PRINCETON, Ind., July 10, 2006 - A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey of the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and Management Area revealed that local waterfowl populations have responded well to the recently completed Interior Least Tern Unit project. As was observed, the federally endangered interior least tern showed an overwhelming, positive reaction to the project, which involved significant efforts to reduce predation and to aid in the establishment of a large tern nesting colony.
Located in Gibson County, Cane Ridge Wildlife Management Area is managed by the USFWS as a bird sanctuary. In mid-June, observers recorded a total of 65 adult terns, 23 tern nests and 64 tern eggs. The survey also revealed nine black-necked stilt nests with 36 eggs at the site, which makes it the largest known colony of its kind in the Midwest. Other rare and endangered species seen within the moist soil management units include the red-necked phalarope, Wilson’s phalarope, white-faced ibis, black tern, peregrine falcon, bald eagle, golden eagle, western willet, great egret, wood stork, king rail, American avocet and cattle egret.
“It is really amazing how a site that has been used as a corn and soybean field for the past 100 years can be turned into a wildlife Mecca,” said refuge manager Bill McCoy.
“The project is enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program and includes 59 acres of deep-water habitat, which contains two three-acre nesting islands. These invaluable neussting islands provide breeding habitat for the endangered tern, along with a diversity of other waterfowl,” said DU regional biologist Jason Hill.
To carry out this project, workers constructed a distribution canal that serves as a water control outlet. The canal releases water from the tern nesting pool into four adjacent moist soil wetlands, which cover a total of 193 acres. These areas are actively managed by USFWS staff to provide habitat for a variety of migratory birds. When this enhanced water management system was initially put to use in the fall, winter and spring of 2005-2006, observers noted more than 12,000 ducks making use of the newly enriched, moist soil wetlands.
The Interior Least Tern Unit project is a great example of diverse partnerships helping to meet the conservation needs of both game and nongame wildlife species. This unique habitat restoration project was a cooperative effort between several conservation partners, including the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited, Duke Energy, U.S. Department of Agriculture- Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and McCormick Farms, Inc. In addition, many other partners of the Southwest Indiana Four Rivers Project Committee of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan contributed to the successful completion of this project.
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands - nature’s most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year.