Tricolored Blackbird Photo: Jameson Scott
WASHINGTON — "America's farmers, foresters and ranchers play a huge rule in protecting birds and the places they need through sustainable use of our natural resources," said David O'Neill, Audubon's chief conservation officer, in response to today's introduction of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program Improvement Act by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA).
"Whether it's blackbirds in California or grassland birds in Missouri, birds depend on conservationists and land managers working together. Audubon thanks Senators Stabenow and Ernst for their leadership, and we strongly support this bipartisan effort to improve and expand such an important program for birds and people."
The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) was first authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill when $370 million in federal funds and $400 million partner funds provided funding for 115 projects across all 50 states and Puerto Rico. The RCPP encourages farmers, conservation groups, farm organizations and state and local agencies to work together to complete restoration and ensure the sustainable use of natural resources on agricultural lands.
Several Audubon conservation efforts involve regional conservation partnerships to protect and restore habitat for birds. They include:
- Through its Foresters for the Birds, program Audubon Vermont works with private landowners and foresters to keep songbird habitat intact in Vermont's Green Mountains. Species protected by this RCPP include the Wood Thrush, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and Golden-winged Warbler. As climatic suitability shifts and shrinks for North American birds, habitat connectivity and restoration is more important than ever.
- Audubon's Conservation Ranching program engages ranchers in Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, Texas, Nebraska and Missouri to enact bird-friendly grazing practices that help restore grasslands that many of America's most endangered birds depend on. By following Audubon's habitat management protocols, ranchers are able to sell their product at a premium as Audubon-certified. Bird species that benefit include the Bobolink, Greater Prairie-Chicken and Chestnut-collared Longspur.
- Audubon California works with dairy farmers to protect the Tricolored Blackbird, a species in decline and up for consideration for the California endangered species list. Audubon identifies and monitors bird colonies on private land, while dairy groups approach farmers to ask them to leave their wheat fields intact as opposed to harvesting the wheat to feed their cows. This collaborative approach, through which farmers are compensated for each acre left unharvested, allowed Audubon and dairy groups to protect an estimated 74,500 Tricolored Blackbirds, representing more than 40 percent