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ABA Flight Calls #105 24 April 2014

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Help Support the ABA in 2014

Birders in North America are no doubt ready for the return of spring following a winter that was overlong and overcold. But in the past couple weeks, the birds have begun to return, spirits are rising with the temperature, and it’s impossible not to be excited about a new season and the birds on the way.

At the ABA, we’re also really excited about a number of new initiatives we’ve introduced in recent months. 2014 is poised to be a remarkable year for the organization and the birding community, and we’re asking you to please help us make those initiatives a huge success by making a personal donation to the ABA.

Community is the heart and soul of the American Birding Association. As a community we can help encourage those doing great work for bird conservation. We can support efforts that bring birding to a wider audience. And we can continue to bring you world-class publications, including the new Birder’s Guide series, the next issue of which will focus on Conservation & Community, shining a spotlight on the many ways birders are giving back to birds and the community.

At left, ABA President Jeff Gordon shares a moment with 10 year old Sebastian Casarez at the 2014 Space Coast Birding Festival in Florida. Photo by Brian Calk.

Celebrating the wonder of birds and sharing the joy of birding…building support for bird conservation by growing and supporting the birding community…that’s what so many of us try to do every day, and that’s the work we’re all carrying on.

Spring migration is here and gone in an instant, but there is hard work to be done all year long. Please help support the ABA’s work with a gift today. Thank you!

Introducing the ABA’s New Field Guide Series

The ABA is excited to announce the publication of two new state-based field guides, published by Scott & Nix and authored by two current ABA staffers.

Birding department editor Rick Wright tackles the very birdy Garden State in the American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of New Jersey, which will be followed very shortly by Birding editor Ted Floyd’s ABA Field Guide to Birds of Colorado, covering the ABA’s home Rocky Mountain State.

Both are intended to be the first in a series of guides aimed primarily at beginning and intermediate birders, but any field guide enthusiast who enjoys a nicely laid out local guide with some sharp photos by the exemplary Brian Small will probably find them appropriate as well.

The books are available currently from Amazon and Buteo Books. If you order from Buteo Books a portion of your purchase goes towards supporting the ABA and its programs.

American Birding Association, Inc.
1618 W. Colorado Ave, Colorado Springs, CO 80904
Phone: (800) 850-2473 | Fax: (719) 578-1480 | Email: lgordon@aba.org
Copyright © American Birding Association, Inc.. All Rights Reserved

Waiting for the hatching day: Big Red and Ezra Red-tailed Hawk nesting cam, 2014 23 April 2014

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Follow the story here, and watch the hatching live!

Irish-born White-tailed Eagle shot in February 23 April 2014

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Sad story here that one of the first wild-born White-tailed Eagles in Ireland in more than 100 years was found dead and riddled with shotgun pellets.  American conservationists aren’t the only ones dealing with narrowmindedness, ignorance, fear, and whatever else would induce someone to shoot such a magnificent creature.

Handbook of Birds of the World Alive – update. 23 April 2014

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Here’s the latest update to the Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive, from #3, April 2014.  There are audio, photographic, and video updates as well.  Here’s a quick sample:

 

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Grassland birds in population freefall 2 April 2014

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Spring is springing, and our meadows are ringing with the sweet song of lusty meadowlarks.  But no matter what idyllic prairie moments I might enjoy in the field over the next few months, one disturbing fact remains:  North American grasslands are imperiled and impoverished landscapes.

 
If you visit the Partners in Flight Species Assessment Database you can sort the list of North American birds by the various columns. One is CBSD or “Common Birds in Steep Decline.” There look to be 34 species that met the criteria for that designation. Topping the list is the most rapidly declining species in the US, Northern Bobwhite (a quail that is still a very popular game bird where it remains common). If you are familiar with these species one thing jumps out at you from this list: grassland birds are in trouble. Eastern Meadowlark, Bobolink, Grasshopper Sparrow, Horned Lark, Loggerhead Shrike – I counted 11 of the 34 that are grassland specialists. The remaining species on the list do not organize so obviously around one land cover type. Our grasslands need help.
 
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For how much longer will the Grasshopper Sparrow’s buzz punctuate summer mornings on our prairies?

Why climate change is a big deal – some perspective 31 March 2014

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First things first: the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has just released its Fifth Assessment Report, and the picture is no rosier than it’s been for the first four. Here’s a quick graphical update on our current state of the art with respect to land and ocean temperatures:

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In the graphs above, the blue bands indicate climate model predictions using just natural forcings on climate (e.g., solar radiation) while the red bands indicate predictions using natural and anthropogenic forcings (e.g., human burning of fossil fuels). The black lines show the observed data.  Every time you see a black line in a red band, that shows where a model including anthropogenic forcings on climate was a better fit to the data than was a model that did not include anthropogenic forcings. These data show the following:

1) The land has warmed, and as predicted by anthropogenic forcings.

2) The oceans have warmed, and as predicted by anthropogenic forcings.

3) Arctic sea ice is on the decline, and as predicted by anthropogenic forcings.

So climate change is real, and we’re causing it.

 

“Who cares?  The climate of this planet has never been stable. There used to be hippos wallowing above the Arctic Circle!”

 

True, for most of the history of life on earth, there was no ice at the poles at all.  If anything, a warming trend to pull us out of the current glacial period in which we’re living would move us toward a more typical condition of global climate.  That’s not the point, however.  The point is people.

 

Consider this very sad infographic summarizing the Syrian refugee crisis:

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Within Syria, 6.5 million people have been displaced.  Another 2.5 million have fled the country to settle elsewhere.  Note that this is not called the “Syrian Refugee Holiday” or the “Syrian Refugee Picnic.” This is a crisis.  People die, societies break down, violence erupts, diseases break out – refugee crises breed economic and political instability, in addition to the miserable suffering felt by the individual refugees.

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“Yes, the situation in Syria is bad, but it’s got nothing to do with climate change.”

Bear with me.

Consider now just one facet of climate change: rising sea level.

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If anything, our observations of rising sea levels have exceeded earlier projections by the IPCC.  Sea level is more than just a function of melting glaciers.  It also rises as the water warms and undergoes thermal expansion:  warm water occupies more space than cold water. How high might sea level rise by 2100? Looks like 1–2 m is safe bet:

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Sea level rise is about peopleWorld Ocean Review predicts that 13 million Europeans would be threatened by a 1-meter rise in sea level.  Our global population is over 7 billion, and climbing.  About 200 million people today live in low-lying areas prone to coastal flooding; that number is expected to increase to perhaps as much as 500 million by 2100.

This is Bangladesh, home to 150 million people, and almost all of them living in low-lying areas.

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The dark reds on this map indicate areas extremely vulnerable to sea level rise – they are flood prone and support high population density.

If you forget about any of the other impacts of climate change, from food insecurity to water shortages to disease outbreaks to catastrophic fires, just focus on this one aspect: a global humanitarian crisis of refugees from coastal areas.  Picture tens of millions of Bangladeshis displaced from their homes and pouring into India or Myanmar/Burma.  Heck, by 2020, it is projected that more than 130 million people in the US will live in coastal counties. In the coming decades, millions will be displaced and few countries (if any) will escape without experiencing their own refugee crisis.

 

Earth will be fine as its climate warms and its oceans rise; we won’t be.

 

 

Fast Facts about the 2014 Great Backyard Bird Count 28 March 2014

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GBBC, by the numbers.

 

Fast Facts & Stats

It’s time to put the exclamation point at the end of another exciting, record-breaking Great Backyard Bird Count with a look at how the February 14-17 GBBC stacked up by the numbers: Number of checklists: 144,109
Species observed: 4,296
Countries participating: 135
Estimated number of participants: 142,051

 

Wowsers!!

 

Aleteo #119 – conservation updates from ProAves, Colombia 28 March 2014

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Aleteo #119 – conservation updates from ProAves, Colombia

ProAves manages to recover part of the Ñambí River after oil spill
In 2009 the River Ñambí suffered a severe environment blow as a result of the illegal exploitation of oil that took place in the pipeline that runs through the grounds of the El Pangan Reserve. Today, thanks to our complaint, working together with Ecopetrol, the identification of critical areas and the provision of two forest rangers, the recovery of the river and the return of associated species are evident.

ProAvesReserve exempt from tax

The municipality of Jardín, Antioquia, shows its environmental commitment to providing this benefit to the Yellow eared Parrot Bird Reserve. Since 2014 we received this incentive to the conservation and protection of renewable natural resources through unified exemption from property tax

An important example of conservation for the moors of Antioquia
Thanks to the interest and the work of the Environmental Management Board of Urrao, in Antioquia, of which ProAves forms a part, the Municipal Council of the same municipality regulates the entry of visitors to the Paramo del Sol thus contributing to its conservation.

  Follow the rest of these stories here.

 

ABA Flight Calls – Betty Peterson Award for Conservation and Community 28 March 2014

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March 28, 2014

ABA Heading back to Alaska in 2014

After a successful two-week run on vagrant-rich St. Paul Island, Alaska, this past fall, the ABA is excited to offer that experience again in 2014.

The Pribilof Islands are located smack in the middle of the Bering Sea and represent the only land in a region of about 50,000 square kilometers, This isolation makes the rugged archipelago ground zero for vagrants from Asia in spring and fall.

This Pine Bunting (Photo by Doug Gochfeld) was photographed in the fall of 2012 at St. Paul Island. It represented the third record for the ABA Area, and the first away from Attu.
Come knowing you are in for no normal birding tour. The birding is rigorous, but it’s frequently rewarding. The 2013 trips enjoyed mouth-watering birds like Fork-tailed Swift, Olive-backed Pipit, and White-tailed Eagle. And just after the ABA groups left, North American’s first Common Redstart made an appearance.

Who knows what else is possible? That’s the excitement of jackpot birding!

For more information on this amazing trip to the far reaches of the ABA Area, check out The ABA Events page. Greg Neise also put together a report on his 2013 trip to St. Paul at The ABA Blog, and the islands were featured in a recent Birding magazine cover story.

We’d love to see you in Alaska this fall!

ABA Honors the Legacy of Betty Petersen

ABA President Jeffrey A. Gordon was in Massachusetts earlier this month, along with Liz Gordon, Conservation and Community Director Bill Stewart, and ABA Board Chair Lou Morrell, for Massachusetts Audubon’s annual Birder’s Meeting, and to present the first Betty Petersen Award for Conservation and Community. The award was made posthumously to Betty herself, in the presence of the community of Massachusetts birders of which she was such an integral and deeply missed part.

Betty’s husband, Wayne, and Betty’s two sisters were on hand to accept the award on Betty’s behalf. It was a wonderful opportunity to remember the life and work of one of the birding community’s brightest lights.

We’re excited to honor the legacy of Betty Petersen and her Birders’ Exchange program with this award in her name. If you know a birder or conservationist who has made a difference to strengthen or diversify the birding community, or who has built a support network for conservation, please let us know.

We know that Betty’s spirit lives on in the work of many birders and conservationists in the ABA Area and throughout the Americas, and we want to be able to give them the recognition they deserve.

eBird Occurrence Maps 20 March 2014

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I think my favorite product or application from eBird has to be their “Occurrence Maps” produced by their innovative Spatio-Temporal Exploratory Model (STEM) maps.  Here’s how they describe the process and the data used to construct these maps, direct from the eBird website:

“We are excited to display the preliminary results of our modeling research using eBird data. These maps, which are called STEM (Spatio-Temporal Exploratory Model) maps, use eBird stationary and traveling count checklists that report all species. The location of each checklist is associated with remotely-sensed information on habitat, climate, human population, and demographics generating a suite of approximately 60 variables describing the environment where eBird searches take place. By relating these environmental variables to observed occurrences, STEM is used to make predictions at unsampled locations and times. Models are trained one species at a time. Following model training, the expected occurrence for that species is predicted on each of 52 days, one per week throughout 2009, at some 130,000 locations sampled throughout the conterminous US. This massive volume of information is then summarized on maps, which in many cases reveal novel information about the annual cycles of North American birds. These maps showcase the power of eBird – year-round, continental-scale monitoring of all species.”

 

Here, for example, is a STEM map for Louisiana Waterthrush (the Pinnacle of Avian Evolution) for March 15th:

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 . . . and for May 31:

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Louisiana Waterthrush is a great example to study, because the description on the site explains what works about the model (migration timing) and what doesn’t (the birds are predicted in the Black Hills – where they don’t occur – and overpredicted in the extreme Northeast where they might be present but are quite rare).

The STEM maps are cool enough as static images, but the real magic happens when you see them animated.  I was part of a group gathered around eBird’s Brian Sullivan at the Partners in Flight meeting last August as he essentially took requests from the audience to display STEM maps for various species on a big flatscreen TV.  STEM is just one way that eBird is helping us visualize distributions and migration as never before.

eBird News – inaugural issue from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology 20 March 2014

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Following updates on eBird is easy with their new newsletter.  This first issue features an important journal article recently published that illustrates the growth and power of eBird as a tool for conservation.

Academic regalia – the Penn State PhD hood 6 March 2014

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One of my most cherished duties as a university professor is to take part in Commencement each December and May. It’s a chance for students and their families to celebrate accomplishment and new beginnings, and I always enjoy meeting families of the students I have in some cases come to know quite well.  For their part, the students and their families get the added treat of watching a parade of my colleagues and I wearing colorful dresses from the Middle Ages.

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For newly-minted PhDs, a key event at Commencement is the “hooding”ceremony.

As with most wickedly pedantic things in life, just about every detail in the silly garb we professors don for Commencement has some particular meaning.  This includes the heavy velvet robes and hoods themselves, thought to hearken to a time when seats of higher learning were exclusively in big, drafty stone buildings without central heating.

For those holding the doctoral degree, typical academic regalia includes a robe with big, puffy sleeves that feature three velvet bars, and two additional strips of velvet in the front flanking the zipper.  Usually the background fabric and velvet are black, but to be extra fancy many robes these days have the velvet trimmed with bright piping, often gold.  Also, many people wear officially sanctioned designs of the university that conferred their degree, and these are often rendered in school colors.

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Official PhD regalia from the University of Washington (left) and the University of Iowa (right).

In addition to the robes, most faculty will wear puffy velvet caps with 4, 6, or 8 sides and usually with a gold tassel. Finally, we button ourselves into complex contraptions that are supposed to be the hoods, but they really only function as colored insignia to be seen from behind.  Modern hoods have velvet trim (a dark royal blue is used for most disciplines to designate a PhD) and bright satin panels on the inside that are displayed to the outside.  If you’re not wearing official robes of your conferring institution, then it’s the school colors displayed on the hood that identify that institution.

Now one problem about all this academic regalia stuff is that it’s bloody expensive.  My official Penn State regalia looks super cool, but there’s no way I’m going to be able to justify spending 800 bucks (or even a special deal for $725) for this costume.  So here’s how I usually look at Commencement:

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That’s right, for the lame professors like me out there, our current institutions keep basic regalia on hand for us to rent.  This serves the basic purpose, but it’s a big hassle to go and rent it a couple of times a year, the items get kind of threadbare after a while, the mortar board makes me look like an undergrad, and worst of all, the hood suggests that I obtained my PhD from Oklahoma State.  I’m not trying to be a snob, I just want to be accurate, so I’ve been in the market for a basic set of professor’s kit that will show my Penn State heritage without breaking the bank.

There are lots of places that will make a custom hood for your academic dress.  These guys can outfit me for less than 300 bucks, and I’ve decided that I would be willing to spend that much on this stuff.  There’s just one problem:  using the best of my Google Fu, I’ve been unable to find a photo of someone wearing the Penn State PhD hood, photographed from behind.  Seriously, I’ve been all over this and have searched many times.  The key information I need to order my own hood is where to put the blue and where to put the white in the satin panels of my hood.  I didn’t want to guess and be wrong; I actually wanted to see one.  They don’t exist.

This is because when people graduate and pose for photos, we want to see their faces!  In a last ditch effort to find this crucial information myself before making some phone calls, we dug out my own photos from Penn State’s Graduate Commencement, 18 December 1999.  Sure enough, there I was in photos from the front:

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Obligatory photo with my faculty advisor and dear friend Rob, who also apparently just wore a Penn State robe off the rack!

 

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I had to pose with my baby girl!

And then, joy of joys, there it was:  WE were smart enough to get at least one photo from behind! Now I know where to order the white and where to order the blue!

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So there you have it, Google:  Right here is the only photo on the Internets of a PhD hood from Penn State!  You’re welcome.  Now we’ll see if I can get my act together and actually order this thing in time for Commencement . . .

 

American Bird Conservancy opposes planned eagle take at a Wyoming wind facility 21 February 2014

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And so do I . . .

turbines fragmenting bluestem grassland, Oklahoma

turbines fragmenting bluestem grassland, Oklahoma

Groups Oppose First-ever Plan to Allow Killing of Eagles at Wyoming Wind Facility

(Washington, D.C., February 12, 2014) American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and Biodiversity Conservation Alliance (BCA), voiced opposition to a federal plan that would allow a proposed mega wind facility in Wyoming to kill from 46 to 64 Golden Eagles annually. The two groups have submitted a 15-page letter in response to a request from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for comment on the eagle-killing proposal, called an “eagle take permit.”

“ABC and BCA support the development of renewable energy resources such as wind, but it has to be done responsibly,” said Dr. Michael Hutchins, National Coordinator of ABC’s Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign. “The serious gaps in data and key information surrounding both the project and the proposed permit make it impossible to conclude that appropriate protections for eagles are being followed under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.” http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/140212.html

Camp Perry Wind Turbine Project Halted

(Washington, D.C., January 29, 2014) One of several wind turbine projects planned for the shores of Lake Erie, in one of the greatest bird migration corridors in the Western Hemisphere, has been halted following submission of a letter of intent to sue from American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO). The two groups had vigorously opposed the project due to its exceptionally high risk to federally protected wildlife.
(more…)

Great Backyard Bird Count – update 20 Feb. 2014 20 February 2014

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GBBC eNewsletter

February 20, 2014

Although data are still coming in, it’s clear that the 2014 Great Backyard Bird Count is on track to be another record-breaker! By mid-morning today participants from a record 131 countries had submitted bird checklists, eclipsing last year’s 110 countries. A huge thanks to all who participated! We wanted to share some of the impressive numbers we have so far and a few of the trends we see. 

You can continue entering checklists for February 14-17 through the GBBC website. If you have lists for those dates that you need to enter after the end of the month, you can do so directly in eBird.

Top 10 most frequently reported species (number of checklists reporting this species):
 

Northern Cardinal, Ella Clem (more…)

Bird Calls on The Morning Scramble, 20 Feb. 2014 20 February 2014

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I paid another visit to Steve Daniels on Stillwater’s Morning Scramble this morning.  Steve and I discussed some preliminary results of the Great Backyard Bird Count, the role of fire in Oklahoma landscapes, the mating flight of the timberdoodles, my best advice for coaching OSU basketball this weekend, and of course all the latest announcements for activities of the Payne County Audubon Society.  If you missed our conversation on 105.1 FM or streaming live from tripleplaysportsradio there’s no need to be sad ’cause it’s right here:


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Playa Post, volume 12: Feb. 2014 20 February 2014

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Check out the latest Playa Post, the newsletter of the Playa Lakes Joint Venture.  Included this month is a detailed explanation of the Landscape Design Process:

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Aleteo #118: Conservation news from Colombia 19 February 2014

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A service of Fundacion ProAves

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Welcome to Aleteo: conservation news from Colombia

News
197 additional acres for the protection of the Santa Marta Parakeet
Now the El Dorado Reserve has an additional property located in the upper part of the Cuchilla de San Lorenzo. There are 197 acres of which 74 acres are grazing lands that were dedicated to livestock and the rest is composed of cloud forests and palms, the original habitat of the Santa Marta parakeet.

Now is possible to see the Blue-Billed Curassow thanks to the protected areas. 

Since August 2013 we have recorded the daily visit of two female and a male Blue-Billed Curassow (Crax alberti) in the vicinity of the cabin on The El Paujil Reserve. Since January the couple alternate foraging for food, which may mean a possible nesting, at the same time the second female also makes sporadic approaches.

Jardín’s goals for 2014 are the Reciprocal Agreements for Water
The Reciprocal Agreements for Water -ARAS- continue to promote the protection of the high Andean forests, watersheds and endangered species in the municipality of Jardín, Antioquia. The goal is to sign eight agreements with owners of significant water production for forested areas.
 

Schlegel’s Asity – so this creature exists! 18 February 2014

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In Oct. 2012, Frederic Pelsy photographed this stunning Schlegel’s Asity at Ankarafantsika National Park, Mahajanga Province, Madagascar.  To learn more about spectacular creatures like this, you need to subscribe to the Handbook of the Birds of the World – Alive!  Check out their latest newsletter for some more convincing.

“Halftime” report from the Great Backyard Bird Count 17 February 2014

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There are several interesting stories already from the 2014 GBBC!

The Wildlife Society – February 2014 Multi-Brief 7 February 2014

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Check out implications for wildlife management from the new Farm Bill plus other stories in the latest Multi-Brief from TWS.

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