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OTTUMWA - A public ceremony to dedicate Soap Creek and Eldon Wildlife Areas, Stephens State Forest Unionville Unit, Lake Wapello State Park, and a portion of the Soap Creek watershed as Iowa’s newest Bird Conservation Area (BCA) will take place on Thursday, February 8 at 1:30 pm. The meeting will be held at the Pioneer Ridge Nature Center; located ~6 miles south of Ottumwa on the east side of Hwy 63 at the Wapello County Conservation Board headquarters.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is hosting the dedication that will include brief presentations and the unveiling of a special Bird Conservation Area sign. There will be refreshments, and following the ceremony, there will be a short hike to view birds of that area.
This unique area is one of southeastern Iowa’s most species-rich grassland/savanna/forest habitats. “Designating this complex as a Bird Conservation Area will add to its recognition by indicating its importance for nesting and migratory grassland, savanna, and forest birds,” said Bruce Ehresman, DNR wildlife diversity program biologist. “It provides important nesting habitat for declining grassland birds, such as meadowlarks, state threatened Henslow’s sparrows and northern bobwhites, for declining savanna birds like red-headed woodpeckers and state endangered barn owls, and for declining forest birds like Kentucky warblers, wood thrushes and Acadian flycatchers; plus this BCA provides migration
stopover habitat for a large number of other bird species suffering nationwide declines.” This area also is rich in cultural history, including thousands of years when it was inhabited by American Indians and the time-period when Euro-American settlers first arrived and benefitted from the Native people who already were present.
It is anticipated that this new BCA will attract bird enthusiasts from throughout the region and beyond. Watching wildlife is a $350+ million industry in Iowa, and more birders visiting this area will support the growing local tourism economy and encourage investment in local bird conservation.
“The designation of the Soap Creek-Stephens Forest Bird Conservation Area serves to recognize the excellent teamwork of many partners, cooperating to emphasize the importance of habitat for birds and other wildlife. State, federal, and county conservation agencies, working together with private conservation organizations and citizens have made this possible,” said Jeff Glaw, DNR wildlife biologist and Sugema Wildlife Unit manager.
The public is welcome to attend this event. Bird appreciators and all wildlife conservationists are asked to help celebrate the dedication of this important Bird Conservation Area and to promote the conservation of birds and their habitats.