Thursday, March 5, 2009

Wildlife divserity matters

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Diversity Conference held Wednesday attracted a whole bunch of people interested in the birds, beasts and flowers that support them.

Between 800 and 1,0000 people crammed into the Aladdin Temple Shrine in Columbus to listen to eight speakers talk on such diverse subjects as eco-tourism, Eastern red bats, American burying beetle and wild violets.

Among those attending was a contingent from Lake Metroparks, including Ann Bugeda, the agency's top naturalist.

The affair is assembled and hosted by the Natural Resources' Department's Division of Wildlife.

Its chief, Dave Graham, made it a point to welcome the crowd of birders, tree huggers and amateur and professional naturalists.

Graham said his agency wants to continue to reach out to these groups and forge an alliance with the more traditional segments made up of hunters, anglers and trappers.

The effort is help ensure that everyone pulls their weight in the conservation of wildlife and their habitat.

To aid in this link, beginning next year the Wildlife Division will start selling a $15 Ohio Wildlife Stamp, which will feature a different critter each year. For next year a photograph of a Baltimore oriole will be used.

The actual contest winner will be selected in September during the Wildlife Division's diversity partner's meeting.

Yep, you read correctly. Instead of using the image from a painting - as is the custom for waterfowl stamps and the like - the Wildlife Division will pick from a photograph.

It is important to note that the stamp will not be required for access or participation at any venue or event. It will be strictly voluntary with $14 of the sale going to help support non-game and endangered species programs that require matching federal dollars. The remaining $1 will go to the issuing agent.

"I'd be pleased if we sold 5,000 stamps in the first year, but I don't know. We have to be realistic," said Wildlife Division spokeswoman, Laura Jones.

As for the Wildlife Diversity Conference itself, it was an educational experience for all those attending. The eco-tourism segment was particularly informative and was presented by Ohio Sea Grant tourism specialist, Melinda Huntley.

One thing that I found humorous were the back-to-back talks on cerulean warblers and indigo buntings, both of which - generally speaking - require conflicting habitats for survival, especially on their respective wintering grounds.

Next year's Wildlife Diversity Conference is expected to be March 10 and will again be co-hosted by the Ohio Biological Survey and held in Columbus.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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