NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

July 31, 2013

Strong conservation crucial to bird population

If there’s one takeaway from the new “State of the Birds” report, it’s this: America’s strong conservation ethic is more important now than ever.

Why? As demand for food, energy, natural resources and commercial production soar on U.S. privately held lands, we should meet those demands in ways that sustain the foundation of our prosperity: our great natural resources.

America’s birds are a bellwether for the health of our natural resources, and ultimately, our own prosperity and well-being. Birds need clean air, clean water and healthy natural spaces just like we do. The same wetlands that create homes for waterfowl like northern pintail and other birds also filter our water supplies and protect our communities from floods. The forests, grasslands and shrublands that nurture some of our most colorful and iconic birds — from hummingbirds to meadowlarks to quail — also remove harmful pollutants from the air and create the great American landscapes known all over the world.

And because 60 percent of all U.S. land is privately owned and managed, landowners deserve much of the credit for that. Take, for instance, rice-growers in California’s Central Valley. Rice-growers have worked with Audubon, The Nature Conservancy and Point Blue Conservation Science to enroll about 100,000 acres in a Natural Resources Conservation Service program designed to increase waterbird habitat in rice fields.

And in the great expanses of sagebrush habitat, we’re working with more than 700 ranchers to protect the sage-grouse, a keystone species of the American West. More than one-third of the greater sage-grouse alive today live on privately held land. By partnering with ranchers to implement new grazing systems, together, we are able to create better habitat for sage-grouse while at the same time improving the food resources for livestock.

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