SPIRIT LAKE - The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is hosting a meeting to discuss the proposed designation of the area encompassing Cayler Prairie State Preserve as a state Bird Conservation Area (BCA). The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., January 27, at the Dickinson County Nature Center, 2279 County Home Rd., in Okoboji.
The Bird Conservation Area program is an outgrowth of the national Partners In Flight program, and designating Cayler Prairie as an official BCA will give national recognition to the area's importance for all nesting and migratory birds that depend on grassland habitat. If approved, this will be the second Bird Conservation Area in Dickinson County, with Spring Run Grasslands BCA created in 2002.
Grassland birds are the fastest declining group in North America. Designating this BCA can lead to improved conservation practices that benefit the many species that are in trouble. This designation provides an opportunity for the local community and concerned citizens to take action to help these birds. Declining grassland birds, such as bobolink, northern Harrier, and upland sandpiper, as well as game birds, such as ring-necked pheasant and northern pintail, all will benefit from the creation of the Cayler Prairie Grassland Bird Conservation Area.
The Iowa DNR is working with many partners to establish Bird Conservation Areas and encourage the concept of all-bird conservation.
"Current research suggests that we cannot sustain healthy bird populations without conservation efforts to maintain larger blocks of habitat," said Bruce Ehresman, DNR wildlife biologist with the Wildlife Diversity Program. "The partnership established between conservation agencies, private conservation organizations, and private landowners is the key to create large expanses of bird habitat and reverse the trend of declining bird populations."
While the core of each BCA is typically made up of a significant amount of public land or land owned by private conservation organizations, it is important for areas around this core land to also be managed for good wildlife habitat.
"Since much of that property is privately owned, landowners or land managers who would like to assist with all-bird conservation on their land will be offered technical guidance. Since participation is voluntary, there will be no restrictions or requirements placed on landowners," said Ehresman.
Establishing this Bird Conservation Area could increase recreational opportunities and be an economic boost for Dickinson County. While a high percentage of bird species are declining, watching birds is one of the fastest growing pastimes in North America. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey, people in Iowa now spend more dollars on watching wildlife than on hunting wildlife and just slightly less than what they spend on fishing. Together, these recreational activities bolster Iowa's economy by nearly $1 billion each year.