Division of Bird Habitat Conservation

Birdscapes: News from International Habitat Conservation Partnerships


Linking the Americas Through Migratory Bird Conservation
by Craig Watson, Atlantic Coast Joint Venture and Jack Capp, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service

The Office of International Programs (OIP), a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service, is helping to conserve migratory birds throughout the Americas. The program is growing, new partnerships are forming, and dollars are being spent to conserve migratory birds from the Western Boreal Forests of Canada and Alaska to the Pantanal of Brazil, the world's largest wetland.

The OIP has three major programs: Policy, Disaster Assistance, and Technical Cooperation, all of which are helping to conserve birds migrating from North America to the Caribbean and Latin America. Birds are important to Americans - millions of us hunt, feed, and/or watch birds. Substantial amounts of money have been and continue to be spent in the United States on bird and habitat conservation, but what is happening where these birds spend the rest of the year?

Approximately 300 species found in the United States winter in the Caribbean and Latin America; others nest in Canada and then come to the United States. Many of these species, from all bird groups, are threatened or endangered or have declined over the past 25 years. It is clear that migratory bird habitat conservation outside the United States is critically needed. This is where OIP plays an important role.


Technical Cooperation Program
This program provides training and assistance in a number of areas: management of protected areas, inventory and monitoring of migratory birds, low-impact logging, fire ecology and management, reforestation, watershed restoration, invasive species prevention, and landscape-level planning. It also encourages the planting of shade-grown coffee and cacao. Under this program, the OIP and Ducks Unlimited are conducting studies in the Pantanal and Western Boreal Forest - both threatened habitats - as well as helping Trinidad and Tobago restore their wetlands.


Disaster Assistance Program
The Disaster Assistance Program provides funding, technical guidance, and training to respond to natural disasters and civil unrest. It supports emergency watershed protection and rehabilitation, fire suppression, and community assistance in support of bird conservation. For example, this program helped with watershed stabilization and wetland restoration following Hurricane Mitch in Hondurus.


Policy Program
This program helps to integrate bird conservation needs into the international treaties, policies, and agreements that the United States enters. Examples are the inclusion of the forestry component in the Kyoto Protocol and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Many birds found in North American Waterfowl Management Plan joint ventures winter in Latin America. The endangered Kirtland's warbler (Upper Mississippi River & Great Lakes Region Joint Venture) and Bicknell's thrush (Atlantic Coast Joint Venture) winter in the Bahamas and Hispaniola, respectively. The swallow-tailed kite (Atlantic Coast, Gulf Coast, and Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Ventures) winters just outside the Pantanal. Approximately 40 percent of waterfowl inventoried in North America's traditionally surveyed areas use the Western Boreal Forest. Yet, little is known about the Patanal or Western Boreal Forest. The OIP is working with partners, such as Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy, to help sustain these critical habitats.

For more information contact, Jack Capp, U.S.Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Office of International Programs, 1099 14th Street, NW, Suite 5500W, Washington, D.C. 20090, (202) 273-4725, jcapp@fs.fed.us, or Craig Watson, Atlantic Coast Joint Venture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 176 Croghan Spur Road, Suite 200, Charleston, South Carolina 29407, (843) 727-4707, extension 16, craig_watson@fws.gov.

Kankakee Project Partner Receives Award
by Jeff Kiefer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Annually, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recognizes outstanding wetland conservation efforts by nongovernmental partners through its National Wetland Conservation Award to the Private Sector. Recognized for his dedicated leadership in the conservation of wetlands and waterfowl, Dick Blythe of Merrillville, Indiana, is the year 2000 co-winner in the individual category. Having served as chair of the Indiana Grand Kankakee Marsh Restoration Project (Kankakee Project) since its inception in 1994, Dick has presided over one of the largest wetland restoration efforts in Indiana's history.

The North American Waterfowl Management Plan Upper Mississippi River & Great Lakes Region Joint Venture project, now in its third phase, has resulted in the acquisition of more than 4,500 acres of wetlands, drained wetlands, and wetland-associated uplands; the restoration of more than 3,000 acres; and the enhancement of nearly 3,000 acres. Partnership contributions through phase three have totaled more than $9 million, with North American Wetland Conservation Act grant awards totaling $3.5 million.

At the awards ceremony on June 30, 2000, at the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C., Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark noted the importance of private sector partners such as Dick to the wetland conservation effort. "These folks have made remarkable efforts - often using their own time and money - to help wetlands."

However, Dick gave credit to the Kankakee Project partnership. "There are 27 partners who sit on this committee and do most of the work," he said at the ceremony. "I just try to provide some support and motivation."

Making Connections in Ontario's Lake St. Clair
by Melodie Richard, Ducks Unlimited Canada

Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and Ontario Power Generation (formerly Ontario Hydro) have connected in a conservation effort to restore some of the most important and threatened wetland habitat in North America. Ontario Power Generation recently donated $100,000 - one of the largest corporate sponsorships in the history of DUC in Ontario - to help enhance and restore Pigeon Marsh in eastern Lake St. Clair.

Pigeon Marsh is an area of continental and global significance. It is adjacent to a DUC project in the St. Clair National Wildlife Area, a designated Ramsar site. The marsh supports 700 different plants, 220 species of birds, and a variety of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. More than 80 of these species are threatened or endangered.

Unfortunately, human impact on the Lake St. Clair region ranks among the continent's highest. Agricultural and shoreline development continue to pose the greatest threats. Particular culprits are agricultural dikes along the shoreline that create a physical barrier to inland migration of wetland plants during high water levels. This results in a severe reduction of wetland diversity.

Wildlife populations have also been severely affected by area development. Peak waterfowl concentrations once added up to 750,000 birds but now total 360,000 in spring and 150,000 in fall. The area is most critical for migratory waterfowl, particularly canvasbacks, swans, and geese.

In 1998, the 159-acre Pigeon Marsh site was purchased with generous financial support from the provincial government and the Canadian Wildlife Service. This purchase was key to preserving other land in the area for permanent wetland restoration. Ontario Power's sponsorship, its third with DUC, will be used to construct dikes and a pumping station.

"We're pleased Ontario Power is on board with us," says Tod Wright, president of DUC. "It's a tremendous opportunity to make a real impact on the landscape."

In Ontario Power, DUC has found a like-minded partner. It is one of the first electric companies in North America to develop and implement a biodiversity conservation policy. Broad-scale management plans at each of the award-winning company's major sites include habitat management, educational programs, and volunteer activities.

"Ontario Power has a strong commitment to the environment," says the company's President and Chief Executive Officer Ron Osborne. "As our Lambton plant is situated in the Lake St. Clair watershed, working with DUC to protect this significant ecosystem was a beneficial, natural partnership."

The contribution was based on the merit of the proposal and DUC's strength at delivering project goals, according to Ontario Power's Director of Corporate Environment Helen Howes. "We are pleased to partner and sponsor groups such as DUC who share similar values and aspirations," she said.

Lisa Verhagen, regional development manager for DUC, said plans are underway to include Ontario Power staff in ongoing activities at Pigeon Marsh, beginning with an Employee Day once restoration work is completed. In working with DUC, Ontario Power is helping to set an example for electric companies to follow.

For more information, contact Heather Jackson, Ducks Unlimited Canada,, (705) 721-4444.