KDWP staff collect data on aquatic wildlife; info available to public

One of the lesser-known activities of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) is the work of its stream survey crews. The crews, part of KDWP's Environmental Services Section (ESS), were created in the mid-1990s to monitor aquatic life in streams throughout the state. In the ensuing 11 years, more than one million fish have been surveyed or collected. The crews have also created an extensive data base on the quality of habitat and density of insects, fish, mussels, and basic water chemistry in Kansas streams.

Under federal law, any publicly-funded development project or project needing another state or federal permit that will impact a threatened or endangered (T&E) species or its critical habitat requires a KDWP Action Permit . When issued, such permits may, on rare occasion, include special conditions requiring mitigation or other corrective measures to reduce or eliminate adverse impacts to threatened or endangered species.

The information gleaned from stream surveys aids the ESS in this permitting process. ESS reviews between 1,500 and 2,000 projects each year, and of these, fewer than 30 may require Action Permits because of impacts to critical habitats. To date, no project in Kansas has been stopped by this review process although a few have been delayed.

"Actually, I like to measure success in this job as moving species off the T&E list," says Mark Van Scoyoc, KDWP Stream Program coordinator. "If we're doing our job well, species at risk may recover, and we also learn the places these species don't inhabit. This helps landowners and construction companies as well as the environment."

This summer, two stream survey crews will work the rivers and streams in Kansas. A statewide crew, led by stream biologist Ryan Waters of Pratt, will survey various locations throughout the state. Another crew, led by Ron Kegerries from the Clinton Wildlife Area office, will survey in the eastern quarter of the state, primarily the Marais des Cygnes and Missouri river basins. In addition to the leaders, each team will comprise four temporary fisheries technicians, college students working toward degrees in biology or environmental sciences.

Although the crews will be looking for rare or endangered species, common species will also be recorded to provide timeline data that may be used to compare population trends. The surveys will run from the beginning of June through the end of August.

Information gleaned from stream monitoring is available to anyone, not just KDWP's ESS. Private consulting firms, other state agencies, landowners, and federal agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service use this information. The information is also an invaluable student research tool.

"My main goal is to increase public awareness of what we do and the information we have available," Van Scoyoc explains. "Eventually, I'd like to have our database on the agency's website."

For more information on KDWP's stream survey crews or the data they collect, contact Van Scoyoc at 620-672-5911.