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Meeting Set to Discuss Proposed Bird Conservation Area in Loess Hills

  • 3/1/2016 9:31:00 AM
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PISGAH, Iowa – The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will discuss the proposed designation of the region including Loess Hills State Forest, Preparation Canyon State Park, and Loess Hills Wildlife Management Area as a state Bird Conservation Area (BCA) at a public meeting on March 16.  The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Loess Hills State Forest Visitor Center in Pisgah, two blocks west of State Hwy. 183, at 206 Polk Street.

The Bird Conservation Area program is an outgrowth of the national Partners In Flight program, and designation of the Loess Hills as an official BCA will give national recognition to this area's importance for its nesting and migratory birds that depend on grassland, savanna and woodland habitat. In addition, designating this BCA can lead to improved conservation practices for birds and benefit many species that are in trouble.

“Bird research suggests that sustaining healthy bird populations is best achieved through conservation efforts to maintain larger blocks of habitat,” said Bruce Ehresman, DNR wildlife biologist with the Wildlife Diversity Program. “From declining grassland birds such as grasshopper and field sparrows, bobolink and western Meadowlark, to savanna species like the barn owl, red-headed woodpecker and Baltimore oriole, and woodland birds such as whip-poor-will and wood thrush, this unique landscape provides great potential for improved bird conservation efforts.”

Because the Bird Conservation Area concept focuses on all-bird conservation at a large landscape scale, the program’s success depends upon partnerships between public agencies, private conservation organizations, and private landowners. 

Each BCA consists of at least 10,000 acres, with one or more core areas of permanently protected bird habitat surrounded by large areas of privately owned land that also provides important habitat for birds. Core public lands are managed for all wild birds, and especially for those species experiencing regional or continental population declines.  Participation in this program is completely voluntary, and there are no restrictions or requirements placed on landowners. Landowners or land managers who would like to assist with all-bird conservation on their land will be offered technical guidance

“Establishing a Bird Conservation Area helps draw attention to the needs of birds that are in trouble and allows the local community and concerned citizens an opportunity to take action to help these birds,” said Doug Chafa, area wildlife management biologist for the Iowa DNR.  “Declining nesting species ranging from game-birds like northern Bobwhite and American woodcock to nongame birds such as whip-poor-will and blue-winged warbler, all benefit from the creation of the Loess Hills Bird Conservation Area.”

If approved, this will be the second BCA within the unique Loess Hills Landform Region.

“This bird conservation program represents a partnership that serves as an excellent example of ways to better conserve all natural resources in Iowa’s unique Loess Hills region,” said Brent Olson, area forester for the Iowa DNR at the Loess Hills State Forest. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists birdwatching among the nation’s fastest-growing outdoor activities, and that recreational activities including watching wildlife, hunting, and fishing now bring in more than $1 billion to Iowa’s economy each year. 

“Attracting bird watchers from around the country can enhance the local tourism economy, while it also helps the area’s birdlife,” Olson said.

Anyone interested in bird conservation, bird watching, and improved natural resource management is encouraged to attend this public meeting.