Dear Audubon Member,

Each year, Audubon publishes a WatchList of bird species in decline and in need of help to stay off the federal endangered-species list. Last year 105 species made the WatchList; 41 other bird species are already threatened or endangered. The leading cause of decline is habitat loss and fragmentation, particularly for species such as wood warblers and thrushes.

To help protect these birds, Audubon has begun identifying a network of Important Bird Areas. IBAs are the sites deemed most important for birds based on standardized, scientific criteria. They may be home to threatened or endangered species, an endemic species, or a large concentration of a single species (e.g., a rookery), or they may constitute a rare or unique habitat type. The IBA program was begun in the mid-1980s by BirdLife International, a global conservation coalition. Since then thousands of sites have been identified, in dozens of countries around the world. Audubon launched the U.S. IBA initiative in 1995. We now have programs in 40 states, and we’ve identified more than 1,200 sites.

The IBA program is totally voluntary. We give resource managers the information gathered for each state’s IBA inventory, so that, at a minimum, sites will no longer be destroyed by accident because no one knew they were important. Most private landowners are proud of IBAs identified on their land, but some choose confidentiality, and we honor that request. More often, an IBA becomes a natural focus of citizen-science monitoring projects. And site designations are a starting point for conservation planning and action. New York, for example, enacted legislation that uses IBA criteria to conserve important state-owned lands. In North Carolina, Audubon has teamed up with a local land trust to protect critical barrier-island habitat. And we are pleased to discover that many of the best potential sites for Audubon centers—i.e., near population centers—are also near potential IBA sites.

Evaluating sites across the country is a daunting task. We can do it only with the help of thousands of citizen scientists and professional ornithologists, who provide the necessary data. These volunteers may monitor bird populations at an IBA; keep track of local projects that could harm IBAs; work with landowners or managers to maintain and improve the conditions for birds at IBAs; lobby legislatures on behalf of IBAs; and/or work with land trusts to purchase IBAs. It’s an enormous task, and we need your help. Check the Audubon web site (www.audubon.org/bird/iba/) to find out if there’s an IBA program in your state. If not, call 215-297-9040.


John Flicker
National Audubon Society


© 2002  NASI

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