play.

Can you help us protect Maine’s special character by making a gift as part of the #GivingTuesday campaign?

Your support helps Maine Audubon maintain eight wildlife sanctuaries across the state that offer a range of habitats to explore, trails to hike, and a variety of programs designed to help children and adults develop a love of wildlife and the natural world. It also sustains our advocacy work on behalf of Maine’s wildlife, which is more critical now than ever.

Below are notes from three of my colleagues explaining why your support is so integral to their work. Together we can make a difference for Maine Wildlife.

In gratitude,
Ole Amundsen III, Executive Director


While 2016 brought the great news of a new national monument in Maine’s north woods, it also brought a narrow defeat in the Maine Legislature of a broadly supported comprehensive solar bill.

Maine Audubon’s advocacy efforts are needed now more than ever. We remain committed to educating voters and legislators about the issues that affect wildlife.

Can you help us continue speaking up in Augusta on behalf of wildlife by making a gift as part of the #GivingTuesday campaign?

Support at the community level is what helped us achieve success on Land for Maine’s Future in January. Your support today will help Maine make the right choices on behalf of our endangered and threatened species, and will help prevent the creation of loopholes in our environmental laws.

Thank you for being part of the solution.

Sincerely,
Jennifer Burns Gray, Staff Attorney and Advocate


As staff naturalist, one of my favorite adventures each year is guiding the fall pelagic boat trip Maine Audubon hosts that leaves out of Bar Harbor in search of rare birds. It’s such an incredible experience to share with other birders, venturing beyond our usual range to see exceptional and exciting wildlife.

Connecting people to nature is at the core of Maine Audubon’s mission. Can you help us continue offering experiences that encourage love and respect for wildlife by making a gift as part of the #GivingTuesday campaign?

Your support helps Maine Audubon offer programming that encourages people to care about Maine’s vulnerable wildlife and habitat. It allows us to create the next generation of environmental stewards through camps and activities for children and families. It also sustains our advocacy work on behalf of Maine’s wildlife, which is more critical now than ever.

Thank you for giving what you can.

Sincerely,
Doug Hitchcox, Staff Naturalist


This summer, Maine Audubon’s Piping Plover and Least Tern Project staff and volunteers counted 66 nesting pairs of endangered Piping Plovers on Maine beaches, matching the previous all-time population record observed in 2002. We’ve been protecting Maine’s endangered Piping Plovers since 1981, but our efforts are still needed on behalf of this vulnerable species.

Please help us continue our work educating beachgoers so that wildlife and people can safely share the beach by making a gift as part of the #GivingTuesday campaign.

Your contribution supports Maine Audubon’s Piping Plover outreach, monitoring, and protection efforts on Maine’s busy beaches. It also sustains our advocacy work on behalf of Maine’s wildlife, which is more critical now than ever.

On behalf of Maine Audubon, thank you!

Sincerely,
Laura Zitske, Director Piping Plover and Least Tern Project


Explore with Maine Audubon

Posted on: Monday, November 14th, 2016

Each Fall, Maine Audubon hosts a pelagic boat trip that leaves out of Bar Harbor in search of rare birds. Pelagic means “of the sea.” On this year’s trip, videographer Lincoln Benedict joined us to document the incredible experience of venturing out beyond our usual range to see exceptional and exciting wildlife.

Explore with Us from Maine Audubon on Vimeo.

Connecting people to nature is at the core of our mission. If you aren’t already a member, join Maine Audubon today and explore Maine with us.

Farmers, Sportsmen, and Naturalists

Posted on: Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Greetings,

November is the season of harvest, so it’s only appropriate that our November Speaker Series event will have an focus on Maine’s farmland. Amanda Beal, the new executive director of Maine Farmland Trust, will give a talk entitled “The Nexus of Conservation and Agriculture” in which she will outline the many environmental, social, and economic benefits of keeping working farmland in our communities. 

Governors of New England states have set a goal of making the region 50 percent food self-sufficient by the year 2060. To achieve this goal, a good portion of that local food most likely will come from Maine’s farms. In the next few years, entrepreneurs developing new local food ventures could breathe fresh life into our rural economy. This is good news for conservation since stewardship of the environment is fundamentally a local effort and ecosystems like the Maine north woods are more likely to survive if nearby communities are thriving. 

November is also when cooler fall weather usually catches up with us. When blustery weather has kept me indoors, I’ve been enjoying a recent book on Maine Sporting Camps by noted conservationist and sportsman George Smith. This wonderful book highlights many of the traditional Maine Woods hunting and fishing camps and has me already hatching plans for next summer vacation.

borestone-campThe book also got me thinking about the truly unique experience of visiting Maine Audubon’s Lodges at Borestone Mountain Sanctuary – a naturalist’s equivalent of Maine sports camp. If you’re interested in renting Borestone next summer, 2017 dates are filling up fast, so check the availability our calendar and make your reservation soon!

Whether you’re a sportsman or naturalist or both – the best way to experience Maine is meeting nature on its terms. These experiences are what a life well lived is about. Hope you and your family have been enjoying the outdoors this season!

-Ole

ole-squareOle Amundsen is Executive Director of Maine Audubon. He has more than 25 years of experience in conservation leadership, with a focus on landscape scale conservation, environmental education and finance. Amundsen most recently served as program manager for the national land trust, The Conservation Fund.

Rufous Hummingbird visits Portland

Posted on: Monday, October 31st, 2016

A frequent question I receive in the fall is: “When can I take my hummingbird feeders down?” I answered this a blog post in October 2014 by saying that most of our Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are gone by early October, however you should keep the feeders up later than that because it is October and November that we see western vagrants showing up in Maine. October 2016 we put this to the test.

On October 14 I was called about a hummingbird visiting a feeder in Cape Elizabeth — JACKPOT! or so I thought. The homeowners allowed me to visit their backyard to identify and photograph the hummer. It was large, pale chested with a greenish back: definitely an Archilochus hummingbird. This is the genus that our Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) belongs to, but this time of the year we need to check that it is not the similar looking but western-ranging Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri).

In Viet and Peterson’s Birds of Massachusetts they discuss the single record of Black-chinned Hummingbird from their state and claim “…in Louisiana in winter [Black-chinned] outnumbers [Ruby-throated] by a margin of 10 to 1, thus suggesting that an November records of Archilochus hummingbirds could possibly pertain to [Black-chinned].”

Unfortunately it was only October 14, not far out of the window we might expect to find a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. This Cape Elizabeth bird showed a fairly short, straight bill and narrow, rounded outer primaries, which (among other features) made this identifiable as a late Ruby-throated Hummingbird:

Ruby-throated Hummingbird – 15 October 2016 – Cape Elizabeth, ME

On the 16th, I shared this sighting/photo on the MAINE Birds Facebook Group with an encouraging note that everyone should keep their feeders up and eyes open for any other hummingbirds. One member, Carole G. Jean, read that post and put her feeder back up on the 19th. On the 20th, she had a hummingbird visiting!

Thanks to her diligent observations, good note taking, and photos (taken with her phone!) we could see that this was one of the western Selasphorus hummingbirds. Many thanks to Carole for letting me come to her house (in the Rosemont neighborhood of Portland, for those interested) to document this rarity:

Rufous Hummingbird – 23 October 2016 – Portland, ME

The bird’s tail pattern was most essential in identifying this bird to species level. Hummingbirds have 10 tail feathers, five on each side that are typically labelled from R1 (the first rectrix being the inner-most tail feather) to R5 (the outer-most tail feather). The narrow and tapered R1, with a black tip, was good for eliminating Broad-tailed Hummingbird. Rufous and Allen’s can be very difficult to separate and sometimes require a bander to have the bird take in-the-hand measurements. A photo of the spread tail was not clear enough to be positive the bird has a notched R2 (as in Rufous) but the width of R5 was wider than an Allen’s of the age/sex would show.

This is one of several vagrant hummingbirds in the northeast this fall: at least three Rufous Hummingbirds have been in Massachusetts, one Rufous in Connecticut, and a Calliope in Nova Scotia. And we are just getting into rarity season. Anything could be out there!

Just look at the Tufted Duck, Gray KingbirdBell’s Vireo, or Harris’s Sparrow in Massachusetts. Or the Sprague’s Pipit in Connecticut. Even the Western Kingbird in New Hampshire. Not to mention our northern neighbors with Bell’s Vireo in Nova Scotia and Black-headed Grosbeak in Quebec.

Or just check out the craziness of this checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S32232708. Maine is on-the-board for rarities with this hummingbird and a pair of Barnacle Geese in Aroostook County.

You can keep up-to-date with the rarity sightings here: http://ebird.org/ebird/alert/summary?sid=SN35688

-Doug

Birding Basics 2016

Posted on: Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

Back by popular demand, in this lecture series we will spend a few weeks revisiting the basics of birding. This is the perfect opportunity for people newly interested in birding, novices needing a refresher, and even for ‘pros’ who want to learn something new. Every two weeks we will cover a different topic that is essential to birding. You can review the courses and join us for the topics that interest you! Classes take place at Gilsland Farm from 7:00 -8:00 pm.

October 6: Tools of the Trade
Before you go running into the field looking for birds, you want to be properly equipped. In this first class we will cover: what to look for in binoculars, which field guide is best for you, camera recommendations, and much more.

October 20: Identifying Birds
There are 10,000 species of birds in the world — with 455 spotted in Maine — but which is the one you are looking at right now? This class will teach you the essentials of identifying birds: from beak to tail, we will teach you the things to look for when identifying birds.

November 3: Finding Birds
You’ve got the tools, you know how to identify them, but where are they?! This class will focus on how to attract birds to your yard and how to find birds.

November 17: Observing Behavior
When we go birding, we get a quick glimpse into the lives of the birds we see. This week we will focus on learning about bird behavior and analyzing exactly what it is birds are doing throughout the day.

December 1: Making it Count
Now that you know the basics of birding, why do it? Learn how the sightings you make while out birding can help scientists on a local and global level. We will discuss data collection techniques and explore various citizen science projects including the Great Backyard Bird Count, eBird, and more!

Contact: Doug Hitchcox – (207) 781-2330 x237

Fall Adventures with Maine Audubon

Posted on: Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

Greetings,

Fall is my favorite season, since it’s a time of such incredible changes — some subtle, some dramatic. I’ve been enjoying the autumn by getting out in the field and doing some bird watching. I recently had the remarkable experience of accompanying Laura Minich Zitske, a Maine Audubon wildlife biologist, and Elizabeth Goundie, a seasonal biologist, as they monitored migratory birds along Scarborough Beach. We saw Sanderlings and Semipalmated Plovers as they commuted down from northern Canada and the Arctic to warmer climes for the winter. It’s just astonishing to think that these little birds take such extraordinarily long journeys, and that we as Mainers are a part of their story.

Earlier in September I participated in our Bald Eagles of Merrymeeting Bay cruise guided by Doug Hitchcox, Linda Woodard, and Turk Duddy. Maine Audubon has been hosting this trip since 1969. Although I have explored a lot of Maine, I had never before visited Merrymeeting Bay. It was an amazing experience to cruise along the coast and into one of the most remarkable river confluences – the merger of the Kennebec and Androscoggin Rivers. Many tribal communities in North America and cultures from other parts of the world view river confluences as sacred or holy sites, and I am grateful that Maine Audubon facilitated access to this wonderful interface of Maine’s storied rivers, wildlife, and cultural history.

If you are looking to jump start your birding adventures, October marks the launch of our Birding Basics Lecture series with staff naturalist Doug Hitchcox. Lectures will take place every other Thursday evening from 7-8 pm starting October 6. It’s a great way to enter the world of birding or brush up on your skills.

Beyond birding, another way to enjoy the fall is by attending a full moon night hike at Fields Pond Audubon Sanctuary. On October 16, November 4, or December 13, join us for a hike beneath the full moon to explore the sanctuary. It’s a great way to unwind while listening to the nocturnal sounds of creatures in the woods and meadows.

Maine Audubon facilitates experiences with the Maine’s natural world — experiences that provide us with a greater context and perspective. I think this lies at the heart of what we do.

I hope you can join us on one of the adventures we have planned for this fall!

-Ole

ole-squareOle Amundsen is Executive Director of Maine Audubon. He has more than 25 years of experience in conservation leadership, with a focus on landscape scale conservation, environmental education and finance. Amundsen most recently served as program manager for the national land trust, The Conservation Fund.

MEDIA RELEASE: New fishing tackle regulations will protect loons from lead poisoning

Posted on: Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

MEDIA RELEASE

For Immediate Release

October 3, 2016

Contact: Jeremy Cluchey, Director of Communications
[email protected]
207-781-2330 x222

New fishing tackle regulations will protect loons from lead poisoning
Sale of bare lead-headed jigs banned in Maine as of September 1, 2016

Photo by Marla Brin

Photo by Marla Brin

Lead poisoning has long been the leading cause of death for adult loons in Maine. In order to protect loons from lead poisoning resulting from the ingestion of lead fishing tackle, beginning in September 2016 it is illegal in Maine to sell bare (unpainted) lead-headed jigs less than 2.5” long. In September 2017, the use of these jigs will also be banned. Although painted lead jigheads are equally harmful to loons (the paint wears off in a matter of days in the loons acidic gizzard), they are not included in the current regulations.

Lead poisoning was responsible for almost one third of the documented mortality of adult loons in Maine prior to the implementation of Maine’s first lead regulations in 2002. “Adult loons either ingest lead when they catch fish with lead sinkers and jigs attached, or they pick up lead objects while eating the gravel they need to digest their food from lake bottoms,” said Susan Gallo, Maine Audubon wildlife biologist. Ingested objects like sinkers and jigs stay in loon gizzards, wearing down and elevating lead levels in blood and body tissues. Loons usually die from lead poisoning in a matter of weeks.

After An Act to Protect Maine’s Loons by Banning Lead Sinkers and Jigs (LD 730) was passed in 2013,  Maine Audubon, along with many partners including the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIFW),  Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, Bass Nation, and the Maine Lakes Society, created the Fish Lead-Free Initiative, a coalition with the goal of helping anglers make the switch to lead-free tackle.

“We wanted to get the word out to anglers that making the switch to lead-free can be easy now that there are so many products available for purchase in local stores and online,” said Gallo, who is spearheading the initiative. “Using lead-free tackle will make an enormous difference for loons. We are already seeing a significant reduction in loon mortality.”

Fish Lead-Free conducts outreach efforts to educate the public about the importance of fishing with lead-free tackle, including a website (fishleadfree.org) that outlines Maine’s tackle regulations and lists retailers and online outlets where lead-free tackle can be purchased. Fish Lead-Free also hosts tackle exchanges and provides interested individuals or community groups with lead exchange “kits” stocked with lead-free tackle that can be given out at public events, like fishing derbies or tournaments. Plus, Fish Lead Free has provided 350 tackle boxes stocked with lead-free tackle to the DIFW Hooked on Fishing Program.

To increase awareness of the Fish Lead Free effort, Maine Audubon reached out to other states in an effort to create unity in messaging about the importance of lead-free fishing.  New Hampshire was the first state to join Maine, creating outreach materials that integrate the Fish Lead Free logo and standard messaging. And last year, four more states contributed information to the Fish Lead-Free website to let anglers know of state-specific tackle regulations and local lead-free tackle sources.

“We’re so glad to see the loon protection regulations phased in and want to help anglers comply with the new laws,” said Gallo.

Organizations interested in hosting a tackle exchange or a presentation on loons and the importance of fishing without lead tackle should contact Susan Gallo via email at [email protected]. More information about Fish Lead Free is athttp://www.fishleadfree.org

Image:

After initial lead regulations in 2002 banned the use of lead sinkers less than a half ounce, there was a slight drop in adult loon mortality, with just over 23 percent of the loon carcasses collected between 2002 and 2012 determined to have died from lead poisoning. In 2013, An Act to Protect Maine’s Loons (LD 730) banned the sale and use of lead sinkers an ounce or less. Since that time, mortality due to lead poisoning has dropped to just under 20 percent of the carcasses collected.

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Maine Audubon is building a culture of stewardship for wildlife and habitat in Maine. Through a science-based approach to conservation, education, and advocacy, Maine Audubon advances wildlife and habitat conservation in the state. Our citizen science programs connect Maine people to engaging volunteer opportunities that make meaningful contributions to conservation research. The state’s leading wildlife conservation organization, Maine Audubon has eight centers and wildlife sanctuaries and serves over 50,000 people annually.

Please visit www.maineaudubon.org for more information.

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Audubon and CMP Cut Ribbon on New Electric Vehicle Charging Station

Posted on: Monday, September 26th, 2016

MEDIA RELEASE

For Immediate Release

September 26, 2016

Contact: Jeremy Cluchey, Director of Communications
[email protected]
207-781-2330 x222

Sara J. Burns, president and CEO of CMP, and Maine Audubon Executive Director Ole Amundsen III at the ribbon cutting ceremony unveiling a new Level 2 electric vehicle charging station at Maine Audubon’s Falmouth headquarters at Gilsland Farm.

Maine Audubon Executive Director Ole Amundsen III and Central Maine Power Company (CMP) President and CEO Sara J. Burns cut the ribbon on a new electric vehicle charging station at Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm headquarters in Falmouth today.

The Level 2 electric vehicle charging station, provided through CMP’s Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) Grant Program, underscores Maine Audubon’s commitment to building a culture of stewardship for Maine’s wildlife and habitat. Electric vehicles reduce carbon emissions, which helps to mitigate the effects of climate change on Maine’s wildlife and habitat.

“People come to Maine Audubon’s sanctuaries to escape the hustle and bustle, experience nature, and learn about Maine’s wildlife and habitat,” said Amundsen. “This electric vehicle charging station underscores our commitment to environmental stewardship. It also adds a new dimension to something visitors to Gilsland Farm have long understood: it is the perfect place to recharge.”

“We have always felt that our responsibilities go beyond providing safe, reliable power delivery to Maine homes and businesses,” said Burns. “We want to be a good neighbor in the communities we serve, and that includes showing respect for the environment and minimizing our carbon footprint as we do our work.”

Visitors to Gilsland Farm can see Maine Audubon’s six solar arrays mounted on trackers, which together with arrays on the Education Center building comprise 168 panels capable of producing 74,000 kWh annually. The panels are provided and maintained by ReVision Energy. In a typical year, solar generation at Gilsland Farm offsets over 100,000 pounds of carbon, and covers more than 80% of Maine Audubon’s electricity needs.

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Maine Audubon is building a culture of stewardship for wildlife and habitat in Maine.Through a science-based approach to conservation, education, and advocacy, Maine Audubon advances wildlife and habitat conservation in the state. Our citizen science programs connect Maine people to engaging volunteer opportunities that make meaningful contributions to conservation research. The largest Maine-based wildlife conservation organization, Maine Audubon has eight centers and wildlife sanctuaries and serves over 50,000 people annually.

Please visit www.maineaudubon.org for more information.