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Jason Bassett named Alabama wildlife officer of the year

Brandon Moseley

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WFF Law Enforcement Chief Matt Weathers presents Officer Jason Bassett with the SSCI Alabama Wildlife Officer of the Year Award. (Photo by Billy Pope, ADCNR.)

Jason Bassett has been named Alabama Wildlife Officer of the Year by the Shikar-Safari Club International (SSCI).

“What truly sets Officer Bassett apart are his personal qualities,” said WFF District Two Law Enforcement Supervisor Lt. Jerry Fincher. “He is loyal to a fault, honorable, level-headed and a true team player. You will never hear Jason boasting. Instead, he’ll stand in the shadows of his own accomplishments realizing he is blessed to be a link in the chain of conservation stewardship.”

Bassett currently serves as a Senior Conservation Enforcement Officer with the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) in St. Clair County.

Each year SSCI honors one officer from each state with the award. Bassett was recently presented with the award at WFF headquarters in Montgomery.

Officer Bassett is credited with routinely making a high number of quality arrests including some unusual cases involving electrofishing and cheating in bass tournaments. Officer Bassett recently played a vital role in stopping the overharvest of game fish in St. Clair County. The case involved the illegal taking of massive amounts of striped and hybrid bass from public waters to be sold in restaurants and fish markets across the Southeast. Bassett hid himself on dams and among rocks to observe and record the illegal activity, while his fellow officers stood by at off-site locations to intercept the violators. Thanks in part to his efforts, regulations are now in place to prevent this type wildlife violation in the future.

Bassett has served the people of Alabama as a Conservation Enforcement Officer for more than 15 years. He has not only prevented hundreds of wildlife violations, he has also saved the lives of some of his fellow officers.

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“Every Alabamian may owe Officer Bassett a debt of gratitude, but I owe him much more,” said Lt. Fincher. “While eating at a local restaurant with Jason, I became choked. Unable to breathe I could feel myself losing consciousness. He immediately put his first aid training to work by pulling me from my seat and successfully performing the Heimlich maneuver. He saved my life.”

While working alongside Bassett, Conservation Enforcement Officer Greg Gilliland became involved in a confrontation which resulted in his arm becoming trapped in a vehicle’s steering wheel as the driver attempted to back over him. Rushing to his aid, Officer Bassett pulled both men from the vehicle and made the arrest.

“Officer Bassett’s selfless service to his state and his fellow officers is an example for us all to follow,” said Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “For these reasons and many more, Jason is very deserving of this award.”

Officer Bassett is also a FBI-certified firearms instructor, defensive tactics instructor, Glock and M16 armorer, and a Becoming an Outdoors-Woman instructor. He also serves as an adjunct instructor at the Northeast Alabama Law Enforcement Academy where he teaches firearms and self-defense tactics to new recruits.

SSCI is an international conservation organization that funds and supports a variety of conservation projects and scholarships around the world. In addition to recognizing outstanding officers in wildlife conservation, SSCI also provides a $20,000 death benefit to the officer’s family in the event the officer is killed in the line of duty.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

To learn more about ADCNR, visit their website.

Environment

Registration for spring BOW workshop opens January 9

Brandon Moseley

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The State of Alabama is offering another round of its popular Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) training. Registration for the next workshop will opens on January 9 for first-time attendees and January 15 for both first-timers and those who have previously attended. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) sponsors the event, which takes place at the 4-H Center near Columbiana on March 1-3, 2019.

If participants purchase an Alabama resident hunting, fishing or wildlife heritage license prior to registration they will receive a $25 discount on their BOW registration. The discount is for online registration only. To receive the discount, enter your current license number when registering for spring BOW. You must purchase a license prior to BOW registration to receive the discount. Nonresidents can also receive the discount with the purchase of a Wildlife Management Area license or any nonresident license.

BOW is a three-day workshop designed for women ages 18 years or older who would like to learn new outdoor skills. The workshop offers hands-on instruction in a fun, outdoor learning environment. Participants choose from courses such as rifle, pistol, archery, fishing, camping, hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, and many more.
BOW coordinator Hope Grier said that the classes offer basic outdoor skills training.
“There are many ladies who have not been exposed to these outdoor activities and are apprehensive about trying them,” Grier said. “BOW is ideal for those women because everything is taught at a beginner level.”

The registration fee of $275 covers meals, dormitory-style lodging, program materials and instruction. Those interested in attending are encouraged to register as soon as possible because enrollment is limited and classes will fill up fast.

Purchase a license prior to registration and receive a $25 discount

The purchase of a hunting, fishing or wildlife heritage license not only provides you with a discount on BOW registration, that money is federally matched nearly three-to-one through the Pittman-Robertson Act and the Sport Fish Restoration Act funding. Those funds are then used to support conservation efforts in Alabama such as the operation and maintenance of the state’s Wildlife Management Area system and State Public Fishing Lakes, providing technical assistance to landowners for the improvement of freshwater fish and wildlife habitats and populations, operation of the state’s Nongame Wildlife Program, providing conservation law enforcement, and much more.

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For more information on the BOW workshop including the class schedule go to:
www.outdooralabama.com/activities/becoming-outdoors-woman or call Hope Grier at 334-242-3620.

You may view photos of past BOW workshops by visiting Outdoor Alabama’s Flickr at:
www.flickr.com/photos/outdooralabama/albums/72157629421999224.

Alabama hunting, fishing or wildlife heritage licenses are available at various retailers throughout the state or online here.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

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Environment

State will host deer chronic wasting disease sampling efforts in Northwest Alabama

Brandon Moseley

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Friday, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources announced that they are increasing Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) sampling surveillance efforts in northwest Alabama after deer in nearby Mississippi and Tennessee counties have tested CWD-positive.

CWD is a contagious and deadly neurological disorder that affects members of the deer family. To date, no deer in Alabama have tested positive for CWD.

The Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) will conduct a voluntary CWD-sampling station on January 4 to 6 in Hackleburg, Alabama, in Marion County, and January 12 through 13 in Waterloo, Alabama, in Lauderdale County.

The sampling station in Marion County will be set up in the parking lot of Hackleburg Hardware, 125 Boyd Street, Hackleburg, AL 35564. This is located at the intersection of Boyd Street and Highway 172.

Deer may be brought to Hackleburg for sampling during the following dates and times:

Friday, January 4 from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

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Saturday, January 5 from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, January 6 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

The sampling station in Lauderdale County will be set up in the parking lot of Waterloo Fire Station #1, 6390 County Road 14, Waterloo, AL 35677.

Deer may be brought to Waterloo for sampling during the following dates and times:

Saturday, January 12 from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, January 13 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Deer harvested in Franklin, Marion, Lamar, Lauderdale and Colbert counties are being targeted, but biologists will sample deer from surrounding counties as well. Sampling involves removing the retropharyngeal lymph nodes from the head of a deer. Hunters may bring in a whole deer, field-dressed deer, or just the head from the harvested animal. Collecting a sample from a harvested deer takes only a few minutes.

Since 2002, WFF has relied on the assistance of hunters who have volunteered their harvested deer for CWD surveillance sampling. WFF is again seeking the assistance of hunters to help conserve Alabama’s natural resources by taking their harvested deer to the Hackleburg or Waterloo CWD-sampling stations. All hunters who volunteer their harvested deer for sampling will receive the CWD surveillance test result.

CWD is the most devastating disease facing the deer population today. Alabama has 1.75 million deer. Currently the state is CWD free; but this latest CWD positive deer is the closest that the disease has gotten to the state. Mississippi was CWD free until this summer. Since then two CWD positive deer have been found in two separate counties in Mississippi.

Mississippi officials report that an emaciated 1.5-year-old, free-ranging male white-tailed deer was euthanized on October 8, 2018 in Pontotoc County. The deer’s behavior appeared abnormal. The sample was confirmed CWD-positive by the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa, on October 30, 2018.

Alabama’s WFF has tested nearly 8,000 deer since 2002 and has not detected CWD within Alabama.

As part of WFF’s CWD Strategic Surveillance and Response Plan, WFF is increasing its CWD surveillance sampling efforts beyond typical surveillance rates in those counties within the 50-mile radius of the Pontotoc County CWD-positive white-tailed deer. These counties include Franklin, Lamar, and Marion counties.

Additional samples for these counties including, but not limited to, voluntary samples from hunter-harvested deer as well as focused efforts on road kills and abnormally behaving deer.

CWD is a neurodegenerative disease found in most deer species, including moose, elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer. It is infectious and always fatal. It is part of a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and is similar to mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep. These diseases cause irreversible damage to brain tissue that leads to neurological symptoms, emaciation and death of the animal.

Hunting is a major industry in Alabama as well as an important part of traditional southern culture.

To learn more about CWD and to get information on future public sampling sites, click here.

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Environment

ADECA releases plan to spend $25 million in VW settlement money

Josh Moon

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The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) released its plans last week for spending more than $25 million — its share of a $2.3 billion national settlement with Volkswagen — and is now seeking public input on the plan.

The settlement stemmed from VW’s scheme to cheat emissions testings, which resulted in years of VW’s cars emitting levels of nitrogen oxides that far exceeded government limits.

According to the terms of the settlement, states have up to 15 years to spend their allocated funds and up to 10 years to spend 80 percent. Alabama’s plan would use all of the funds inside of 10 years, making it eligible to receive more funds should they be available in 15 years.

The general public can view ADECA’s plan on their website. A public hearing on the plan will be held Jan. 15 in the 7th-floor auditorium at the Alabama Center for Commerce at 401 Adams Ave. in Montgomery.

“ADECA has put a lot of work into this plan,” said Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition Executive Director Mark Bentley, “and we encourage all stakeholders to read the draft and, if they desire to provide constructive input, attend the public hearing meeting on the 15th.”

After the hearing, ADECA will make in necessary alterations to the plan and then forward it to Gov. Kay Ivey for approval. The agency plans to submit initial requests for applications within the first quarter.

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Byrne applauds funding that benefits Dauphin Island

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, celebrated news that the Army Corps of Engineers is dedicating $4 million to place dredge material in the expanded Sand Island Beneficial Use Area (SIBUA). The Army Corps also obtained environmental clearances to expand the SIBUA.

“We received good news that the Army Corps will dedicate $4 million to benefit Dauphin Island by placing dredge material in the Sand Island Beneficial Use Area,” Rep. Byrne said. “Doing this will help support the restoration and long-term stability of Dauphin Island. This has been an ongoing priority for our office for some time now, so I appreciate the help of Senator Richard Shelby in securing this funding. I am committed to working with the Army Corps, Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier, and local leaders to ensure Dauphin Island is protected in the years ahead.”

Dauphin Island is a Gulf Coast town and barrier island, essentially a big sand bar protecting the entrance to Mobile Bay. It is popular with tourists and residents alike for its stretches of white sand and beaches. It is however very vulnerable to hurricanes and rising sea levels.

The Army Corps of Engineers has been tasked with routinely dredging the bar channel which keeps the harbor of Mobile accessible to ocean going shipping. The Corps needs a place for the dredged materials. Expanding the SIBUA to strengthen and protect the residents of Dauphin Island provides a constructive use for that dredged sand.

In September 2004, a modification of the SIBUA was issued to expand the disposal site to include the area around the Sand Island Lighthouse, which is a valuable cultural resource listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Placement of sandy material around the light house’s rubble foundation is beneficial in that it provides protection to the historic structure. In order to continue the beneficial use practices, in December 2008, the USACE expanded the SIBUA extending a 4,500-foot wide southern boundary approximately 2,000 to the south. This expanded area provided for continued placement of sandy material from the Mobile Bar Channel in a manner that returns this material to the local littoral system.

The Corps is proposing to further expand the existing SIBUA by approximately 3,305 acres (to the west towards Dauphin Island) for the continued placement of Mobile Harbor Federal Navigation Channel O&M material. This action would provide for the return of sediment into the littoral system as well as increasing placement capacity in the SIBUA, consistent with established regional sediment management implementation principles and goals. The characteristics of the sediment being dredged and placed ranges from fine to medium grained quartz sand from the Mobile Harbor channel(s).

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To read the full report, click here.

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Jason Bassett named Alabama wildlife officer of the year

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