June 15, 2018
McGraw Sponsors Workshop for
Wetland Researchers and Managers
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
Marsh managers and researchers from around the country gathered last month at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in southwest Louisiana for a field-oriented conference sponsored by the McGraw Center for Conservation Leadership, studying the changing coastlines and their impacts on wildlife.

Many states face similar coastal challenges, including saltwater intrusion, shoreline erosion and subsidence.

“One hundred years ago, people studied the marsh and its habitats to help learn how to manage vegetation to provide food and cover for wildlife,” said Andy Nyman, a professor at LSU’s School of Renewable Natural Resources. “A hundred years from now, I hope there are marsh managers standing here. In order for us to be here, we need to be able to manage vegetation not only for wildlife food and cover, but we must manage vegetation for elevation."

Nyman has visited coastal areas throughout the U.S., meeting with researchers and landowners to examine and compare ecological issues. The meeting at Rockefeller was the first of its kind, bringing in state and federal land managers as well as public and private consulting groups to discuss subsidence and sea-level rise.
Could Illinois Wetlands Help
the Gulf of Mexico Recover?
By Morgan Levey/Chicago
Photo by Varanos/flickr
Winter isn’t the best time of year to visit a wetland. No fewer than three people offered me this advice, yet it’s 2 degrees Fahrenheit and I’m lost in snow-blanketed central Illinois. Two phone calls and a couple U-turns later, and I reach my destination: a small wetland on the edge of a 30-acre farm outside Princeton, Illinois.

A year and a half ago this 50-foot-wide plot of matted grasses, no deeper than three feet, was productive cropland. Now it’s hard at work removing nitrates, byproducts of the ammonia-based fertilizers put on the farm fields, from the snowmelt runoff that flows through it. The Wetlands Initiative constructed it through a federally funded land conservation program. Jill Kostel, an environmental engineer with the organization, worked with a retired, government-employed soil scientist to convince the landowner to pay $12,000 of his own money to convert this land to into a wetland.

Along with other nonprofits like The Nature Conservancy, the Wetlands Initiative is using a suite of government cost-share programs to convince farmers across Illinois to convert productive farmland to wetlands. Think of them as the earth’s kidneys—they can filter nutrients before they travel to major bodies of water.
Africa’s ‘Tree of Life’ Is Quickly Dying Off
By Chris Mooney/The Washington Post
Photo by vil.sandi/flickr
The baobab tree, sometimes called the “Tree of Life,” has an unforgettable appearance. Found in savanna regions of Africa, Madagascar and Australia, the trees form a very thick and wide trunk and mainly branch high above the ground. They can grow to be thousands of years old, and develop hollows inside so large that one massive baobab in South Africa  had a bar inside it .

But that tree, the more than 1,000-year-old Sunland baobab, apparently the biggest of these trees in Africa, “ toppled over ” last year. Another famous baobab, the Chapman tree in Botswana, collapsed in 2016.

Something similar, a new scientific study suggests, is happening to the oldest and largest baobabs across the world in “an event of an unprecedented magnitude.”
Inside the Magical Molt Migration of Canada Geese
By Paul A. Smith/Journal Sentinel
Photo by Eric Begin/flickr
Canada geese are among the wildlife best-adapted to the mix of agricultural, suburban, urban and natural habitat.
But geese undergo an annual transformation that makes them unusually vulnerable.

Each summer the birds shed, or molt, their wing and tail feathers. As new ones grow in, the honkers are unable to fly. The flightless period lasts about four weeks, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The molt is timed to occur on the breeding grounds when adult birds are tending broods. 

But Canadas don't breed until they are 2 to 3 years old, and other adult birds fail at nesting. And some other nesters have their young adopted by more experienced pairs.

All of these geese without goslings get out of town in summer.
In one of the marvels of wildlife behavior, these birds form groups and fly north to areas where they can safely live flightless for about a month.
Yes, There Can
Be Profit in Agricultural Conservation
By Kurt Lawton/Corn + Soybean Digest
Photo by Malcolm Carlow/flickr
I doubt too many farmers have a budget line item for conservation practices. Why bother, right? Sure, you may have some income for CRP, maybe EQIP dollars, possibly a few bucks for cover crops. But, profit in conservation? Not hardly, as most income is probably turned into red numbers due to expenses.

But are we looking at each practice in a silo?

In many of the stories we’ve written over the years on conservation practices, farmers have a tough time with the profitability question, as real data is difficult to find and hard to measure when you’re trying to improve such things as soil erosion, soil health, water quality and such.

Yes, some farmers have figured out that, over time, a given practice has earned its keep on the farm. Others just chalk it up as a practice they’re willing to invest in.
“We are drifting faster than we even dream toward a sterility in wild life of the marsh and upland, from which there will be no returning. The pace must slacken!”  

-- Nash Buckingham

To read past McGraw Reports click here.