The completion of an important island stabilization and endangered tern habitat restoration project on Bird Island was the focus of a gathering of federal, state, and local officials in the Town of Marion late last month, according to MassWildlife. Rising 10 feet above sea level, Bird Island, at the entrance to Marion’s Sippican Harbor, has experienced erosion which drastically reduced critical nesting habitats for one of the largest populations of federally endangered terns in the country and threatened the historic lighthouse on the island, which was built in 1819.

For well over a decade, MassWildlife, within the Department of Fish and Game (DFG), has been working with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Town of Marion to stabilize the island, increase tern nesting habitat and protect the lighthouse.

The island hosts critically important nesting habitat for approximately 1,100 nesting pairs of federally endangered Roseate Terns.

"This island is one of only three major Roseate Tern colonies in North America and one of two in Massachusetts," said MassWildlife Director Jack Buckley. "The Bird Island population represents 30 percent of the entire North American Roseate Tern population and 60 percent of the state's population. It's no surprise that this project is one of the highest priority restoration efforts on both the state and federal level."

In addition, 2,500 pairs of Common Terns, a state-listed endangered species, also nest on Bird Island. Over many years, the low-lying graveled areas where terns prefer to nest began to flood and the amount of usable nesting space began to shrink. As the interior island areas flooded, former tern nesting areas turned into salt marsh, unsuitable for tern nesting. The more aggressive Common Terns responded by displacing Roseate Terns on the limited remaining nesting areas. Continued erosion also threatened the lighthouse and island itself.

To address these problems, the seawall around most of the island was redesigned and rebuilt to address projected sea level rise and reduce erosion. Gravel fill suitable for tern nesting raised the low areas, replacing the salt marsh habitat and adding additional tern nesting area. Native plants that provide shade for terns were planted. A natural gravel road and pad around the lighthouse will physically support equipment needed to maintain the lighthouse.

Due to the size and nature of this project, federal, state and local partners contributed funding, in-kind services and a conservation easement conveyance. The total cost of the project was over $5.1 million. The USACE, through its Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Program, contributed 65 percent of the cost in addition to planning, designing and providing federal oversight of the project.

"This has been a long, challenging, but ultimately satisfying experience," said Adam Burnett, USACE Project Manager. "Beginning with our feasibility study in 2002, designing and pulling together the funding partnership and working through two cold weather construction seasons, we have accomplished the goal of a restored and protected island habitat for the terns. It's not often we are able to see the benefits of a project so soon after construction completion. It's gratifying to see thousands of terns this spring nesting and hatching chicks."

On the state level, investment in the project was nearly $1.8 million. The New Bedford Harbor Trustee Council (consisting of the MA Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) invested $714,310.

"Funding from the Council came from a settlement with the parties responsible for PCB contamination in 1993. This funding is designated to restore natural resources harmed as a result of that contamination, including terns," said Steve Block, New Bedford Harbor Council Coordinator. "Since 1999, the Council has provided funding to support the restoration of Common and Roseate Tern populations and the nesting habitat they need. We're very pleased to support the Bird Island project and other tern stewardship efforts on Ram and Penikese Islands."

Capital funding of $1,031,320 came from the Department of Fish and Game and $50,000 of in-kind staff time on the project was provided by DFG and MassWildlife. The Town of Marion provided valuable assistance through the Harbormaster's office. In addition, the town approved the conveyance of a conservation easement of the Bird Island property over to DFG/MassWildlife, ensuring protection and management of wildlife and public access in perpetuity.

MassWildlife is also working on a short video that shows the work being done on the island, the birds nesting and the biologists monitoring the terns, soon to be available.

Carolyn Mostello, MassWildlife seabird biologist and manager of the Tern Project will lead a tour of the island, together with the Marion Harbormaster, on July 26 from 1 - 4 p.m. The tour will cover information about the nesting terns and the island restoration.  The event is hosted by the The Marion Natural History Museum and space is limited so register early.  Details can be found at http://www.marionmuseum.org/summerprograms.php.

I’d like to add that I’ve worked for MassWildlife on this project as a predator control technician for the past two months and it’s a very worthwhile program on several levels. Anglers especially should be pleased with the conservation of the tern species as a flock of feeding terns often is the only indicator of a school of stripers, bluefish, tuna or other gamefish below — and can make the difference between a memorable fishing trip and a forgettable boat ride. Outdoorsmen and women appreciate the work done to conserve wildlife species and anyone who enjoys old lighthouses can value the protection of the historic Bird Island Light, which would have been left in jeopardy with continuing erosion.

Duck stamps available

Ducks Unlimited, in a news release this week, reports that the new 2017-2018 federal duck stamp now is on sale. The stamps, which cost $25, are valid from July 1 through June 30, 2018. Purchased by millions of waterfowl hunters, wildlife enthusiasts and collectors every year, duck stamps help raise money to purchase and protect wetlands for ducks, geese and other wildlife species. Every year the program raises more than $25 million used to purchase wetlands in the National Wildlife Refuge System. These habitats benefit waterfowl and countless other species of wildlife.

The duck stamp, also known as the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, dates back to 1934. Since then, the program has raised more than $950 million to help acquire and protect more than 5.7 million acres of habitat in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Waterfowl hunters age 16 and older are required to purchase and carry a duck stamp while hunting. A duck stamp also provides free admission to national wildlife refuges (NWRs) that are open to the public. Duck stamps are sold at post offices nationwide and at many National Wildlife Refuges and sporting goods stores. Electronic versions of the duck stamp can also be purchased online at www.fws.gov/duckstamps

Ducks Unlimited Inc. (DU) is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 14 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information visit www.ducks.org.

Ruger recalls Mark IV pistols

Ruger has announced a recall on its new Mark IV pistols manufactured prior to June 1, 2017, as it’s been discovered that they have the potential to discharge unintentionally if the safety is not utilized correctly. Ruger says that while only a small percentage of pistols appear to be affected and that the company is unaware of any injuries, Ruger is firmly committed to safety and would like to retrofit all potentially affected pistols with an updated safety mechanism.

Until your Mark IV™ pistol has been retrofitted or you verify that it is not subject to the recall, Ruger strongly recommends that you not use your pistol.

All Mark IV pistols produced prior to June 1, 2017 are being recalled. This includes Mark IV™ Target, Hunter, Competition, 22/45™, 22/45™ Lite and 22/45™ Tactical models. These models bear serial numbers beginning with "401" (2017 models) or "WBR" (2016 models).

Newly manufactured Mark IV pistols bearing a serial number beginning with the number "5" are not subject to the recall. Mark IV™ and 22/45™ pistols retrofitted with the updated safety mechanism are identified by the letter "S" in the white safety dot that is visible when the safety is engaged.

To determine if your Mark IV pistol is subject to the recall, visit https://ruger.com/dataProcess/markIVRecall/ and type in your serial number. Ruger Mark I, Mark II and Mark III pistols are not affected by this recall.

Ross fills RFMC appointments

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced this week the 2017 Regional Fishery Management Council (RFMC) appointments and has shown that recreational fishing and boating are important to the Trump Administration, noted the Center for Sportfishing Policy (CSP).

"America's 11 million saltwater recreational anglers have been an afterthought for too long, but thanks to the leadership of President Trump and Commerce Secretary Ross, the tide is changing,” said Jeff Angers, president of the CSP. "It is clear the Administration is committed to making sure America's public resources remain public and that healthy natural resources are available for future generations."

Also commenting on the backgrounds of the new appointees, Jim Donofrio, president of the Recreational Fishing Alliance said, "The Trump Administration continues to demonstrate they only want the best and brightest."

Marc Folco is the outdoor writer for The Standard-Times. Contact him at openseason1988@aol.com or through OpenSeasonSpecialties.com