The Newfound Trackers” Team:
Monitoring Wildlife to Save Habitat: Residents Learn How
The Keeping Track staff talk about wildlife habits and habitat at the Wildlife Event in September 2007
The Newfound Lake Region Association tracking team has completed four of six field workshops by the end of March 2008. Working with Susan Morse, a nationally recognized naturalist, wildlife photographer, forester, habitat identification specialist, and founder of Keeping Track, is training the sixteen volunteers to observe, interpret, record, and monitor evidence of mammals in the Newfound Lake watershed using a scientifically rigorous system. Workshops are held from October 2007 – April 2008, at the Keeping Track headquarters in Jericho, VT, and at several locations in the Newfound Lake Watershed. To date, members have explored the Cockermouth Forest, Plymouth Mountain, Pike Hill, the Hebron Town Forest, and Brown Mountain.
When the training is complete, the Newfound Trackers will set up several transects around the watershed to explore habitats in more detail, and over long periods of time, to look for resident species movement, and document mammals “passing through.”
Focal species include bear, bobcat, moose, mink, fisher and otter.
Martha Twombly, Program Director of NLRA, says the data collected in the field by Newfound Trackers will help local landowners, community organizations, cities, and towns identify and protect the most critical wildlife travel corridors and habitat. “Conserving these areas is important for our economy as well as our wildlife,” Twombly says. She cites information gleaned from the NH Fish and Game Wildlife Action Plan, that identifies much of the Newfound Watershed as having the highest quality habitat, particularly the west side of Newfound Lake, for many types of wildlife. She says that most of our residents and visitors are drawn to Newfound Lake and it beautiful and rich surrounding landscapes. “If we’re not smart about where and how we build, everyone loses – our wildlife, visitors, residents, business owners, and employees.”
Keeping Track® was founded by Susan Morse in 1994 to provide tools and inspiration for community participation in the long-term stewardship of local wildlife habitat. She developed her scientifically rigorous techniques in wilderness surrounding her cabin near Vermont’s Green Mountains. Her work is the longest running track and sign survey in the U.S. Nearly 1300 volunteers have completed Morse’s “University of Nature” and almost 100 teams are currently monitoring and recording wildlife data in their home areas across North America.
NLRA will host the first Keeping Track team in the Newfound Lake watershed. These teams attract all kinds of people, Morse reports. “We’ve got scientists and homemakers and farmers and artists and loggers and people who don’t think you should ever cut a tree. What we’re finding is, they all care passionately about wildlife habitat. And they’re putting their differences aside to go out together and learn these skills for the purposes of intelligent planning in their communities.”
“By engaging people in monitoring their local wildlife, Morse turns the notoriously abstract issues of biodiversity and habitat fragmentation into an earthy, firsthand relationship with wild animals on their home turf,” says Audubon magazine.
Keeping Track is the only citizen-science program in the nation that works with mammals. Twombly sees the field-collected data as a tool to help balance the economic, housing, and recreational needs of people with the food, shelter, and reproductive requirements of other animals.
Collaboration is a key element of Morse’s approach. Keeping Track teams provide their data to local and regional organizations so planning, conservation, development, and road construction decisions can be based on these scientifically gathered facts. During the last two years, 2500 acres of key habitat were conserved in Northwestern Vermont because Keeping Track’s monitoring program shared data and cooperated with a dozen state and community-based organizations. The Departments of Transportation in Vermont and New Hampshire have Morse train their engineers to incorporate identified wildlife travel corridors into their highway designs.
Sue Morse and Keeping Track® have been featured in: National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” and in magazines such as Smithsonian, Audubon, The Nature Conservancy, the National Wildlife Federation’s Ranger Rick, Adirondack Life, Vermont Life, Orion, and Wild Earth. Her photography and life work are featured in The Woods Scientist, part of the Houghton Mifflin Company’s “Scientist in the Field” series. Morse is also a fourth-generation forester who assesses wildlife habitat and manages forests.
To kick off their search for local wildlife monitors, the Newfound Lake Region Association and the Newfound Region After School Program held a Keeping Track® Wildlife Event on Thursday, September 13, 2007 at the Newfound Memorial Middle School in Bristol. This traveling museum gave participants a rare opportunity to browse 26 tables of pelts, skulls, feet, track molds, and wildlife sign from dozens of North American carnivores.