The Eight Elements of the Wildlife Action Plan
What does the U.S. Congress require of the states' Wildlife Action Plans? How will New Hampshire Fish and Game fulfill the requirements? Click on a question to learn about the eight required elements of the Wildlife Action Plan.
For some species, like deer, we know they occur throughout the state in many different habitats. But for other, less common species, just where do they live in New Hampshire, and how abundant are they? These are two important goals of the comprehensive wildlife plan -- to describe what we know about the distribution and abundance of animals with low, declining or threatened populations.
Through the use of a Geographical Information System (GIS) coupled with already mapped observations of declining and rare species submitted by members of the public and professional biologists, we will show you where current and potential habitat exists for a variety of priority wildlife species.
A GIS is a computerized database of spatial information that can be analyzed and mapped. For instance, a GIS can be used to identify all white pine stands within 500 feet of the Merrimack River. This type of analysis may prove useful in helping to identify potential winter roosting areas for bald eagles along the river.
The pine stands identified by this process can be further narrowed down to those with steep slopes facing southward (below left). Eagles favor areas with these characteristics because the steep south-facing slopes help keep eagles out of the cold winter wind, and are the first to warm up when the sun rises in the morning. Once the entire analysis is complete, known winter roosting locations can be overlaid atop the pine stands to identify areas in need of protection, while the potential roosting spots can be monitored for eagle activity in the future (below right).
New Hampshire is such a beautiful state. Sometimes we may forget that we have our share of issues that negatively affect wildlife. Biologists and conservation partners are working hard to identify what may be impacting specific animals and the resources on which they depend.
Profiles developed for both critical habitats and associated wildlife species (click here for a current list) will identify activities and conditions that may threaten their survival. For instance, threats to common loons include habitat loss from shoreline development, heavy recreational boating activity that can result in nest abandonment, and lead poisoning from ingestion of lead fishing sinkers and jigs. The profiles will also include information on additional research needed to bolster recommended conservation actions that will also be a part of the profiles. Additional research needs for loon include an investigation of how many loons are needed to ensure a long-term, stable population, and an assessment of the potential risk posed by contaminants other than lead, such as mercury.
In addition to identifying threats and research needs, we are asking the people of New Hampshire what they see as top concerns. We convened a Wildlife Summit in March 2004 (see sidebar, right), at which 100 people helped better define issues affecting wildlife. For example, Wildlife Summit participants felt that a "lack of planning to help identify critical wildlife habitats" was an important issue to address. Soon, we'll have more results of the Summit posted on this site.
Habitat and species profiles will outline what needs to be done to conserve wildlife species and critical habitats well into the future. How well we succeed in implementing those prescriptions will largely depend on you. Wildlife professionals alone cannot ensure the long-term existence of wildlife or their habitats. We will all need to make a concerted effort to make the goals of the plan a reality.
One way you can help is to get involved in local planning and resource protection. An important goal of the plan will be to protect key wildlife habitats identified in the plan. Many communities also cite wildlife habitat protection as a primary goal of their openspace plans.
As part of a comprehensive natural resource inventory, the habitat maps developed during the planning process can help communities with prioritizing areas in need of conservation, and can help guide future development. Conserving key wildlife habitats will also work towards preserving rural character and water quality -- two other goals commonly cited by towns. Contact wildlife biologist Emily Brunkhurst at N.H. Fish and Game (firstname.lastname@example.org) to find out where your town's significant wildlife habitats are.
Here are other steps you can take to help make the Plan a success:
Monitoring is critical to assess our success in accomplishing the goals set out in the plan and is another component that will be included in the habitat and species profiles.
Monitoring can take many forms. Monitoring can be as simple as members of the public submitting sightings of reptiles and amphibians as part of the Fish & Game Department's Reptile and Amphibian Reporting Program (aka RAARP). These sightings serve as a baseline of information on species distribution in the state, which is useful for planning where more rigorous monitoring and management should take place to benefit those species.
In contrast, monitoring can be as complex as a team of trained wildlife biologists conducting mark-recapture surveys of federally endangered Karner blue butterflies at the Concord Pine Barrens. Mark-recapture surveys involve netting butterflies in the wild and marking their wings with a unique number using a felt tip pen. During subsequent netting efforts, biologists keep track of how many captured butterflies were marked vs those that were unmarked. Putting these numbers through a mathematical formula provides a pretty accurate estimate of butterfly abundance. This type of information is key in assessing how Karner blue butterfly recovery efforts are succeeding at the Pine Barrens.
Do we need to make some changes? -- assessment of Plan at intervals not to exceed ten years. The Plan will be revisited and updated at least every 10 years to maintain an up-to-date assessment of the status, condition, and needs of critical habitats and associated wildlife species. Future updates will highlight Plan successes, and outline needed changes to research and inventory needs, and conservation actions.
How are other agencies going to be participating in the planning process? -- involvement of federal, state, local agencies and Indian tribes that manage lands or programs affecting wildlife. Click here to learn about some of our project partners.
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