Thanks to resources from the BLM, the US Forest Service, Fish & Wildlife Service and local Rangeland Fire Protection Associations (RFPAs), assisted by significant rainfall, the Poker fire has been contained and brought under control. Fire managers also worked with neighboring landowners on the fire. The burned area totals 23,400 acres. Now begins the next phase–rehabilitation.
The Fish and Wildlife Service and the staff of the Sheldon-Hart Mountain Refuge Complex are already well into the process of evaluating the fire’s impact, with staff out on the ground. The first step will be to apply for Emergency Stabilization (ES) funds; these will likely be used to fund aerial spraying this fall of a pre-emergent herbicide where needed to minimize the sprouting of invasive annual grasses such as cheatgrass. The spraying of the pre-emergent herbicide is important to minimize the establishment of invasive species and assure the success of later seeding and planting of native species.
The ES proposal will be followed with a Burned Area Rehabilitation (BAR) proposal for funds to complete seeding and perhaps the planting of native grasses, forbs and shrubs over the next couple of years. Details of how the ES & BAR will proceed won’t be known until funding proposals and plans are adopted. Hart Mountain will have to compete for these funds against proposals for other areas nationwide that burned this year. However, because it has been a fairly slow fire season, refuge management is hopeful of being successful. How much the refuge will be able to do will of course be dependent on the amount received.
It is too early to know what assistance the Friends of Hart Mountain will be able to offer, but the Board will keep membership informed as rehabilitation of the burned area proceeds.
Message from Refuge Manager Danielle Fuji-Doe
Greetings Friends of Hart Mountain,
The start of my job as the manager for Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge has been amazing! I was able to fly on the aerial pronghorn survey a few months ago, and being able to see the Refuge from a different perspective was such a breathtaking experience. I took some videos from the flight. If you visit the Refuge, I would be happy to show them to you. They are far too large to email so we can all stare at them via my phone.
Pronghorn numbers were down on the Refuge this year, but numbers in the Beatys Butte area were up. Annual ups and downs in numbers are common and some factors for it are the increased snow/rainfall, the late spring and whether the animals choose to be on or off refuge. The important thing to note is that both the 10 and 20 year average trends are up and the buck (male) to does (female) and fawn to does ratios are right around average.
Sage-Grouse lek male attendance was down this year. The snowfall and late spring might have had some impact on them. However, the lek count numbers were comparably low elsewhere in Oregon and Nevada. The Refuge is evaluating a potential need to decrease the amount of people doing lek surveys to lessen impacts that humans maybe having on sage grouse.
Field season is still under way. Some biological technicians are working on habitat assessments and others are working on seed collections and invasive species treatments. Also, some Friends members came out this year to help do fence inspections. Thank you so much for dedicating time to ensuring that the Refuge boundary fences were in good condition. Boundary fences continue to be a Refuge priority and a critical line of defense to prevent cattle and feral horses from entering the Refuge.
Volunteers Needed for the Fall 2019 Mule Deer Count
The Friends of Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge will sponsor a mule deer count for members between Wednesday, November 20, and Sunday, November 24, 2019 at Hart Mountain. This annual count is used to assess population trends at the refuge. It is considered a ‘composition survey’ and is done by traveling around the refuge (in a vehicle or on foot) and counting the number of does, fawns and bucks (and the number of their antler ‘points’). The refuge is broken into ten survey areas that will surveyed by the Friends. All survey areas will be surveyed once before a second or third survey is conducted.
Preferred survey periods are mornings and evenings when deer activity is highest. Friends of Hart Mountain survey volunteers are welcome to stay at the Refuge housing facilities. The bunkhouse facility is equipped with individual sleeping quarters (or shared with one other person, depending on the size of the group), refrigerators, stoves, microwave ovens, cookware, and utensils. The bunkhouse also has separate men’s and women’s bathrooms/showers. In addition to food, you will need to bring a sleeping bag, pillow, towel and other personal items. The Refuge does not provide housekeeping service, so you are expected to clean the housing facility before you leave. The weather can be cold, windy, rainy and/or snowy, so come prepared for inclement weather.
Mule Deer at Hart Mountain during the Fall of 2018 count
Participants will survey for three days, November 21 thru November 23; November 20, and 24, will be travel days. If you have not participated in the mule deer count before, you will need to attend the orientation/training session between 4 and 5:30 PM, November 20, or make other arrangements to receive the training. There will be other experienced surveyors to lead groups of those who are new to the survey and you will be provided with the necessary survey protocol, maps and data sheets.
You will need to use binoculars (and/or a spotting scope) to conduct the survey. The Refuge has a limited supply of binoculars, spotting scopes, tripods, and car window mounts that may be checked out when Refuge personnel are on duty, however we recommend that you bring your own. The refuge also has a limited number of vehicles that are available for use by volunteers while conducting the survey, although you may need to use your own vehicle to travel on the gravel all-weather refuge roads.
Participants will be limited to active Friends of Hart Mountain members (i.e., those whose dues are paid up as of the application date). Sign up as soon as you decide you want to participate in the survey, as the number of participants will be limited. We will let you know by October 16, if you are selected. If you need additional information please contact Bob Lebens by phone (503) 478-4956 or email (email@example.com).
Update on 2019 Greater Sage-Grouse Lek Count Results
We had hoped to share the results of this Spring’s Greater Sage-Grouse lek count. Unfortunately, other unanticipated priorities intervened, delaying analysis of the data collected. At its August meeting, however, the Board was informed by refuge staff that the counts from the trend leks are down. This is in line with trends elsewhere across the Greater Sage-Grouse habitat. Oregon’s Sage-Grouse population is reportedly down an estimated 24.9 per cent. You may have seen reports in the High Country News and elsewhere. A couple of links are included below.
The Fish and Wildlife Service and partner agencies at the state and local levels are studying the problem to determine the causes and to see what can be done. Various sources have suggested that changes in the way in which the birds are monitored may be necessary. We don’t know yet what impact that might have on the Friends’ participation in lek counts. A number of members have rich experience in these monitoring activities and offer a pool of capable monitors.
Our hope is that whatever decisions are made, opportunities will remain for new members to experience the thrill of climbing out of bed at 4:00 in the morning and trudging out in the dark to be in place when the sun rises and reveals male Sage-Grouse strutting their stuff. It’s an experience that is truly special and attracts a large number returnees every year. In the end, however, the birds’ well being is the most important, and the Friends is committed to supporting the Fish and Wildlife Service in general and the Sheldon-Hart Mountain Wildlife Refuge in particular in their efforts to preserve and restore the Sage-Grouse populations.
For more information. click on the following links:
At its August 28 meeting, the Board of Directors of the Friends of Hart Mountain voted to accept the resignation of board member Bill Crowell, effective September 30, 2019. Bill has been a member of the Board since August 2016 and served as president from then until August 2018. He is a life member of the Friends and intends to remain active as other obligations allow. We thank Bill for his years of contributions to the organization and to Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge.
The Board also voted to extend invitations to Patricia Stambor of Oaksdale, Washington,and to Karl Findling of Bend to become members of the Board. Both have accepted. Here are brief statements from each.
Patricia Stambor: I am honored to be asked to join the board of Friends of Hart Mountain (FOHM). I am from a small farming community in the middle of the Palouse region of eastern Washington where I work part-time as a substitute teacher in surrounding small town public schools. In the summer of 2017, I spent seven weeks as the camp host at Hart Mountain Hot Springs Campground. Although my jobs included greeting campers and keeping grounds and camping facilities clean and in order, I also made myself available at the headquarters when people wanted to ask questions or purchase FOHM merchandise.
As a board member I hope to help increase the Friends presence on the mountain where we can reach out to a cross section of visitors and campers including hunters, naturalists, gemstone collectors, photographers, researchers, hot spring seekers, birders, hikers, etc.
I would like to assist with increasing our social media presence, provide support for community outreach and education, and encourage members to consider the variety of volunteer opportunities at Hart Mountain. Additionally, I would like to explore grant funding opportunities for education or wildlife projects that are compatible with the refuge’s mission.
Karl Findling: Currently I am the Lands, Conservation Director with the Oregon Hunters Association, following a stint as a Board member. Previously I worked for the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers as the Owyhee Sportsmen Coordinator. I am also the owner of Oregon Pack Works, a soft goods manufacturer based in Bend, Oregon. We primarily produce hunting backpacks and binocular harnesses. We also design and manufacture soft goods for many different business sectors.
For thirty-seven years, my primary career was as a fire service professional working in the EMS, structural, and wildland fire fields in locations across Oregon, retiring after 28 years, as fire captain, from the Bend Fire Department. I grew up in Ontario, Oregon, where I began my backcountry adventures. All my outdoor pursuits created an outdoor lifestyle, including hunting and fishing. At a young age I followed my father and then my brother-in-law, who both loved chasing big game and upland birds, into the back country.
Although the Board now has a full complement of nine, there is always a need for new candidates as current members approach the end of their terms. Those who might be interested should contact the Board through the Friends e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org Others who are not interested in holding office but would like to help the Friends with its projects and other activities are invited to take advantage of that e-mail address as well.
Thanks for your years of service to the Friends, Bill!
2017 Banking on Nature
In July the Fish and Wildlfe Service published the 2017 Banking on Nature: The Economic Contribution of National Wildlife Refuge Recreational Visitation to Local Communities. This sixth report in a series of studies that have been issued since 1997 is the most comprehensive to date. It demonstrates how the National Wildlife Refuge system contributes to the local communities near FWS wildlife refuges.
The study sampled 162 refuges, including Hart Mountain NAR its sister refuge, Sheldon NWR. The study uses Recreational Visitor Day (RVD) as a unit of measure, distinguishes between non-resident and resident (those traveling less than 50 miles) visitors and assumes that had the latter not visited a refuge, their recreation money would have gone into the local economy in any case. Non-consumptive covers visitors who engage in such activities as hiking, paddling, photography and wildlife viewing; consumptive activities include hunting and fishing. The breakdown down between the two is 81% non-consumptive and 19% consumptive. Hunting accounted for 5% and fishing, 14% of RVDs on the sampled refuges.
Of interest to the members of the Friends of Hart Mountain NAR are the 2017 figures for Hart Mtn. NAR and Sheldon NAR:
Hart recorded 14,550 visitors (8,705 resident; 5,845 non-resident), of whom 11,950 were non-consumptive, 2,500 were hunters, and 100 fishermen. Of total visitor recreation expenditures of $897,400, residents accounted for $173,700 and non-residents for $723,700.
Sheldon’s figures were 36,393 visitors (23,600 resident; 13,393 non-resident), of whom 34,600 were non-consumptive, 2,553 were hunters, and 140 fishermen. Of total visitor recreation expenditures of $2,665,600, residents accounted for $606,600 and non-residents for $2,059,000.
Total Local Economic Contributions were: Hart $1,193,500 and Sheldon: $5,903,000
Detailed national figures and analysis can be found in the report available by following this link. Click on Hart and Sheldon for information specific to those refuges.
An array of items from tee shirts, coffee mugs, and figurines of animals found on the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge are available through the Pronghorn Store. Be sure to check out the new Friends map of the refuge. Log on to the Friends’ website and navigate to the Pronghorn Store page to check out what is available and to order something for yourself, family, or friends. Proceeds go to the Friends work in supporting the Refuge. Thank you for all your support.
Header image: View of snow on Hart Mountain's eastern escarpment viewed from Warner Valley - by Bill Crowell.