The U.S. and Canada have lost almost 3 billion birds since 1970. Grassland bird species suffered the steepest declines, losing an estimated 53% of their population, or more than 720 million birds. Established in 1985, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is one of the USDA’s largest voluntary conservation programs within the Farm Bill, and it’s also very important to birds that rely on grassland habitat. Unfortunately, enrollment in the program is declining, but our private lands stewardship program works to provide landowners with viable options to keep their fields in grassland habitat beyond CRP.
LandPKS (Potential Knowledge System) is a mobile phone app that makes digital soil and vegetation data and knowledge available in the palm of your hand. Bird Conservancy of the Rockies is excited to have helped develop a new LandPKS Habitat module specifically designed for ranchers, farmers, wildlife conservationists, educators and other land managers who are interested in using innovative technology to understand their landscape values and enhance wildlife habitat on their lands.
Each summer, migratory birds like the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher fly thousands of miles between their summer breeding grounds and wintering locations. An impressive feat under any circumstances, 2020’s fall migration brought particularly difficult challenges including record-breaking wildfires, air pollution, and extreme temperature and weather events. Sadly, many of these little international travelers did not survive.
The cultural heritage of those that tend the land and call it home—from ranchers to Indigenous Peoples to ejidos—is closely tied to the fate of grasslands. Rural communities and economies depend on healthy grasslands and the services they provide which include aquifer recharge, productive rangelands, outdoor recreation and more. Despite their importance, the plight of grasslands has been largely overlooked, but a new initiative has launched which aims to chart a better future for this precious resource.
The Chihuahuan Desert population of Northern Aplomado Falcon shrunk dramatically a century ago and was lost from the southwestern U.S. A tiny population survived in Mexico, but its continued survival is tenuous due to habitat loss and other factors. A tri-national partnership is monitoring this population’s breeding success and conducting a demographic study that includes satellite telemetry of juvenile falcons. What we are learning is guiding conservation and helping gain support from private landowners on the ground. The recent appearance of a young male falcon in New Mexico fosters hope that the Northern Aplomado Falcon might even be able to someday recolonize the Southwestern U.S.
Forest management has evolved rapidly over the last two decades as land managers strive to find a balance between wildlife habitat needs, resource utilization, fire mitigation, and resilience to climate change. Using birds as indicators, Bird Conservancy and partners explored the impacts of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program and how modern forest management approaches are shaping avian biodiversity in treated landscapes.
The grassland ecosystem of North America is home to some of the fastest-declining species of birds. Sustainable ranching practices are a vital part of the grasslands story — past, present, and future. That’s why Bird Conservancy of the Rockies invests in land stewardship efforts on working lands. Together with private landowners, we are partnering to conserve, restore and revitalize healthy prairie landscapes for the benefit of people and wildlife communities across the Great Plains.
They sat quietly, as still as possible, a group of kids and their adults listening for the elusive sound. Then they heard him: the muffled gobble of the wild tom turkey. It wasn’t long before this dinosaur of the modern age was in full view, following the sound of what he thought to be a receptive hen. It’s an emotional and immersive experience that brings these young people closer to nature and continues a long heritage of tradition and stewardship.
In a landscape where water is scarce and margins are slim, agriculturalists are leading the way to find innovative and collaborative conservation approaches. These folks are the boots on the ground, taking voluntary action and making tangible changes to achieve sustainability for future generations of people and birds.