NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

July 31, 2013

Strong conservation crucial to bird population

(Continued)

Across the Great Plains and the East, NRCS and Audubon partner with dozens of other conservation organizations and thousands of landowners in programs that protect and restore privately owned grasslands, wetlands and forests.

In fact, the private lands placed voluntarily into conservation ownership or easement programs alone make up nearly as much land as all the National Parks within the lower 48 states. This is in addition to the millions of acres of conservation practices landowners implement every year.

Many of this country’s most successful private lands conservation programs are supported through the Farm Bill. In fact, Farm Bill programs help farmers, ranchers and forestland owners maintain millions of acres of habitat that creates homes for birds and benefits for people.

As “The State of the Birds” points out, about 100 U.S. bird species depend heavily on private lands for their survival. That’s important because those birds are part of the great natural heritage that we will pass on — or not — to our children.

But it’s also important because if the birds do well, we know we’ll prosper too. People’s enjoyment of birds is a huge economic driver; wildlife recreation contributes $145 billion to the U.S. economy every year. Birds consume insects and rodents that damage crops. They pollinate plants, distribute the seeds that grow into meadows and forests, and even act as nature’s clean-up crew.

Birds are a beautiful and irreplaceable part of our lives and livelihoods, and each of us has a vital role to play in securing their future ­— and our own.

“The State of the Birds” is produced by a coalition of 15 research institutions, conservation organizations and federal agencies. More information is available online at www.StateOfTheBirds.org.

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Jason Weller is acting chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. David Yarnold is president and CEO of the National Audubon Society. Distributed by the McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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