Important Bird Areas Program brings people together |

Important Bird Areas Program brings people together

Many birds that use United States flyways spend parts of each year in Canada, Mexico and Latin American countries. Birds are something all Americans, indeed all people, enjoy in common.

Migrating birds do not recognize borders; they are the ultimate goodwill ambassadors. The Important Bird Areas (IBA) program is a way to bring people and communities together to protect these irreplaceable national and international resources.

The IBA concept was developed in 1985 by BirdLife International, headquartered in Cambridge, England, as a model for bird conservation.

By 2000, BirdLife and its European partners had identified 3,400 IBA sites in Europe, resulting in protection of millions of acres of bird habitat. Approximately 20,000 IBAs have being identified worldwide in over 100 countries.

In 1995, BirdLife partnered with the National Audubon Society to launch the IBA Program in the United States. To date, IBA programs have been started in 32 states.

IBAs are:

— critical sites for the conservation of birds and biodiversity;

— places of national and international importance;

— practical targets for conservation action selected according to internationally recognized criteria;

— used to reinforce existing protected area networks;

— used as part of a wider approach to conservation.

The IBA program uses local volunteers to find important bird habitat.

Once identified, the continued health of these sites is assured by local land managers and landowners. Private lands can be nominated for inclusion only if the owner is in full agreement.

The program imposes no regulations, restrictions or costs. IBA designation imposes no international controls – but joins Americans with citizens worldwide who care about protecting natural resources for the good of birds and people.

Nominated sites are rigorously reviewed by leading scientists and then endorsed by Bird Life International. Audubon has made available its first list of selected Global IBA nominations at http://www.audubon. org

The IBA program gives Americans an opportunity to celebrate their own communities and to protect our national resources.

You don’t have to go to your legislature, mayor or town council to do this. IBA is a people-centered program that relies on everyday citizens to nominate local places. The government is not involved and taxpayers’ dollars are not used.

The Audubon IBA program has already identified 1,200 sites in 40 U.S. states for designation as important bird areas. Audubon will soon have programs under way in all 50 states with more than 3,000 designated sites.

Audubon-California is the state office for Audubon. It has identified over 200 IBAs in California using eight criteria, including concentrations of sensitive species, large numbers of individuals, unique bird habitats and long-term ornithological research.

To find out more about each California site, you can visit the Web site at

Locally, Spenceville Wildlife and Recreation Area is listed under the Central Valley on the Web site. More than 175 bird species, including 80 nesting species and the threatened California Black Rail, have been identified there.

Other local sites listed under Sierra Nevada include Sierra Valley and Yuba Pass Meadows, Loney Meadow and Upper Truckee Meadows as part of the Sierran Meadows – Northern.

There have been several field trips to the Sierra Valley recently. This high valley of grasslands and marsh is a prime wintering area for many species of raptors, including golden and bald eagles, rough-legged and ferruginous hawks and prairie falcons.

These birds can be seen from roads on Highway 49 and Highway A23. Field trips to the other IBA areas will be held this spring and summer. Contact Sierra Foothills Audubon at SFAS.

Don Rivenes is past president of the Sierra Foothills Audubon Society.

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