Tuesday, April 30, 2013

WCSLAI To Hold Spring Clean Up on Smith Lake

Dear Smith Lake Advocates:

We will be having our Spring Clean Up this year Friday May 3 and Saturday May 4 from  8:30 to 12:00 noon. In lieu of an actual lake clean up we will be cleaning roadsides and ditches of trash that eventually finds its way into the lake. We will meet at the Mexican restaurant at 8:30 each morning assess how many volunteers we have and then go from there. Areas to be cleaned are both sides of Swayback Bridge, Brushy Creek Bridge, approaches to Duncan Bridge, Bailey Bridge and anything else we have time and volunteers for. Bring snacks, drinks, and wear suitable footwear. We will provide bags. See you there!  If you have any questions call me at home 256-747-2109 or cell 256 -531-5143.

David Brown
President WCSLA INC

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Friends of Clear Creek Watershed Stewardship Meeting

Friends of Clear Creek
Watershed Stewardship Meeting

When: 5:30-6:30 PM, May 8th, 2013
Where: Traders and Farmers Bank’s Bernice Hilton Walker Building
   64 Main Street
   Double Springs, Alabama (see map below)

This meeting is to cultivate interest in the formation and strengthening of the Friends of Clear Creek, whose focus is to preserve, protect and improve Clear Creek and its watershed.

Earlier this year, the Alabama Water Watch Program was awarded a modest grant from Patagonia for promoting watershed stewardship in the Clear Creek Watershed. Expressed goals of the grant are to facilitate the formation of a watershed stewardship group, provide watershed stakeholders with training in water quality monitoring and a water monitoring plan for the watershed, and compilation of watershed data that will be used in a town-hall gathering to interpret water quality findings.

Goals of the May 8th meeting are to meet with local stakeholders, promote interest in the formation of a watershed stewardship group – the Friends of Clear Creek, gather information on the watershed and the current issues it faces, communicate goals of AWW’s efforts in the watershed, and discuss scheduling a date for a water monitoring workshop.


Winston County FFA Contests

The Winston County FFA recently held their county contests and the WCNRC helped sponsor the event.  The events included Forestry Judging, Tractor Driving, and Livestock Judging.

Here are some photos from the competition.

Minutes of the April Meeting of the WCNRC

The Winston County Natural Resources Council met at the U. S. Forest Service in Double Springs on April 18, 2013.  Present were LaVerne Matheson, Jeremy McDonald, John Creed, Andy Baril, Matt Brock, James Burnett, Elrand Denson, Tony Wingo, and Mike Henshaw.  The council discussed the following:
  • The FFA Forestry, Tractor Driving, and Livestock Judging County Contests held in Meek on Wednesday.  The WCNRC and the County Commission helped sponsor this event.  Photos are available at this link.
  • The Winston County Shooting Sports Team recently competed in the State 4-H Shotgun Competition in Childerburg, Al.  Thanks to a grant from the Winston County Commission, the WCNRC was able to assist with a portion of their expenses.
  • James Burnett, EMA Director for Winston County, gave a report on storm damage which included two EF-1 tornadoes and possibly one more that remains to be designated.  He also gave an update on five new storm shelters that are planned for several small communities in the county including Natural Bridge, Houston, Moreland, and Nesmith.  Tony Wingo, a Regional Coordinator with the Alabama Emergency Management gave an update on his eight-county region in Northwest Alabama.
  • A new camera for monitoring illegal dumps in Winston County has been purchased by the council.  Jamey Bozeman plans to use the camera to discourage illegal dumping.  Jamey will also be doing a presentation to the WCSLAI meeting on April 19th.
  • Jeremy McDonald made a request for funds to provide bus transportation for the Junior Ranger program at the Payne Creek Demonstration Area for Double Springs Elementary and Middle School Students.  Up to $200 was allocated, pending approval by Chris and Johnna.
  • LaVerne gave an update on the public board meeting to be held on April 19th.  There will be updates on the Rock Creek Management Grant, illegal dumping in Winston County, Recreation Opportunities on the Bankhead National Forest, and the new Shoreline Management Plan on Smith Lake.  He also read correspondence that he has had with the State Health Department about the lax enforcement of health department regulations.
  • Matt Brock noted that the Youth Fishing Derby is Saturday, June 1, 2013.  Please mark this date on your calendars and promote the event with local youth.
  • Matt told the group about some upcoming changes that are likely for area hunters.  The Tennessee Valley and the Black Warrior WMA will likely change their deer harvesting rules.  Also there will probably be some new regulations concerning hunting near feeding areas.  Matt said that he would post more information when some details are finalized.
  • The Black Warrior WMA has experienced relatively low activity in turkey hunting this year for a variety of reasons.
  • Camera surveys on the Black Warrior are showing high levels of feral hog activity.  Matt said that new hog traps have been installed and the WMA is planning an aggressive trapping program when the turkey season is over.
  • Elrand said that there would be an Oil and Gas Leasing Meeting on National Forests, which will be held in Montgomery on April 25, from 5 pm. to 8 p.m.  
  • The Bankhead National Forest recently hosted a Shortleaf Tour for those interested in the shortleaf pine.  The Bankhead National Forest is a recognized leader in shortleaf pine restoration efforts. 
  • Possible tour of International Paper's Courtland Mill
  • Andy Baril mentioned he will doing a program at Winston County High School about natural resources and jobs available in natural resources.
  • There will be an Earth Day activity at Meek High School focusing on water quality.
  • John Creed gave an update on James Horsley's recent diagnosis and Al Tucker's progress in his treatments.
Mike Henshaw, Secretary

Backyard Poultry Workshop

A Backyard Poultry Workshop will be held Tuesday, April 30, 2013 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Traders and Farmers Bank's E. F. Walker Operations Building at 42233 Highway 195 in Haleyville, Alabama.  This workshop is free to the public, however, we do ask that you pre-register by calling 205 489-5376.  Raising Backyard poultry has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years as people are taking an interest in raising their own food.  Three poultry experts will be speaking on topics such as: Getting Started, Nutrition and Husbandry, and Health and Disease. Backyard poultry includes chickens, ducks, and other birds that are kept domestically.  Join, Joe Hess, John Blake, and Ken Macklin, Science Professors from Auburn, as we learn the basics of raising backyard poultry.  Photo credit: Wiblick-flickr

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April 18th Council Meeting

The April meeting of the Winston County Natural Resources Council will be held at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 18, at the U. S. Forest Service Office in Double Springs.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

White-nose syndrome confirmed in Fern Cave

The following is a PRESS RELEASE from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from April 8, 2013.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has confirmed the presence of white-nose syndrome at Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge in Jackson County, Alabama. Fern Cave provides winter hibernation habitat for several bat species, and contains the largest documented wintering colony of federally listed endangered gray bats, with over one million gray bats hibernating there. The disease was confirmed in tri-colored bats that were collected at two entrances to the cave.

White-nose syndrome (WNS) has decimated bat populations across eastern North America, with mortality rates reaching up to 100 percent at some sites. First documented in New York in 2006/2007, the disease has spread into 22 states and five Canadian provinces. Bats with WNS may exhibit unusual behavior during cold winter months, including flying outside during the day and clustering near the entrances of caves and mines where they hibernate. Bats have been found sick and dying in unprecedented numbers near affected sites.

White-nose syndrome has been documented in seven hibernating bat species, including two federally listed endangered species, the Indiana bat (
Myotis sodalis) and gray bat (Myotis grisescens). Significant disease-related mortality has been documented in many colonies of hibernating Indiana bats. Mortality in other species, including tri-colored bats, is also significant. While WNS is not currently known to cause mortality in gray bats, the detection of infected bats at Fern Cave is cause for concern.
"With over a million hibernating gray bats, Fern Cave is undoubtedly the single most significant hibernaculum for the species," said Paul McKenzie, Endangered Species Coordinator for the Service. "Although mass mortality of gray bats has not yet been confirmed from any WNS infected caves in which the species hibernates, the documentation of the disease from Fern Cave is extremely alarming and could be catastrophic. The discovery of WNS on a national wildlife refuge only highlights the continued need for coordination and collaboration with partners in addressing this devastating disease."

The infected tri-colored bats were discovered on winter surveillance trips, conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and members of the National Speleological Society (NSS) and Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. (SCCi). Biologists observed white fungus on the muzzles, wings, and tail membranes of several tri-colored bats, leading them to collect specimens for analysis. The disease was diagnosed by histopathology at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) at the University of Georgia.

The gray bat, federally listed as an endangered species in 1976, occupies a limited geographic range in limestone karst areas of the southeastern United States. With rare exceptions, gray bats live in caves year-round. Gray bats live in very large numbers in only a few caves, making them extremely vulnerable to disturbance. Cooperative conservation measures, such as restricting human access to gray bat roosting sites, have been successful in helping gray bat populations recover in many areas.

The potential impact of WNS on gray bats is still unknown. Although no visible fungal growth was observed on hibernating gray bats during these winter surveys, lab testing detected the presence of fungal DNA on swabs submitted from several live gray bats.

Fern Cave NWR consists of 199 acres of forested hillside underlain by a massive cave with many stalactite and stalagmite-filled rooms. The cave has five hidden entrances with four occurring on the Refuge. One entrance is owned and managed by SCCi. Access is extremely difficult and has been described as "a vertical and horizontal maze" by expert cavers. Horizontal sections of the cave are known to be more than 15 miles long and vertical drops of 450 feet are found within. The partnership with NSS and SCCi has been critical to monitoring the gray bat population at Fern Cave.

"Since discovering Fern Cave in 1961, members of the National Speleological Society have worked hard to protect it," said Steve Pitts, SCCi Fern Cave Property Manager. "For over 30 years, NSS members have also been key U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partners in the effort to protect Fern's gray bat colony. It's a huge blow to all of us who love Fern Cave to know that WNS is now there. We hope the gray bats will survive."

The Service is leading a cooperative effort with federal and state agencies, tribes, researchers, universities and other non-government organizations to understand and manage the spread of WNS. In addition to developing science-based protocols and guidance for land management agencies and other partners to minimize the spread of WNS, the Service has funded numerous research projects to support and assess management recommendations and improve our basic understanding of the dynamics of the disease.
While bat-to-bat transmission is presumed to be the primary method the disease is spread, scientists believe that humans can inadvertently transport fungal spores on clothing, footwear, and gear that has been in infected sites. Fern Cave is not open for general public visitation; the entrances on the Refuge are closed to protect gray bats, and the entrance on SCCi managed land requires a permit. Researchers and permitted cavers entering Fern Cave take great care to reduce the risk of transporting fungus into or out of the cave, and minimize disturbance of roosting bats.

Cave explorers and researchers should check with the appropriate land manager before visiting any cave, as many caves are closed to protect hibernating bats. Decontamination of clothing, footwear and gear can reduce risk of accidental transmission of fungal spores. For the most up-to-date decontamination protocols, please visit the national WNS website, www.WhiteNoseSyndrome.org.