Initiated in 2001, the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative (WBCI) is a partnership of more than 175 organizations around the state. Partners include bird clubs, hunting and fishing groups, government agencies, land trusts, nature centers, environmental groups, universities, and businesses. The goals of WBCI include to conserve and restore endangered, threatened, and rare bird species and their habitats, educate Wisconsin citizens about birds and bird conservation issues, and promote bird-based recreation and the enjoyment of birds.
In 1998, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies working with non-governmental organizations, and federal, state, and provincial agencies, began to develop the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI).
A main objective of the NABCI was to link bird conservation efforts in the United States with similar efforts in Canada and Mexico through existing initiatives, including the:
- North American Waterfowl Management Plan
- Partners In Flight
- U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan
- North American Waterbird Conservation Plan
In September 2000, a plan for NABCI was completed. The goal of the international initiative is: “To deliver the full spectrum of bird conservation through regionally-based, biologically-driven, landscape-oriented partnerships.” Envisioned is an ecologically-based, geographical framework for planning and implementing the NABCI, including collaboration with the NAWMP Joint Ventures, which have achieved broad-based support across the continent for waterfowl habitat management and conservation during the past 15 years. A fundamental part of the Proposed Framework is establishment of “Bird Conservation Regions” that provide a flexible framework for integrating bird conservation efforts on ecological scales depending on the local and regional context.
The plan conveys a sense of urgency and yet identifies opportunities to achieve significant bird conservation measures. Quoting from the plan: “Between 1600 and 1900, 75 species of birds and mammals became extinct; 75 more, approximately one per year, disappeared from the planet between 1900 and 1980. Current rates have increased to roughly two per year… Perhaps the most startling concerns and urgency involve well-known species that are slipping, gradually, almost unnoticed, out of the ranks of the common and into scarcity.” American bitterns have declined an average of 4.6% per year in Wisconsin (1.5% per year continentally) from 1966-99. During the same period, the belted kingfisher has declined 0.6% per year in Wisconsin (1.6% per year continentally), red-headed woodpeckers 4.9% per year in Wisconsin (2.5% per year continentally), golden-winged warblers 2.3% per year in Wisconsin (2.2% per year continentally), the veery 2.4% per year in Wisconsin (1.2% per year continentally), bobolinks 2.2% per year in Wisconsin (1.6% per year continentally), western meadowlarks 9.0% per year in Wisconsin (0.6% per year continentally), and eastern towhees 1.9% per year in Wisconsin (1.9% per year continentally). Virginia rails have declined an average of 4.8% per year in Wisconsin (however, increased 5.5% per year continentally) between 1966 and 1999, while the blue-winged teal declined an average of 2.9% per year in Wisconsin (declined 0.6% per year continentally) during the same time period.
Even some common birds are becoming less so. For example, since 1966 the American redstart, white-throated sparrow, and rose-breasted grosbeak have declined approximately 20% (0.8% per year continentally). “Despite the tremendous success of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, even among waterfowl some species have defied conservation efforts and remain at depressed levels. Although not uncommon, the northern pintail, once among the most abundant waterfowl species, have not responded to favorable habitat conditions and management actions as strongly as other species…”
The greatest opportunities we have are the expanding partnerships designed to conduct fully integrated bird conservation … Grassroots support among the public for addressing the needs of all wildlife is growing, evidenced by the support Partners in Flight and other bird initiatives have achieved, and in the breadth of the Teaming With Wildlife coalition… Clearly, we are on the threshold of a new era of bird conservation, and we must seize this opportunity.
As we begin the new millennium, the future of bird conservation in Wisconsin is bright if, in PIF terms, a shared vision of “keeping common birds common” and “restoring imperiled bird populations” is adopted by parties interested in bird conservation. Now is the time for all of us to work together to make this a reality.