Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Wisconsin Protects Migratory Birds through Costa Rican Conservation Investment/Southern Wings

(Madison, WI) This spring, millions of birds are returning to Wisconsin from distant winter haunts. Hungry and tired from thousands of miles of perilous travel, birds can count on Wisconsin to provide the habitat they need. But that is not always the case south of the border, where more than half of Wisconsin’s 238 breeding bird species spend the winter. Throughout Latin America, deforestation and incompatible development are squeezing Wisconsin’s birds into ever smaller wintering grounds, threatening their long-term survival.

Recognizing the need to act internationally on behalf of Wisconsin’s birds, the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin joined public and private partners at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Neenah Paper to safeguard important migratory bird wintering habitat on Costa Rica’s Osa peninsula. The three partners recently made a combined contribution of more than $60,000 to the non-profit Friends of the Osa.

According to Craig Thompson, regional land leader at the Wisconsin DNR, his state’s commitment to safeguarding the Osa peninsula was inspired by a national movement called Southern Wings — a partnership of conservation agencies that supports funding for projects to protect migratory bird habitat beyond state borders in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Southern Wings was launched in 2008 by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to conserve priority migratory bird species by monitoring the status of populations; restoring and managing migrant bird habitats; acquiring lands in critical core habitats; educating the public; and more. In addition to Wisconsin, Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Dakota are active contributors.

“Within the next 20 years, more than 80 percent of land and its wildlife in Latin America and the Caribbean could be adversely impacted by development, putting critical habitat for migrant birds at risk,” Ron Regan, Executive Director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, said. “Southern Wings provides state fish and wildlife agencies with a funding mechanism to help conserve priority migratory bird species throughout their lifecycle.”

Thompson, who coordinates Wisconsin’s participation in Southern Wings, said a precedent helped his state decide to join the initiative. “While this is the first time we’ve supported wintering habitat protection in Latin America for our declining songbird populations, the DNR has supported waterfowl breeding habitat conservation projects in Canada for nearly two decades.”

According to Charlie Luthin, executive director of the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, the combination of corporate dollars, individual gifts, and contributions from the DNR demonstrates a new commitment to protecting Wisconsin’s migratory birds. “No matter how much good work we do for birds in the state, we can’t keep them here year-round.” Luthin hopes this project will encourage others to get involved. “People now understand that the habitat loss is real and that we can’t really protect our birds without protecting their winter homes as well,” he added. “The threats are sobering, but the collective response has been inspiring, both here in Wisconsin and in other states.”

To read the full story, go to www.fishwildlife.org/press_5.4.10.html.

To learn more about the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin and how it promotes the protection and enjoyment of Wisconsin’s public lands, waters and wildlife, visit www.wisconservation.org.

To learn about International Migratory Bird Day on May 8, 2010, go to: http://www.blogger.com/www.birdday.org