Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Citizen's Guide: The Solution: Partners In Flight [I'd Love to Save the World]

And so we come to the end of the introduction, happily on a high note: although there are numerous challenges that face migratory birds on their Latin American wintering grounds, on their migratory routes, and on their breeding grounds, there is a massive effort underway to keep common birds common. My comments about this 1995 document follow.

The Citizen's Guide to Migratory Bird Conservation
The Solution: Partners in Flight

But here is the good news. Most species of neotropical migrants are still common, and very few species are endangered or even threatened. We are concerned about declining species because we want to avoid reaching a crisis situation -- we want to maintain populations while they are still healthy. We therefore have the opportunity to conserve bird diversity in North America without putting an additional strain on our economic and social institutions.

Recognizing that conserving neotropical migratory birds is too big of a problem for any one agency, organization, state, or even country, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation launched a new program in 1990 called Partners in Flight. This massive program is not an organization. It has no single address or employees. Rather, it is a cooperative effort among numerous state and federal government agencies, non-governmental conservation organizations, and private industry. The goal of Partners in Flight is to improve our understanding of neotropical migrants, identify species most at risk, and develop and carry out cooperative plans to protect their habitat.

Already great strides have been made in identifying the bird species needing the most help. A species prioritization scheme, available from the Colorado Bird Observatory, has shown which species are at greatest risk in every part of North America. This complex scheme takes into account many factors, including global abundance, breeding and winter distributions, and threats to habitats on wintering and breeding grounds. Identifying the species that are most vulnerable shows conservationists which habitats most need protection or restoration.

Progress also has been made toward developing regional and national migratory bird habitat conservation plans. These plans are based on the concept of management at the landscape level. In this context, "landscape" refers to a large area such as you might see while flying in an airplane, an area with a mosaic of habitat patches. Each of these habitats predictably harbors certain bird species, and individual birds of each species use habitat not just within their own breeding territory, but also in neighboring habitat patches. So the spacial arrangement of habitat patches, as well as the quality of the habitats, is important to birds.

Because landscape-level management crosses political and economic boundaries, the plans call for public, private, and intergovernmental cooperation. Indeed, Partners in Flight is a model of partnerships for conservation. Participants include more than 15 federal agencies, over 60 state and provincial agencies, 16 companies representing the forest products industry, and more than 30 private conservation groups.

There is one more important partner: you. As someone concerned about birds and their habitat, you can make a big difference. This booklet explains exactly how you can become involved in Partners in Flight -- because every activity descried will lead toward migratory bird conservation.

Many Partners in Flight contacts are listed on page 32. For an even more complete list of contacts, write for a copy of the Partners in Flight newsletter (ordering information is on the inside back cover). The newsletter will also keep you up to date on all Partners in Flight activities.

Russell Greenberg and Susan Lumpkin, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, National Zoological Park, Washington, DC 20008

Arthur Weissman, Green Seal, 1250 23rd St. NW, Washington, DC 20037

This section has been excerpted in its entirety. Author information and article text current as of 1995.

Greenberg, R., S. Lumpkin, and A. Weissman. 1995. Citizen's Guide to Migratory Bird Conservation, Bonney, R., S. Carlson, and M. Fischer, eds. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

As always, your thoughts and suggestions welcome and encouraged, but here are a few of mine, which are naturally open to your comments, too.

I believe this document is extremely well written, and this piece concentrates on several powerful messages. There's the proclamation of a broad, collaborative effort. There's the direct appeal for individuals to accept their role in conservation. There's the complex methodology used to identify focal species. There's the recognition of the necessity of landscape-level management, and the acknowledgment of imperative cooperation across multiple boundaries. And it's presented in a manner fitting the target audience: anyone who expresses an interest in birds, whether they're trained ornithologists, a novice bird-watcher, or anyone in between.

Of course, edits need to be made here, mostly updates -- surely PIF has changed since '95. How many organizations, and from what sector (not-for-profit, industry, government, non-gov, etc)? Are the same common birds in '95 still common in 2009, or are some now listed as threatened or special concern? I realize this is an intro piece, but perhaps a progress report, in the form of a line or two where appropriate, would be useful.

What say you?


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